i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

WNBA Star Sheryl Swoopes Goes Public With Her Same Gender Love

Earlier this week I came upon some intriguing information from an associate's website. Olympic Gold Medalist, & four-time (consecutive) champion from the WNBA Houston Comets' Sheryl Swoopes shared her same gender love w/ the media. In the latest ESPN Magazine, which ironically covers an unlikely pair - NBA Laker star Kobe Bryant & his, once again head coach Phil Jackson - Swoopes reveals she is gay.

Additionally, ESPN 2 has a relatively new sports/talk show - "Cold Pizza" - which comes on way too early (8:00 am) for my taste. This past Thursday, Swoopes was interviewed by their seemingly indifferent female journalist. At one point, the woman said, "there's a perception that most of the women in the WNBA are lesbian, what do you think your coming out will do for other gay or lesbian athletes out there, who might be thinking about coming out?"

Swoopes, dressed in a sleeveless, black turtleneck accentuated by a sparkling silver cross, said, "well, the reason I'm doing this is so I can be free...the stereotypes about female athletes are not true, there are just as many straight female athletes in the WNBA as there are straight men in the NBA." Swoopes went on to say, "I had to sacrifice my happiness for awhile...if people don't want to come out, that's fine, but I want people to know who I am, who I care about, who I show my affection for...I'm tired of pretending."

I was particularly proud of the humilty Swoopes displayed in her interview. She was calm, polite, warm & unapologetic. She admitted it was difficult hiding her authentic self because she knows as an athlete, mother & public figure, "it's (referring to homosexuality) not accepted in our society, but I'm okay w/ that because I'm still the same person, still the same mom & still the same Sheryl." Though not surprised by her courageous revelation, my male supremacy didn't consider being lesbian as her possible reality.

We live in a society which teaches us heterosexuality is the standard way of being, living & loving. Most of the time our attitudes around sexuality are heavily influenced by religious dogma. Like rapper Nas once said, "we fear what we don't understand & hate what we can't conquer." Aware of my same sex desire as a small child, I quickly learned to avoid (male) eye contact, deny my true feelings, lie about my social calendar, monitor my walk, smile when angry & try to please others so they wouldn't hurt me.

None of those damn strategies were effective...

When I shared Swoopes' lesbianism w/ a caring & sensitive hetero male friend, he suggested, "well, its easier for her because she's established." I didn't bother to tell him pain is on both sides of the dollar bill, no matter who you are in this world. Not surprisingly, he assumed being honest about her sexuality would be easier for Swoopes because she got bank. Wrong. Yet, his perspective is fairly common in today's fast paced, I'm busy, we'll talk later society.

After watching Swoopes on "Cold Pizza", I was pumped to go to the newsstand. I want to hear the whole story - not the less than eight-minute piece she offered on cable. I've yet to pick up the ESPN Magazine w/ her in it, though. I will, eventually. For real. You see, my mind is telling me yes but my body is telling me no. Okay, so I'm lazy. But I'd love to interview Sheryl Swoopes one day. Like Bobby & Whitney, we got something in common because I can identify w/ her on an emotional level. Besides, sometimes all people want is the feeling of being listened to, which didn't happen on tv. No wonder I hate cold pizza.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chicago White Sox Take Commanding 3 Games to None Lead in 2005 World Series

Early this morning, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Houston Astros 7-5 in 14 innings, giving them a commanding three games to none lead in this year's fall classic. This was the longest World Series game in major league history - spanning nearly six hours. Pinch hitter Geoff Blum, himself a former Astro, homered in the top of the 14th inning. The White Sox added an insurance later in the inning. Lefty Mark Buerhle, who started game two, came in to close in the bottom of the 14th inning.

This year's White Sox are an interesting group, led by their fearless manager, 41 year-old Ozzie Guillen - a shoo-in for AL Manager of the Year. Guillen, a former rookie of the year & all-star, gold glove winning shortstop, keeps his players ready because of his character, energy & spirit. Former players are often most respected by their managers. He made it clear from day one of the spring season to the team's owners: "get me some new horses in here."

What Guillen was referring to was the White Sox woeful staring pitching. Everyone agrees pitching & defense wins championships in baseball. This year, for example, the White Sox staff was at the top of the ERA list. They have six legitimate starters, four of whom won 14 or more games, which rivals the St. Louis Cardinals' often heralded pitching staff.

Jon Garland, Mark Buerhle, Jose Contreras & Freddie Garcia have dominated this year's post season. In fact, coming into the World Series, they were a combined 4-1, w/ an ERA below 2 runs per game. They shut down the Los Angeles Angels, in particlar last year's AL MYP Vladimir Guerrero, who had just one single in over 20 at bats in the AL division series.

Though I remain a Cubs fan at heart, I feel a certain kinship to the Chicago White Sox because I was born in the Windy City. The fierce rivalry between both teams is parallel to other major league franchises boasting two teams in the same sport, such as we have here in New York. In 2000, for example, when NYC hosted what came to be known as the 'Subway Series', emotions ran high from borough to borough.

In last night's game, all of the Astros' hopes were on the shoulder of their Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt, who sported a 3-0 record in the post season. He owned the first four innings, mixing his 97 mile an hour fastball w/ a wicked curve & slider. However, in the fifth inning, the White Sox began to melt Oswalt's heat, as he surrendered five runs on six hits, beginning w/ third baseman Joe Crede's opposite field solo homer.

What I like about the White Sox is they have no superstars, which is refreshing in today's climate of over-priced egos whose individual statistics don't lead to playoff berths or World Series rings. Each player in their lineupis capable of winning the game. What other teams have a man batting in the ninth spot who has 15 HR's and 71 RBI's? Shortstop Jose Uribe - whose agressive bat reminds me of former Pittsburgh Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen - is an overlooked talent who can only get better w/ experience.

The Astros had numerous opportunities to win the game, especially in the ninth inning, when they had a runner on third base w/ one out. ESPN announcer Harold Reynolds - a man after my own heart - said the ninth inning was the key to the Astros demise. Eventually, the bases were loaded, the results of walks (one intentionally to the dangerous Lance Berkman) from White Sox relievers.

Guillen masterfully used his brilliant bullpen in this game. Orlando Hernandez, a former Yankee star & one of the most versatile pitchers in the league, came in & shut down the next two Astros hitters. He was stellar in one of the White Sox' division series wins over last year's champion Boston Red Sox. 'El Duke' pitched three shutout innings of relief in a game (I forget which one) the Red Sox could've blown open w/ one more hit.

Prior to Hernandez' appearance in the ninth inning, lefty Mark Potts came in to face left-handed hitting Mark Lamb. Potts, whose regular season ERA was 1.87, walked Lamb on five pitches. In game one, the exact matchup was used, but in that game, Potts struck out Lamb to diffuse a potental rally. Also, in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Astros tied the game at five, as Whit Sox reliever Hermanson gave up a double to Jason Lane.

Game four will be played tonight in Houston. Their was some mild controversy yesterday because the Astros have the benefit of openinf or closing their domed stadium as weather dictates. NBC announcers Jack Buck & Tim McCarver pointed out the Astros - who had the best record at home in the majors this year - have a much better record when the dome is closed, than when the dome is open. Seems the powers that be wanted the dome open because the temperature was in the 60's. When asked about the decision to keep the dome open, White Sox manager Guillen simply said, "I don't care."

Last night, I got an e-mail from my youngest sister Tracy, who has caught the White Sox fever along w/ her beautiful young daughter, DaShae. She admits she was not a White Sox fan, but now, she says, she is "hooked." Tracy works for the company who makes the ads & message boards for most Chicago sports teams. As such, she gets free tickets to the games, even the World Series. I guess Glenda, the Good Witch was right, as she handed Dorothy her red slippers reminding her: "there's no place like home."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BMX Makes History At Millions More Movement 2005 - Amidst Controversy!

Just before 2:00 am, Saturday, October 15, 2005, about 25 people from the Black Men's Xchange (BMX), along w/ members of the larger Black family sponsored by the Martin Luther King Center For Non-Violence in Queens, boarded a capacity bus. Our destination? Washington, D.C., for the Millions More Movement, to support the CEO & Founder of BMX, Cleo Manago, selected by MMM organizers to speak at the historic rally.

We arrived in New Carrolton, Maryland somewhere around 7:00 am: anxious, excited, hungry, proud, weary. Upon exiting the bus, I began to reflect on my experience at the Million Man March 10 years ago. The first thing I noticed was the level of security deployed - prompted, no doubt, by post 9-11 fear & so-called Bush anti-terrorist activity. As we journeyed toward the U.S. Capitol, we were warmly greeted by the Fruit Of Islam (FOI). Their acknowledgment set the tone for a long & exciting day ahead.

Perhaps because 10 years ago it was a day of atonement, an event specifically focused towards the unity of Black men, the sense, or feeling, of urgency was missing. I was pleased by a large youth turnout. At the outset of his surprisingly short 75 minute presentation, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan noted about 50% of the crowd were young people. In fact, there was a distinct family atmosphere present - several generations - yet the picnic-like crowd was rather subdued, until hip hop artist Wyclef Jean took the stage & proceeded to rock the house, adding much needed energy to the event.

I vividly remember the Million Man March being held on a weekday. I eagerly attended w/ 15 Black & Latino men ranging in age from 25 to 75; activists, educators, volunteers, working class folk; bisexual, heterosexual, same gender-loving; most HIV-positive; some in recovery; Baptist, Christian, Muslim & spiritual brothers joined together through grace. When we reached the mall shortly before 8:00 am, it was announced almost one million men were already accounted for. Brothers from various parts of the world were greeting, hugging & smiling to each other: the love & intimacy was almost surreal.

The next day's Washington Post read: "400, 000 African-American Men March in DC."

Earlier in the week, we were dutifully informed BMX would be included as part of the "tapesty of unity" section of the rally. The MMM intended to showcase our cultural, political & social diversity. Included were various representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus, Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Council of Negro Women, National Urbal League, New Black Panther Party & Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

As Cleo Manago graced the podium - joined by two members of AMASSI, Inc., the California-based, Cultural, Health & Wellness Center he serves as CEO & Founder - we cheered loudly, w/ pride. I listened intently as Cleo graciously thanked Farrakhan for his "seriousness about inclusion amongst all members of the Black family", offering his "perspective as a Black man, a same gender-loving Black man." Again, this was the first time a same gender-loving man of African descent presented at a national Black event.

Manago, dressed in dashiki & jeans, was brilliant, as he spoke to the need for "cultural affirmation courses, mental health & restoration intervention for Black people, because many of us need it." He went on to suggest we need "healing opportunities explicitly acknowledging our diversity, which would include same gender-loving sisters & brothers, non-religious folks, powerul women, people who are differently-abled physically, & others loyal to Black unity, life & success."

As Cleo continued, somebody in the group asked if Keith Boykin is going to speak. Earlier this week, I recieved an e-mail, in the form of a press release, stating a meeting took place between members of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the civil rights organization for LGBT people Boykin heads, along w/ Farrakhan, Willie Wilson, MMM National Director & other MMM organizers. According to the release, Farrakhan - his first time ever meeting w/ openly (!) gay & lesbian Blacks - after the tense 75 minute session, invited Boykin to speak.

Prior to this alleged meeting, an October 6 article in the Houston Voice - reprinted in the Washington Blade - entitled, "Farrakhan said to approve gay speaker for march. Millions More leaders may prefer 'separatist' representative. The article described BMX as a "controversial, all-male New York group that disputes the existence of Black gays." Ray Daniels, an NBJC spokesperson, said BMX was a separatist group that has denounced organizations like NBJC as stooges for the "white power structure."

In fact, just days before the rally, the NBJC offered to the MMM organizers a list of 10 openly gay & lesbian speakers to present, among them Angela Davis, E. Lynn Harris, Me'Shell N'Degeocello & Alice Walker. Ironically, Boykin was not on the list, yet a Washington Blade article reports Wilson blocked Boykin from speaking the day of the rally. Wilson empahatically denies the charge, saying Boykin was never told he'd speak at the rally. Did Boykin try to coerce the MMM into honoring his own agenda?

What I find troubling are recent weblogs of both Boykin & Jasmyne Connick, another NBJC member, who've resorted to 'outing' Black ministers they deem homophobic. A number of entries ask: "Is T.D. Jakes Gay?", "Is Eddie Long Gay?", "Is Willie Wilson Gay?" They're asking for the help of any gay & lesbian folk who have information about the alleged 'gayness' of these ministers.

How will the answer to these questions benefit Black people? And, who cares?

The NBJC is funded by white dollars & no (common) sense. As such, I question the autonomy of the NBJC, whose primary focus is on gay marriage, a class issue which doesn't resonate w/ the average Black homosexual, male or female. Furthermore, the gay white media, like their straight white counterparts, is invested in the destruction of the Black community, regardless of our sexual politics. The whole scenario smells holier than thou from over here - y'all know God don't like ugly.

Additional press reports are suggesting BMX, as an organization, was complicit in the so-called snub of Boykin, in an attempt to polarize the LGBT community. Nothing could be further from the truth. BMX has a solid, 20 -year relationship w/ the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a Black affirming entity. BMX made no demands on the MMM. BMX asked to be included, not as a condition, but as an opportunity to share a perspective in a rational manner amongst the entire Black family in a cultural context. BMX is invested in the transformation of Black life & was committed to attending the event whether or not Cleo Manago- who requested a SGL woman be present - spoke or not.

