Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Loss of Black Queer Icons in 2021


Happy New Year to you!!! Let's be real - 2021 SUCKED!  The whole year (just like 2020) was soiled with tragedy.  It started with the Capital insurrection at the beginning of the year.  It ended with the loss of one of the nation's greatest treasures - Betty White.  For me, there were some losses that happened this year that hit me just a little bit more than some of the others.  I am a black queer man.  I live in this space  of  intersectionality.  When  we  lose  other  individuals  that  occupy  this  same  space  (other individuals that exist in the space of black and queer),  the cut seems to be just a little bit deeper.  2021 took some of those individuals as well.

On September 6, we loss the phenomenal actor Michael K. Williams.  I do not know much about Williams personal life.  He never said he was a gay man. He never said he was not a gay man.  He has said regarding his sexuality that it was nobody's business and that for the most part "I am a work in progress" I do know that for black gay representation in the media - Michael K. Williams changed the game.  He is the reason I can't buy in the concept that queer characters should only be played by queer people.  I don't think a person has to profess who they sleep with or confess their gender identity in order to get a part.  I believe that the person who performs best in the casting call is the person who should get the part.  His portrayal of Omar on The Wire was GROUNDBREAKING!!!  In the series Hap and Leonard, he played the complicated role of Leonard, an out same-gender loving man that (along with his friend Hap) couldn't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.  He was part of the cast of R. Kelly's revolutionary Trapped In the Closet.  He played Ken Jones in the series When We Rise that documents the evolution of LGBTQ rights in America.  And again in the HBO series Lovecraft Country, he brings to life another complicated, queer character.  I swear it seems that almost every character he plays is queer or queer adjacent.  How this man has never received a GLAAD award is beyond me.  It was a very surreal moment for me when I learned about his passing.  It was a selfish thought but my immediate first reaction was "wow, I won't get to see him bring these phenomenal characters to life anymore."  But this moment was bigger than that.  I think for many black queer folks, we took this loss personal because for many of us, we saw ourselves on the screen when we saw him in many of the roles he took on.  RIP Michael.  Your work will always be treasured and you will always be remembered.

2021 also took the life of a black gay icon - Reverened Carl Bean.  Bean was the founder of the Unity Fellowship Church, a congregation that was welcoming to and embracing of black LGBTQ folks. Let's not downplay this.  The church is singlehandedly responsible for most  of the harm done to members of the queer community.  If we talk about institutionalized homophobia, social stigma and spirtual violence, the root of them all is the church.  Carl Bean created a space for black queer folks to embrace their spirituality and if we're being honest, this probably saved a few lives.  But before he started the church, Bean was a singer in the disco era.  If you ask anyone about the gay anthem "I Was Born This Way" they will immediately think about the hit by Lady Gaga.  But if you want to hear a real gay anthem, listen to the hit with the same title by Carl Bean.  His version of the song came out in 1975, over a decade before Stephani Germanotta was even born. Don't get it wrong, Gaga's version is great.  But Carl Bean's version has my heart.  This loss was another phenomenal loss for black queer folks.

The loss of bell hooks was the loss of a big voice.  Author.  Professor.  Activist.  hooks spoke and wrote on issues of race and gender and intersectionality and capitalism.  As a professor, she taught at some of our nation's most prestegious campuses including Stanford and Yale.  She has countless book titles under her belt.  Some of them include And There We WeptAin't I A Women: Black Women and Feminism, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, and Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood I feel like bell hooks has always been far ahead of the curve.  She was not reactionary when it came to how we see and discuss issues of race and gender and sexuality, she was was the voice that was generating theory and creating the narrative and the space for thinking critically about these and all social issues.  The loss of bell hooks is a loss for the African-American community, the LGBTQ community, the feminist community and the academic sphere.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  What can I say about this global phenom that was not said by the rest of the world when he died?  He was the living embodiment of compassion and empathy and love and peace.  And he wanted these things for ALL.  He  was not a queer person but he once said "If I go to heaven and find a homophobic God, I will tell him I prefer the other place!"  He believed in equal rights for the LGBTQ community.   I think my favorite quote of his is "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppresor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."  This is why white voices cannot be neutral regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.  This is why cis men cannot be silent regarding the Me Too movement.  Neutrality and silence helps the oppresor and hurts the marginalized.  Desmond Tutu - you have left a void in the world that no one can fill.

