04-04-1968: Remember the Love

On the 51st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., I want to remember one of my favorite quotes.

mlk candid

 

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

 

Remember the love. We all have our faults, differences, and lessons to learn. Listen to each other. Love each other. Be kind to each other.

J.

 

 

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Guest Post: A Woman’s Worth

 

If you’ve ever been in an accident, you know about that moment pre-impact when your body naturally tenses up in response to the impending collision. That feeling, when everything is moving in slow motion, and your head is filled with alternative scenarios and “what have I done?” – THAT is the feeling within me that has slowly been building under pressure since the late hours of November 8th.

Today, the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, that same question is blasting repeatedly in my mind: “What have I done? What have WE done?” Last night, as I was lamenting my lack of participation in the Women’s March on Washington, my husband looked at me and said “Well, no worries. We voted. We tried.” It’s true. I voted. I voted for Hillary.  What more could I have done? Where did we go wrong? And then the flood came…

I remembered being very young, sitting in the dressing room with my mother as she tried on dress after dress after dress. She was looking in the mirror, grabbing at bits of flesh, desperately trying to rearrange her post-partum body, half-heartedly “joking” (was it a joke?) that I was to blame for her stretch marks and her size 12 pants. She used words like “fat”, “ugly”, and “cellulite” over and over again. I’d thought she was beautiful. Was she not beautiful? Was I mistaken? Was I also fat and ugly?

I remembered my first interactions with bullies. A boy in 4th grade said I sounded like a boy. In the 7th, I was intentionally tripped during the mile-run in gym class because it took me too long. In 9th grade I was “too fat” for shorts and the line of sweat running down my back was pointed out in class after I’d raced to make it before the bell. The snickers in band class when someone whispered that the way my hair fell made me look like the head of a penis. Being dumped for another girl who would “look better naked while sprawled across the hood of a car.” Being called a “slut” for the first time.

I remembered my escape to college, where I’d hoped things would most certainly change for me. The sexual assault in my dorm room, being held face down on my college-issued dorm mattress, inhaling those who had slept soundly on it before me, silently paused for perhaps my one and only prayer, my roommate ignoring what was happening.

I remembered waking up in the middle of the night, next to my ex-boyfriend, who was trying to pull my panties down without waking me. Pretending to be asleep so I could see just how far he would go. Feeling the violation and realizing it was not going to end with just touching. “Waking up”. Being told I’d pulled them down myself. That same man later distributing a naked photo to his friends, MY friends, our mutual friends…strangers…for the purpose of shaming me. Only much later, being informed of the picture’s existence by an acquaintance.

I remembered, after giving birth to my son, and experiencing a very rare post-partum stroke, my life hanging by a thread, being asked if I’d “lost the weight”. Having to use the stroke as an explanation for why I still look like this.

I remembered that despite all of these things, I had managed to chug along. But most of all, I remembered not saying a word.

The harsh reality is, my plight is not unique. Many women have similar stories to share. It isn’t even unique to my race, sex or gender. But somehow, SOMEHOW, it’s over-looked and ignored. Those who commit such atrocities against us are glorified. In high school, they were popular. In the workplace, they are viewed as “go-getters”, “strong”…even presidential. I wanted desperately to believe that once the people heard about Trump’s disregard for women, the LGBTQ community and minorities, there would be some pause.  On November 9th, I cried because again, I felt the burden of my biological form.

Throughout my life, I did not get to decide what happened to my body. Feeling good about myself was not an option.  I was defined by my image.

When my husband told me I’d done what I could…that I’d tried because I voted, I became angry. Angry because I realized that by not saying anything, I’d contributed to the problem. I’d taken the blame, fully, and unequivocally. But nothing that happened was my fault, and the only person in control of my body is me.

Believe it or not, the collision has not yet come. We are losing our access to contraceptives, we are losing our reproductive rights, we are losing our right to breastfeed and the resources that are currently in place to protect it, we are still making less than our male counterparts, and there will be federal tax cuts to organizations focused on preventing violence against women. But we need not and should not simply brace for impact. The time for action is now. March! If you cannot march, donate! If you cannot donate, volunteer! If you cannot volunteer, share! And if you cannot share, at the very least, please listen.

And always remember, you are not alone.

Sincerely,

One Nasty Woman

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Gay Rights Under President Trump — Thought Catalog

Flickr / Gage SkidmoreOne thing I’ve noticed since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States is that most people don’t understand how national marriage equality came to pass in the United States, nor do they have an understanding of how it could be threatened. On one hand, there is a large…

via Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Gay Rights Under President Trump — Thought Catalog

I Am A Mother And A Trump Presidency Terrifies Me — Thought Catalog

I feel gutted, completely heartbroken. Last night I quietly cried myself to attempted-sleep, but self-preservation readied me for flight or fright. I clenched my jaw, balled up my fists and tried, unsuccessfully, not to focus on the bile bubbling up. I tried to relax into my husband’s warm embrace, which usually makes me feel safe,…

via I Am A Mother And A Trump Presidency Terrifies Me — Thought Catalog

Forward

I remember when I came out to my dad in the fall of 2005. “Well, now you have two strikes against you. “You’re black, AND you’re gay.” At the time I didn’t quite know how to process those words. I knew exactly what my dad meant, but chose to live life not letting those two traits define my whole being. “Challenge accepted” was the tone of my internal promise to myself as I said goodbye to my dad for while, and welcomed my new life as an out gay man.

 

Race and sexuality were two areas of life I’ve always navigated well. After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, I’m feeling extremely heavy – weighed down by sadness, truths, and the pressure to persevere. As if the gravity of Black Lives Matter’s tragedies and struggles weren’t enough, I’m now faced with the task of processing my feelings as a gay man of color in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.

 

My father’s words seem to haunt me as I move through life. First the slew of wrongful deaths in the Black community by the hands of police, and now the senseless mass murder of fifty poor souls – most of which were Latino – at an LGBT safe haven.  

 

Living as a double minority brings a natural awareness in day-to-day life. I sense my responsibility to face these ghosts, and to figure out how to move forward in learning and growth. What do we do with tragedy of this magnitude? Just when we as a community thought we could breathe a little, a massive undertaking at Pulse Nightclub shakes us back to reality.
“You’re black, and you’re gay.” I can’t let these words fade away only to resurface and taunt me later down the road…

We’re More Than Friends from School. We’re Married.

The four of us sat in a group at the front of the funeral hall. It was visitation for my husband’s late grandmother, Mae, who’d passed peacefully at her nursing home a few days earlier. The mood was somber, tense, and was haunted by all the happy memories Grandma Mae had left behind. I’d only met her a couple of times, but those moments were enough. “…and this is my husband, Jamal.” There was a power in that introduction, and because of it, I’ll never forget those first few minutes of meeting Grandma Mae. My husband and I had been together almost four years, and I’d never heard anyone from his side of the family refer to me as “husband.”

Time and small talk took a moment, as my husband’s mother and father approached.  “Come meet the kids! You remember David, and his wife Alice…” His mother continued with a smile. “…and our youngest, Stanley, and his friend from school, Jamal.” I smiled, gave a polite nod to the cheerful strangers, and felt phantom burning around my wedding band. I’d come to expect this introduction in any situation that involved meeting friends of my parent-in-laws. In the past I’d let it slide – chalking it up to their old school ways, and not really knowing how to introduce their son’s husband to familiar faces – but this time, the word “friend” really got me thinking.


I wondered why being referred to as “friend” was bothering me now. To villainize my in-laws is not my intention. The number of favors and help they’ve provided my husband and I, is beyond anything I could ever imagine for us in any time of need. Was I being introduced this way as some subtle form of protection? Is the term “husband” one that is uncomfortable for them in uncharted social territory? I still don’t have the answer to those questions, and they’ve haunted my curiosity ever since.

That Thing You Do…

Looking into warm, honey-toasted eyes, I witness an endless scrolling of scenes from our relationship in movie montage form. I’m not sure if he notices when I drift away in my thoughts; stealing every little moment he presents at any given moment. I devour each morsel with subtle excitement. If only he could see himself, and enjoy his “isms” with me. “What?” He’s caught me looking and privately chuckling.   “Oh, nothing…” I skip past the television, doing my best not to interrupt his round of whatever he’s playing on the Xbox One. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. He always finds a way to catch my attention, and keeps me on my toes; even when he is unaware or doesn’t mean to do so. It’s the rage he conjures when a video game isn’t going his way. It’s the look on his face when he’s paying attention to every word coming out of my mouth. It’s his curiosity when he asks me if the outfit he put together looks good, and if the shoes he selected will match. I’m often reminded of, or discover, the ingredients that make up S. Like a good gumbo, these ingredients may change or vary, and like a good gumbo, the recipe only gets better and better as the time passes.

LOVE WON

How amazing was yesterday? It is now legal for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters to get married in ALL, say it again, ALL 50 states. YES!

  
This is S and I on our wedding day – May 16, 2014. I’m so happy that we can celebrate this victory during the month of PRIDE, and that others can now have a happy-cake-cutting-moment without having to travel outside of their home cities. 

I’m so proud of the country. There is still a lot of learning and growing to be done in America when it comes to equality, but this is a giant step. Everyone celebrate. Have a drink or eat some carbs. We did it!

