Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rest In Peace: Paul Watson

We've lost another member of our community. I didn't know Paul that well but we've cross paths a few times. He was always helping the Men of Libra whenever they had a party or any type of event. I've asked friends what happened. How did we lose someone this young (he was only 27 years old)? No one had an answer. Currently no one knows why/ how we lost Paul.

But I guess it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that we celebrate the life we have while we have it. Because really - we may not have it tomorrow. So enjoy yourself and enjoy your friends and enjoy your family. None of these are promised tomorrow.

My condolensces go out to his family.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kelly Rowland Dropped from Columbia

Kelly Rowland
Photo Editor

Word is out that yesterday Kelly Rowland was dropped from her label Columbia. Supposedly the reason they took this action was they decided that Kelly was "no longer comercially viable." Interesting enough this news comes just shortly after Kelly dropped Matthew Knowles (Beyonce's dad) as her manager. Coincidence - I don't think so.

Everyone that knows me knows that Kelly was always my favorite child of destiny. I thought she was more beautiful than Beyonce and I've always thought she had a better personality. I think they're both remarkably talented singers and oftentimes it was hard for me to distinguish between Kelly and Beyonce singing. But Kelly just had a bit more of a spark for me. And she didn't have that "I'm better than them" attitude that I always seemed to get from Ms. Knowles.

I'm hoping this news comes to be a blessing in disguise for Kelly. Maybe under new management and with a new label she'll finally get the attention she deserves. I'm a fan til the end and I'm hoping there is more great music in her future.

UGIMA: Homophobia and Hip Hop

UGIMA (United Gay Informed Men of Arizona) is a weekly men's discussion group. At each meeting we discuss issues about and of interest to the Black LGBT community.

Last week at UGIMA our topic was homosexuality and hip hop. There were a couple of guess speakers for this meeting. One of our speakers was DJ Tsunami. DJ Tsunami is one of Arizona's premiere DJs. He has been featured at almost every gay club in Phoenix and last year he was named by AZ Central as one of the best djs in the Valley. Our other speaker was Steve Knight. Steve is the owner of Knight Sky Productions and has been responsible for brining many R&B and Hip Hop artist to Arizona with his entertainment production company.

The evening started with this simple question - "Is Hip-Hop Homophobic?" Tsunami was the first person to tackle the question. He's been involved in this industry for quite some time and he doesn't feel that Hip-Hop is anymore homophobic than any other genre of music. But he peeled back the onion a bit more and stated if we're going to examine these artist he will admit that the male Hip-Hop artist are a bit more homophobic than the female artists.

Steve shared something that was revealed in the controversial Hiding In Hip-Hop and probably wasn't a surprise to anyone in the room. There are many gay rappers, singers, athletes, etc. But realistically the entertainment industry is not one that takes kindly to artists coming out of the closet. So if you want to be successful it's probably in your best interest to keep your sexuality to your self.

This set the room on fire and as usual no one was shy about sharing their opinions. It's interesting that some of the artists that have the gay rumor following them are the one's that shout their homophobia the loudest. Lil Wayne was posted all over the internet kissing another man yet has some of the most homophobic lyrics we've heard in hip hop. To learn more go here My issue with closeted rappers is this - I understand that you may not sell as many records or sellout as many concerts if you come out of the closet. So if you feel you need to be on the DL to be successful, then by all means make your paper. But you do not have to then verbally attack, belittle, and alienate the LGBT community. Just shut the hell up.

We also addressed the growing number of openly gay hip-hop artists that are making there mark in the industry. Homo Hip-Hop artist Dead Lee (who by the way I think is very hot) is not one to hold his tongue about his sexuality. And Tori Fixx has some of the hottest dance tracks in the game and is one of the best producers out there. But unfortunately these artist still struggle at getting their works heard by the masses. Tsunami admitted that he is a DJ that is about playing good music and he does try to promote some of these artists by playing them in his sets. Unfortunately when he puts on a track that people don't recognize the dance floor seems to empty. So it's almost impossible for these artist to get some love - even at gay and lesbian clubs.

I don't think Hip Hop artists are the most homophobic out there (I think that title goes to reggae and dancehall artists) but I do believe they are towards the top of the list. Kanye West called himself and his industry on its homophobia. It was a bold move and it was definitely a great catalyst in starting this dialouge. But there are artists like Busta Rhymes that admits he is homophobic and makes no plans to change. Busta actually got in trouble for attacking a gay man in Miami in 2006. But when Busta's Break Ya Neck starts playing in the club gays and lesbians flock to the dance floor. WHY? Why would we support someone that publicy stated he hates us and physically attacked one of our community.

I know there are probably some big names in Hip-Hop that would like to come out and I can only hope that one day they gather the courage to be true to who they are. The LGBT community needs black celebrities to come out. I think they would be instrumental in changing the perception the Black community has about gay and lesbian issues. But if you're going to be closeted, please be closeted and quiet. Don't go bashing the community that you are secretly a part of. And to all LGBT people - please stop supporting those artist that publicly make it known that they don't support us!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Our New Drag Superstar: Bebe Zahara Benet

If you didn't watch the first season (and I'm hoping there are additional seasons) of RuPaul's Drag Race then you missed out on some truly entertaining TV. The shows premises was part America's Next Top Model and part Project Runway but all good. The season started with nine drag queens all vying for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar. Each week the contestants were presented with variuos challenges that put their creative drag juices to the test.

The two people that scored the lowest in the challenge would be in the bottom two for the week and each week those two individuals would have to, "Lipsinc for your life." It was fierce. And they were always told, "And don't fuck it up."

I knew early on that Bebe Zahara Benet was the person they had best look out for. Every week during the challenges I'd be watching Bebe and thinking if she don't pull it together soon she ain't gonna make it. Then the challenge would come to its end and we'd see what each wanna be drag superstar came up with.

Every single time Ms. Zahara Benet blew me away. Towards the end I was beginning to think - her trying to look clueless is just a strategy. There is no way she was that dazed and confused during the challenge but when the results were presented she would have the monsterously fierce outfits and makeup. Apparently she amazed RuPaul also because she walked away with the title.

So congratulations to Ms. Benet. You truly deserve it. I hope to see you on your tour as you cross the nation as America's Next Drag Superstar.

And by the way, if you missed any episodes or if you want to rewatch the entire season, you can catch the entire season here

Men of Libra Host The White Party

White Party
Photo Editor

Pride is almost upon us and once again the Men of Libra are getting ready to set it off. Every October they bring us The Black Party. Well for the first time, and just in time for Pride, they are serving us with The White Party. They haven't disappointed with anything they've done up to this point so I have a feeling that once again - they will be doing the most. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Full Frontal Weekend

Usually I like to inform people about important things happening that have an impact on the LGBT community. Especially if that thing that's happening involves the Black LGBT community. This is not one of those post. This one is purely for fun. This is just me talking about the fun I had over the weekend.

I've been dying to see The Watchman since the first time I saw the trailer almost a year ago. So I finally went to see it last Saturday and I have to say - LOVED IT. Everybody that has seen it just kept telling me, "It's not what you think." Well I have to admit - it was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be. But what I didn't know about thie movie was that it was packed with full frontal nudity. Dr Manhattan, the most powerful hero in the movie basically paraded around the entire movie BUTT ASS NAKED.

You know with all the female nudity that we get in the movies nowadays (and it's all nudity just for the sake of nudity - it adds nothing to the plot) it's nice to get some male nekkidness on film every now and then. So thank you to Warner Bros. for delivering something for the gay men and the ladies to enjoy.

We also got an eyeful of the Night Owl's ass in the movie. I have to admit that it was nice too. I do like my bootys to be round and plump, you know something you can sit a glass on. So again I was impressed. I don't know - maybe I was horny. Maybe it's just seeing the male nudity when we usually don't get that on film so I was taken aback and not thinking normally. But it's all good and it's all appreciated.

So then Sunday, I went to see this play being put on by the Nearly Naked Theater. I have to tell you the title may be a little misleading. This wasn't a nearly naked production, this was a totally naked production. The play was called Killer Joe. The subtitle called it The Black Comedy about White Trash. And again - lots of full frontal nudity. I had to add, the nudity in this movie was just all over the place. The men AND women in this show were marching around showing everyone their birthday suits. And I enjoyed watching them (especially the men) in all there glory. GOOD TIMES! GOOD TIMES!

I'm so not joking about this - I'm seriously thinking about becoming a season member of the Nearly Naked Theater. They talked about the upcoming shows they will be doing to close out their season and they actually sounded terrific. I want to see most of them. And it's not all about the nudity (although that does help). These actually sound like productions I would really enjoy.

So if you haven't done so yet - take some time and go see The Watchmen. If you are in Phoenix I encourage you to go and support the Nearly Naked Theater. And if you're not in Phoenix go and support you local small theaters. The thesbians need some love (and some employment). And remember - the color for the summer is FLESH.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Family Still Mourns

Last night I attended a candlelight vigil for a fallen member of the LGBT community. While walking home with a friend, Maurice "Melissa " Green was shot and killed on March 21, 2006. The only information that has come forward regarding the suspects is that there were two involved, both were Hispanic, one person pulled the trigger while the second individual provided a getaway bicycle. The suspects were assumed to be between 18-20 years of age.

Last night's vigil marked four years since the murder and unfortunately this vicious crime still remains unsolved. The crowd that gathered in Cieloto park to remember Maurice consisted of his family, friends, concerned members of the LGBT community, Phoenix police (including the LGBT liasion for the department Tambra Williams) and some members of the mayor's office. The turnout was impressive and it was nice to see that he has not been forgotten.

I had an opportunity to speak with most of his family and they all were happy to see so many people still concerned about justice being served. Marcus (Maurice's younger brother) made a poster that contained pictures of his brother and he invited those in attendance to sign them with any comments people wanted to share regarding Maurice. Following the signing of the posters we generated a circle and several members of the family spoke. This was when my tears first started. I didn't know how the evening would proceed but I was thinking this would be my most emotional moment. Boy was I wrong.

Turns out the plan was to march from the park and travel three blocks to the actual spot where Maurice was shot. Being led by Maurice's sister Michelle, all in attendance lit their candles and we started marching. Several people were arm in arm. Some people marched single file. But for everyone this was a very somber and surreal moment. As we marched Marcus started singing Hero by Mariah Carey. Slowly the family joined in and soon most people walking were singing. This was the moment that I lost it.

If you're unfamiliar with the lyrics, the song starts, "There's a hero, if you look into your heart, you don't have to be afraid of who you are . . ." That first lined summed up Maurice. He was a person unafraid and unashamed of who he was. Yes he was wearing a dress when he was killed but everyone in attendance that knew Maurice attested to how he was always genuine and authentic and never afraid to be himself. So when that line was sung goosebumps sprung up all over my body.

How fitting it was that as we approached the site where Maurice was killed someone driving by slowed down his truck and yelled "FAGGOTS!" out his window. But I'm no longer surprised at the level of ignorance people can stoop to these days. So I wasn't even phased by the incident. I only hoped that the family wasn't bothered by it either. Everyone formed a circle around the actual site. Maurice's mom said a prayer. Some people presented flowers. And Marcus again repeated his vow that justice will be served one day. The only condolensces I could give to the family was that even if these people never go to court justice may still be served. Sometimes the judgement we face isn't delivered to us in the judicial system.

My heart goes out to this family and I pray that one day they find the justice they are seeking. I also pray that the senseless violence that begat this unfortunate event comes to an end one day. Maurice, you are missed and you will never be forgotten.

To see additional photos from the vigil please go here .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Julian Bond Addressing the HRC

Okay - so it's no secret that I've always found Julian Bond very sexxy. But I've always wondered what the President of the NAACP felt about homophobia and civil rigts for the LGBT community. I was pleased to learn a few years ago that he is sternly against homophobia and views the struggle for LGBT equality a civl right that he happily adopts as a cause he embraces as one of his own.

Bond promises, "At the NAACP we pledge to do our part," when talking about the fight for the right to marry. He spoke about Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and about how taking action can lead people to change their minds.

I loved the story he shares about a friend of Coretta that wanted her to become an ally of the LGBT community in our fight for equality. In doing so he would have to come out to his friend of 20 years and he was hesitant in doing so. But he placed the phone call and Coretta responded with, "Just let me know what you need me to do." But people still wonder why I encourage all my friends to live their lives openly and honestly. It's because sometimes just by being true to who you are you can shape the way people feel about our community.

What I love about Bond is that he is not only beautiful, he's also brilliant. My favorite line from his speech was, "Gay and lesbian rights are not special rights in any way. It is not special to be free from discrimination. It is an ordinary universal entitlement of citizen."

Please take a moment to listen to the speech in its entirety. It will be well worth your time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Barack Talks with Jay Leno

Last night our nation's 44th president, our nation's brilliant president, our nation's first African-American president paid a visit to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During his time on the couch he talked about AIG and the economy, secret service as a candidate versus secret service as the president, and how his first 59 days in the White House are going. Surprisingly he didn't mention about what everybody in the world is talking about - Michelle Obama's arms. I mean that's what I've been waiting to hear.

He also jokingly compared Washington, D.C. to American Idol and said most people of the people trying to judge you think their Simon Cowell. He takes the criticism with a smile and keeps going. He stated to Jay, "It took us a while to get into this mess. It's going to take us time to get out of it." I know people don't want to hear that but the man is a realist. He isn't going to paint the picture we want to see - he is going to give us the truth.

The person that posted the video on YouTube is obviously not a fan of the President (and that's okay - thank you uploading the video anyway). So I do apoligize for the eye soar of a banner that surrounds the video as you watch it - but the inspite of this, it's totally worth seeing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Our Anniversary

Twelve years ago today my partner Chris and I performed our committment ceremony in front of friends and family. We had our ceremony because we wanted those important to us to know we were serious about our relationship. We exchanged rings and vows and asked God to bless our union. Yes - that is us in the photos. What a difference a decade makes. According to about.com - the twelth year anniversary is the linen or pearl anniversary (so this morning I gave Chris a pearl necklace - LOL).

We held our ceremony in Alabama where gay marriage or civil unions isn't even on the radar. But we were not really concerned about recognition from the state. We were more concerned about recognition from our peers. So here we are twelve years later and I have to ask myself if I feel differently now?

I'm still very happy with Chris and I have no regrets about marrying him. But let's be real - it would be very nice to have all the rights and priviledges allotted to heterosexual married couples. And keeping it real - we've stayed together much longer than most of the straight couples I know. So I'm still confused as to how permitting us the right to marry will ruin the santity of marriage.

Hopefully one day (and I'm hoping that under Barack Obama that day will be soon) our union will be recognized not only by our friends and family but also by the state and federal government. Hopefully one day soon all those gay and lesbian couples I know that have been in committed, long-term relationships will be able to legally exchange vows. Time will only tell when things are going to change.

But until we see that change we can believe in - I want to say to Chris that the first dozen years have been great and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else. I love you!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watch Me on your Video Phone

JR Taylor and Mike Franklin choreographed this video fierceness. They are killing it. I am loving it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Wanna Be Like Mike

Like Mike - if I could be like Mike! I love Michael Crawford. I'm a huge fan of the Bilerico Project where he is an avid blogger and part of the editorial team. And it's thrilling to learn that he is also one of the organizers of DC for Marriage - a grass roots campaign determined to bring marriage equality to the LGBT community. So it's wonderful to see him gracing the cover of Metro Weekly getting some much needed and much deserved recognition. And I have to admit - he's kinda sexy in this pic. Looking good Mr. Crawford!

Michael's story is an interesting read. He is a man that is about something. It's great to learn about the terrific things he's doing - his activism in DC and his writing. But at the same time it's disheartening to hear his history - learning of his parents reactions after his coming out at the age of sixteen. His mom eventually "came around" and he still does not have a relationship with his father. But I am a realist. This reaction unfortunately matches the reaction of many other partents that disown their gay or lesbian childen upon learning the truth about their sexual orientation.

Michael was one of the organizers of the millenium march and he host's his own blog, bloggernista.com. I get it - the man is busy. But I just wanted to post this to say thank you to Mr. Crawford for all the terrific work you're doing in DC. You're an inspiration to me and all LGBT bloggers, activists and individuals. Keep up the fabulous work. You're deserving of your moment as a covergirl.

Micheal Steele - Gay Is Not A Choice

I feel Michael Steele is a man divided. When he speaks he seems so intelligent and persuasive and confident. But his actions don't adhere to his words so there is no congruency. Seeing his interview on DL Hugley Breaks the News, it was great hearing him state very matter-of-factly that he (not Rush Limbaugh) is the head of the GOP. Though I still feel like I could never trust or believe anything that stems from the Republican party - this man had me rooting for his success. Then the following week I learn that he called Limbaugh to offer an apology for that statement.

Was he punked? Is he a punk? It's disturbing to me to know that this seemingly brilliant man bowed down like this. I was ashamed for him. I'm still ashamed for him.

Then today I read this interview that Steele provided for GQ magazine where he was asked about his thoughts regarding the LGBT community. From reading the article it sounds like his position parallels that of Barack Obama. No - he doesn't support same sex marriage but he does have gay friends and thinks they are entitled to some legislation that will protect us. Unlike Obama, he doesn't feel the executive office should have a hand in changing things.

He also goes on to say that he does not believe that homosexuality is a choice. I'm glad to hear this coming from the person that is the leader of the Republican party (atleast on paper anyway). Whenever he speaks he seems to almost win me over - but then he keeps talking. The GQ article was again making me a fan of Steele because it sounded initially like he was an ally to the LGBT community. Then he threw us under the bus regarding gay marriage with, "I believe that the states should have the opportunity to address that issue."

Then he totally disgusts me when he starts talking about Ann Coulter and his friend Rush Limbaugh. Regarding Coulter he says, " she’s got an edge to her — and it’s great." And what does he say about Limbaugh - "Rush is a bomb-thrower extraordinaire. And we need him. We need him because what he does is, he stimulates debate." WTF! Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .

I'm still not sure what the Republican party is trying to pull by appointing him to his new role as head of the GOP. It's hard for me not to root for the intelligent, influential, successful black man. But listening to him speak I'm starting to question his intelligence. Regarding his position over the GOP, it'll take time to see if he actually has any influence. And I shutter to think about his success - because his success would be the GOPs success. So all I can do is sit back and see where this train derails - because there is a wreck a coming - I can feel it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blue-Eyed Soul's Top Ten Females

I don't know if you've noticed but we've been having a tremendous tidal wave of white women that are just putting it down in R&B. Oddly, most of the women are coming to us from across the ocean. Amazing vocalists like Duffy, Adele, and the ghetto mess Amy Winehouse are totally changing the image we have in our minds when we think of powerful female vocalist.

This recent trend started me thinking about those great talents of the Caucasion persuasion that I've admired through the years. There are some tremendouse blue-eyed soul male singers (like Michael McDonald, Robin Thicke, and Hall & Oates), but today I'm focusing on the ladies that have blown me away. So here is the list of my ten favorite lighter shade ladies of soul . . .

10 - Joss Stone. One Friday night I was hanging out with my friend Brandon and he put in this CD from this new chick Joss Stone. The girl definitely had a voice. The track that did me in was her cover of the Joe Simon classic The Chokin' Kind. The next day I went out and bought that CD. She has since dropped 3 more CDs and all have been fabulous. Check out her skills here.

9 - Eva Cassidy. The first time I heard Eva Cassidy sing I was watching Smallville. All I remember is that at the end of the episode someone had died. As Clark was standing over the gravesite the song Time After Time started playing and the credits to the show started to roll. I was crying like a kid and I was thinking to myself, "Oh my god, who in the world is this woman with this amazing voice?" Luckily they listed Eva in the closing credits. She's phenomenal. Check her out here. Sadly as I was researching her I learned she was taken from us at a very young age. But before this songbird left us she managed to record many beautiful songs that will continue to be her legacy.

8 - Susan Tedischi. This is one bluesy white woman. She has a strong, raspy voice (kinda Janis Joplin- ish) and can pick a guitar like no one's business. One day I was working late in the office and I was the only person left. The silence was sickening and I noticed a CD player in the cubicle across from mine. It was my friend Raquel's and I knew she wouldn't mind so I hit play. The CD she had loaded was the best of the Grammy nominees from that particular year. I just hit play and went back to work. The CD was entertaining enough. Nothing I heard was exceptional until I heard Tedischi screaming, "It hurts, it hurts, it hurst so bad . . ." I played that song about 10 times in a row that night. Check it out here. I'm now the owner of 4 CDs by Susan Tedischi (and all are terrific).

7 - Norah Jones. When Norah burst on the scene in 2002 she was a breath of fresh air. For me it wasn't her talent that was surprising, it was her success that was surprising. She wasn't gimmicky. She wasn't trying to be sexy. It was just her and her piano and it was brilliant. After years of so many untalented people making it to the top of the charts, it was nice to see (and hear) something different yet pleasant. Check out her sultry voice here.

6 - Amy Winehouse. Yes, she's as nutty as can of Planters peanuts, but you can't deny her talent. She has a beatiful, beautiful voice (if you disagree make your own list). She wasn't a household name in the U.S. until the release of her sophomore CD Back to Black but I think her first album Frank was much better. I'm still hoping she can get off the drugs and get herself together. Check her out live here.

5 - Adele. She's another talent that rode over during the recent British invasion. She was on heavy rotation while I was working at the Virgin Megastore. First time I heard her singing I thought Amy Winehouse had unbeknownst to me released a new CD. So I ran to the counter to find out what I was listening to. Her CD is what I was hoping for in a new Winehouse CD. Love, love, love me some Adele. Hands down her best track is her cover of the Bob Dylan classic Make You Feel My Love. Get into it here.

4 - Taylor Dane. She has been one of the best ladies of soul for years. I'm a product of the 80s so I grew up loving her. Hits like Tell It to My Heart, I'll Be Your Shelter, and Don't Rush Me gave this young queer lots of wonderful stuff to groove to. Her dances songs were fabulous but it was her ballads that made me fall in love with her. Love Will Lead You Back is still one of my all-time favorite songs. Check it out here.

3 - Lisa Stansfield. Extremely underrated. She did get the love she deserved when she first came over our radios with Been Around the World. And she got made love from me (and all women around the world) when she released All Woman. But Lisa disappeared on us. But don't get it twisted. She is still one of the best neo-soul talents we've seen in years. The song here is fastly becoming my new favorite Stansfield song.

2 - Christina Aguilera. This list was not that difficult for me to create, but it was extremely hard for me to determine how I would rank each person on my list. It was painfully difficult for me to choose between my top two candidates. But the number two spot goes to Xtina. This girl can sang ya'll. But you know this already. She has proven she's got pipes over and over again. The little person with the big voice has blown us away singing like a pre-crack Whitney. Let's be real - it takes talent to be able to deliver on songs like Reflection, Beautiful and Voice Within. But for me she brings it home best when she teams up with Herbie Hancock on A Song for You. Get into the voice here.

And now, drumroll please . . .

1 - The best soul white girl on the planet, defeating them all with a TKO in the first round is the phenomenal, the incomparable, the one and only first lady of funk - Ms. Teena Marie. If you don't know now you know. Teena gets mad love from me. When her first album I'm Just A Sucka for your Love dropped, there was no image on the cover. Everybody thought Lady T was black. Can you blame us - the girl sounded good. When we finally caught a glimpse of the Rick James protegee I think the entire country had to take a deep breath. We were not ready for a white girl that could do what this girl do. I still get the urge to pop lock everytime I hear Lovergirl (it was my anthem back in the day by the way). Check her out live on-stage here.

I have to add this one honorable mention. Duffy blew me away singing Syrup and Honey here. She didn't make the top ten list but if she keeps putting it down like this she may take someone out of there spot real soon. Keep and eye on this girl.
So tell me what you think. Is there anyone on the list you disagree with? Did I omit someone that should be on the list? Is the list in the wrong order? Holla back and let me knowwhat you think.

Barack Obama Increases Domestic HIV Spending

This week President Obama released a summary for his proposed federal budget for the 2010 fiscal year. In that summary he has announced an unspecified increase in the dollars allotted for HIV prevention and intervention. The total proposed budget is set for $3.6 trillion and the specific amount that will go toward the HIV fight has not been outlined. More details are to be released in April.

I've been involved in the fight against HIV for about a decade and I've witnessed the decline in services many AIDS Service Organizations are experiencing because the funding has slowly been trickling away. Not only have we seen a decline in dollars, we've also had an increase on the paremeters the dollars available can be used on. The Bush administration did a phenomenal job in dictating unrealistic methods on how monies could be used (I mean really - abstinance only teaching as a means of HIV prevention does not effectively tackle the problem).

It's exciting to hear that the Obama administration is already making plans to increase spending. I was always optimistic that Barack would do the right thing should he be elected into the White House. I think the pendulum is now swinging in the right direction. I'm looking forward to hearing exactly what will be contained in the April release as more details are revealed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

And The Award Goes To . . .

I was so excited about watching the NAACP Image Awards this year because for the first time ever we had several openly gay nominees in line to win awards. Our nominees included Wanda Sykes (supporting actress on The New Adventures of Old Christine), Patrik-Ian Polk (screenplay for Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom), E. Lynn Harris (outstanding literature) and the movie Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom was nomitated for outstanding independent motion picture. There were also a few straight actors playing gay characters that were up for nominations. Those included Paul James of Greek and both Sonja John and Michael Kenneth Williams of The Wire.

First I have to tell you - none of the catergories I tuned in to see were actually televised. The show was still good but damn - can I get one gay nomination on TV. So the night following the show I had no idea if any of the people I was pulling for actually won or not. I had to go to the NAACP website the following day to see if anyone won. Sadly enough not a single gay candidate or person playing a gay character walked away with an award. This was extremely disappointing to me. With so many potential winners in the pool I was certain that someone would walk away with an award.

I have to share this - I had the opportunity to speak with E. Lynn Harris a week prior to the awards show. I congratulated him on his nomination and wished him good luck in winning the award. He told me he was beginning to feel like the Susan Luchi of the NAACP. He's been nominated numerous times but has never actually won. He was really excited because for the first time he was nominated and Nikki Giovanni wasn't in the same category. I was excited for him because I felt this could have been his year. Sorry E - maybe next year.

I feel like I need to offer my condolenscences to all of the nominees that walked away empty handed. This year was the perfect storm for the LGBT community and the NAACP. I'm still in awe (and I'm posting this almost a month later) that not a single person walked away with an award. I don't think we'll see this many nominees in a single year repeated anytime soon - and I'm not an optimist or pessimest, I'm just a realist. I really hope that the industry proves me wrong but we'll see.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Spent The Night With E. Lynn Harris

OMG - we finally got a visit from E Lynn Harris to the Valley of the Sun last month. The E Lynn Harris. My all-time favorite author was going to be here in my town. There was no way I was going to miss seeing him so I left from work and sped across town (it was no short distance) so I could attend his booksigning. And get this - it was raining cats and dogs on the night he was here. I mean seriously - we get rain in Phoenix probably two nights out of the year and the shower decides to come on the night E (were that close now I can just call him E) was here.

So I'm flying down the freeway dodging the police because I'm not missing my opportunity to meet the man whose book, Invisible Life, changed my life. E was holding his booksigning at the Barnes & Nobles at Desert Ridge Mall. Now I've been to this mall once and that was about 5 years ago - so I really don't remember much about it. I pull into the parking lot and slowly drive through looking for the bookstore. You can only imagine my dismay when I don't see a Barnes & Nobles anywhere in sight. So I decide - it's just a mall, park the car and go in. Now remember it's raining in buckets (and who the hell in Phoenix carries an umbrella in there car). So I'm totally soaked by the time I reach the sidewalk.
The first person I see is mall security watching the downpour (rain in Phoenix is like a spectator sport - it doesn't come often so when we get it people just stare). I ask for the location of Barnes & Nobles and he say's its on the other side of the mall. Probably wouldn't be a big deal at any other mall - but I failed to remember that Desert Ridge is an uncovered mall. So I trek down the path security pointed out for me and I continue to get soaked.

I finally find Barnes & Nobles and the store looks empty. My heart drops. The booksigning was scheduled to start at 6:00 and it is now 6:40. I'm really late. My mind is racing - maybe its over already, maybe he cancelled because of the weather, why does life suck so much.

I'm dripping wet as I make my way to the cashier. Then I notice tons of different E. Lynn Harris books displayed on the counter. I'm hesitant to ask because I may not want the answer, "Where is the E. Lynn Harris booksigning happening?" The clerk smiles at me and points as she says, "He's in the center of the store, right on the other side those shelves."

Thats when I had my exhale moment. I hadn't missed him. He was still in the store. I grabbed my copy of his latest book from the counter and purchased it and headed in the direction she told me. I stopped and peaked around the corner just to make sure it was really him. IT WAS. Oh my God. It's E. Lynn Harris. IT'S E LYNN HARRIS. I've never been this excited meeting a celebrity before. But I can't walk up to this man acting crazy. I need to calm down before I make my entrance. So I take a deep breath and silently do my calming mantra - "get it together Chante, get it together."

Turns out it wasn't needed. E had just finished his question and answer session when I entered. He was now signing books and taking photos with anyone interested. And I must admit - he was genuinely nice. He was taking his time and personalizing all autographs. And he was posing with anyone that wanted a picture with him. Well you know I was one of those people. But remember - I'm dripping wet. E didn't care. He threw his arm around anyway and smiled and cheesed for the camera. So my love for E. Lynn Harris has grown even more - if that's possible.

I'm sincere when I say Invisible Life was life changing for me. Growing up in the rural South I didn't know it was okay to be gay, black and out. I thought at any given moment you could only be two of the three. My reality was limited only to what I had seen. Then I read E. Lynn Harris and my eyes were opened.

I just want to close by saying thank you to E . Lynn Harris. Thank you for writing great books. Thank you for telling the stories of black gay men - there are people that want and need to hear these. And thank you for being a tremendous host to your fans. You continue to inspire.

Black Life Is Worth Saving

Held at the Hilton Resort Phoenix, this National Black AIDS Awareness Day program was off da chain. Brilliantly organized and executed it was one of the best AIDS Awareness programs I've attended. The MC for the event was Phoenix's very own Dr. Ade Banjoko and the keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Robert Scott from Oakland, California.

There were speakers that addressed HIV among men, HIV among women and HIV among youth. The person addressing HIV among men was from behavioral health facilty and HIV testing group, Ebony House (sorry, I can't remember his name). He was not embarrased to tell the crowd that he has done some time in prison and is aware of how disease is affecting our black men (not only same gender loving black men - all of our black men).

We also had Ms. Teen Black Arizona, Ms. Rozan Latham, address the crowd concerning HIV and youth. Let's not get it twisted - grown folks aren't the only ones getting infected. We need to be spreading the message about HIV prevention to everyone that may be at risk. We need to stop pretending like teen-agers are not having sex or experimenting with drugs. It's a reality we all must deal with. If we continue to be silent our young will continue to die.

And addressing the issue of HIV among women was one of my very favorite people from the city of Phoenix, Miasia Pasha. Miasia has been living with the virus for over almost a decade and she has refused to be a victim of it. She is an advocate for the HIV community as she volunteers her time on the Ryan White Planning Council and on the board of AAHHERC (African-American Hispanic Health Resource Center). She is present at any platform she is given to address this problem and I love her for that. Her visibility and her endurance are inspiring.

There were several awards given out during the night honoring those are taking exceptional steps in helping in this fight against HIV. I also had the opportunity that night to meet the current reigning Ms. Black Arizona, Brittanae' Perkins (she's my new BFF).

The night was FABULOUS! FABULOUS! FABULOUS! (Okay I may be a bit biased because I was part of the organizing committee). But it was still an exceptional evening.

African-American Vibes of the City

One of the events that helped kick off Phoenix's Black History Month was the African-American Vibes of the City Exhibit located at the Phoenix Center. The exhibit was a collaborative effort that showcased the talents of several local black artist. The two-dimensional and three-dimensional works in the exhibit will be on display for the duration of the month of February.

It was also interesting to learn about the Phoenix Center itself. Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, it not only functions as a musuem for showcasing local talent, it also serves as a school for anyone interested in learning about the arts. There are classes avaible to the public on dance, photography, ceramics, ect.

The staff were terrific and took me on a tour of the facility (I'm still wondering the guy was just cruising me or not - but again I digress). It's nice to know there a place to go if I get bit by the artistic bug that will help me develop in whatever artistic form I like.

Progressive Lobby Day

Progressive Lobby Day is a day for progressive organizations to band together and descend on the capital in a collective effort for awareness and change. Present for the event were LGBT organizations (i.e. Gay Lesbian Staight Education Network and Equality Arizona), Women Rights Groups (i.e. Working Women's Organization and Women's Political Caucus) and other broad-based groups like the Arizona Advocacy Network and Planned Parenthood.
Each group that participated had a representative that briefly addressed the audience. There were several Arizona Senators and Representatives in attendance - some speaking and some just there to hear the concerns of the attendees.

I was pleased to see our only African-American representative from the House on-site. Representative Cloves Campbell (on the right in the photo) is speaking with one of the men from UGIMA (United Gay Informed Men of Arizona) who happens to live in his district.

The day was a great day for meeting like minded individuals from your district and for speaking with your Senator or Representative about things you feel strongly about and think they should address. Remember they are there to work for the people but they can't speak or vote on behalf of the people if we don't tell them what we think. We can't just assume they know the right thing to do.

Noah's Arc - Jumping The Broom

Okay - so you know how disappointed I was that Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom didn't make a theatrical appearance in Phoenix (I mean what's the deal, we're the 5th largest city in the country - can't we get some love, and yes there are plenty of black LGBT people that would appreciate and support). But I digress, I have been waiting anxiously for the movie to be released on dvd and it's finally here. I must tell you - I was at Best Buy when they opened the doors picking up my copy of the movie. Yes I took the day off from work.

I pleased to admit the movie exceeded my expectations. My total number of times watching the movie is now going into the double digits so I need to give myself a break from Noah and the gang - but I'm addicted. It's just so delicious. Ricky is still a ho. Alex is still funny as hell. Chance and Eddie are . . . we'll there Chance and Eddie and they're still working through the relationship ills. But Noah and Wade are together. As it should be.

Kudos to Patrik Ian-Polk for writing such a phenomenal movie and hats off to the cast for a terrific job.


Okay - February 2 marked the premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race and if you haven't been watching, child you're missing out. It's totally a cross between America's Next Top Model and Project Runway - but it works. The premises is simple - nine contestants vying for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar.

The show has not disappointed so far and up until this week I have agreed with each elimination. But I was seriously pulling for my girl. She was one of my two favorites (the other being Bebe Zahara Benet). Ongina had a very revealing moment the previous week that I think allowed her to capture the hearts of all that have been faithfully following the show.

If you have not been watching then do yourself a favor and check it out. You can go to logoonline.com to see the latest and greatest involving the show.