I shared earlier that one of the roles that Michael K. Williams played was that of Ken Jones in the series When We Rise.  That role was based on a real person.  Ken Jones was a Navy vet that served three tours in Vietnam.  After he left the military in 1973 and he moved to the Castro and began working for San Francisco Pride.  He would lead this organization for some time and would only leave in 1991 to focus on police reform after the police beating of Rodney King.  He was an activist for the LGBTQ community, he educated folks on HIV/AIDS, and he was a loud voice on the issue of police reform.  I am an activist for the LGBTQ community.  I have educated folks on HIV/ AIDS.  I believe we need reform in many different areas of law enforcement and the judiciary process.  As I learned about this man's story, I saw myself.  Ken Jones passed away on January 13, 2021 at the age of 70 following a battle with bladder cancer.  The loss of Jones was another significant loss for the black queer community.

2021 is over.  2022 is here.  2021 was horrible.  Who knows what this year will bring.  For LGBTQ African-Americans, we have lost some big voices.  Michael K. Williams, you potrayal of black queer men was always an awe to see.  You brought to life some characters that me and my peers will revel in and reflect on for many years to come.  Reverend Carl Bean, thank you creating a space where black queer folks that believe in God can go and worship and not feel ashamed or ostracized or villified. bell hooks thank you for your voice and your pen and your time.  When it comes to addressing social issues critically and simultaneously living your life authentically, you are the prototype.  Archbishop Tutu, you never hesitated to raise your voice for everyone and specifically said the world should be a welcoming and safe place for LGBTQ folks; and you did this while existing in a space that historically has demonized queer folks, and for this I say thank you.  And Ken Jones, in you I see myself.  Your story of putting your life on the line on behalf of your country while serving in the Navy, then transitioning to working on behalf of queer folks and people living with HIV/AIDS while living in San Francisco, and then to recognizing the harassment and abuse of black folks by the police and working tirelessly for police reform - you sir were a force to be reckoned with and again - for the black queer community - what a loss.  

All of these individuals are personal heroes of mine.  But as I close I now find myself asking this question - who is going to fill these shoes?  

Thursday, December 16, 2021

10 Movies to Help You Make the Yuletide Gay

The holiday season is upon us.  It's time for holiday shopping, baking cookies, and settling into your cozy sofa and enjoying some Christmas movies.  Holiday movies that feature queer characters are very few and far between, but they do exist.  I wanted to take a moment to share some of the titles that I have enjoyed watching with you.

Some of my faves include:

1. Some Kind of Christmas (2020). Director - Davien Harlis, Writer - Davien Harlis; Starring Marcia Perez Calderon, Davien Harlis, Deriell Keith Lester

Available for streaming here: https://www.act1scene2.com/copy-of-some-kind-of-christmas


2. Single All The Way (2021).  Director - Michael Mayer, Writer - Chad Hodge; Starring Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Luke Macfarlane.

Currently streaming on Netflix

3.  Walk A Mile in My Pradas (2011). Director - Joey Sylvester, Writer - Rick Karatas & Tom Archdeacon, Starring Nathaniel Martson, Tom Archdeacon, Tom Arnold, Bruce Vilanch

Currently streaming on Tubi

4. Ski Trip (2004). Director - Maurice Jamal, Writer - Maurice Jamal, Starring Liz Beckman, Will Blagrove, Cassandra Cruz, Nathan Hale.

Currently not available to stream but very much worth the purchase.

5. The Christmas Setup (2020). Director - Pat Mills, Writer - Michael Murray; Starring Ben Lewis, Blake Lee, Fran Drescher.

Currently Streaming on Amazon Prime.

6. Holiday Heart (2000). Director - Robert Townsend, Writer Cheryl L. West; Starring Ving Rhymes, Alfre Woodard, Jesika Reynolds.

Currently Streaming on Pluto.

7. Make The Yuletide Gay (2009). Director - Rob Williams, Writer - Rob Williams; Starring Keith Jordan, Wyatt Fenner, Steve Callahan.

Currently Streaming on Dekko.

8. Happiest Season (2020).  Director - Clea Duvall,  Writer - Clea Duvall; Starring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburger, Victor Garber, Dan Levy, Audrey Plaza.

Currently Streaming on Hulu.

9. A New York Christmas Wedding (2020).  Director - Otaja Abit, Writer - Otaja Abit; Starring Chris Noth, Nia Fairweather, Chris Trousdale.

Currently Streaming on Netflix.