My Black Thoughts

I’ve always said that I’m bad about following the news, and keeping track of things that are going on around the world and in my country. “Twitter is where I get my news!” is what I usually say when people ask me if I’d seen some story on the eleven-o-clock news the night before. I’ve never been one to sit down and watch the news on television, read a newspaper, or actively search for developments in current events, but here recently, I’m having a hard time NOT checking the news. The list of unspeakable treatment of Black Americans is growing at an alarming rate, and the deaths of Black Americans – wrongfully killed – was a large list to begin with.  As a black man I have to follow these stories. I have to keep track of stories like this for my own safety, to educate myself further on the existence of racism in America, and to gain strength for my people.

I was extremely saddened to learn about the event that took place in South Carolina, where nine black church attendees lost their lives after a young white male sat in their prayer meeting for an hour before opening fire on the peaceful group of people.  I cried reading this story in my cubicle at work, because, what did these people do to deserve this? Sadly, this is a question Black Americans have had to ask ourselves a lot recently when following news stories to learn of more black deaths in our country. Before the South Carolina tragedy, we lost the lives of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and a more black lives that didn’t make the news. All of these innocent black men lost their lives due to pure ignorance, and nothing else. In the Walter Scott’s footage – and thank goodness for mobile recording technology because now police can be held accountable for wrongful treatment of any individual they handle – we saw the white cop try to create a false crime scene; tossing a weapon near Scott’s already dead, and unstirring body.  What gives?! I don’t not know.

The people in Ferguson and Baltimore lead peaceful protests and candlelight vigils after the loss of their community members, and unfortunately some protest activities turned into violence and riots. Violence is never the answer and Deray Mckesson framed the rioting in Baltimore the best in an on-air talk with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer, excuse me, CNN – because Blitzer was just their sacrificial lamb when it came to talking to the “angry black people” in Baltimore – seemed to be more worried about Baltimore property damage than the wrongful death of Gray. Blitzer kept pushing for Mckesson to say the violence wasn’t necessary, and in response Mckesson stated “There should be peaceful protests, but I don’t have to condone it to understand it, right? The pain that people feel is real.”

A good, white friend of mine – and it’s sad I need to even tell you his race, but in the hopes of promoting good interracial relations, there you go – asked me if the strides the gay community have made in recent years can be linked to the stand the black community is taking in the face of all the recent negativity and deaths. This is was interesting to me. I’m black, gay, and from Alaska. I was always aware of race issues when I was growing up, but I never really faced any racism until I moved to Indiana. There have only been a couple non-violent instances when it comes to my experience with racism, and I am definitely more aware than I ever was when I lived in Alaska. When I think about there being a link between the success the gay community has seen in their fight for equality, and the black community’s current fight, I think there are similarities and differences.

There were major strides made in the original civil rights movement between the years of 1954 and 1968. Things were made fair(ish), everyone could move on with their lives, everyone could be somewhat comfortable; and I use that term loosely. The gay community was different in the sense that most people in this community remained in the closet and watched silently as the AIDS crisis played out across the nation. Now, don’t take that the wrong way. There were a good number of people who were out, proud, and fought for equal rights for the gay community, however, there were many who were afraid to join the fight, and for good reasons. The gay movement’s fight was slow, steady, and has finally reached a point where people can have open conversations regarding gay-straight relations across many platforms and topics.  We, as a nation, are JUST now attempting to have an open – and ongoing – dialogue on the topic of black and white relations; any color and white relations, really.  Show’s like ABC’s Black-ish do an incredible job illustrating everyday situations between black, white, and other races in today’s society.

It’s extremely easy to be ignorant and afraid of the unfamiliar. Being gay has always been a huge stigma in the traditional Black American family, and I know this because it took my own father eight years to say, out loud, that he had a problem with me being gay. My dad met my husband last summer when we visited Alaska, and things went really well, and quite honestly, it shocked the hell out of me. I have an uncle who is gay, and I’m still not one-hundred percent sure that side of the family has dealt with it openly. When I think back on S meeting my dad, I have to wonder if Black Americans can draw some inspiration from the gay community, and start sparking smart, honest, and real conversations with people of all colors.

Equality is a work in progress, and I feel that it’s something that will always be under construction, but it is with communication that we, Black Americans, can invite others into our world, and grow together.  The presence of video technology, the internet, and the ability to share what’s going on in any given area of the country – sharing events like the McKinney pool party incident – should be used as tools for learning for those who respond inappropriately to a situation. The journey through race relations has never been easy, and won’t get any easier, but the fact that people are talking about these problems is a great start. Not all black people hate white people. Not all black people hate gay people. Not all (insert community, race, gender, etc) hate (insert community, race, gender, etc). So what now? Let’s give this an honest try, and fix this.