Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012's Ten Most Interesting People

 The year 2012 has had its share of ups and downs. It was an Olympic year. It was the year we witnessed the re-election of our first African-American president. It was the year we lost a pop diva and two disco legends. And for the LGBT community it was a year that we claimed many victories and suffered some interesting challenges. As the year draws towards its end, I wanted to reflect on some individuals that seemed to truly shine this year. This is my list of the 10 most interesting/ intriguing individuals of 2012. Again, this is MY list so there may be some people that you disagree with that I included, and there may be someone that you think I’ve omitted. I welcome and encourage your feedback .

10. At the 2012 Olympics there were only 23 out gay athletes. Seimone Augustus was one of the individuals on this list. As a member of the U.S. Women’s basketball team, Augustus helped lead the women’s team to bringing home the gold. How did she arrive on the team? She is one of the most recognizable faces in the WNBA, earning herself an MVP honor while leading the Minnesota Lynx to seizing their WNBA Championship in 2011.  This was not Seimone's first appearance in the Olympics.  She also earned herself a gold in the 2008 Olympics of Beijing.  She is currently engaged to her longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.  Perhaps we are seeing a change happening in the world.   Competitive, professional sports may be evolving as there are two out athletes that are on my list. 

9. Shangela LaQuifa Wadley may not have won RuPaul’s drag race, but she is definitely making a name for herself as one of the most recognized alumni to come off the show. She’s an activist. I personally met Shangela when she came to Casa Grande, Arizona to lend her name in support of C.A.R.E. (Central Arizona Rainbow Equality). While here she made a point to visit the 1in10 LGBT youth group because “you know Shangela loves the kids.” She is a singer. Her first single Call Me LaQuifa was released in August of 2011 and she recently completed production of the video for her second single Werqin Girl. Both are available on iTunes. And she also lists actor to her list of accomplishments having landed roles in Community, 2 Broke Girls, GLEE and several other television shows. She also launched a YouTube series this year with her roommate/ landlord, the one and only fabulous Jennifer Lewis.  Watch one episode and you'll be laughing uncontrollably.  She is a comidenne.  She is a drag performer.  She just maybe the hardest working man in drag business.  Her positive energy is contagious and I've loved her since I first saw her on RuPaul's drag race.

8. The world of boxing was taken aback when Orlando Cruz made his big announcement. He sat down with USA Today for an interview and stated, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career."He then went on to note, "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.” Cruz at that moment made history as the first professional boxer to come out while he still has an active boxing career. We've witnessed many professional athletes come out after they've retired from the sport including John Ameachi, Don Simmons and Emile Griffin.  I'm amazed by these individuals as well.  But I do believe you earn a few extra kudos for doing this while still active in your profession.  Cruz stands as an example to many young athletes that they can be out and enter the world of sports.

7. My favorite film released to dvd this year was hands down Pariah. This was a product of the interesting and dynamic Dee Rees. A protogee of Spike Lee, Rees first feature lenth film was bold and unconventional and it was story that needed to be told.  Pariah tells the story of a young high school girl, comfortable with her lesbian identity as she visits gay bars and hangs with her best friend who is a stud. However, she is not out to her family. This coming of age drama is a remarkable project with spectacular performances by its lead Adepero Oduye and by supporting actress Kim Wayans. Though the coming out story has been told repeatedly in film, it has never been told through though the lens of a young black urban female. This unique perspective gave the story that little something extra that allowed it sound fresh and new. 

6. It’s interesting that we call ourselves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, when many within the community want nothing to do with those individuals that identify as trans. However, Janet Mock is one of those extraordinary individuals that is giving powerful voice and stylish visibility to a community far too long silent, misunderstood and victimized. Former editor for People magazine’s website, Mock now gives her talents to the Hetrick-Martin Institute which operates Harvey Milk High. This allows her to create transgender specific programs and education for LGBT youth.

5. Though I’ve never actually met him, Keith Boykin has been a role model of mine for many years. The work he has done in giving a face and voice to African-American same-gender loving individuals has been nothing less than remarkable. His blog (keithboykin.com) was the site that made me want to be a blogger. His books (One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America and The Truth About the Down Low) gave insight to others about a demographic of people that many consider invisible and inaccessible. And this year, after witnessing the many young people of color that took their lives because of their sexuality (or their perceived sexuality), Keith decided to create his latest book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Isn’t Enough.. With contributions from many different writers, this project allowed many influential black gay men to tell their stories depression, coming out, rejection and self-acceptance.

4. You would have had to be living under rock to not hear her name this year. The death of my all-time favorite legend Whitney Houston was probably the biggest news of the year. After years struggling with addiction and attempting to revive her recording career, we lost her sadly when she died in the bathtub just days before the Academy Awards. The news came as a shock to everyone in the music world and to her millions of fans around the world. Love her or hate her, you cannot deny that she was a tremendously talented woman. I was a fan early on and I would love her until the end. All of her films are terrific. The Bodyguard, the movie that gave us a wonderful love story and gave us one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Her version of Dollly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, would go on the set the record for the longest time at number one for any single. Waiting to Exhale, this movie paired with some of my acting favorites including Angela Bassett, Loretta Divine, and Wesley Snipes. I remember watching this film with some buddies while in college. We laughed, cried, and then laughed again. The soundtrack to The Preacher’s Wife was the greatest selling gospel album of all time. And finally, following her death this year, Whitney gave us another film, Sparkle, which I’m sure will also become a favorite to many. Ms. Houston, I will always love you. Rest in peace.

3. The Hip Hop community has not historically been known for embracing the LGBT community. When Frank Ocean came out earlier this year just prior to the release of his first solo project, everyone was paying attention. Many wondered if his confession of loving another man would help or hinder CD sales. While all eyes were on Frank, many within the rap world stepped up and expressed their support. Hip Hop and R&B artists took to Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube saying they Ocean’s confession was a good thing. Beyonce even wrote a poem dedicated him. The formerly homophobic realm of rap maybe trending toward a world of acceptance for LGBT individuals. Two hip hop artist (Macklemore and Murs) released videos this year bringing more awareness to the LGBT issues. Earlier in the year Jay Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. Kanye West has stood up for gay and lesbian rights for a couple of years now. In the midst of all the controversy his CD upon its release to iTunes immediately went to the top of the chart. While Frank Ocean is by no means the first out Hip Hop, I still have to admire the courage it took for him to come out within a genre of music where he had to question whether or not he would have allies and at a time when he was getting ready to release a CD. Hopefully the trend of approval and acceptance within the Hip Hop world will continue.

2. The results of the presidential election are over and Barack Obama is once again the President of the United States. Anyone aware of how politics works knows that during an election year candidates have to be as strategic as possible, not alienate any group of people and try to secure as many votes and they can. Earlier in the year when he faced with the question as to whether or not he supported same-sex marriage many people thought the safe thing to do would be to give a “I support equality but marriage should be between a man and a woman” answer. Some thought he should totally steer away from topic. Instead the President answered with "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that -- for a lot of people -- that the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs." The President’s announcement sparked a nationwide dialogue about the topic and forced many within the African-American community to join in on the debate. Many black leaders, political and spiritual, stood behind the president and also expressed their interest in seeing marriage equality for the LGBT community. It was a bold step for the President in my opinion (I sincerely believe that John Kerry lost the election in 2004 specifically because of his support for marriage equality). For his support of marriage quality and LGBT rights, President Barack Obama earns this spot on my list.

1.The country of Uganda is considered one of the most homophobic in the world right now. There is currently legislation pending that would make “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death. Homosexual acts can already land a person in jail for life. If an individual has knowledge of a person’s homosexuality and does not report this to the police, that individual is too in violation of the law and can also be imprisoned. This climate of condemnation and hatred has led many same-gender loving individuals to flee the country or to become extremely reclusive. However, in an environment like this, a group of people got together to host the countries first gay pride celebration. The Uganda gay pride organizers make my list of the most inspiring group of individuals of 2012. The courage it took to host an event like this when they were literally putting their lives in jeopardy is unprecedented. I’m a very out and proud individual but I don’t live in a land where I could be put to death for who I love. If I lived in Uganda I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do what these people did. In spite of the hostile environment they live in, Uganda’s pride was held without much incident or backlash. Following the celebration there some individuals detained by the police they were eventually released without harm. The pride organizers have expressed their pleased sentiment in having their first, successful event behind them and stated that they are looking forward to doing this again next year.

So there you have it, my list of the most interesting and intriguing individuals of 2012. All are inspirational and awesome in my opinion. But I’d love to hear your opinion. Who did overlook? Who should be removed from the list? Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Phoenix AIDS Walk

So the Phoenix AIDS Walk is behind me and I can proudly say I'm still able to stand.  I honestly didn't know if I would be able to complete the walk considering I just had surgery repairing my broken leg less than two months ago.  My doctor ordered me to take it easy and to avoid stairs and long distances.  Well I didn't tell him about the walk I was planning on doing.

As usual the walk was such an amazing and empowering event.  I ran into so many old friends and familiar faces that it felt like a family reunion.  And it was great knowing that this event would benefit Aunt Rita's Foundation and many other AIDS Service organizations around the valley.  I eventually got over the fact that I had to sacrifice my Sunday morning leisure time in order to be there. 

Many people don't understand the fact that this is still a disease that affects many of us.  My friend Wendy that walked with us just lost her uncle to AIDS related complications about a month ago.  She walked in his honor.

It made me proud to see so many of my friends at this event volunteering and walking for such a phenomenal cause.  I left the walk encouraged that there the battle against HIV/AIDS has not yielded.  We have not surrendeded to this disease and their are many soldiers ready to keep the fight going.

If you would like to see pics from the AIDS Walk, please go here

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Bodyguard Starring Heather Headley

Wow! Who knew! According to Queerty, The Bodyguard will be coming to a stage in London. The West End has transformed the remarkable movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner into a stage production. The theatre should premiere this project next month. As if this news wasn't exciting enough, guess who will be playing the lead as the endangered diva Rachel Marron? None other than the fantastically fabulous Grammy winning, Tony winning Heather Headley.

Heather's rise to stardom on the stage led her to originate the role of Nala in The Lion King and she would go on to star in Aida (the part for which she would her Tony). However for me, it was when she changed gears and went from the stage to the studio that I learned about Ms. Heather. Her first album, This Is Who I Am, showed the world the remarkable R&B voice this woman has. Because of instant classics like He Is, I Wish I Wasn't (In Love With You), and Four Words, Heather Headley immediately became one of my favorite soulful vocalist. And four albums later she still remains on that list.

I'm guessing the itch to return to the stage was always there. Its been said that you should go hard or go home!!! It looks like Heather has decided to go hard with this one. Heather has some big shoes to fill. Unless you've been living under a rock, then you know that the part of Rachel Marron was originally played by Whitney Houston in the film version of the Bodyguard. The movie and the song that broke all the records, I Will Always Love You, have left many thinking that this is a role and a song that should remain untouched. So the big question is, will Heather Headley be able to deliver on the stage production? I'm a huge fan of Headley so I may be a bit biased, but I'm aware of her vocal ability. The girl has some pipes. She will need them to pull off the musical numbers in this production. But as a Tony winner, we know that she has the stage prescence/ acting ability to capture the hearts of those in the audience. I'm betting she will not only delivery, she is going to knock it out of the park with this one.

I'm actually a little jealous of those Londoneers that will be able to witness this production this fall. I'd love to see how this film was translated to the stage and how Heather performs in her return to this element that she loves and does so well. To all involved The Bodyguard, Heather and cast, I say "break a leg!" To see Heather's press conference release of I Have Nothing, please go here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monifah: Thank You for Doing You

Yesterday we saw the kickoff of LGBT History month.  Today, October 2, Faith Evans releases a new studio album entitled R&B Divas which features artist from the reality show she launched of the same name.  The show stars others soulful greats like Keke Wyatt, Syleena Johnson, Nicci Gilbert (leadsinger of the Michael Jackson founded girl group Brownstone), and Monifah Carter.  On the show Monifah came out as a lesbian.

Monifah started making waves with the release of her first album Moods . . . Moments in 1996.  This CD featured her first hit "I Miss You" which featured Heavy D.  However for most lovers of R&B, she became a household name when her signature track "Touch It" made it on the charts. "Touch It," which was featured on her sophomore album Mohogany, was an instant dance classic with its provocative lyrics, urban groove and sensational video which featured beautiful dancing girls and hot men in uniforms.

As a huge fan of R&B music it was a big deal for me to learn about the show R&B divas.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I own every album released by everyone on this show.  These are beautiful women with powerful voices.  However my excitement about the show was elevated even more when Monifah made her revelation about being a lesbian. 

When I see people of color express the fact that they are same gender loving (especially when it's done in this type of context) it does my heart good. Pardon me for paraphrasing but Monifah has now set herself up as a role model for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow isn't enough.  I keep hearing hat we live in a time where color doesn't matter anymore. But I think it is important to recognize the fact that Monifah is a black women working in a genre [R&B] supported primarily by black folks.  And black folks have not always been embracing or affirming of the same-gender loving community.  So kudos to her for walking in her truth and living an authentic life.

In honor of LGBT History month, please go out and support this project.  Pick up a copy of the CD R&B Divas.  Please watch R&B Divas on TV One.  Or pick yourself up a copy of any of Monifah's older projects.  If you are a fan of soulful music you will love the new album.  There are many great songs here but my favorite at the moment has to be Lovin' Me which features all of the girls from the show.  Get into the fan made video below.  

Let me see you put your hands in the air if you love yourself!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

October is LGBT History Month

Today October 1 marks the beginning of LGBT history month.  This is the month the gay and lesbian community uses to celebrate those individuals and events that contributed to shaping our rich, diverse history.  During the month of October many organizations will honor individuals like Harvey Milk, Frida Kahlo, Bayard Rustin and Andy Warhol.  We will also see contemporary heroes like Barney Frank, Elton John and Wanda Sykes recognized for using their influence to continue to make the world a better place for same-gender loving people.

As we move forward through this month please remember that Halloween isn't the only thing you have to look forward to.  Take as many opportunities as you can to develop new role models.  Learn about those people that have paved (or are paving) the way for you and your friends.
Not that long ago it was illegal for two men to dance together in public; it was a crime for bars whose constituency was gays and lesbians to serve alcohol, and a person could be arrested for wearing clothing that was designed for the opposite gender.  Not that long ago being attracted to a person of the same sex meant that you were labeled with a psychological disorder.  Being gay or lesbian meant you were confined to a life filled with secrets and lies.

Lets look at how far we've come.  Sodomy laws have been deemed unconstitutional.  We can now serve openly in the military.  We now have several states that recognize same sex marriages.  It is not as easy to fire an individual now for choosing to love someone of the same sex.  And now many companies have gone beyond just employment protection and have extended domestic partner benefits for their gay and lesbian workers.  We have pride parades and celebrations in almost every major city.  And media repesentation has transitioned the LGBT community from deranged, isolated sociopaths (as we were often historically represented in film) to characters with depth , personality and substance. 
As a community we have come a mighty long way and it is all thanks to those individulals that have been on the front line in our stuggles.  So take a moment this month to learn about a leader from the past, thank one of our contemporary heroes, or step up yourself and become  a catalyst for change.  Do something this month to celebrate LGBT history month.        

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keith Boykin: You Inspire Me

Happy Birthday Keith Boykin. Keith was born forty-seven years ago today (at least that’s the case according to Wikipedia). I have for some time been an admirer of Mr. Boykin. Years ago when the blogosphere was only just beginning I somehow stumbled upon his blog (www.keithboykin.com). Keith’s blog was dedicated to the individuals and issues of the black same-gender loving community. I was immediately hooked. Nowhere else could I go to get all that information. I found myself navigating to his site almost daily.

Though he no longer manages a daily blog, Keith inspired many black gay men and women to take to the web and to start addressing issues that were relevant to us on their own sites. Soon there blogs specifically for the African-American LGBT community all over the web, but it was Keith that started the trend. What is discouraging to me is that many of the great blogs that he inspired have gone away. It is understandable when you consider the time it takes to constantly contribute to a daily blog when there is little (or no) reward reaped for the hard work one puts in.

He inspired me to start this blog, The J Spot and it is because of this blog that I now get why blogs don’t last long. I don’t post nearly as often as I did when I initially started. Work, life and family and other things tend to get in the way. But I still get the notion to post something every now and then so I won’t call it quits just yet.

But I did want to take a moment to thank the man that has been one of the most outspoken of the black gay community. Mr. Boykin you continue to inspire me. Thank you for your blog that gave me so much knowledge. Thank you for your books that give visibility and insight to our often invisible community. And thank you for your voice. Please continue to represent our community with dignity, grace and intellect. I think you are an inspiration to many others as well as me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Louis Turner

I would like to take a moment to wish a happy birthday to one of my best friends.  Mr. Louis Turner is one of those rare individuals.  He is successful.  He gives back to his community.  He is always there to support his friends in their time of need.  And no matter what, he does it all with a smile on his face. 

He is a man that wears too many hats to try to mention them all, so we will only focus on a few of them.  The two roles I am most impressed by are facilitator of UGIMA (United Gay Informed Men of African-desscent) and member of the Arizona Black AIDS Task Force.

There is only one organization in Phoenix currently serving the African-American LGBT community.  UGIMA is an acronym which stands for United Gay Informed Men of African-descent.  The group was formed in August of 2008 to fill what many considered a void in the Valley.  Speaking as a black gay man living in Arizona I can personally attest to the fact that prior to UGIMA there was no place where African-American same-gender loving men could go to be around men like themselves, to voice their concerns on issues affecting their community, and to  organize collectively to support those events and institutions that support them.  Louis Turner found a meeting space (Mt of Olives Lutheran Church - a place where he served as a board member), and gathered his friends and associates that he thought would be interested, and proceeded with weekly meetings.

The Arizona Black AIDS Task Force is a collection of individuals and organizations working toward reducing the number of African-Americans infected with HIV/AIDS.  When we look at the rate of infections among the black community, Arizona parallels the rest of the country.  Black folks have become the new face of this disease.  Almost half of all new infections are black folks.  The Black AIDS Task force came into being to try and and impact these nunmbers through outreach and education.

Louis' voluntary commitment to these organizations goes above and beyond.  But his community involvement is not limited to just these organizations.  As mentioned before, he has served on the board of directors for his church.  He has worked with HEAL, Arizona One Voice Community Center, and the Southwest Center for HIV/ AIDS.  He does all of these things in addition to his demanding job at the Arizona State Hospital. 

Fifty-two years ago today the world was introduced to a remarkable man.  Happy birthday Louis Turner.  Your friends love you.  Your family loves you.  And I love you.  I hope today is very special for you.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Uganda's Got Pride!

The country of Uganda has finally witnessed its very first gay celebration. On August 6, over 100 members of the LGBT community gathered in the city of Entebbe to show off its pride. You have to be aware of the extreme anti-gay environment of this country to appreciate how heroic of an act this was.  The Uganda Pride Parade happened at a time when the country is still pending litigation that could make "aggravated homosexualty" punishible by death.  Aggravated homosexuality is defined as homosexual acts that happen on several occasions.

Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda punishible by prison.  Also, if a person is aware of homosexual behaviour and does not report it to the police, that person is also breaking the law.  The homophobic climate of this country and it's legislation is deplorable.  But inspite of the dangers faced by the LGBT community, these individuals decided they would host a gay pride parade to show that there is indeed an LGBT community that will not be forced into the closet.

According to The Advocate the Uganda Pride celebration was complete with a beach parade by Lake Victoria, several parties and a film festival.  Though many would view these accomplishmennts as a win for the LGBT community, it must be mentioned that the day would not go without its problems.  The police this show up following the parade.  Three participants were arrested and a photographer was detained.  But inspite of these hiccups, the Uganda gay community has vowed to not be deterred by this hiccup.  LGBT activist Frank Mugisha stated, “We did not have a chance to thank the pride organizers, the entire committee and the grand marshal. Thumbs up to you all who made this happen. Next time we begin the march from the police station.”

The pictures included in the sldieshow above are owned by The New York Times and The Advoctge.  I do imply any ownership of these photos.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

R.I.P. Sherman Hemsley

I loved Sherman Hemsley.  I know my fascination with The Jeffersons was not something that was limited to my house alone.  Black folks (and white folks) around the country tuned in every week to see George and Weezy living the high life in their deluxe apartment in the sky.  The show spanned an entire decade, airing originally in 1975 and lasting an almost unprecedented ten seasons to 1985. 

I loved all of the predominately black cast shows that were playing at the time, including Good Times, What’s Happening, That’s My Mama.  Each show was amazing to me for different reasons.  However, The Jeffersons was the only show that showed an African-American family that was wealthy financially.  Looking back, George Jefferson may metaphorically have been our Barack Obama.  Though a fictional character, he was that man that showed many young Black kids that with ambition, determination and hard work you really can be anything that you want to be in this country.  Because of The Jeffersons, we realized that the kids in my neighborhood could  aim for more than pimp, pusher and NBA player.
I also loved the show for the many controversial issues it introduced to the black community.  We were forced to think about interracial relationships, transgender issues, and  gender roles just to name a few.  In the course of their ten years they were never afraid to bring non-traditional issues to the forefront, making folks think about the status quo and question its validity.
Upon viewing the final episode of The Jeffersons, I thought my time being entertained (and educated) by Sherman Hemsley was over.  And then came his television show Amen.  As a kid that grew up in the church, this was a show that I immediately connected with.  Deacon Frye was an unconventional churchman.  He loved his church and he loved his family; but although a deacon he was not a man that wanted to spend all of his time (or all of his money) on his congregation.  Again Sherman Hemsley was ahead of his time.  This pre-Tyler Perry sitcom was the first time America got such a frequent peek into the situations, lives, and rituals of the Black church.
On July 24 we lost Sherman Hemsley.  Initially it was said he died of Superior Vena Cava Syndrome.  Now it has been revealed that Lung Cancer was the reason for his death.  Whatever the reason I am saddened by this loss.
I have recently seen many blogs and articles questioning whether Sherman Hemsley was a member of the same-gender loving community.  Was Sherman Hemsley gay?  Now that he’s gone we will never really know. When Nell Carter died she willed custody of her children to her lesbian lover.  When we lost Sally Ride, her company acknowledged  that she was survived by her partner of 27 years.  For these individuals, their homosexuality was confirmed upon their demise.  For Sherman Hemsley there are no children to tell the story of his personal life.  There is no surviving partner to speak of his final days.  Sherman Hemsley’s private life will remain exactly that, private.
I personally would love to claim Hemsley as a member of our community.  He was an unparalleled talent that has left a legacy a phenomenal work for us to enjoy.  I understand the power of the closet.  If we knew that George Jefferson was being played by an out gay black man, would his show have been as successful as it was for ten years?  If we knew Sherman was homosexual would Hollywood have ever allowed him to play a deacon in Black church on Amen?  The closet may have been one of the greatest tools Hemsley used in sustaining his career.  But just like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of the tootsie pop, the world may never really know the answer to this mystery.  What I do know for certain is that he made me laugh and I will never forget him.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sylverster is the "Queen of Disco"

Who is the “Queen of Disco?” Donna Summer? Gloria Gaynor? Many would argue (and I would have to agree) that the true QUEEN of disco is none other than the fierce and fabulous drag star extraordinaire, Sylvester. With dance hits like You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Dance (Disco Heat), he has left a legacy of music that we will never forget.

Sylvester was a diva in his own right and an artist that believed in himself and his talent. He refused to bow down to the intimidations of this record label. Openly gay and over the top flamboyant, his label, Fantasy Records, wanted the singer to tone down his onstage persona. They tried to pressure Sylvester to stop wearing women’s clothing, wigs and excessive make-up with hopes that this could give the artist a more universal appeal.

Sylvester not only refused to take the advice of his label; he decided to move forward with the creation of his You Make Me Feel video adorned in full drag, much to the dismay of many industry executives. You can see the video here. However they would have to revel in the fact that maybe Sylvester knew what he was doing because sales of the album only increased.

On September 20, 2004, Sylvester's anthem record, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. A year later, on September 19, 2005, Sylvester himself was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievement as an artist.

I love Sylvester because he stayed true to himself not only in his career but throughout his life.  He never compromised who he was for his family, for the church or for his record label.  Sylvester was a big ole black drag queen and he embraced all aspects of himself.  He opened the doors for RuPaul, Boy George and all other artists that decided to embrace androgyny and gender fluidity.

The story of Sylvester’s rise to stardom and details about his final days struggling with HIV are well documented in the short documentary below. Its only 34 minutes and well worth the time to learn more about this phenomenal man that I personally consider a hero.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrating Nell Carter

Nell Carter was a phenomenal singer, actor, and comedienne. She is remembered by most for her starring role in the TV sitcom Gimme A Break. She had a personality that you just had to love and a smile that just made you melt. I grew up in rural Alabama and I think I saw her as a kindred spirit because she too was from this Southern state. Though she will live in infamy for Gimme A Break, I will always remember her for her amazing voice.

Before her breakthrough on television Nell was a very accomplished Broadway performer. She would always bring down the house in her stage performances in Hair and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Little known fact, Nell was the person originally offered the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls. Before the Dreamgirls cast would start production Nell was also offered the starring role in Gimme A Break and she decided to make the break from stage and move into television. Imagine how different things would be for Nell and for Jennifer Holiday if that had happened.

I remember rushing home every evening from school to watch “Gimme A Break.” Her success in TV still amazes me. Nell was not your typical Hollywood starlet. Nell was black. Nell was female. Nell was short. And Nell was a person that struggled controlling her weight. Others may have seen these as obstacles but not Nell. With her dynamic personality and her tremendous talent she was a force to be reckoned with. Today there are still not that many roles for African-Americans, but Nell’s success will stand in time as a symbol of the phenomenal person she was.

Nell was not out during the height of her celebrity. This was one of those unfortunate circumstances where the fact that she was a member of the LGBT community did not become common knowledge until after she died. Upon her death family and friends discovered that she had been living a closeted lesbian life when custody of her children was left with her partner.

I cannot fault Nell for being closeted. She was successful in spite of being black and gay and weight challenged. I imagine she did not want to add the stigma of being same gender loving. Or maybe she did not embrace this part of herself until later in her life. Whatever the case, I am proud to be able to list Nell Carter to the list of LGBT African-Americans I adore.

This performance with Andy Gibbs is one of my favorites by her . . .

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Prince Rogers Nelson

It's after midnight so technically Prince's birthday was yesterday but I wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to His Royal Badness.  Last night at Zia Records thanks to our manager Manny (who is the biggest Prince fan in the world) we had an all night Prince-athon.  For me it was terrific.  For some of the younger kids working in the store I think we annoyed the hell out of them (but hey with age we earn the right to do that).

Prince had such an important role in my development.  First of all there was his music.  God - no man could turn out albums (yes, I said albums) like the man from Minneapolis.  I swear it seemed like Prince dropped a new album every month.  This fact is only significant because all of the music he released was great.  If he were turning out horrible music we wouldn't care but the music that Prince created was creative, it was innovative and oftentimes it was controvesial.  I can remember sitting in my room singing along to Paisley Park nonstop for like two hours.  And we didn't have MP3 players or CDs, I was listening to it on casette so to relisten to a song I had to hit stop, press rewind and continuously check to find the start of the song.  My how the world has changed.

I also loved Prince for his androgyny.  For a young black man growing up in rural Alabama, Prince was an  interesting person to idolize from afar.  He was beautiful and talented and mysterious and he seemed to have this sexuality that was too fluid for many understand.  I loved that he enjoyed pushing peoples buttons when it came to race, sexuality and I'd even go so far as to say gender identity.  When I saw Prince I saw a young black man that seemed very comfortable playing with and enjoying all aspects of his sexuality (inspite of the fact that it seemed to make some uncomfortable). I've been hooked on this man since I heard the first line of Controversy . . .

"I just can't believe all the things people say.
Am I black or white, am I straight or gay."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pariah: A Review

This week we see the release of the film Pariah. Written and directed by Dee Rees, Pariah centers around the character Alike and stars Adero Oduye in the leading role. Alike (pronounce aa-lee-kay), who has come to accept the fact that she is a lesbian, lives with her extremely conservative, very religious mother and her protective father. Though they suspect she may be homosexual, the question seems to linger in the household and everyone is afraid to ask. The fear in asking probably stems in the fact that there is comfort in not knowing.

This movie is made great by the dynamic performances of the entire cast.  Alike’s best friend Laura is played by Pernell Walker. Mother and father are played by Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell respectively. Sharonda, the supportive but annoying little sister is played by Sahra Mellesse. And finally there is Bina though I’m not sure how to describe her complicated, very important and relevant part.  It helps that these guys had a terrific script to work with.

Dee Rees has developed a coming of age story that centers around the life of a teenaged, African-American lesbian. It may seem from this description that this movie would target a very specific group demographically (black same-gender loving individuals) but I would argue that there is a much more universal story happening here. This film should appeal to anyone that has had to learn to live life on their own terms.

I do not want to spoil the movie so I will not give away too many details here. I will assume that most of us, when we were young, wanted to grow up and make our parents happy and proud of who we are and what we accomplish. But when your parent’s dreams and your reality are harshly different, the conflict over whose destiny will win could create an environment where tensions are on edge, personalities start to clash, and relationships get tested.

I want to highlight the performance of Ms. Kim Wayans for a moment.  Wayans is known for her off the cuff humor.  A member of the Wayans family, this entire clan is famous for bringing side splitting laughs not for bringing award winning dramatic performances.  That being said, I am pleasantly surprised at the caliber of acting Kim brings to this role.  Her performance stands out so much for me because it is so incredibly different from everything she's done in the past. 

This movie is amazing and is a must see in my opinion. I encourage everyone to not only see this film, I would also ask that you financially support (aka purchase) this film. Projects like this come around only sporadically and it’s because most studios think that there would not be a return on investment (and in many cases they are correct). If we would like to see future projects that include same-gender loving people of color then we need to support the ones that currently exist. So please support this film and encourage others you know to support this film. Dee Rees and her team deserve the recognition for their awe-inspiring work.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 6 Rally Seeking Justice for Trayvon Martin

Black and Brown Community Rally on April 6 in Phoenix Seeking Justice for Trayvon Martin and the End of Law Enforcement Abuse!

This post was generated by Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer and posted to phxsoul.com.  I felt it was important enough to share.

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) in alliance with Puente Arizona is holding a rally on April 6 at 4 PM in Cesar Chavez Plaza, 201 W. Washington in Phoenix, to organize people of color in demanding justice in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. The Black and Brown Stand Up for Justice Rally is a mass movement of local organizations such as the NAACP and community members in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen killed while walking home in February.

The Black and Brown Stand Up for Justice Rally is part of the "Arrest Arpaio, Not the People" campaign organized by Puente Movement to demand Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio face criminal charges for his negligence and violation of human and civil rights as outlined in a Department of Justice 2011 report.

"Law enforcement in the U.S. claims to 'protect and serve' but the killing of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent cover-up by Sanford Police Department is just the latest story of how law enforcement perpetuates and encourages violence and brutality against people of color," said Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer.

The mission of the Black and Brown Stand Up for Justice Rally is to organize communities of color in solidarity to fight the injustices that are terrorizing lives and destroying families and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. BAJI will call attention to the characterizations of black and brown people as criminals that has created an environment where "walking while Black or Brown" has become crime punishable by vigilante violence and used to demonized immigrants of color in the U.S.

"George Zimmerman is no different from the men in self-appointed border militias here in Arizona," said Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer. "It is time that we connect the dots and demand an end to law enforcement committing acts of violence against people of color."

Black and Brown Stand Up for Justice Rally is organizing communities against the national epidemic of racial profiling, the deadly use of force and blatant disregard for the rights and lives of people of color in the criminal justice system. Attendees are encouraged to come "armed" with skittles and ice tea or wear hoodies in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin, who was dressed in a hoodie and returning from a convenience store with snacks for himself and his brother when he was confronted by and subsequently killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer.

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is an education and advocacy group comprised of African Americans and black immigrants from Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean. BAJI engages African Americans and other communities in dialogue that leads to actions that challenge U.S. immigration policy and the underlying issues of race, racism and economic inequity that frame it.

For more information, please visit www.BlackAlliance.org.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

C.A.R.E. March for Equality

I made my annual trip down to Casa Grande for the 4th Annual March for Equality presented by C.A.R.E. (Central Arizona Rainbow Equality). I must admit I had a wonderful time. I ran into old friends that I haven't seen in forever. Plus I met some spectacularly fabulous people I now love and admire.

So I didn't take nearly as many pictures this year as I've taken in the past (which is why the video above is a short one) and you know how much I love my photography. But nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about today. The ride down with my friend Louis. Running into old friends like Al and Donna of P-Flag, Jimmy "Equality" Grunder, Lee Walters, Lee Peach, Felicia Minor, Patrick Kelly, and Thomas Fleming just to name a few. And my three new favorite people are now Dean Dill (good luck in your campaign by the way), Ms. Shangela LaQuifa Wadley of RuPaul's Drag Race (such a sweetheart), and thirteen year old Tanner (an out and proud teen who was just dumped by his boyfriend but is still determined to get out, meet new people and stay positive about life).

I'm really looking forward to what next year has to bring. If you'd like to see all of my pics from today, please go here. Also, please check out my pics from last years March for Equality here.

Bayard Rustin's 100th Birthday

Okay - so I know I'm late with this post but I still feel a need to share this.  March 17 was Bayard Rustin's birthday.  This year (2012) he would have turned 100 years old.  Happy Belated birthday to one of my favorite role models.

I was thrilled to learn that in honor of his 100th birthday, HERO Phoenix donated a picture of Bayard to the One Voice community Center.  The picture will permanently hang to remind people of his legacy in both the LGBT and African-American civil rights struggles.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Invisible Life is Coming to Life on the Big Screen

So I love me some E. Lynn Harris.  I've read every single novel.  I've read his autobiography.  I've even read the tribute to the writer that was released posthumously.  So I was under the assumption that my days of enjoying the works of E. Lynn Harris were behind me.  But hold on, wait a minute . . . this just in, Tracy Edmunds is working on a project that will adapt several of Harris' books into films.  I should say this is just in for me because apparently this news has been public for some time and I was just unaware.

E. Lynn Harris passed away in 2009 from heart problems.  He passed away shortly after he and Tracy Edmunds had just closed the deal granting her permission to move forward with the films.  Tracy Edmunds (Edmunds Entertainment) with collaborate with Proteus Spann (Proteus E2 Productions) as they bring these novels to the big screen.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary writer on his final booktour.  As he was rounding the country promoting his book Basketball Jones, he made a stop in Phoenix.  There was no way E. Lynn would be in my backyard and I didn't go and meet him.  Oddly enough for Phoenix it was raining.  And it was raining hard.  FYI, nobody in Phoenix owns an umbrella as we hardly ever get rain. There was no parking left at the mall that housed my Barnes & Nobles and I had a mightly long walk as I exited my car.  Needless to say by the time I got to see E. Lynn I was soaking wet. 

I would have been very content with just a handshake from the man.  But he pulled me close to him and hugged me despite my warning.  And he posed for several pics not only with me but with everyone that was there that evening.  He was kind and patient and seemed sincere as he expressed his love of his fans.  I was an evening I will never forget because it wasn't many days later that I heard the news of his death.  I replayed my evening with my mentor over and over again.

This first novel that will be adapted will be Harris' first book, Invisible Life.  You can learn mover about the project here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Nicholas Murray

On a couple of occassions I've had the pleasure of seeing this dynamic artist showcasing his work in the community.  Each time I've seen him I've been impressed not only with the quality of his work but also with the genuine passion that comes through when he talks about his art.  So the last time I saw him I asked if he would indulge me with an interview for my blog.  To which he kindly accepted. 

I'm very pleased to introduce this friend of the J Spot, Mr. Nicholas D. Murray:

Nicholas could you please tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Nicholas DuPree Murray and I am 28 years old. I am a native to Phoenix, Arizona. The arts have always been something I have enjoyed to do, whether it is the fine arts (drawing, painting) or the performing arts (dance, music). I remember at a young age drawing stick figures and being so emerged in the act of creating art. Overtime this love of art emerged into my dream of becoming an animator and working in the art field.

Have you studied the arts formally?
My adventures in art began in childhood and have stuck with me since. Overtime this love of art emerged into my dream of becoming an animator and working in the art field, which led to my educational endeavors at Arizona State University in the Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts in 2001. Overtime my skills in the fine arts developed in fine arts areas, such as drawing, painting, and sculpting. Nevertheless my main focus at the university was to learn and develop a solid understanding of animation, both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional. I remember being a kid and being in awe of Disney animated movies. I used these films as a reference in terms of what I wanted to do for a career. The word animation in itself refers to bringing something to life, and is why I enjoy the art form so much to this day. After working on a project for weeks on end, seeing the finished product is most rewarding. I was also introduced to many historic figures in my courses at the university, which impacted my art as well. A Harlem Renaissance artist by the name of Aaron Douglas is one of these individuals that I used a reference in developing some of my art concepts. Douglas’s art revolved around African and Egyptian design concepts, which made him popular. His work sparked an emergence of many young African American artists and helped with the appreciation and development of African heritage and African American folk culture in art during that era. Aaron Douglas and his art was a guide for me to use in my artistic development at that time. After 4 ½ years of study and artistic development at Arizona State University, I earned my Bachelors of Arts degree in Digital Arts which has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

What have you been doing with your art since college?
Right after graduating from college I joined the workforce…. I had to start repaying back those student loans. Lol- I began working at Chase bank, which is not what I expected especially after graduating from college with an art degree. Since then my jobs have not been related to any form of art, which brings me to my focus as of right now of marketing my work and getting my name out there as an artist. Nevertheless throughout the past 5 years I have created individual/ personalized pieces for people. Though not consistent, the future looks to be promising in creating more individualized art. As of right now my main focus is to complete my MBA, which will be at the end of March! Yay! From there I will focus full force on in marketing and selling my art, along with establishing my own business. I would like to dive more into animation, for the reason that there are not enough animation opportunities in Phoenix, AZ since Fox Animation Studios closed. I want to potentially establish an animation production company to revive the art form in this region of the United States. There is a lot that I would like to do, so I must focus on one thing at a time. We will see where life goes………In regards of purchasing my art, I have prints for sale. I am also open to discuss potential pieces for anyone who is interested in something unique and personalized. They just need to contact me. My art can be viewed on my official web site at www.nicholasdmurrayart.com.

Your Billie Holiday piece on display at the Lift Every Voice: Black Art Showcase is simply beautiful. How did you get involved with this project?
I heard about the at the Lift Every Voice: Black Art Showcase through a very close friend. As I stated, throughout the past couple of years my art has basically been on the back burner. My friend knows that and understands my longing to pursue and evolve my art, so he gave me the information, which I am glad that he did. I can truly say that this opportunity has sparked a new era in the development of my art, and has opened eyes to what I want and need to do in order to get my name out there.

As a professional artist, do you have any advice for young people wanting to pursue the arts as a career path?
My advice for young people wanting to pursue art is to maintain focus on what they truly want to do. Meaning, if art is your dream, passion, and drive then do it! I have found myself putting my art work on hold and focusing on things that were not that important in life. I know that I love art and creating art, and this is what I essentially need to do in order to truly be happy. Another suggestion is to have a back up plan throughout the pursuit and establishment of a career path in art. I feel that it is always good to have resources to fall back on.

Art is in the eye of the creator. People get caught up in wanting to create art that resembles other artist’s work, and if it does not look a certain way then it is not good in their eyes. I feel that this is a big mistake. Art in my opinion is individualized. It expresses an artist’s emotion and perspective during the time of creation. This is the beauty of art…. It can be what you want it to be, and it is allowed to be different. I guess the main point that I want to make to aspiring young artists is to be yourself, and let your art reflect who you are…. not what you think others want it to be. From there, natural artistic development is inevitable. Good luck!

I would personally like to thank Mr. Murray for taking time to sit down and answer some questions for The J Spot.  Best of luck in all of your future endeavors.  I'm looking foward to seeing what you do next.

If you would like to see some of his art pieces first hand, Nicholas will be exhibiting his art at the Invisible Heroes Black History month program February 21 at  Mt. of Olives Lutheran Church.  If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please visit his website  http://www.nicholasdmurrayart.com/.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

LGBT Black History Month Program

Coretta Scott King once said, “I appeal to everybody who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbians and gay people.” LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) African-Americans have been everywhere in our history though often they go unseen. From politicians to poets, authors to activists, the stories of these heroes go unmentioned and forgotten because oftentimes we see their contributions as insignificant.

Invisible Heroes will resurrect some of these forgotten heroes. You will not see these individuals mentioned at other Black History month programs but their stories are important and their stories should be honored. This month we will shine the spotlight on several of these stories.

UGIMA (United Gay Informed Men of African-descent) is honored to present Invisible Heroes, an event that will honor LGBT African-Americans in history. The program will be held at the Mt. of Olives Lutheran church on February 21 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM.

The Anti-Valentine's Day Song List

So it’s Valentine’s Day and it seems that everything I read is about falling in love, staying in love or finding someone to love. I’m gotten to the point of love overdose and I feel obligated to go into my anti-Valentine’s Day mode. In the spirit of this I feel I need to post my top thirteen broken heart songs. If you’re someone in love then these are not the songs for you. This is for all my peeps who hate this holiday and all it stands for.

So here goes, my favorite “f*ck him, f*ck love and f*ck Valentine’s Day songs.
Thirteen: Chrisette Michelle - Ephiphany

Chrisette Michelle is one of my favorite neo-soul artists. But she sums up very eloquently in this song what any fed up girl must do before she walks out. You have to have that Oprah a-ha moment or an Epiphany before you can proclaim “it’s over.”

Twelve: Heather Headley – Gotta Go, Gotta Leave

I gotta go, I gotta leave, so please don’t make this hard for me. Heather – get you shit and get out girl. He obviously don’t care about you anyway. You can do better.

Eleven: Keyshia Cole – I Changed My Mine
Keyshia Cole’s debut album The Way It Is was to R&B what Alanis Morissette’s Bitter Pill was for pop music. It was the angry girls album. It was the album you played when you broke up with your boyfriend. And it’s first single I Changed My Mind (I Don’t Love You No More) spoke to the hearts of many angry girls.

Ten: Sunshine Anderson – Heard It All Before

Sunshine Anderson’s Heard It All Before was perfect. Great voice and great hook. The song just worked. I remember (in my past life) when I had give someone the hand and I started singing “heard it all before” in order to get my point across. Not sure if it worked but it did make me feel better.

Nine: Rose Royce – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

“You abandoned me, love don’t live here anymore. Just a vacancy, love don’t live here anymore.” The perfect lines to open up a song about love long gone. I was very young when this song came out but for some reason it spoke to me even back then. The voice, the lyrics, and the music all blend together to make something that’s almost surreal.

Eight: Jazmine Sullinvan – Bust Your Windows

What can I say, a girl so angry that she took a brick and put it through her boyfriends window. If you’re so fed up with a person that you’ve reached this point then it is time to move on.

Seven: Beyonce – Irreplaceable

To the left, to the left. Why was this the anthem for some many women when this song came out. I’m very happy in my relationship but for some reason I still enjoyed this song. Maybe it helped keep me in check because I’ve never wanted to assume that I am so phenomenal that I can’t be replaced by someone else.

Six: Rihanna – Take A Bow

“You look so dumb right now, standing out side my house. Trying to apologize, you’re so ugly when you cry . . but it’s over now!” . This song came out shortly after Beyonce’s Irreplaceable and its no wonder there were so many comparisons between the two But as far as angry girl songs go, this one is one of the best.

Five: Tamia – Me

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this song. It is not your traditional angry girl song. This song is not so much about I’m mad at you so I’m going to press on. This song is more about I love me enough to not take your bullshit anymore. I love the fact that there is some personal accountability in the song.

Four: Janet Jackson – Son of a Gun

“Haa – haa, hoo-hoo, thought you’d get the money too, greedy muthafucka wanna have his cake and eat it too!” Speak on it Ms. Jackson (I call her Ms. Jackson cause I’m nasty). With a little help from one of the original angry girl anthem (Carly Simon – You’re So Vain) this song was on heavy rotation in my house when it was dropped.

Three: Chante Moore – Bitter

Nobody does a ballad better than Chante Moore. So it takes someone this special and this beautiful to say I hate you in such a poetic way. If you’ve never heard this song before please listen to all the way to the end. Only then can you fully understand how “so over him” she really is.

Two: Kelis – Caught Out There

“I hate you so much right now! AGGGGHHHHHHH!” I can still remember the summer when this was released. This song trumped all other angry girl anthems. It spoke to so many girls that were fed up. It was almost number one on my list but that honor had to go to . . .

Number One: Cee-Lo Green Forget You

I’m sorry, but my entire list this far has been angry girl songs. Then last year Cee-Lo Green came along with the song that captured what every person that has ever been in a breakup at some point feels. “Ooh – I really hate your ass right now!” It was catchy, it was different, it was perfect. Cee-Lo is the only male on the list but this song in my opinion had to be number one.

So what do you think, what other songs should have made the list?

10 Tips to a Long Lasting Relationship

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching I figured I would do a special post for those in relationships, working towards a relationship, or desperately wondering why they’re not in a relationship. Last month marked fifteen fabulous years I’ve shared with my partner. I keep hearing from my single friends (and good God there are a lot of them) about how difficult it is to find and keep a mate. So on the eve of Valentine’s day I feel I need to offer this challenge to those struggling to find their “happily ever after.” Maybe the problem is you.

I keep hearing the same arguments over and over and over again: “He just wasn’t my type.” “The dating pool is so shallow here.” “All men are dogs.” It may be time to do some personal reflections because the problems do always lie externally. Remember, the only common denominator in all those bad relationships have been YOU! And I don’t want you to take this offensively. I am in no way trying to be judgmental or sarcastic. I am sincerely trying to offer helpful advice that could point you towards a relationship that is mutually beneficial, fun and long-lasting.

Unfortunately I’ve witnessed friends repeatedly make awful relationship decisions. Now I know what works for one person does not necessarily work for the next. But there are some truths that are just universal and I feel apply to almost all couples.

So below are some notes from me that I hope will help you in your quest for the love of your life. These are my laws of relationships that all should abide by. I hope you find them helpful.

Law 1. Relationships are not based on sex alone. I have quite a few friends that are meeting their “dates” on hook-up sites. Oftentimes they meet on Adam4Adam or Craigslist and their initial face-to-face contact is exclusively to have sex. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It is important to have a healthy sexual release. But be a realist. Know that a hook up is just that - a hook up. And for those that really do enjoy courting and dating, in the beginning the sex usually is phenomenal. As time goes on, the limerace disappears and the sex may not happen as often. This is the normal progression of a relationship. This is not a sign that it is time to flee.

Law 2. There is no happily ever after. Far too often I have witnessed friends dismiss potential partners after just one disagreement. And usually it is over something petty, trivial or just plain stupid. I mean really – is it worth leaving someone great just because he/ she didn’t replace the roll of toilet paper. In all relationships there is going to be some discourse. The only way to stand the test of time will be to reflect on how you react in the rough times. I’m not saying you need to stay in an abusive relationship, but I am saying that you will never find someone you agree from now through eternity.

Law 3. If you were miserable before your relationship then you will be miserable in your relationship. Many people long for the perfect relationship because they think it will end whatever unhappiness or depression they are experiencing in their life. I have some really shocking news I have to share with you. You will never find happiness by looking for it outside of yourself. As much as I love Anita Baker’s You Bring Me Joy, that joy is only fulfilling if you already have self love. Having a special person in your life is not going to make you happy if you cannot make yourself happy. I hate to be the one that disappoints you but that’s just the way it is.

Law 4. The perfect mate does not exist. Don’t expect to change your partner into what you want them to be. Don’t think that with your help you can make him/ her into a better person. You must love and accept your partner as is – flaws and all. This is a tricky law because it is still very important that you know what your boundaries are. You cannot expect to love a person long term that doesn’t respect you and your boundaries. If smoking cigarettes is deal breaker for you then why in the world would you think can make a smoker “the one.” There is a difference between boundaries and preferences and people often mistake the two. Know your boundaries and if you enter into a relationship with a person that does not adhere to them that is more a bad reflection on you than on your mate. Your significant other will never live up to all the things that you want in a partner. Be able to love him/her as is.

Law 5. It is okay to have separate interests. My boo loves computer gaming. If he could he would marry his computer. I really don’t get it. I’ve tried playing World Of Warcraft and it held my interest for all of thirty seconds. I have an ungodly almost supernatural love of music. NeoSoul/ R&B. Hip-Hop. Pop. Even country. My partner could care less about new music Tuesdays but each week I have to check billboard.com to find out which artists are releasing something new. I don’t harass him about his computer time and he doesn’t bother me about my CD collection. And we have found a way to meet in the middle. I love all comic movies (X-Men, Fantastic 4, Spiderman, etc). Now we have discovered Comicon and we can both have our geek tendencies fed together at one event.

Law 6. Common Values are a Must. Different interests are one thing but different values are a totally separate subject. One thing I’ll agree with my old pastor on is this - “you must be equally yoked.” That means that the core values, principles and morals of one partner must be shared by the other. Let’s be real, a Christian and a crackhead trying to make it work just aren’t going to go the distance. A person that values monogamy is not going to last long term with a person that is interested in an open relationship. You must have a moral center equal to that of your partner.

Law 7. Don’t Always Take Advice From Your Friends. As much as I think this is a no brainer, this is really one of the biggest culprits in ending relationships. I want to know how is it that my friends, most of whom are single, feel they are equipped with the knowledge to save my relationship. Now if you’re talking to someone that is in a successful long term relationship and may actually know a little something about how to make one work, by all means listen. But oftentimes your friends speak from their own viewpoint. Just because they would react a certain way in a situation does not mean that is the way you should react in a relationship. Do what works for you and what feels right for you.

Law 8. Keep People Out of Your Business. For many this rule ties closely with the last rule (regarding your friends). You know how people say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” That should apply to what happens between you and your partner also. If there is trouble in your home and you need external help, go to a professional. There is nothing wrong with seeing a couple’s counselor. But be weary of sharing all the intimate, personal details of your relationship with others close to you. The reality is people do not always have your best interest in mind. Misery really does love company.

Law 9. Allow your partner room to grow. As I stated earlier, Chris and I have been together for fifteen. I am not the same person I was fifteen years ago. He is not the same person he was fifteen years ago. Change is a necessary part of life and as your partner evolves you need to give them the space they need to become the person they are destined to be. With patience, love, acceptance, respect and communication, everyone involved can have personal development that helps (not hinders) the relationship.

Law 10. Don’t Take Your Partner For Granted. It takes two people to make a relationship (or three or more if you’re into that). The point is, you cannot always be “me” focused if you want your relationship to last long term. Sometimes you need to give your mate the attention they need. Do something to show your affection. You will be surprised at how far a spontaneous massage or breakfast in bed or an unexpected gift can go. Do something to show your partner that you care.

I hope this advice helps someone. These rules have worked for me and I really think if you apply them in your relationship they will work for you also. But I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know everything. So if you have any additional tidbits that can help someone in their relationship, please feel free to share.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Arizona

On February 14, 2012, the state of Arizona turns 100 years old.  I have been a resident of this fair state since July of 1997.  As we approach the centennial of this land that I call home I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my time in the Grand Canyon State.

To the rest of the country Arizona is a state of racist.  We are the state that passed SB1070 and passed legislation outlawing ethnic studies.  To the rest of the country we are a state of homophobes.  California may have had Prop 8 but we passed the exact same thing with Prop 102.  To the rest of the country we are a state with a bigot of a governor and a history of hatred coming from the governors office.  To the rest of the country we are a state with crazy gunlaws and dangerously bizarre gunmen.  We are the state that did not want to acknowledge the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiay.  And finally we are the state that has 120 degree summers.

Granted all of these things are true.  However, as we celebrate Arizona's 100th birthday I want to take a moment to reflect on the good things I've come to appreciate about this state.  Since I've been here I'm come love many wonderful things about  Arizona. 

Sometimes it is very difficult for me (a progressive through and thruogh) to live in such a red state.  However did you know that this was the first state to have all women in its top five leadership positions?  I remember being on the capital lawn as Janet Napalitano was being sworn into her new office.  As I looked at the all female faces of the five people on that stage I remember thinking there must be something kinda special about this place.

Also as a same-gender loving person [in case you didn't know yes, I am a homosexual man] I'm continually surprised by the amount of gay and lesbian representation we have elected to office.  From Steve May to Ken Chevrant to Kristen Sinema, if you didn't know any better you might think that AZ actually had a fondness of the LGBT community.

People are quick to criticize Arizona as the state without culture.  However I will argue the opposite.  I have been repeatedly blown away by performances from the Arizona Black Theater Troup and the Arizona Ballet.  I am always pleased by shows from Nearly Naked Theater.  And we cannot overlook the poetry slams and open mics that bring us out to coffee houses all over the valley.  Admitedly we do not have the quantity of shows as a New York, an L.A. or an Atlanta but we are not void of culture as many would have you think.

I arrived in Arizona in 1997.  I started working for Xerox Corporation my first month here.  Fifteen years I am still with this phenomenal company that recognizes the value of diversity, invests in the development of its people and gives back to the communities where it is located.  I serve proudly as a member of GALAXE (the gay and lesbian association of Xerox employees) and Xerox Black Employee Caucus group.  The economy sucks everywhere.  Unemployment is an issue everywhere.  So as a person that is gainfully employed and somehow managing to pay my bills I am not going to complain.

Since living in Arizona I have earned my MBA from the University of Phoenix, I have served on the board of several terrific organizations and I have cultivated a circle of friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  All in all, Arizona has been very good to me.

I dreadfully suffer through the summers here.  But if you can endure those months where you are painfully aware that you live in a desert, then you will enjoy the most pleasant winter that the country has to offer.  Everyone else wishes they were here as they suffer through snow, sleet and blizzards.  And if the heat becomes to much to bear it is only a short drive to the mountains or to the beach. 

We are a state with many issues.  But as we approach this milestone in history I don't think we should focus of the negatives.  We hear about the negatives of Arizona all the time (I'm sure I'll share some of them with you soon enough). For now I want to think about the things I'm proud of and I love about this state.

So I want to say Happy Birthday to you Arizona.  You're 100 years young and I wish you a long and prosperous future.