10. The Family Stone (2005). Director - Homas Bezucha, Writer - Thomas - Bezucha; Starring Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Luke Wilson, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton.

Not available for streaming.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

December 1: World AIDS Day

It feels weird posting this.  The lack of attention on the virus today makes me feel like America has forgotten that the disease still exists.  And I don't know how I feel about that.  If the lack of attention means that the stigma surrounding the virus is gone - then I'm okay with this.  But I don't think that's the case.

The picture above is from a World AIDS Day event I organized several years ago.  Several community leaders came together for the night.  I have organized many community events but this one was one of my faves.  Rev. Reginald Walton was in the house.  He spoke on the role the black church should have in the fight against this disease.  This man was such an inspiration.  As the head of a black church, he was not afraid to talk about some things that many black clergy steered away fromf.  He spoke about inclusion of the LGBT community.  He actively worked with queer leaders in the community.  And he spoke out on HIV/AIDS.  Most other black leaders in Phoenix avoided these topics like the plaque, but Rev. Walton never feared raising his voice about these important matters..

And RJ Shannon was in the house that night.  RJ was another inspiration for me as well.  She was the greatest community organizer I ever had the pleasure of working with and she was the benchmark for so much of the work I did (and still do).  I remeber calling her and asking her to close out the night with some words of movication and a call to action.  She came in that night and did exactly what I needed her to do.

The picture brings back fond memories.  I no longer live in Phoenix and I miss the connection I had with my friends in the Valley.  But I owe so much of who I am now to those folks and to this city.  World AIDS Day sent me down this strange rabbit hole of feelings.  How do I feel about the day?  How do I feel about the way the world treats the virus now?  I'm not sure and that's okay.  Everything doesn't need an answer.  And I don't have to process this all right now.  

Friday, May 21, 2021

Mental Health Awareness Month and Black Folks


May is Mental Health Awaress month and in case you didn't know, Black folks are exhausted yall.  2020 and 2021 have been devastating on us physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.  More and more black folks are killed by police.  So many folks are not working right now.  The social isolation created by the pandemic causing separation from friends and family.  The loss of family members and friends as a direct result of COVID.  I know everyone is suffering from the pandemic and thankfully it looks like we are moving to the other side of it.  But I wanted to take a moment to address black folks and mental health and ask "where do we go from here?"

Many of us have reservations about healthcare and the medical community and rightfully so.  Black folks and relationship with medical providers have a very tepid history.  The Tuskegee Experiment had black folks used as guinea pigs with syphilis testing.  The story of Henrietta Lacks is one where cells from body were literally taken without her consent and used for science. I have heard tales from countless black folks who say they don't like going to the doctor because the doctor "doesn't listen to them."

I think, in addition to addressing the flaws of medical professionals that treat our physical health, we also need to address our mental health - and we need to do this as a community.  I still know a lot of people that would never consider seeing therapist or a counselor to address issues with their mental health.  For some, it's because it may be a sign of weakness.  For some, they feel "as long as I got Jesus, I don't need anything else."  But we need to get beyond this people.  

You can't show up for work, you can't be there for friends and family, and you can't even fully take care of self if you are not taking care of your mental health.  Do you know how much damage is happening to the black psyche when we repeatedly see black bodies killed by the police?  Black folks are at a higher risk in almost every health issue their is - heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, even HIV/AIDS.  How can you think of history in the U.S., and now be overwhelmed?  

Black folks - find someone you can talk to and embrace mental health as a part of your healthcare self care.  Many jobs offer access to therapist in their benefit packets now.  Take advantage of these benefits.  And know that there are many black and brown counselors out there, so if you take the time a look, you can find folks that look like you that you can talk to.  I think this also takes away from the stigma.  

I really feel like the pandemic is almost behind us.  But black folks, the end of the pandemic does not signal the end of our trauma.  We still live in a racist world where it seems our lives don't matter. And when you a black person that lives under the umbrella of intersectionality (i.e. black and queer, black and disabled), our mental health issues are magnified.  So I will make a final plea - take care of yourself, so you can take care those things and those people important to you.  

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 28 - Jay Jurden


Each day this month I have shared videos that celebrate black queer voices. Through documentaries, biopics, interviews and stand-up sets from some comedians, hopefully this month you were introduced to a voice you did not know before that has made you aware of the brilliance, athleticism, activism and/or hilarity of our community.

