Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

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.