Are we controversial because we don't allow white people & their gay-identity policis to dictate our agenda? Are we controversial because we're not afraid to speak truth to power? Are we controversial because we are pro-Black, which is media manipulated as anti-white? Had Boykin spoken at the rally, we would've been the first to congratulate him: our mission employs diversity. Seems the MMM was not feeling him.

Finally, the MMM was not about Farrakhan, the NOI, or simply, another march. The MMM is about the liberation, mobilization, transformation & unification of Black people. Why? Black people are suffering all over the world. The disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina exposed a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal system designed to exploit Black people wherever we exist. We need to assume responsibility for the health & wellness of our people. We need to take care of our people. We need to heal. Now.

Frederick Douglass said, "power never conceded anything w/ out a demand, it never has & it never will." Marcus Garvey said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." James Baldwin said, "your crown has been bought & paid for, all you must do is wear it." I trust this experience serves as (another) wake-up call for the homoseuxal Black community, as well as the community at-large. We need to get our shit together - cause it stinks!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Farrakhan Chooses SGL Speaker for Millions More Movement

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the historic Million Man March in Washington, DC. About two million brothers showed up, despite media reports of 400,000. We came for a day of atonement, an opportunity for brothers to unify in peace, responsibility & spirit. I was there. Black. Male. Proud. I will attend this year as well, though w/ a different twist. This year I will come w/ the Black Men's Xchange (BMX), whose founder, Cleo Manago, has been slated by Minister Louis Farrakhan to speak at the rally.

The Millions More Movement organizers were under controversy from the start when women shared their displeasure at being left out a decade ago. Since then, there have been similar marches for women, the youth & the family. Julianne Malveaux, a noted Black female economist & integral part of this year's efforts, stated, "how can you expect to fight a war when half of your army is at home with the children?"

The theme of the movement is: "Black is Back." In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina to poor people in Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi, organizers are calling upon the best & brightest of Black minds to engineer plans for the liberation, mobilization, transformation & unification of Black people. It is clear George Bush doesn't care for us, a sentiment recently echoed by Grammy-award winning hip hop artist Kanye West.

Cleo Manago is CEO & founder of AMASSI, Inc., a cultural, health & wellness center in Inglewood, California. He is a social architect, deeply invested in Black people affirming themselves. He is widely known for stating, "loving ourselves in our image is its own reward." Many folks are unaware Manago was scheduled to speak at the first March, however due to possible over-booking & time constraints, he didn't make it to the podium. He will make history this weekend, becoming the first Black "sexual minority" representative at a national Black event.

BMX is a Black men's empowement organization, based in Harlem & led by same gender-loving men (SGL) of African descent. Though west coast in origin, BMX has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Oakland/Bay Area, and Johannesburg, South Africa. An important component of the work at BMX includes critical thinking, which involves acknowledging & unlearning anti-Black & anti-homosexual thinking, two primary symptoms of poor self-concept.

The popular weekly gatherings in Harlem draw up to 50 participants. We dialogue, not just w/ SGL men, but also w/ SGL women, our heterosexual brothers & our heterosexual sisters. BMX believes in "putting Black love into practice." Each week we discuss issues relevant to the group, review community concerns & seek solutions to problems which compromise our emotional, physical & spiritual well-being.

This past, Friday, for example, our guest facilitator was Bob Law, New York State Chair of the Millions More Movement (MMM) Planning Committee. Mr. Law, a former radio talk show host ("Night Talk") & longtime community activist, was pleased to announce Manago as the choice of Farrakhan for the historic event. Noting BMX's consistent involvement w/ the MMM, Law captivated our members w/ his passionate dicourse around the need for a "sustained, conscious movement among progressive Black people." He further acknowledged the MMM organizers were "comfortable" w/ our organization.

In addition to Mr. Law, present that evening were a handful of heterosexual male allies who shared their concerns around unity in the Black community. One gentlemen in particular mentioned he was less concerned about whether folks are SGL, then whether they were willing to make a commitment to make the world a better place for Black people. Law, a devout Christian, admitted he personally doesn't approve of homosexuality, but stressed - as did the other heterosexual male - it was more important for Black people to unite in a common fight: white supremacy.

Let us be clear: at BMX we are well aware of the impressions w/ in the Black community suggesting homosexuality is an aberration, an abomination & a scourge. Yet, we know intimately there are diverse ways of being, living & loving: a prime reason we choose to be self-determining. BMX is making history this weekend. We will represent NYC strong at this event & encourage all members of the Black family to join us. Get on the bus!