Today is the final day of Black History month, I want to close it with a laugh. Jay Jurden is funny AF. I hope his career in comedy takes him far because 1) he has the talent to do it and 2) representation matters and I think we desperately need more out and proud black queer folks in the mainstreeam.

Anywho, I appreciate those that took the time to read the brief bios and stories this month, and a special thank you anyone that watched a video all the way to the end. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Holler If You Here Me: Black and Gay in the Church


The documentary Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church was a must see for me. I am a black gay man that grew up in the church. I was in the church every Saturday for choir rehearsal, all day on Sunday from Sunday school until "the doors of the church are open", I was in church for bible study, and whenever there was a revival we would be in the church every night of the week.

I loved the fellowship of the folks I went to church with, I appreciated the lessons I learned in the church, and Lord, I loved it whenever there was occassion when all the church ladies would bring food and we would all break bread together in the church (because church ladies can cook).

Growing up in the church was wonderful - until it wasn't. I didn't see the hypocrisy of the church when I was a kid. But it slowly started to reveal itself to me. This place that taught me not to judge anyone was the quickest to judge people. The place that taught me I should be accepting of everyone was quick to shun people. And this place that taught me love every was the same place that hated anyone that did not fit in the very specific mold they had for you (this place almost made me hate myself).

In the film Holler If You Hear Me, I saw many people dealing with the same struggles I had to overcome. When the place that you go to for comfort, balm and strength becomes a place of hate and condemnation. It's a difficult road to be on and it's journey not everyone survives.

This film is also available on YouTube. There are 4 parts to the series and you can see part one below:

Friday, February 26, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 26 - James Booker


He has been called the greatest piano player to come out of the Bayou.  He recorded with legends like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and The Doobie Brothers.  He was the man that taught Harry Connick Jr. how to play jazz music.  His friend and fellow musician Dr. John has referred to him as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”  Unfortunately his story and his music are not well known.

 And this is why I love documentary storytelling.  They introduce us to individuals and stories and events that otherwise we would not be aware of.  The documentary Bayou Maharajah: The Tracig Genius of James Booker is fantastic.  It is the reason I know the story of the remarkable black gay jazz musician.  The only thing greater than his music is his story.  No one knows how he lost his eye.  It’s an enigma whose origin changes everytime James would tell the story. 

 He was called the Ivory Emperor.  He was called the Piano Prince of New Orleans.  He was called the Bayou Maharajah.  And he was both a genius and junkie, a legend and a tragedy, a prodigy and a problem.  Check out the trailer for Bayou Maharajah below.  His story is incredible.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 25 - Staceyann Chinn


As I take this month today celebrate black queer voices, I'm just gonna drop this right here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 24 - Marlon Riggs

The first person I am aware of that did films focused on black queer voices was Marlon Riggs.  Marlon was concerned about the lack of representation in films of LGBT African-Americans and he was concerned about the narratives in cinema that only told stories from a male focus and from a white focus.  He picked up the camera and introduced us to a world of folks that did not see things the way filmmakers up to that point did.

As a filmmaker, he created such groundbreaking works as Black Is, Black Ain't and Tongues Untied.  As a writer, he is most notably recognized for his anthology Brother to Brother: Collected Writings by Black Gay Men.  Today, black queer filmmakers and authors are commonplace.  But when I see cinema from creatives like Patrik Ian Polk, Maurice Jamal, Dee Rees and Lena Waite; and when I read books by E. Lynn Harris and James Earl Hardy, I know that Riggs was the prototype.

He was years ahead of his time. And I think his voice is still one that should be elevated when we celebrate Black History month.  Below is a rare interview with the brilliant man:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 23 - Black LGBTQ Millennials


This black history month, everyday I have been sharing documentaries and biopics that celebrate black queer voices.  Today, the voices I elevate are a collective group of young, queer folks talking about their experiences of intersectionality.

God, I wish there were more places and more spaces having conversations like the one in this video.  Popular YouTube channel, The Grapevine, sat down with a group of folks to have "A Conversation with Black LGBTQ Millennials."  The discussion goes deep and these individuals are very open and honest about their experiences.  Every individual in this circle is so articulate in explaining their stories, their fears, and their traumas.

It's so interesting hearing these stories around coming out, and hearing stories contrasting homophobia and racism, and delving into the very difficult topic of acceptance within the black community as a queer person.  I think it's profound to hear several individuals share similar stories of their biggest fears growing up did not come from white folks, but it came from black folks and it was specifically related to homophobia and anti-queer violence.

I loved hearing these young people talk about Stonewall and talk about the "blackness" of it.  These kids know their history and they are acutely aware of racism in the LGBTQ community and the erasure of black accomplishments within queer history.  I love hearing these people talk about bi-invisiblity.  I loved hearing these people call out the black church for its bias and violence against queer folks.

I keep hearing so many negative things about youth and about queer youth, but these kids are smart.  They are very aware of self.  And they are very aware of what they want, and what they don't want. Now I need to figure out what I need to do to create a space for voices like this to show up.  Get into the video below:

Monday, February 22, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 22 - The Reluctant Fighter: Emile Griffith


Emile Griffith once said, “I kill a man and most people understand and forgive me.  However, I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin; this makes me an evil person.” Griffith was one of the greatest fighters to ever step foot in the ring.  He would become the World Champion in the welterweight class, the junior middleweight class, and the middleweight class. In spite of these significant accomplishments, he is most remembered for the one fight that defined his legacy.

In 1962, Emile would fight Benny Paret.  At the weight in of these two, Paret would mocked Emile and called him a “maracon” which is a homophobic slur.  This fight which happened at Madison Square garden was the third fight between the two.  It was aired nationally on ABC.  At one point in the fight, Emile pinned Paret against the ropes and landed numerous punches to his head.  He continued to hitting even after Paret seemed to have collapsed while standing up.  The punches would continue until the referee intervened and separated the two.

Emile won by way of a technical knockout.  Paret eventually slid to the floor and he was carried out of the ring on a stretcher.  He would never again regain consciousness.  He died in the hospital ten days later.  Because of the violence in the match, boxing would not air on television again for several years.

Emile however did not define himself as gay.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated he said, “I like men and women both.  But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot. I don’t know what I am.  I love men and women the same, but if you ask me which is better . . .  I like women.”

The documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith story is currently available on YouTube.  Please get into it below:

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 21 - Jewel's Catch One


I remember my first visit to Jewel’s Catch One.  It was L.A.’s Black Pride weekend.  We had mapped out our plans for the weekend before getting on the road.  Friday night, Friday afternoon arrive in L.A. and check into the hotel.  Friday evening, head to Malibu beach (where most of the weekend festivities would be happening).  Friday night, go to “The Catch.”

People who frequented this infamous black gay club called it simply the Catch.  I have to tell you, walking into that bar was like walking into the Promised Land. Everywhere there were black same-gender loving folks dancing, chatting, smiling – just living their authentic lives.  The dj was playing the hottest house music.  And that night, I saw Martha Wash perform live on stage.  It was a night I will never forget.

Sometime later I heard that the Catch had become a straight bar.  And the next thing I heard was that it was actually closing down.  I knew that this signaled the end of something very special.  The Catch was a place where many LGBTQ black folks went to find something.  Some went to find sex.  Some went to find friends.  Some went to find a congregation of like-minded folks where they could get lost in the crowd and just be. 

The documentary Jewel’s Catch One, sits down with Jewel Thais Williams, the founder of the Catch One and examines the rise and fall of the establishment and Jewel’s opening and management of the non-profit organization the Village Health Foundation.  It is currently streaming on Netflix.  You cans see the trailer below:

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 20 - Sakia Gunn


Sakia Gunn was fifteen years old when she was murdered.  A young girl killed after a night out having fun with her friends.  After hanging out in Greenwich Village she attempted to return home when she and her friend were confronted by two men hitting on them.  Sakia adamantly declared herself a lesbian and made it clear she was not interested in their advances.  Unfortunately, these men who would not take no for an answer attacked the girls.  Sakia was stabbed in the chest and the men fled the scene. Although she was rushed to a nearby hospital, Sakia Gunn would succumb to her injury.  She died that night.

Sakia was killed in 2003.  When it first happened the crime did not receive much media attention.  But luckily, some people cared enough to not let this go away without receiving the attention it deserved.  A fifteen year old girl was killed.  Just 5 years prior, Matthew Shepard was killed. The murder of  this teenaged, cisgendered, white gay male garnered national attention and resulted in the passing of hate crime legislation aimed to protect the LGBT community.  Unfortunately, when the gay or trans person that is killed is a person of color, it seems nobody cares.

The film Dreams Deferred: The Sakia Gunn Project delves into the life of Sakia Gunn and simultaneously examines this bias against and invisibility of queer & trans people of color.  Get into the trailer below: