Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 28 - Jay Jurden


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

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

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

Saturday, February 27, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 26, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 26 - James Booker


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

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

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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 25 - Staceyann Chinn


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

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 24 - Marlon Riggs

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 23 - Black LGBTQ Millennials


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 22, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 21, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 20 - Sakia Gunn


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

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

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

Friday, February 19, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 19 - Flame Monroe


Flame Monroe’s brand of humor ain’t for everybody.  She is vulgur, crude and offensive – so her brand of humor is just perfect for me.  Her story is so unusual.  You cannot categorize her and that’s okay.  Her pronouns are #heshewe.  She identifies as a black man, a transwoman, and a member of the LGBT community (part time).  And heshewe is only attracted to butch lesbians.  They are a father and they have been in the game of stand up comedy for twenty-five years.

While trans visibility may be mainstream now, that hasn’t always been the case. Flame was up on stages as a trans person, doing comedy in all-black venues, 25 years ago.  That’s amazing to me.  I just recently heard of her when she appeared as one of the comedians featured in Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix special They Ready.  I don’t think the crowd was ready for Flame.

That stand up special has tremendously broadened her fan base and introduced her to folks who would have never heard of her otherwise, self included.  What’s interesting about Flame is how she can identify in so many categories and offend them all at the same time.  She offends black people.  She offends trans people.  And I believe, you ain’t nobody, til everybody hates you.  Check out the video below where she sits down for an interview with Charlamagne daGod and the The Breakfast Club.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer History: Feb 18 - Marsha P. Johnson


Most people would agree that Stonewall is one of the most monumental events to happen to the LGBTQ+ community.  It ignited a passion for activism within us that continues to this day.  Many people give Marsha props for helping jump off that revolutionary night of fighting back.  Although there are a couple of documentaries about this trailblazer.  Those include The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson and PayIt No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson.

But my favorite video telling the story of this angelic hellraiser is the episode of the TV series "Drunk History" dedicated to her.  Get into it below:

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 17 - Pick Up The Mic


Yes, there are gay people making hip hop music.  Unfortunately most of these artists are not household names.  Pick Up The Mic: The Evolution of Homohop takes a look into the world of queer individuals making music is a genre with a reputation for being extremely homophobic.  To be honest – some very mainstream hip hop artist are a part of the QUILTBAG community, but sometimes I feel people are unaware of this. Today we can now brag about the accomplishments of artists like Frank Ocean, Big Freedia, and Todrick Hall.  And we also have our old school heads heads like Queen Pen, Monifah and DaBrat who are about that life.

Pick Up The Mic came out in 2006 and at the time of its release, gay people in the world of hip hop was not a thing.  In 2008 author Terrence Dean released his book Hiding In Hip Hop which talk about the unspoken rule of the game, you can’t be no punk, be a hip hop artist and make it onto the charts.  He also spilled the tea that there are some big names in the industry that are secretly closeted, and while he described some individuals; he refused to name drop.

This documentary highlights some of my favorite hip hop artists like Tori Fixx, Tim’m T. West, and Deadlee.  Please check out the trailer below:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 16 - Wanda Sykes


How can you not love Wanda Sykes?  Ask someone to name five famous African Americans that are part of the LGBTQ community.  I'd bet next weeks pay check that 4 out 5 people are going to put Wanda Sykes on the list.  Wanda is hilarious and one of the most vocal members of our community.  It was during the push for marriage equality that Wanda ended up coming out publicly.  She decided that she could no longer stay silent when she repeatedly witnessed the injustices happening to same gender loving people.

There is something that is just likeable about this lady.  She is proud of her blackness and she is a proud member of the LGBTQ community.  And I am proud of her and her accomplishments.  Check out one of her stand up specials below:

Monday, February 15, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 15 - "Just Between Us"


The documentary Just Between Us came out in 2006 and it is a conversation with the movers and shakers of the Black LGBTQ+ community of the day.  The film starts out by looking at our past and listing important historical members of our community including Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Audre Lord, and Bayard Rustin.  Then it asks the question, “What does it mean to be black and gay in America  today?”  And to answer that question, it turns to black queer folks like film makers Faith Trimel and Maurice Jamal, and authors Sharon Bridgforth and Christopher David, and various community leaders like Rudolph Carn and Zandra Conway.

For creator and director Ken Jackson, this was his debut film project and I considering that is the case, I am thoroughly impressed by this work.  When this film came out, black queer visibility in media was practically non-existent, so this piece was important at the time.  And I think the answer to the question “what does it mean to be black and gay in America” is the same today as it was back then.

Please check out the film below:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 14 - Luther Vandross


Today is Valentine’s day, aka Lover’s Day, and it felt right that on this day in Black History Month, the person that needs to be celebrated is Luther Vandross.  If you need help getting some loving on this day, just put on a Luther Vandross album.  After a nice meal and a few drinks and chocolates, ain’t nobody keeping their clothes on once Luther starts singing.  All you gotta do is play So Amazing or Promise Me or There’s Nothing Better Than Love.  Hell, just make it easy on yourself – tell Alexa to play the album “The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love.” 

Luther Vandross being gay was the worst kept, best kept secret in the music industry.  As much as I have wanted to include him on my lists of great LGBTQ African-Americans in history, the fact that Luther never came out kept me from adding him to the list.  All that changed when Patti LaBelle spilled his tea in an interview with Andy Cohen.  Let’s be real, everybody knew Luther was gay, but people still got angry with Patti when she finally revealed his truth – his truth that everybody knew anyway.  Patti was very close friends with Luther and knew him well.  If what she revealed about Luther was based on rumor or based on things she assumed, I could see people being upset.  But Patti spoke TRUTH and it was truth about someone she called a close friend.  And child – you can’t get mad at the truth. 

There is a video on YouTUbe called “The Journey of Luther Vandross” and in it he actually answered the question about his sexuality – many years before Patti outed him.  The entire video is great but if you want to hear him speak on who get goes to bed with at night, jump to the 33 minute: 12 second mark.  And that answer – is why I love me some Luther (big Luther and little Luther).

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 13 - Bayard Rustin


Netflix made the announce yesterday that they will be giving Bayard Rustin his own biopic.  Rustin is hands down one of my favorite heroes from the Civil Rights era.  He is the man that introduced Martin Luther King Jr. to the principles of non-violence.  He was the organizer of the March on Washington.  He was an advocate and activist for the Labor movement and had the ability to bring people and movements together.

Although Bayard was an accomplished leader in the fight for black equality, his was a name that did not often receive mention when studying this era.  Why?  Because many leaders within the movement did not think Rustin was deserving of the accolades and some did not want his name associated with the black civil rights movement at all.  The reason why was simple – Rustin was openly gay.  He was unapologetically gay at time was homosexuality was not just taboo.  This was the 1960s when homosexuality could get you sentenced to jail, fired from your job, kicked out of your family and excommunicated from the church.  Rustin was instrumental in the civil rights movement for black equality but still vocal regarding the fact that the LGBT community was deserving of equality as well.

This man is my icon.  There is a fantastic documentary about him called Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.  I think this film is a must see.  This man’s story is remarkable and I think he should be a household name.  Get into the trailer of Brother Outsider below:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 12 - Todrick Hall

Todrick Hall’s Straight Outta Oz was/is genius.  It is part autobiography.  It is part “Wizard of Ox” re-imagined.  It is all brilliant.  After seeing the show once, I called up several friends and organized a viewing so we could all watch and discuss.  Straight Outta Oz tells Todrick’s story from growing up in Texas to his escape to New York and eventually to his return home.   It is a story that is pretty common for black gay men who grew up in the South.  Growing up in a space where you don’t feel understood or accepted and fleeing to the bright lights and the big city once the chance presents itself.

At one time there was discussion of this project actually becoming a stage show on Broadway.  Not sure if that is still in the works, but I think Straight would be perfect for the stage.  The music the fantastic and you’ll be amazed at the talent Todrick recruited.  This includes names like Wayne Brady, Amber Riley, Nicole Scherzinger and Jordan Sparks, just to name a few. 

Get it into it below:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 11 - black./womyn

In my Wendy Williams voice "You know, I am a person of a certain age." And for people my age, when were young, LGBT visibility was something that didn't exist. The few representations in media were negative. The mention of it in a social setting, in the church, hell - even in the law, was negative. Imagine being black, same gender loving, and female. 

Image having to live in world of racism, homophobia and gender-bias. The dvd "black./womyn: conversations with lesbians of African-descent" came out in 2008. I purchased it immediately. I wanted to hear and see black faces talk about their life. We've come a long way since this film came out. Media has changed. Society has changed. Laws have changed. I won't say we've reached utopia - but we have moved in the right direction. 

I still find value in this work and in these voices because “black./womyn” was ground breaking at the time of its release. These voices still need to be heard. Check out the trailer below:


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 10 - The Prancing Elites


God, how I loved The Prancing Elites.  For most of America, they could not believe there was a group of men that dressed like this, that danced like this, that acted like this.  But I was a black gay boy in Alabama that used to go to clubs where everyone on the dance floor behaved like the individuals in this dance troupe.  As a student of Troy University back in the early 90s, my friends and I would flock to any club where we could find other people like us - young, black and gay and looking to have a good time.  And what did we enjoy doing at the club - hitting the dance floor and dancing like Jay-cettes (don't know what that is - watch the show).  Until you've walked in our shoes, you have no idea how much fun a rum and coke and an 8 count can be.

What I loved most about the show is that it gave visibility to a group of folks that most had no idea existed.  It really blew me away how much hatred people had toward these guys.  All they wanted to do was dance.  But the fact that they danced in what was labeled as girls clothes, people wished death on them.  The show got two seasons on the Own network, and it was interesting journey.  They tackled homophobia, transphobia, effimophobia and HIV and they fell in love.

Get into the trailer for the show below:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 9 - Stephen Amos "Batty Man"

I think Stephen Amos is brilliant.  In his documentary Batty Man, Amos comes out, challenges homophobia in urban culture and dance hall music, and even travels to Jamaica to confront a very famous, influential reggae artist on hos his music harms people.  I love how he refuses to stand down as he forces people to address their biases.  He does it magnificently.

I would eventually see many other documentaries that tackled homophobia in countries of predominately black people (i.e. God Loves Uganda and Call Me Kuchu), but Batty Man was the first one I saw that approached this topic.

So this month, as  I celebrate the voices of black queer folks in documentaries and biopics, this title had to be included on the list.  Stephen is one voice trying to change the world.

I was surprised when I found that the film is currently available to view on YouTube.  Please get into it below:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 8 - Bessie Smith

The HBO original film Bessie tells the story of Bessie Smith.  The film stars Queen Latifah in the title role and also features stars like Mo'nique and Michael K. Williams.  Bessie Smith was known as the "The Empress of the Blues" and was considered one of the greatest female vocalist of the Jazz Era.  She was probably the most popular blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s and was a tremendous influence on her peers of the Harlem Renaissance.  

Some of Bessie's biggest hits included names like T'ain't Nobody's Business if I Do, Any Woman's Blues, Alexander's Ragtime Band, and Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out.  Her music seemed to resonate with everyone and her music sales and sold out stage shows made her the highest paid performer of her time, quite the accomplishment for a black female. 

Bessie, like several other notable female jazz singers of the Harlem Renaissance had a sexuality that many today would label as fluid.  He partners were just as likely to be female as male, and she made no secret about it.  The HBO biobic does an incredible job telling her story.  You can see the trailer for film below:

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 7 - Sampson McCormick

I love the fact that I am seeing more and more black comedians that are out and proud.  We're not at the point where I would call it commonplace just yet, but there are a notable few that are opening the doors for funny LGBTQ folks to enter the world of stand-up.  One of those people pushing down barriers and eliminating obstacles is Sampson McCormick.

Sampson's style of humor resonates with me because he is speaking my experience.  He is a black gay man that identifies as black first.  Until you've walked in these shoes you probably won't get it.  But Sampson is a voice of our community.  He is telling our truth.  And the shit is funny!  But it's also smart.  According to Sampson, "We live in a time when people are laughing at politicians and getting upset with comedians."  TRUTH!!!

Check him out below:

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 6 - Sylvester

Forget Donne Summer or Gloria Gaynor, the real queen of disco was Sylvester. A tall, black gay man who had hits that everybody in the country was dancing to.  Sylvester's songs were lit.  The hooks were infectious.  The vocals were simply amazing. And his look - well, let's just say that the world was not ready for him.  He wore make-up and was brazen enough to dress in drag.  As a huge pop star in the 1970s, he was ahead of his time.

Amazon Music created a short documentary called "Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester."  It is a quick journey through his life.  For his childhood in the church, to his rise to the top of the charts and to his life in San Francisco.  You can learn more about this legend in the film below:

Friday, February 5, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 5 - Glenn Burke


I've been sharing the story of Glenn Burke for years.  He was the first openly gay major league athlete to come out as gay.  Long before the NBA had Jason Collins and long before the NFL had Michael Sams, there was Glenn Burke.  Glen Burke played Major League Baseball from 1976 through 1979.  He would play for the L.A. Dodgers and for the Oakland As, and his story is one of legend. He was an out gay man and his teammates knew it and his coach knew it.  That's not to say that everyone was comfortable with it, but he was a man living his truth. 

For the longest time the documentary that told his story was unavailable.  And trust, I've been searching.  I ever did the research to determine who was the producer of the film, and emailed that individual asking if I would be able to get a copy.  I never stopped searching.  And then suddenly,  I found where it had been uploaded to Vimeo.

I encourage everyone to check out this story.  It's pretty incredible and you can see it below:

OUT: The Glenn Burke Story from Elevate Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 4 - Billy Preston


I don't think many people recognize this genius by name, but I know people recognize his music.  William Everett Preston aka Billy Preston is probably best known for his songs as a solo artists.  Those include hits like Will It Go Round In Circles and Nothing From Nothing and With You I'm Born Again.  He would pen the hit You Are So Beautiful made famous by crooner Joe Cocker.  But he was also remarkably successful as a studio musician and toured with some of the biggest names on the planet like Sam Cooke, Little Richard, The Beatles and was sometimes referred to as the fifth Beatle.

