How Prince helped me be Black and genderqueer in America’s Bible capital

I still remember when Prince sang on “Muppets Tonight” in 1997. I was seven years old in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was a few years after he started using his symbol instead of his name, which the Muppets played up for laughs. I remember him wearing these overalls in one scene for a farm skit and a ridiculous chartreuse turtleneck for a music video in the next. Even the Muppet-ified Prince had a pompadour.

I watched him sing about Cynthia, the Muppet who didn’t care what people thought: “If you set your mind free, baby you’d understand.”

After that, I wanted more. I looked for Prince in music stores and online. I’ll never forget seeing the cover of his 1988 album “Lovesexy.” Here was this naked black man on the cover of his album with flowers behind him. And people loved him.

Read more here

Making Changes

This past week I flew to Houston, Texas and attended the Creating Change conference of 2014. It was my first time attending and I definitely believe it was well worth it.

Let me just start by saying my attendance almost didn't happen. Thanks to Snowpacalypse Jr. I missed my first flight. Not only that but the lovely people that were getting me there were trapped in Atlanta for the same reason. But once I got there the education began.

Seeing old friends. Making new friends. Being in the presence of Laverne Cox.  Education at Creating Change 2014.

Seeing old friends. Making new friends. Being in the presence of Laverne Cox.  Education at Creating Change 2014.

I had the impression that I would learn information about networking, activism, and get a general understanding of how to make things happen back home in Chattanooga. I definitely got all of that. But I also got a better understanding of myself and revelation of what life is like for others like myself. 

As I've stated in one of my previous posts, I didn't always like what I saw in the mirror. I suffered depression and felt a distinct feeling of isolation. With every session and workshop that I attended that was a resounding sentiment that kept recurring.

(Mental health and mental care have been given such a stigma in our culture. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to be tested. No one wants to seek help. No one wants to seem "weak". )

20140201_192658.jpg

It never occurred to me until this conference that I needed to congratulate myself on doing the things that make me...me.  I've never had the notion of congratulating myself on doing the things that have kept me here. I've always given others the necessary shout outs for helping me get through rough moments. But I've never given myself the shout out. I've never thought about the brilliancy and beauty of my mind and soul that kept me here. 

There was a session I went to that focused on liberation. Which is the one thing I didn't know I needed but once it was revealed to me I realized it was everything I needed.

I'm already taking selfies of myself to give myself the confidence. But this session helped me see the second part of what I need to do. Take the control back that I let people have over me. Take the power back that I've given to people because I want others to be happy. 

It's okay to want other people to be happy. Just like it's okay to want and demand happiness for myself. Because I deserve it. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be proud of the things that make me happy. 

I deserve to be free from the self punishing mentality that I often put myself in.

I deserve to be free from the limitations that society puts me in.

I deserve to be free.

That's what I'm taking away from Creating Change 2014. 

Next time I go (which will happen without a doubt...) I want to see more of this. I want to see more liberation. I want to see more brown faces. I want to see change happening while I'm there and not just when we leave. I want to see less lectures and more interactive training sessions.  I want to do all the things that are important to me. I don't want to have to choose between one subject and the next. I want more combinations.

I want more change. 

Trevor Live 2013: Los Angeles

Let me start off by saying that The Trevor Project is one of the most amazing and inspirational non-profit organizations that exists and I'm constantly overwhelmed with how honored I feel to be a part of this organization.

The Trevor Project is a non-profit life saving organization that focuses on providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning youth. Their main focus is providing help to youth in need by reaching out to them through their free and confidential lifeline.

(If you are reading this and you are in need of their services or would like the number to suggest for a friend here's it is: 866-488-7386) 

On Sunday, December 8, the organization held their annual Trevor Live event. They raised over 1 million dollars through donations, live and silent auction items, and more. 

It was at this event that I delivered my story to the audience. 

I was a user of the lifeline that I mentioned above. Then I became a YAC (Youth Advisory Council) Member and created my own projects to change the lives around me. 

I had never thought of my story being brave. I had never thought of my story being inspiring. But that's what I was told by numerous guests after I told my story. 

I was unaware that there were many volunteers who were counselors on the lifeline. The people I spoke to years ago might have even been in the audience. But what I was mostly unaware of is how much it meant to them to know what happened to just one of the many youths that call them after the phone call ended. 

I felt honored. I didn't receive an official award that night. But I feel like I did. All of my life I've wanted to do something to make a difference. I wanted to do something that would inspire people to change the world around them. 

I felt like that pride that night and I still do. 

It was an extremely moving thing for me to have people thank me for being brave.

It was moving because I know that I wasn't the only one being brave. Every youth that's ever made that call or reached out for help, is brave. Every person that stood against the grain and remained tall in what they believe in and who they love, is brave. 

I was nervous at the thought of delivering my speech. But then I realized I was doing it for those who weren't there. I was doing it for those in the past, present, and future who belong in some way to The Trevor Project.

I'll never be able to thank The Trevor Project enough for opening these doors for me, for giving me the support all those years ago, and for giving aid to all of those anonymous faces of youth who needed that voice on the other side of the phone. 

The Trevor Project is an organization that I will always believe in. 

Mostly because The Trevor Project has always believed in me.

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live

We are a collective of black men dedicated to challenging the ideas of black masculinity and manhood through the written word. Through our work we explore the ugliest parts of ourselves and our community, in the hope that we can illuminate the beauty that we know exists as well. We challenge each other daily to create and be more than what this racist, patriarchal society has raised us to be. But simply wanting it will not do. It requires tons of hard work, and much of that work includes listening to our sisters, black women, who tend to bear the brunt of our messiness. Unfortunately, in this regard, we have been woefully absent.

 

When the hashtag #Blackpowerisforblackmen, created by Ebony.com editor Jamilah Lemeiux, took over Twitter, it was a clear sign that we haven’t been doing enough. Thousands of our sisters (and brothers) tweeted for hours about the imbalance in our community. We, black men, tend to pride ourselves on our anti-white racial supremacy activism but often fail to reach out and consider the pain and trauma faced by the women in our lives. Our culture actively denigrates the very existence of black women. We take their love, support, nourishment, and spiritual presence for granted. As a whole, black men have not reciprocated our love and support in a way that affirms the humanity and dignity of black womanhood in the face of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, sexual violence, physical and verbal abuse.

#Blackpowerisforblackmen became the call, and as black men dedicated to fighting alongside our sisters, we have taken up the responsibility of answering. As individuals, we recognize where we have fallen short, and as a community we make a promise to participate in deep self-reflection and correction. 

This ain’t just an apology; it’s a commitment.