Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My LGBT History Month Soundtrack

Today is October 1 which means we have officially stepped into LGBT History Month.  October has always been one of favorite (and busiest) months.  The Phoenix Rainbow Festival happens this month.  National Coming Out day happens this month.  The AIDS Walk happens this month.  And last but not least - HALLOWEEN.

I figured I would begin the month by generating my own little list of songs to help me celebrate the month. You can call it my personal queer soundtrack, call it songs that give me life, call it whatever you want but it is my top ten list of songs to help me celebrate LGBT History Month.  I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions.

10.  VOGUE.  For many Madonna was their introduction to the ballroom scene.  For a lot of us, Vogue-ing crept into our vernacular when we saw the phenomenal documentary Paris Is Burning.  Nevertheless, Madonna does a wonderful job channeling the energy of Willie Ninja and Pepper Lebeija in this fantastic video.

9. For the past few months this song has been on heavy rotation in my house.  I love Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for flipping the script on Hip Hop and creating this anthem for Marriage Equality.  There was no way this list could be completed with "Same Love."

8.  I remember the first time I heard this song.  When I was growing up when didn't have cable so there was no MTV. If we wanted to see music videos we had to wait for the weekend, stay up late and try and catch Friday Night Videos.  That was the first time I heard this fantastic song (and witnessed the totally campy and fun video).  The Weather Girls earned the number eight spot with their classic "It's Raining Men."

7. Jennifer Hudson was amazing in Dreamgirls, simply amazing.  But I still have to give love to the original Efie White, Ms. Jennifer Holiday.  And you, and you, and you (big ghast), you're gonna love me!!! And I'm telling, us gay folks, we ain't going nowhere.

6.If you didn't know it, this song plays during the closing credits of Sister Act 2.  I remember working concessions for the movie theater on campus when I was in college.  When this song started playing I couldn't help myself.  Child I was in the lobby just dancing like I was in the only gay club.  And I remember leaving that night thinking to myself, well if they didn't know before they most certainly know now.

5.  Yes Gawd Nessa, it's Ms. Patti Labelle.  She has so many great songs but the one I chose for the list is going to be Over The Rainbow.  I love watching her singing, kicking off her shoes, rolling around on the floor and serving hair to the Gods honey.  If birds fly high, why can't I . . .

4. "At first I was afraid, I was petrified, kept thinking I could never live without you by my side."  Well guess what, I'm a survivor, I'm not gone give up, I'm not gone stop, I will love harder.  Yes, I love the Survivor anthem by Beyonce and her backup singers, but the song that makes the list is the original anthem of sustaining, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

3. I'm gonna give you just a little bit of advice, sometime the only way we get through this called life is with a little help from our friends and a lotta help from our family.  And guess what, biological don't always matter.  Sometimes family are those people you accept into your life when the biological has let you down.  That's why the number three song on my list is Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."

2.  I don't how this little nugget escaped me when it was released in the 1970s.  I think it was because America just wasn't ready for it and it did not get the kind of exposure it really should have received.  But Carl Beans (who would later become Archbishop Carl Bean after he found the Unity Fellowship Church) gave us one great song when he gave us this one.  Number two on my list is "I Was Born This Way."

1. Ya'll know I love me some Diana (call her Ms. Ross).  And my number one song for celebrating LGBT History month could be no other than her hit "I'm Coming Out" and for reals, I want the world to know . . .

So that's it, that's my little queer list of songs to help with celebrating LGBT History month.  What songs would you have added?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glenn Bean Interviews Craig Stewart about Words Never Spoken

I thoroughly  enjoyed this video of Craig Stewart being interviewed by Glenn Bean.  Bean does a fantastic job with teasing questions that expose us to some of the content of the book and leave us wanting to know more about this writer and his story.  I don't know anything about Craig Stewart but it sounds as if he has lived an interesting life, but then again haven't we all.  Interesting lives maybe commonplace but being able to manifest that life into a story worthy of print is not.

In the brief interview Stewart talks candidly about trouble he allowed himself to get into when he was younger. I must admit it takes a courageous person to put their dirty laundry out there for everyone to see. Bragging about your accomplishments is very easy to do.  Being able to disclose those secrets that you would rather no one else in the world know, now that takes courage.