Billy Preston started playing the piano at a very young age.  Growing up in the church, by the age of nine he had perfected the Hammond organ. At the age of ten he did a show with Nat King Cole and was performing on an album with the incomparable Mahalia Jackson.   He recorded his first album at the age of sixteen.  He had music coursing through his veins and was often sought out in the music industry because of his ability turn good songs into great songs.  

In the Unsung documentary about Billy Preson, they discuss his genius, his influence and his sexuality.  Yes, Billy Preston was an openly gay man at the top of the charts during the 70s.  And although he did not live in the closet, I think because he was a "masculine" man, most people were totally unaware of his sexual orientation.  The documentary would also go discuss the demons that plagued this tragic genius - specifically his inability to manage his money and his addictions to alcohol and drugs, these vices that would lead to his downfall and eventually him doing time in jail.

This Unsung episode is currently available on YouTube.  It tells the story about a truly gifted, amazing individual.  Please get into it here:

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Stories: Feb 3 - Janet Mock


As we continue to navigate Black History month, and focus on black queer voices in documentaries and biopics, I think I want to add interviews to the list of things we celebrate.  I think there are some interviews that just become magical because they symbolize something epic or they capture a special moment in time.  I am thinking of monumental moments like Jason Collins interview with Oprah when he became the first basketball player to publicly come out while still active in the NBA.  Another pivotal interview for me was when Janet Mock sat down with the Breakfast Club to chat.

First thing I want to do is thank Janet for being the phenomenal voice for the trans people of color community.  Let's be real, if his woman wanted to live her life in stealth, not even coming out as trans, she could. Look at her face.  Look at that body.  She could never be clocked.  You would not know this was a trans identified individual if she did not tell you.  

I think Janet is much more transparent about his history, about her transition, about her life - than most trans people are.  I think that's wonderful.  And I am not knocking people who don't live their lives like an open book.  Boundaries are important and sometimes very necessary, especially when one wants to stay focused on issues affecting the trans community.  When one becomes as open as Janet, an interviewer may to stay focused on trivial details about a trans person life and this could spoil a terrific opportunity to address big picture issues like trans violence, lack of access to resources and social stigma.  But Janet is clearly a master in being willing to discuss her life openly and still bring awareness to trans issues by always bringing the topic back to things that are important.  She is simply brilliant.

This interview with the Breakfast Club is one of my favorites by her.  Get into it below:

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 2 - Moms Mabley


Moms Mabley was indeed a trailblazer.  Please watch the documentary Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley  to discover how fabulous and  talented this individual is.  Great black comedians that say they modeled themselves after Moms or just plain ole stole from her act include legends like Red Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.  The great female comedians saw Moms as a pioneer that opened the doors for them.

I've always found Moms funny.  She was raunchy yet found a way to be thought provoking at the same time.  People saw her as the hilarious, dirty old woman. But listen to her jokes and she's forcing people to think about how they view the world and question their biases.  But you appreciate it and laugh because she is still just a funny, dirty old lady.

I've done enough research on black queer folks to know that Moms was a member of our community, but I wondered if documentary would be bold enough to share this.  I should have known that with Whoopi Goldberg steering the wheel, this film would not hold back the punches.  They went there.  They spoke her truth.  And for that I am grateful.  I think we're now in a place where when we discuss on heroes and our role models, we can talk about them in their entirety.  If you get a chance, check out the HBO special, Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley.  It is so well done.

To hold you over until you get a chance to see the film, check out these clips below of Moms 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices - Feb 1: Paris Is Burning

With regards to documentaries that focus on subjects black and queer - for the longest time Paris Is Burning was the standard.  For a little church boy that grew up in rural Alabama, ballroom culture was something totally foreign to me.   Looking at the weird, interesting and intriguing individuals in this film, it was a culture I was totally fascinated with from afar.  

Learning about the house of LaBeija and the house of St. Laurent and the house of Xtravaganza was thrilling and scary.  These houses were formed because many of the folks in this film were rejected by their regular family.  Rejection from everything I held as valuable was a real fear of mine as a kid. If I told my mom and day I was gay, how would they react.  What would happen if my pastor and my church family found out I was attracted to men. One message I received repeatedly from the pulpit was that "homosexuality is an abomination!"  And as often as I heard classmates negatively talk about anything same sex related, how could I not think that coming out would not only leave to rejection but also to a lifetime of beat downs whenever a teacher wasn't looking.  

Seeing the kids who lost their homes because they were gay confirmed my fears. But seeing the support they support they brought each other (and seeing them vogue) brought me joy.  Fortunately, the film is available to view on YouTube.  If you have never had a chance to view this remarkable film, please watch it below: