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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An Ode To Dana Rose

Last week I received word from a former co-worker about the recent transition of Rev. Dana Rose. Rev. Rose, or 'miss Dana' if you're nasty, was one of the most compassionate hue-man beings I've ever known. He was Black, male & homosexual, giving service wth a smile (sometimes shade) wherever he went. I'd see him periodically walking alone in various parts of NYC & woud stop to chat for a moment. I hadn't talked to him in years, but was aware he was suffering from diabetes, as he was losing sight in one of his eyes. I understand some members of ADODI & GMAD are planning a homecoming for him, one I intend to be present to.

I met Dana at a bereavement group in the fall of '96. He served as facilitator, though worked in many counseling capacities at the, then, Lesbian & Gay Center on West 13th Street in the village. The name has been changed to access bisexuals & transgenders, as well as engendering power to women, thus the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Services Center. But I digress.

On April 12, 1996, my longtime partrner of nearly 18 years, Bernard Brown, died of the disease of addiction in Chicago, my hometown. I was much too distraught to attend the funeral. In fact, I was rather numb for months. My therapist suggested I seek group counseling to heal. When it comes to dealing with pain, apathy & denial are part of my history. I finally decided to go because the pain of not going was uncomfortable.

Initially there were 15 folks in the eight-week group. After a few weeks, as usually is the case with support groups of any kind, the number dwindled down to a core group of eight or nine. Folks were grieving the loss of their parents, friends & animals. We bonded quickly, primarily because of Dana, whose love, respect & sensitivity centered us. He utilized spiritual principles in a non-traditional setting, as well as art, dance, gospel music & poetry. Dana affirmed our loss when we shared our pain, imparting wisdom I've never forgotten, "healing can only take place in community, it can never take place in isolation."

The universe is a better place because of the spirit of Rev. Dana Rose.

Rev. Rose is a beloved member of ADODI, a group celebrating 20 years (this summer) of serving African descended men who experience same sex desire. He's worked with various community-based & nonprofit organizations in NYC, NJ, Philadelphia & Washington, DC such as CHOICES, GMAD, Harlem United, POCC, SAGE & Us Helping Us. Rev. Rose was everywhere anyone needed him. His humility, integrity & kindness are rare qualities in a society obsessed with looking good than feeling good. I am a better hue-man being as a result of our evolving relationship, one that transcended the profession to the person.

When he walked into the room, we would just look at each other & crack up. Dana has that old school soul, but every now & then he'd cut up on somebody in a light, non-malicious way. I remember working at the old GMAD office on West 14th Street during a Friday Night Forum, when he whispered into my ear after someone came in late, "who that bitch think she he is?" I knew he intended no harm, but my stomach was in knots because it was a line you'd usually hear from an aunt or grandmother. He'd make me laugh & not feel guilty about it. I loved that about him.

Dana embraced his masculine & feminine energy in a non-pretentious, refreshing way. He wasn't bound by racist, Western social constructs as many folks are today. He was a Yoruba priest, immersed in West African customs & traditions. He became the first openly gay - a term I don't like - Archdiocese of New Jersey at a church whose name I don't recall because I got CRS (can't remember shit, that's my story & I'm sticking to it, ok?). But he was not one to impose his will on others. He was comfortable in his/her skin, though some makeup would've truly sufficed, chile.

I loved me some Dana Rose. He affirmed my sexuality, inspired my creativity & nurtured my inner child, especially when the little boy would start acting out. Dana would say, "don't start none, won't be none." Whenever I'd get short with him, he'd go Jill Scott on me, pretending to take off his earrings, put down his purse & pour on the vaseline - as only a Black woman from the 'hood would do. We would start swinging in the air at each other, channeling the little girls inside of us & folks would be like, what is wrong with these two? But that's how free he made me feel. Free to be all of me, not my representative.

Deepak Chopra once said, "healing is the natural tendency to restore balance when it is lost." Though I recently turned 46 years old, I'm still healing old wounds. I'm eternally grateful to the God of my understanding for placing miss Dana in my path. We were, indeed, kindred spirits. We understood each other. He had the courage to care. I respect him for caring. His heart was illuminating. His intelligence was stimulating. His trust was breathtaking. The energy of Rev. Dana Rose is divinely inspired. He was fierce!


Bahian Heat said...

So sorry to hear about the passing of Brother Rose. He was truely an inspiration. I remember the support he gave us during the years I ran Black Pride NYC. He made almost every opening reception and I especially remember his witty comments during the "Stories from Our Seniors" forum. He told us stories that we would have never heard from an era long gone.

RIP my brother.
Laurence Pinckney

Bernie said...

That was a nice remembrance of Dana.

I had not seen him in ages but was deeply saddened to hear recently that he had passed. When I first moved to NYC, he was one of the first and more memorable people I met in my travels through the community. Like you Mark, I considered him one of the genuine people, unpretentious and very giving.

Several years ago (I can't remember when, I got CRS too) there was a workshop he was facilitating at the Center as a part of Black Pride that year. During a break, a teenager walked in who was straight off the bus from Baltimore, homeless and HIV+. Dana immediately made it his responsibility to help this young man find a place to stay and get plugged into essential services. He wasn't going to leave that day until the kid's needs had been addressed.

Verge of Jordan said...

Beautiful recollection of Dana. I wish I had the chance to know him better but he truly graced a number of our OASIS services in NJ with his presence and talent.

Capri said...

Hello Mark,
How are you? I am Dana Rose's sister. I read your blog. Thanks for thinking about my brother. I miss him, too. A memorial service celebrating the life of the Rev. Dana Rose will be held at Trinity and St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark on September 16, 2006 at 3:00 p.m. Could you help me spread the news about the memorial service, please? Thank you. I will see you there.


Capri said...

The cathedral address is:

A memorial service celebrating the life of the Rev. Dana Rose will be held at Trinity and St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark on September 16, 2006 at 3:00 p.m.

Trinity and St. Philip's Cathedral
608 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102

Capri said...

Hello Mark,
How are you? Did you make it to the NJ Memorial Service? Here is the info. about the 2nd service. Please let me know if you can attend. Feel free to let Dana's friends know about this service.

Celebrating the Life of The Rev. Dana Rose Memorial/ Reception
September 30, 2006
Time 1:00- 5:00 p.m.
St. James’Perish Center
Multi-Purpose Room
(Across the street from St James'
Episcopal Church)
1020 West Lafayette Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21217

Anonymous said...

I also love men, and I find myself more confortable and attracted to black men..I dont just mean physicaly , but to what I perceived as the richness of the lives that black men have..
their strugle and the realities they have faced and endured forged in many of them , a profound sense of identity, pride, strenght and respect, as well as tolerance.. I unfortunately have not found myself being the reciepient of the same , many times.. as there is a basic assumption , and distrust of someone (like me) who is hispanic .I wish diversity also could mean real blending and merging , without loosing our cultural aspects , but to celebrate them ALL!
Thank you.

Linda said...

I came across this site and could not leave without adding the following; Dana, Oh My MY...what comes to mind first is his laugh and that smile of his. And, not only could he make you laugh like the dopiest after-school-kid in the yard he also had this thing about him that brought out the comical side of you as well. And if you let yourself go you'd find yourself improvising and lively animated like a court jester with your own personal touch. His smile he wore often just like the grown-mans knapsack, heavy with a myriad of literature, journals, pens of all kinds, 10 to 20 CDs and at least 3 to 4 crucifixes' that he would happily put around your neck or in your hand. He loved the Lord, and on some occasions if you dared to, you could hear the love in him. A white collegue, and I might add-friend, asked me a very long time ago what a soul man was. I remember the question because it was one of those occasions where race difference and the all too familiar assumptions entered the conversation - like; all black people eat watermelon, can dance really good and love fried chicken. The funny thing is I don't recall what my answer was. Today, without hesitation the words would flow from my mouth like a stream of ash smoke from a stick of incense, and all the while my key reference would be the one and only Dana. He was a soul man, brother man, comrade, lover of life and humankind. His love for music and all its variations from caribbiean to classic-R&R to new age, spoke volumes of his list of personal life stimulus. He shared his music, books, art, food and his friends. He brought many of us into each other's lives. Indeed, we are a select group - those of us who felt our own special-ness through our experiences with Dana. He was my friend and life teacher. Always present wherever his feet took him. I love Dana Rose and always will. I love him because he was here...really, truly here.

Pat Nelson said...

Something told me to google Dana's name tonight. I guess it was the universe's way of telling me he had made his transition to another plane.

Dana and I worked at the Lesbian/Gay Community Center - he with Centerbridge and I with the Community Health Project. I forgot how we met, but we did and something clicked for me. He gave me a blue backpack (which I almost tossed last year, but something told me to keep it - I am now so glad)and a couple of his poems. He shared his life with me - as I was trying to find my way in dyke land, he gave me a lot of support.

When I had gone through 3 relationships in one year, I was talking with him on the corner of 7th Avenue and 13th Street. He listened, and in only the way that he could, he said "Girl, you need someone FIERCE!" That knocked me off my feet. And it was true, and one year later, I DID meet someone fierce - from Minnesota - and we've celebrated our 12th anniversary in 2008.

Dana also encouraged me to actively talk about being a Buddhist. He even got me to participate in a workshop on how to deal with grief in various traditions. Imagine,if you will, that a Black Lesbian Buddhist was the most "mainstream" of the panelists there.

Thank you Dana for your love and encouragement. I have our picture together in the diner - you smiling as always with your hand on my shoulder. I feel you now as I type these words.

Love ya,

Pat Nelson
Brooklyn NY/Minneapolis, MN

Martine said...


I've just found out that Dana has passed and would like to send his family a note and some photos I have of Dana. Does anyone know where they can be reached? Please know my appreciation.

Dana was a loving man and friend.