As an HIV/ AIDS activist, I love the part of the interview where they discuss his relationship with a HIV positive person.  Craig's position on dating someone that is HIV positive is one that is shared by many people.  He never imagined he could be with someone that was positive  However when he learned that the person he was seriously dating had sero-converted and could no longer claim HIV negative status, Craig had to make some serious decisions.  What he chose was to stay with the person he felt he was falling for and to get himself educated on this disease.  I have to commend him for this stand and for taking this action.

 The dialogue between these two individuals makes me want to go out and pick up a copy of this book.  The only thing I disagree with them on is their opinion of "unconditional love."  At one point in the conversation Stewart makes the statement "a woman's love is the closest you'll ever come to unconditional love."  Maybe that has been his reality but I has not been mine.  My father loved me unconditionally.  My husband loves me flaws and all.  And at our wedding, when his father got up to give his toast he spoke very openly and honestly about his unconditional love for his gay son.

Hearing this comment makes me wonder if subconsciously this thinking has settled into the minds of other black gay men.  Do we think that love between two men can't happen on an permanent, unconditional level? If we believe that men can't love us unconditionally, are our behaviors done with the expectation that a loving, committed relationship is not an option?  I won't delve to much into this topic because it is such a minimum part of this great interview.  Overall this conversation is a fantastic one.

I'm looking forward to some down time when I can enjoy a copy of Words Never Spoken.  And I always like to encourage people to support other LGBT people of colors, so please pick up your copy of this book as well.  You can purchase your copy here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Don Lemon's 5 Things Black Folks Must Do

Many within the Black community have taken offense to Don Lemon for his latest "Talking Points" in which he agrees with Bill O'Reilly's condemnation of African-Americans. In fact, Lemon even states that O'Reilly "didn't go far enought." In the video below Don Lemon aligns himself with the O'Reilly comments and builds upon O'Reilly's stand by offering additional line items of his own.  In this unusual alliance Lemon points out 5 things that he says black folks must start doing now if we want to see any movement forward.

The five items outlined include the following: 1.Pull your pants up. 2.Stop using the "N" word. 3. Respect where you live and stop littering your neighborhood. 4. Finish school. 5.Put family first and don't have a baby just because you can (especiallly if you can not support it). I must admit, I kinda agree with Mr. Lemon. I will be the first to admit that I know racism is very much alive and well. I am not living in delusion. However I will also admit that many vices, obstacles and challenges we experience within the African-American community are because of roadblocks we create for ourselves. We can't continue to claim that "the man" is holding us back when we refuse to get an education, dress professionally or speak articulately.

Mr. Lemon thank you for forcing us to look at ourselves critically. Although you may be condemned for it, know that many within the black community agree with you. Mr. Bill Cosby made similar comments years ago and he also fell under the attack of black folks. However Mr. Cosby was also wise enough to state "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." People may be mad at Don Lemon for his comments but his comments is forcing us to examine our community a bit more and hopefully (whether you agree with him or not) this self examination will turn out to be a good thing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Down Low Celebrities: A List by Madame Noir

I found this article over at Madame Noire very interesting.  As much as I go on about how it is not okay to out someone, you know I couldn't help but puruse my way through each slide to see all the names contained.  There are the names that you'll probably suspect to be on  the list (i.e. Eddie Murphy and Eddie Long) and there are some names that I didn't expect to see (like Raven Symone).  To see the full article please go here.

Before I get into revieiwing this article I want to start with a mention that I am not here to critique Madama Noir (I actually love this site).  What I would like to do is quickly examine a society that forces people to live on the down low, because I do not think a life on the DL is something people aspire to have.  People generally choose to live closeted lives out of a fear or out of a need; and whatever the situation is, it something they were taught after viewing the social stigma, institutionalized homophobia and spiritual abuse they would endure should they choose to live a life outside of the closet.

There are basically three actions that can happen when being confronted with the threat of being outed. 1.You confirm the rumors, acknowledge your truth and step out of the closet secure with the fact that you are comfortable in your skin and embrace your authentic self.  2.You can deny, deny, deny.  3.You can neither confirm, nor deny the rumors.  Just pretent like they don't exist; and when confronted with questions dance around the question without giving a definite answer.

There are some very interesting things I'd like to point out about the individuals contained on this list.  Of the individuals on the list, only three of them made the decision to actually come out of the closet and be true to themselves, their friends and their families.  Of those three individuals, two of them are white.  I think it would interesting to reflect on this fact.  The individuals contained on this list are people we look at as being successful, powerful and influential.  Why would anyone with this type of celebrity status be ashamed of anything? 

Do we really need to answer that question?  It is those we put on high that have the greatest distance to fall.  Quiet as its kept, you know the reality for many should they make the decision to come out of the close would be rejection by many of their fans.  I know folks want to say we now live in a society where that is not the case.  Well don't let yourself be fooled.  Homophobia is still alive and well today.  The black church still wants to tell us we will burn in hell for being same-gender loving.  We still do not have an ENDA that protects our community from employers that want to fire, or not promote their LGBT employees.  And the threats of violence against members of the queer/ trans community are on the rise (not the decline).  Please don't let some progress put you in the mindset that we have overcome.  There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. 

I will stop venting now and get back to my point.  If Rave Symone decided to come out of the closet do you still think she would be a viable candidate for a part in a Disney project?  No, I don't think so.  If Prodigy decided to come out of the closet do you really think thugs that embrace hip hop music and culture would continue to support his music?  No I don't think so?  And don't try to give me the argument about Frank Ocean, he was a singer not a rapper.

Are we moving in the right direction?  I definitely feel like we are.  As a community we have made some tremendous accomplishments.  But until we are further along on this yellow brick road, we need to continue to let people come out as they feel comfortable.  And as I reflect on the names on this list, I can understand why some of them have not felt comfortable doing so.

I am still an advocate for living your authentic life.  Life on this side of the closet is fabulous and I have no regrets about being out.  But let's let these individuals (and all others struggling with self-acceptance or fear of disclosure) do it at their own pace.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

Today I turned 41.  I must admit that as birthdays go this one was pretty amazing.  The phone  call from my mom and my twin brother was well welcomed.  Several friends from college also placed a phone call.  The conversation I had with Derrick Scott and Thomas Catrett allowed us to reconnect and revisit.  Its wonderful to hear from these old friends.  There were several phone calls that went unanswered as I was pretty busy all day but it was great seeing the names on the "missed calls" screen on my phone.  

 I spent the evening of my birthday with the men of UGIMA.  The birthday wishes, the gifts, the cards - I just want to say I love you guys.  I love being in the company of this group of men.  Thanks so much to them and to everyone that made this day special for me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Fluidity of Love

I just had a very interesting read on the Essence magazine website. In 1979, Chirlane McCray wrote an article for Essence magazine entitled, “I Am a Lesbian.” This featuredstory was called groundbreaking because at the time there were very few African-Americans with a national spotlight proudly proclaiming their membership within the LGBT community. In the article she explained how she discovered her love for women at a young age.

Thirty four years later McCray is once again being featured in an article for Essence. Why was this recent story so interesting? The story is so interesting to me because now McCray is happily married to Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate for mayor in New York City. What I loved most about the article is McCray’s refusal to be defined by a label. Also what I find fascinating is what the author describes as “the fluidity of love.”

The by-line for the article bears the name of another groundbreaking Essence writer and one my favorite authors, Linda Villarosa. One of the questions Linda posed to McCray was “how did you go from being a lesbian to falling in love with a man?” McCray answered, “By putting aside the assumptions I had about the form and package my love would come in. By letting myself be free.”

Another very poignant question presented to McCray was “do you consider yourself bisexual?” Again I loved her answer. “I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins.” You can read the entire article here http://www.essence.com/2013/05/09/politicians-wife-chirlane-mccray/

The article also made me reflect on a friend of mine. I have a very good friend named Jay. This weekend Jay is getting married to a woman. Up until this moment Jay’s longest relationship was six years with one person. That six year relationship was with a man. Now that Jay is getting married many of his friends and acquaintances (including his ex of six years) are baffled by this decision. They don’t understand how a man that once loved men can now marry a woman. But does it really matter if they understand or not. Jay is comfortable with who he is. His fiancé, fully aware of Jay’s history, is comfortable with herself and her relationship with him. So why would they allow the misunderstanding of others influence their life?

Jay has always been open and honest about his attraction to women. And his fiancé is aware of his previous attraction to men. Jay is open to love and I personally enjoy the fact that he does not let the gender of his partner determine if they are worthy of his affection.

Jay has been confronted with the question as to whether he would stray back to men. He has always answered that he believes in monogamy. If he is with a woman he is only with that woman. If he is with a man he is only with that man. In the article with McCray she receives the question “Are you still attracted to women?” She answers, “I’m married, I’m monogamous, but I’m not dead. Bill isn’t either. I know my husband loves me fiercely and passionately.”

Chirlane and Bill are a beautiful couple with two beautiful children and I wish them the best of luck in their campaign. My friend Jay is one of the most genuine people I know and I wish him and his fiancé a future filled with love and happiness. To everyone reading this know that love and sexuality are fluid for many people. We like to assign labels so that we can better understand people and it is difficult to comprehend when these people won’t go into the box we chose for them. But live and let live. People are free to pursue their passions, their dreams, and their loves. The reality is for some people those things will have several different faces throughout the course of their lives. We are all entitled to that pursuit of happiness and it really doesn’t matter if others understand what makes you happy. As long as you understand.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Billy Porter as Lola in Kinky Boots!!!

Okay so I love me some Billy Porter. And I love me some Kinky Boots. So I have to admit that I may be a bit too overly excited about the fact that Billy Porter is now starring as Lola in this musical production. My only prayer is that this becomes a touring production that keeps Porter in this role. I've loved Billy since his days of singing R&B. Remember his fantastic ballad Show Me. Plus I lived him in one of my all-time favorite movies Brokenheart's Club. I don't live in or near New York so its not likely I will see this production unless they take it on the road. So let's cross our fingers and hope they bring this to the west coast.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

UGIMA presents Invisible Heroes

It’s February once again. Black History month once again. It is that time again when we will see many Black History month programs happening around Phoenix that honor the legacies of important and influential African-Americans that have helped develop our country and define our community. As a member of the same-gender loving community I would often attend these events wondering when I would hear the stories of individuals like myself. I knew there had to be black gays and lesbians in history that were worthy of mention in these various programs.

That is the reason the Invisible Heroes program was developed. After doing a little research I discovered the hidden (invisible) history of many of our ancestors that some within the black community would probably wish you not learn about. We have countless community leaders, historical figures and role models that have been members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately these stores are not told at all or when they are told, the part of them being same-gender loving is omitted. I thought it was time for a Black History month program that remembered and honored the legacies of gay and lesbian African-Americans.

This is our third year holding Invisible Heroes and the event is getting bigger and bigger each year. The individuals we honored this year included Sylvester (the original disco queen), Paul Winfield (actor extraordinaire), Langston Hughes (Harlem Renaissance writer), Jackie “Moms” Mabley (the original queen of comedy) and Josephine Baker (star of stage and screen and phenomenal civil rights activist).

The evening was both entertaining and educational. The hosts of the event, Babe Caylor and Arcelious Stephens, gave the evening that extra touch of elegance and class that made it just that much more spectacular. The presenters were perfectly suited. Julian French, Valley DJ turned stand-up comedian started the evening off by talking about Moms Mabley had everyone laughing hysterically. Transgender activist Antonia D’orsay happens to be bi-racial and she identified with many different aspects of the life of Josephine Baker. Stanley Bain helps with the planning of the Phoenix Film Festival and attended the event to talk about the wonderful work and terrific legacy of Paul Winfield. Mychaeltodd Robinson was friends with Sylvester and shared with us many wonderful anecdotes about the times he shared with the wonderful diva of disco. And the life of Langston Hughes was so perfectly shared by Donna McHenry who carries the Hughes tradition by being both community organizer and writer and poet.

Last year we added an awards portion to the program because we thought it was important to recognize those individuals that are still doing amazing work. Each year the awards are based on the principles of Kwanzaa. The Imani (Faith) award recipient was Robbynne Archia who is apart of the praise team at Community Church of hope. She also sings with Arizona Women in Tunes and the Full Circle Women’s Choir. The Kuumba (Creativity) award went to Nicholas Murray who in 2010 created the Dupree Arts studio. And the Kujichagulia (Self-determination) award went to HIV/AIDS activist, advocate for homeless women, and ally of the LGBT community, Ms. Miasia Pasha.

The evening was powerful. The evening was inspiring. The evening was uplifting. The energy is the room was great and it was an awesome fellowship between the LGBT community and the African-American community and a wonderful collaboration between gay and lesbians and our straight allies. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring.