Posts filed under Identity

MTV "True Life": Kiara Representing Beautiful in Every Shade™

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MTV’s “True Life: I Have A Trans Parent”, follows two young people grappling with their parents’ transitions. Kiara, one of people featured on the show, ROCKED a BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ shirt throughout a recent episode.

We appreciated the support and your embodiment of the message. 

Kara is 23-year-old women who lives with her husband and son in Georgia speaks openly about adjusting to but also her heart's desire to support and stand by her parent.  

When asked what advice she had for someone who’s having a hard time dealing with their parent’s transition, she said "Have patience and be openminded. It's important to remember that, in a way, you're going through a transition as well, and viewing your parent as a different gender doesn't happen over night."

At 0:46 and 2:01 of this short "True Life: I Have A Trans Parent" Sneak Peek, you can also find Kiara repping Beautiful in Every Shade™. 

To see an update about Kiara and her relationship with her father, view MTV's check-in interview with Kiara

Posted on January 28, 2016 and filed under family, Identity, LGBT, personal stories, press, sexuality.

I AM SHAUN KING. Question Him. Question Me.

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

I Am Shaun King.

Wow! I can‘t believe this. For a few days I’ve been following all of the media craziness surrounding my good friend Shaun King. Shaun is an outspoken activist whose race has been recently questioned. Is he black? Is he white? Is he a race fraud? Did he lie to get a scholarship? Is he Rachel 2.0?

Ever since the Rachel Dolezal ordeal I cannot count how many times I, myself, have been jokingly asked:

1.     Can you show me your race card?

2.     Let me see your birth certificate?

3.     Who are your parents, really?

4.     Are you really black?

5.     I’ve always wondered about you…

Shaun and I went to Morehouse College together. We were members of the largest class to ever enter this historic HBCU. I still remember meeting Shaun for the first time. He shook my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘hello brother’ with the quiet confidence and energy that one would expect from a world leader. Literally, from the instant I made his acquaintance I knew this man was destined for greatness. He was special and I knew it. Shaun and I shared something unique.  It was something I wrote about in my 50 Shades of Black (Volume I) story titled, “Red Bone with Blue Eyes.”  My story in 50 Shades of Black reignites the issues I had growing up as a light-skinned African American child. Some of these painful memories I had repressed for many years.

 

My daughter Addison is a spitting image of me as a child. She is called “beautiful” on a daily basis. Thirty years ago my look was called, “weird.”  Growing up in Pensacola, FL during the 80’s and 90’s I was the victim of constant verbal abuse and often provoked into fights. I had to prove my blackness to my own African American community. Yes, I was a pretty popular kid. That’s how most of my classmates probably remember me, but there was a part of my life, my horror, lurking in the shadows. I remember waiting for the bus after school and receiving a tip that I was about to get ambushed. For a while I started sneaking to get on the bus first so that I would not be subjected to hateful words or bullying.  A student once cornered me in the bathroom with a knife. Many of my friends (lets just call some of them acquaintances) would say to me that I thought I was better than them because I was lighter...that I thought I was more intelligent...that I was the teacher’s favorite because of my skin. I was called a reverse Oreo cookie just because of my appearance and because I had friends of all races.

 

The verbal abuse did not end with kids from school; there were adults that took part in this foolishness as well. “That can’t be your dad? What are you? Where did you come from? What’s wrong with your hair? I wish I had your fair skin color. You’re going to make some pretty babies one day.”  A lot of this pain led to my search for a racial identity. It has shaped the person I am today and the sensitivity I have as a photographer.

 

 Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

In August 2008, I photographed Shaun. He needed portfolio images to use for his ministry, The Courageous Church, as well as other endeavors. We shared stories about Morehouse, our family, and our future. It was like we were two brothers plotting a world takeover. Since then, Shaun has supported all of my international trips and in 2010, he gave me the opportunity to visit Haiti. My images of Shaun and his projects have been used around the world in magazines/books and on television.

 

I know Shaun as an honest person who stops at nothing to help people (cue hopemob.com). You can’t hold him back from achievement. That only fuels his passion to make a greater difference in the world. He has constantly used his voice and influence for justice. He has risked his life to create positive change. He doesn’t just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race. 


"He doesn't just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race."


Ever since his involvement in the #blacklivesmatter movement, he has been under constant scrutiny. He is facing a character assassination in the media. His race and his intentions have been taken into question. I know him and I’m just not having that!!

Although he didn’t have to respond to the attacks, Shaun decided to explain his painfully private story:

Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story

 

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

---

50 Shades of Black examines the complex role Sexuality and Skin Tone play in the formation of Identity.

 

Ross Oscar Knight is a photo-culturalist,  Owner of Ross Oscar Knight Photography, and Co-Director of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on August 21, 2015 and filed under current events, Identity, personal stories, press, race, skin tone.

THE TALK: 10 Heartbreaking Instructions To Stay Alive if Confronted by Police

Dear son,

As your father, I feel there are some very important things that I must tell you right now.  Many of them may seem totally contradictory to things I’ve told you in the past but I need for you to listen carefully and do everything exactly as I tell you.  It breaks my heart to tell you this, but it seems apparent from recent events that these measures are what are required to ensure you stay alive if confronted by police.

If you are ever pulled over by police:

1)   Avoid Extended Direct Eye Contact

Yes. I know son. I always tell you to look each person you encounter directly into their eyes as a sign of mutual respect for yourself and as a way to acknowledge the other individual’s shared humanity, but this is a different encounter...and you are black. Because of the confidence you have in who you are, your extended direct eye contact will force an officer to immediately grapple with their own fears and insecurities.  They need to feel in control of the situation, and that they have an upper hand.  Eye contact for too long may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

Direct eye contact may force an officer to immediately grapple with their own fears and insecurities


2)   Say Yes Sir - No Sir 

Yes. I know son.  Your mom and I don’t require it nor do your teachers.  But (pause, deep breath), I guess police officers think they need more formal signs of "respect" than even your father.  Never say “yeah,” and if the answer to one of their questions is “No” and you forget to say (or can’t make yourself say) “No Sir” DO NOT say “No” with any intonation or with any emphasis.  Saying “Yeah” or “No” may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

Police Offices think they need more formal signs of respect than even your father.


3)   Don't Ask Why

Yes. I know son. I taught you to question everything.  I know that even when you are in trouble with me you are always allowed to ask questions because I feel you entitled to know why you are in trouble.  But (long pause, suppresses anger) you are not to expect the same level of respect by police you are shown at home.  Sandra Bland asked why she was asked to step out of the car and why she was being arrested 14 times and the officer's response was get out of the car or "I'll light you up". I don't want this to be you.  It seems that asking ‘Why’ may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

You are not to expect the same level of respect by police you are shown at home.


4) Ask for Permission

If asked for license and registration, ask for permission to reach and get them.

Yes. I know son.  They just asked for it and asking them for permission to do what they just asked you for sounds crazy but because your license will inevitably be in your pocket and your registration will likely be in your glove compartment, you will need verbal affirmation.  Reaching to grab either one without this verbal affirmation may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.


DEAR GOD, I PRAY YOU NEVER NEED THE FOLLOWING RULES

 

5)   Open Door Using Outside Handle and Move Slowly

If you are ever asked to get out of the car, slowly show both of your hands and open the door using the OUTSIDE handle.  Looking down and reaching for the car door on the inside may be interpreted as reaching for something else.

Please make sure every move you make is slow from this point forward. 

*You are about to enter very dangerous territory. 

Once an officer sees your entire body, they will begin to IMMEDIATELY hone in on your physical attributes and no matter what your size is, your physical presence alone, as a black man, will somehow pose an immediate threat…and this is a bigger crime than anything you were stopped for.

Your physical presence alone as a black man will somehow pose an immediate threat.


6) Raise Both Hands Above Your Head

Yes. I know son. You have no idea why you were stopped or what you are being asked to step out of the car for but if you find yourself at this point it is of CRITICAL importance that you do exactly what I say.


7)   Bite Your Tongue

While you are being frisked do not move and do not say a word unless you are asked a question.  If you are inappropriately touched, or groped, or if your genitals are fondled, please Son, do not react in anger.  If you say, “What the hell are you doing?” or “Don’t touch me” like Eric Garner or move suddenly or kick or even snatch away from these violating gestures, your life is now certainly at risk because it is already evident by their actions that you are dealing with an individual who is now intentionally trying to provoke you (because up to this point, you have literally done everything right).


8)   Let Them Cuff You

If they attempt to put cuffs on you, let them.

Yes. I know son.  Your heart will be beating fast.  You will be afraid.  You have never been in this position before.  You will be angry.  You will be confused.  You will be embarrassed.  But PLEASE DO NOT LOSE FOCUS!  If you turn to your emotions now, anything that comes out of your mouth or any movement of your body will bee seen as a threat and WILL BE met with violence.  Please son, hear me!


9)   Remain Silent

You are being arrested and though you may feel as if you have been wronged and your rights violated, this may be the only right you have left.


10)   Know That I Love You

No matter what the situation is. No matter if you turned without a signal or not.  No matter what they said to you or what they did to you or how they made you feel or your sense of helplessness or how stupid you think I was for making you follow all these rules to only end up in jail.  No matter how much the “burden” of your blackness may make you want to wash it all off.  No matter how much confusion comes flooding your mind, know that I am proud of you.  Know that you are a man even if you don’t feel like one right now.  Know that your dignity is not something anyone else determines. 

Know that hate is rooted in fear and fear is rooted in ignorance and ignorance is rooted in being too arrogant to learn and arrogance is rooted in privilege and privilege is the direct result of a well crafted, calculated, systemic plan initiated many years ago to build a wealthy independent empire…and empires don’t work if everyone benefits equally.  Though privilege itself doesn’t make a person bad, it is a very difficult thing to let go of or to use constructively…particularly if there is no acknowledgement of its existence in the first place.

And since "Power" is the bastardization of Authority, it is the most abused privilege of all…with the harshest consequences.

 

But Love.

The love I have for you.

The love we have for each other

can overcome this situation, Son.

Don't do anything now to harm yourself.  

I am coming to bring you home.

And you have permission to be angry when you get there.

And you have permission to cry.

I am crying right now.

May our collective tears serve as baptism

And may we emerge from the water with clearer vision for what to do next

To restore justice
To dismantle this system and its “empire” ideology that put you through this to start with. 

Pick your head up.  Let’s work. 

I love you son. 

---
Carlton Mackey

Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics
Creator of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ and its signature project 50 Shades of Black 

TRINITY: Blessed, Black, Beautiful

 Words by Nina Brewton | Photo by  Creative Silence

Words by Nina Brewton | Photo by Creative Silence

I won't ask for forgiveness for embracing my Blackness. I will not put it on the shelf for you to gaze upon as a novelty

Deep within my Melanin is grace beyond measure. My blackness, used against me for so long that the beatings nearly broke me

I won't apologize for owning my femininity 
I am Mother Earth, as I was created by the Creator to bring forth life anew

My hands, loving and nurturing, cradling hearts that have been broken
My smile, the sun, replenishing each seed in a cold and dark world

I will not apologize for my spirituality
I am a Believer
I am a Lover
I be the Light, as His Light shines from within

Made perfect by His Love
Sinner, yet righteous through He who created this...

Black
Woman
Born of spirit
Reborn by the Spirit

I am a trilogy
My story three fold
I am a deity
Made in the image of The Trinity

Father
Son
Holy Spirit 
Alive within me for the world to see

I will not beg your pardon for loving all of humanity. I will love as God loves me
Spreading Peace, Love and Light, Divinity Alive in threes

---

Nina Brewton is the newest member of the 50 Shades of Black Blog Team.  Visit each week for her personal reflections into womanhood, spirituality, black identity, and inspiration.

Visit her on her website baldheadqueen.com

ALSO BY NINA: 
BLACK. SELF. LOVE. Just Because I Love Me Doesn't Mean I Hate You
Slavery and Salvation...Fury and Forgiveness: Reflections of the Charleston 9

Posted on July 26, 2015 and filed under africa, Identity.

Being 12: "What Are You?" | Kids Demonstrate Their Interactions with Race.

For many, race becomes a factor in their lives even at an early age. In this video, nine kids discuss their interactions with race. Are middle schoolers old enough to understand something many adults cannot come to a consensus on? Perhaps it's time to start listening more to our children.

These kids know what they are talking about. While children seem to be able to understand and conceptualize how race affects their lives in certain situations, it's perplexing, at least, as to why there is such a lack of consensus on race for adults. 

Originally found through Upworthy.com, Upworthy contributor Maz Ali goes on to articulate that as our media continues to report on racially charged events there is still dispute as to the racial significance of these cases. I invite you to check out the statistics there.

But he ends his article with a poignant statement: 

When a group of 12-year-olds this diverse can easily identify ways that racial and ethnic identity play out negatively in their lives, maybe the question shouldn't be, "Is race still a factor?"

Dorian Capers is a contributing blogger for 50 Shades of Black. Using Tumblr for Good; Venturing into the Facebook comment section so you won't have to. 

Posted on July 20, 2015 and filed under community, family, Identity, personal stories, race, Body Image, current events.

OUT IN THE NIGHT: Gender Identity, Homophobia, Racial Profiling, Fighting Back

PBS Premiere: June 22, 2015

Check local listings »

Online: June 23, 2015 – July 23, 2015

Synopsis

In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street. The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of "Killer Lesbians" and a "Wolf Pack." Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four — Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain — maintained their innocence. The award-winning Out in the Night examines the sensational case and the women's uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in our criminal justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).

The film touches on issues of gender identity, homophobia, street harassment, self-defense, racial profiling and intersectionality. 


Posted on June 17, 2015 and filed under Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, race, sexuality, art, film.

BLACK. SELF. LOVE. - Just Because I Love Me, Doesn't Mean I Hate You

 50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton.  Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton.  Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

“Just because I love me,

doesn't mean I hate you.”

These are words that I’ve tried to express the majority of my 35 years of life. First, as a teenager coming of age in the small city of Wichita, KS, that state’s largest “metropolitan” area yet, behind the progressive curve in regards to…well, everything it seems.

 Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

I’ve always adored my brown skin. Spending summer days soaking up every ray of sunshine I could trying to match my father’s rich, dark chocolate melanin. By the time I was fifteen, I finally began to love the other staple of my Blackness – my thick, nappy, Afro, outstretched, reaching for the sun. With this newfound boldness came a love for everything Black that many in my predominately Caucasian community weren’t quite prepared for. Including my own bi-racial mother who ethnically leaned more towards the white side of town.

My pro-Blackness intimidating to those who refused to understand why I insisted on reading Black, buying Black and dating Black: Embracing and uplifting Black.

Even now, all these years later as I voice my views on the state of race relations in America, having experienced racial profiling and harassment by white law enforcement officers, boutique employees and timid teachers myself, many don’t get it. And many more don’t care to. So many don’t understand that the concept of Black love does not equal Black supremacy or hatred for anyone who isn’t “one of us”. 

Learning these truths, I quickly got over the feeling of needing to make people understand my point of view and the experiences that created it. My heart broken and last nerve plucked trying to get others to just see the world the way I see it. Consider my way of thinking and to just have a little…empathy.


Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in. -Nina Brewton


As I continue to grow and become more comfortable with who I am as an individual and who I am in this world and the various hamlets that I find myself a part of, I can say with every bit of confidence that, “I love you…I just love me more.”

As an individual, I’m committed to shining my Light on the world and truly loving others the way that I want to be loved. I am determined to teach others how to love me by loving me first.

What I know for sure: We shine brightest in our own house before illuminating the world around us. Love begins at home, with self. Home is where the flame is rekindled, giving us what we need to feel confident enough to approach the darkness of the world with every beam of light that is within us. As long as our hearts intention is towards loving others, we can love ourselves all we need.

Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in.

---

Nina Brewton is the newest member of the 50 Shades of Black Blog.  Visit each week for her insights into womanhood, spirituality, black identity, and inspiration.

Visit her on her website baldheadqueen.com

Posted on June 3, 2015 and filed under blog, Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Black Beauty: Miss Universe Japan Winner Faces Challenges

  Ariana Miyamoto by   KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ariana Miyamoto by KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Excerpt from NYT article By MARTIN FACKLER

In school, she said, other children and even parents called her “kurombo,” the Japanese equivalent of the N-word. Classmates did not want to hold her hand for fear her color would rub off on them.

“I used to come home angry at my mother,” Ms. Miyamoto recalled. “I’d ask her, ‘Why did you make me so different?’ ”

She said everything changed at age 13 when she decided to reach out to her father, who invited her to his home in Jacksonville, Ark. She said she will never forget the moment she first saw her father and his relatives.

“They had the same skin and the same face as me,” she said. “For the first time, I felt normal.”

She said that in the United States, she came to speak of herself as black. But here in Japan, she still calls herself hafu. As Miss Universe Japan, she has played down her African-American roots, presenting herself instead as a representative of ethnically mixed Japanese from all backgrounds.

NEW YORK TIMES Complete Article

 


Video and text from Bloomberg

The importance of racial purity held by some Japanese is codified in a genre of writing called nihonjinron, or theories of Japaneseness. 

“If there hadn’t been this kind of criticism, there would be no point in me competing,” she said, with no trace of bitterness. “I don’t want to ignore it. I want to change those people’s attitudes.”

Posted on May 31, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, religion and culture, skin tone.

Fahamu Pecou brings the "Black Male" to the forefront of the Atlanta Art Scene

50 Shades of Black contributing artist Fahamu Pecou explores black male identity and representations of Black Masculinity.  He is one of 12 artists celebrated by ArtsAtL for their impact on the Atlanta art scene.  

As both artist and PhD student in Emory University’s Institute of Liberal Arts, Pecou unravels and scrutinizes representations of black masculinity through satire and caricature, acting out various modalities in which such identities are constructed.

To call Pecou’s work ironic, however, is missing the point. And if you think that, you might be among the multitudes lured by a marketing campaign fashioned after the celebrity culture he critiques.
— Faith McClure
Posted on April 7, 2015 and filed under activism, art, Identity, Masculinity, press, race.

Celebrating Edward Gumbs of Shinnecock and African Heritage

Celebrating Edward Gumbs of Shinnecock and African heritage for our Bridging The Gap series curated by the creator of I Love Ancestry, in partnership with 50 Shades of BLACK.

THE SHINNECOCK INDIANS OF EASTERN LONG ISLAND.

The Shinnecock Nation is a federally recognized Native American Indian Nation, located on the East End of Long Island adjacent to the Town of Southampton. Federal recognition was achieved October 1, 2010, after thousands of years of documented history on Long Island, and 32 years of struggle with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As the 565th federal tribe, its banner has taken its place among other tribal flags at the U.S. Department of the Interior, BIA, Hall of Flags, Washington, D.C.

(c) Photo by Toba Tucker.

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of I Love Ancestry, in partnership with 50 Shades of BLACK featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

SHARE YOUR STORY

Posted on February 28, 2015 and filed under Identity.

FINDING MY QUEENDOM

  For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace & Love to you all.     Kadijah Wright     ------    BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future    This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of   50 Shades of BLACK  , in partnership with   I Love Ancestry   featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.    We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.    >>  SHARE YOUR STORY  <<

For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace & Love to you all.

Kadijah Wright

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Stop Telling Black Women to BE STRONG

Has anyone else noticed the high profile suicides of some notable black sisters this year. Positive sistas who seemed to have it all? For Brown Girls blogger Karyn Washington and Titi Branch of Ms.Jessie are both examples.The myth of the STRONG black woman is literally KILLING sista's.

Why do we sisters wear our strength and independence as a badge of honor? Is it because it hurts to acknowledge few answer the call for help? Why are we culturally esteemed and marveled at for our ability to absorb and tolerate negative situations and trying times? You wanna know a secret. I actually take offense when people worship my black girl strength because it means they NEVER have to acknowledge my need for help or correct ill treatment, or advocate for justice on my behalf. Real family and community both glean and offer strength to those they love. I ask for support and help when I need to. Do I get it? Rarely...(low key I can't even get those I'm in community with to like a facebook post or AMAZING PHOTOGRAHY and my sh*t is DOPE. I guess they are too busy watching me work and marveling at my resilience. lol) But I ask any way.

EVERYTHING in creation has inherent to its design both STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES. -Tanisha Pyron

I cuss and cry when I need to (I get it out.) I pray AND I get counseling when I need to (cause I ain't got all the answers Sway ) I tend to my heart and those who love and support me acknowledge the truth. That EVERYTHING in creation has inherent to its design both STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES. It is balance. We handle things we perceive to be strong differently. We apply pressure and heavier weight because we think it can take it. That pressure produces STRESS and TENSION and if we judge incorrectly that which we thought was strong collapses under pressure. We all know what STRESS and TENSION does to the body and mind. Sisters out here having heart attacks, strokes, break downs, or rendered NON functional, or becoming addicted to drugs simply because life handed them more then they could bear, a DISPROPORTIONATELY HEAVY LOAD and no one reached out to lend a hand. Support ya sisters. Gentleness and hugs work wonders. Black women need help too!!! Independent women need support too. Strength is balanced through weakness. 

Tanisha Lynn Pyron

Posted on January 23, 2015 and filed under art, current events, feminism, Identity, personal stories.

Amma Asante: Seeing Myself In Belle - Exclusive Interview (Part 2)

Belle Movie Director opens up about the connection of the film to her personal life, her bi-cultural identity, and why art is a power resource for inspiring positive social change in the world in exclusive interview with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight. www.50shadesofblack.com

Posted on January 5, 2015 and filed under art, education, film, history, Identity, personal stories, press, race.

Multicultural, Mixed, Bi-Racial: I Just Say Black and Proud

I am from a multi cultural background. My mother was black and white mixed and had very fair skin. My father was black and both of them were born in New York City as was I (Harlem). I have always dated black women and am married to one for 12 years. I had one white girlfriend in 10th grade and when her mother came home and found me and her daughter sitting on the couch she pulled her daughter into the bedroom for a private chat.This made me uncomfortable and I never had/presumed a white girlfriend since. I can relate very much to people such as President Obama, Lonette Mckee (in particular her Jungle Fever character).

I don't bother to call myself mixed or multi ethnic or bi racial I just say Black and am proud of it. I am more comfortable living in an all black neighborhood than I would be living in an all white one(comfort and safety issues). I do embrace soul music as well as rock and roll however, I also enjoy all ethnicities of food and want to see Europe as well as Africa. It has always been my opinion that people are way to preoccupied with skin color/class etc. The focus should be on furthering ones self in education staying health conscious and trying to grow spiritually. I am a stand up comedian for 20 years and an actor for seven and counting. I would love to own a brownstone in Harlem close to Convent Ave Baptist Church..love those houses and that neighborhood. I love children and traveling. I am 50 years old and want to spend the rest of my life staying goal oriented health conscious and never forgetting the thing that means so much to me.....Family.

-Adam Phillips

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

Posted on December 27, 2014 and filed under family, Identity, personal stories, race.

Her Blackness/Darkness is Her Beauty…and BEAUTY is Her Name (Part 2)

I identified as an American-Cuban African, and colorism has played an intricate role in the process of my sociocultural development. In a cultural context, colorism has a profound impact on standards of beauty. Unfortunately, that impact had influenced my family’s perception of beauty. Growing up, I was socialized to believe that people with fairer complexions, la clara or mulatta, would escape the harsh (if not entirely certain) criticisms that awaits darker complexions, la morena or negrita. I was socialized to pity darker complexions, but without much conversation about my own complexion, I took notice that I was the “morena.” Was I taught to pity the possible reality of harsh criticisms that await me? Games like “make believe” which easily taught me that I was the “morena,” and helped to socialize color. In the game’s own sorted and twisted blend, it demonstrated that I could deflect the negativisms and criticisms that should arise from colorism by seeing women of all shades attain a level of success. 

I was fortune to have younger siblings to play with. I was the oldest of my mother’s four children. Blanca and I are sixteen months apart. Growing up, we played childhood antics, like “make believe.” We pretended to be just about anyone in our “Harlem” world apartment. Our favorite “act” was pretending to be Salt –n – Peppa. My sister was Salt and I was Peppa. I don’t exactly remember how we pick the characters. All I remember was that I never really like being Peppa, but felt somewhat obligated in portraying her because she was darker and my sister was lighter. She was the dark skin rapper with a raunchy personality who was known to date even raunchier rappers. She was seemingly the least attractive person in the group, but just as successful. Nevertheless, someone had to play Peppa in order for our pretend world to work. Looking back on this “fond” childhood memory, I realized that not only did I despise that game, but that it shaped my perspective on color, and introduced an awkward self-awareness to my complexion. Games like this, although fashioned in the “spirit of fun,” fed into my lifelong struggle of identifying issues of color (colorism) within my family and community. My sister, whose name literally means white or pale in Spanish, was named after my grandmother. However, her name also represents the pale complexion she was born with. Something like life’s cruel joke on us both as a constant reminder of her fair complexion, and my misfortune of having a dark complexion.

As a community, we are taught that whites are racists. However, we exhibit prejudicial practices in color complexions. As I was considered la morenita or negrita, constantly reminded of my darker complexion, particularly from my family members, I use to think, What is it with people and color? I realized that my family had as many issues and criticisms about color as I received from my community. Over time, I learned to embrace every inch of my complexion. I even learned to appreciate the character I emulated as a child. It was a process, and it began with rejecting Eurocentric ideals of beauty and reclaiming/owning my body. I learned to embrace and love all of me. I learned to embrace the essence of my color.

General cultural beliefs were la clara or mulatta has noticeably refined attractive features: hair, eyes, an inherent or preferred sex appeal; whereas, la morena or negrita’s features are arguably more pronounced (nose and lips) and hypersexualized (ass, thighs, and hips). Within this very culture, religiosity is the dominant force that demonstrates the line of demarcation with color. It is the most significant example of colorism. Fairer complexion saints are revered as holy, beautiful, and altruistic; whereas, darker complexions are perceived as demonic, evil forces that can, if not careful, overtake the human soul. 

Images like Queens Tiye, Nefetari, Neith, and Pharaoh Hapshetsut, drastically altered my interpretation and perceptions of beauty when I learned of them as a graduate student. I wondered, How did I not know about these real life personalities who were successful? Why didn’t we “make believe” to be these figures? Regardless of what never happened, I was aware now. 

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

READ MORE STORIES

Posted on November 21, 2014 and filed under africa, Identity, personal stories, skin tone.

Instead of Praying the Gay Away, Can We Just Celebrate Being Gay?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, all week long you've probably been seeing a million and one video responses to Andrew Caldwell, the young black man from last week's the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) convocation who announced on camera that he is "DELIVERT" from his homosexuality and that he will "love a womens." And while the video has understandably garnered a lot of hilarious laughs, jokes and video spoofs, including one hilarious R&B remix - Seriously, I can't even count how many times I've pressed repeat on that one - there is a deeper social matter to be discussed about the topic.

It's safe to say that most people have heard the phrase "pray the gay away," a phrase as old as time that promotes the idea that men and women of the gay and bisexual communities somehow chose to stray from the norm of heterosexuality and choose a deviant "other" sexuality.

And watching the original COGIC video with Caldwell, we see many in the congregation, including the pastor, praising Caldwell for "delivering" himself, sans the "t," from his sinful past of loving men. 

But seriously, in these modern times where we have countless personal accounts from the LGBT community, scientific support of diverse natural sexualities and growing public support for the LGBT community, why is it still hard to believe that homosexuality and bisexuality are natural yet so easy to believe that one can simply choose to be gay/bi and then the next day choose/pray it away. I's as though people see being gay or bi as if it's some easy tough greasy stain that's easy to catch but tough to get rid of without church shouts, some prayer, and maybe even exorcism.

More than a stain, it feels like homosexuality and bisexuality are treated as demonic.

So what does that do to person in the church when they're seen as the embodiment of hell's evil roaming the Earth? What kind of emotional demons are birthed inside of the person wanting to be accepted in their church and receive God's love but feel they are undeserving because they have a demon inside? What does it do to a community of people to feel that internal struggle inside to choose between loving themselves and living naturally or (attempting) to change themselves to be loved by others?

As the grandson of a pastor of my family's church, I was lucky enough not to be subjected to fire and brimstone sermons about the evils of homosexuality - or perhaps I missed it while I lay asleep on my mom's shoulder - but I remember the personal conversations held on those hallowed grounds in which homosexuality was mocked.

More than that, I remember the time when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and I asked my mom about homosexuality and hell. I remember my mom had just picked me up from school and driven us to the store up the hill, and as we sat together in her car, unbuckling our seatbelts to leave, I stopped my mom and asked her "Why do people say that gay people are going to hell?" Even at that age, I knew I was one of those gay people and I wanted her to reassure me that she didn't think anyone like me would go to such a horrible place. Sadly, without batting an eye, my mother simply responded "because they are."

For me, that one single response changed the nature of our relationship for the next 20 years, leaving me with the mentality that my own mother was my enemy. And it also led me to believe that anyone who was religious in my life would be left with a choice to either choose to love me or their religion. And in my mind, I figured they would always choose their religion. 

Because of that, I grew a strong sense of disbelief and disinterest in Christianity, as well as a strong sense of self-hate because I thought I was unworthy of being loved by my own loved ones. I never tried to be straight, but for years I never felt proud or comfortable about the idea of telling people the truth of my sexuality because I "knew" that, to them, who I was was something less than hum and not at all lovable.

It took me two decades to reconcile those feelings and come to my own conclusion that love, for me, must be unconditional and all accepting. Otherwise, I just don't want it, whether it be from friends, family or a god. 

But I understand that that's not everybody's thought or life experience, and I can't preach that my way of working things out would work for everyone. But what I will say is that there are clearly countless numbers of gay and bisexual people in religious communities who feel that same sense of self-hate, hurt and anger that I felt. 

I can only imagine what kind of identity struggles and crises that Caldwell must have gone through over the years trying reconcile his belief in Christianity and its doctrines with his need to love himself. And, though I may not like it and, like most people I don't believe him, I understand why Caldwell would want to claim straight and stop feeling the ridicule, the shame, and the pain of not being accepted by his own community.

I understand the feeling of just wanting to be loved, even if it's all a lie.

But with all that THAT experience encompasses, I wonder why people still think it's okay to promote the idea of praying the gay away? Why do people think it's okay to ridicule someone for being gay? Who do people think it's okay to tell someone that who they truly and naturally are is a problem and a sin?

If at the end of the day all straight people want to do is be loved by those around them and their gods, why is it so wrong for gay and bisexual people to want the same thing? Why must WE change ourselves to be happy and prosperous?

Why should we endure so much struggle and pain just for being born, or created by a god?

Can we gay and bisexual people just BE who we are and be loved and celebrated in our truth? Because it takes a lot to be us and it sure as hell seems to me that loving yourself and others is the most powerful and godly thing you can do.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on November 16, 2014 and filed under religion and culture, race, sexuality, personal stories, LGBT, Identity, Homophobia.

Her Blackness/Darkness is Her Beauty…and BEAUTY is Her Name (Part 1)

In October 2010, my second beautiful premature niece was born. As she matured, the conversation of “complexion” resurfaced, instantly drudging up images of my childhood experience on colorism. My sister began the discussion by pausing and leaning her head to the side as she noticed my niece’s ears and fingers. She turned to my mother and said, “Mami, she is going to be dark!” Suddenly overcome by disappointment, she sat quietly as my mother reexamined her features. I learned of the conversation when I visited for the first time since she was born. My mom blurted out, “She’s going to be dark.” I began staring at my niece to avoid indulging in the conversation, however, I couldn’t help thinking of my childhood. I wondered, why did my mom mention this? –why was my sister distressed over her daughter’s complexion? It baffled me! After the awkward silence settled in, I curiously asked, “why, what’s wrong with being dark?” My mother responded, “well, I just don’t want her to have the same complex you had when you were younger?!” I was never fully knew if my mother was aware of my color complex or if she knew how it emerged, until she said this. Was she even aware that my skin complex heightened because of those “make believe” games? The problem for me was that there was a fixated fear of criticisms associated with dark complexions. It was perceived as a stigma instead of a celebration. I quickly realized how detrimental my outlook was needed, and was elated for the opportunity to share my insights. 

The celebration of black skin is first taught through ancient Kemetic history. The Eurocentric narrative of beauty contradicts this history, and caused a detrimental rift in thinking. When introduced to this sacred history, my concept of beauty shifted. There was an immediate growth in awareness and appreciation for all shades of color. I began to piece myself into a history that celebrated blackness, and rejected the narrative that demonized it. My wholehearted conversion to this beautiful legacy enabled me to guide my family through an ancient concept of celebrating beauty in all shades of color, hopefully removing the stigma on colorism. Darkness is celebrated in all aspects of life. I began by explaining my perception of creation: the Creator kissed darkness to bring forth light. All life came through the cosmic uni, which is formed in darkness, and birthed through light. The most vivid demonstration of this is reenacted through childbirth. In the womb, the best force of life is created in darkness. In the labor process, this force of life meets light, but was already created perfect in darkness. In Kemetic history, mother NUT was the personality that continuously gives birth to light energy as she swallowed the sun (Ra) each night and gave birth to him by dawn the next day. She was the black force that oversaw humanity each night, and transferred her power of light through the daily birth to the sun. She represents the night sky: the midnight blackness dressed with millions of stars. Antiquated beliefs of blackness or darkness are perceived as symbols of power, prestige, and royalty. 

The conversation then shifted to dynastic periods with prominent dark skinned queens, kings, and pharaohs. After a long afternoon of conversations on color, I noticed a comfortable change in embracing the shades of color with questions that began with “Sooooo, how could we …? How should we…?” My final comment that night on this topic was that her blackness is her beauty. 

As we approach her 4th birthday, my niece recognizes herself as a princess, a queen in training. Her dainty personality appears to have no problems with identifying herself as a “brown” crayon. She is aware that the “brown” crayon is necessary to the bunch, and is keenly aware when it is missing. As she continues to mature, we know that her concept of color will change as well. My hope is that my family will have the confidence to teach her that her darkness is royalty, and that she will have the courage to immediately reject the negativisms that we are socialized to believe.

-Rayshana Black

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

READ MORE STORIES

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under africa, art, family, Identity, personal stories, skin tone.

Raven-Symoné Responds To Bullies Over Race and Sexuality Comments Backlash

Raven-Symoné's lovability dropped drastically in the eyes of many of her black fans over the past month after she told Oprah Winfrey in a "Where Are They Now" interview that she didn't want to be labeled as "African-American" or "Gay."

 "I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay.’ I want to be labeled a human who loves human. I’m tired of being labelled. I’m an American! I’m not an African-American. I’m an American," she said, later adding, I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person — because we are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins."

Since making the statements, Raven has received a barrage of criticism and hateful comments from angry fans, calling her everything from a race traitor to an Uncle Tom.

Earlier this month, Raven tried to clarify her statements, explaining that she never said she doesn't identify as black. However, the criticism furiously continued. Now, Raven has penned an open letter on her Facebook page addressing the ongoing backlash against her.

Although I don't agree with Raven's initial interview comments - you can read about my thoughts here - I do agree with her that the issue of race and blackness in these modern times is something that needs to be openly discussed and examined, and I think she has a right to voice her opinions freely.

We black people all might have similar skin tones and hair, but that doesn't mean we all see race in the same way, and we don't at all have to either. Clearly Raven's opinion differs from many in the black community but from gauging the many conversations online and in my own personal life, it's clear that she's not alone.

And it's also clear that the labels within the LGBT community don't fit or appeal to all people who are same gender loving, which is an issue that has been brought up throughout the years by many people who are SGL.

Identity is a major deal and though our conception of it is partially based on the outside world it is still something that should be appointed and claimed by oneself, not placed upon an individual by another group.

Instead of attacking, bullying and trying to silence Raven, it would be best if we as a people opened up an honest dialogue about diversity within our black and LGBT communities and try to see things from all different perspectives. Perhaps then we can truly find unity in our diversity as opposed to trying to force it through intimidation and silence.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on October 27, 2014 and filed under Identity, LGBT, skin tone, sexuality, race.

50 Shades of Black Invites You to Join Descendants of Enslaved Africans on Butler Island to Create Transforming Portrait Series

Mr. Henry Brooks, ex-slave. Parks Ferry Road, Greene County, Georgia | Photo by Jack Delano;

Mr. Carlton Mackey | Photo by Bryan Meltz

In one week the creator of 50 Shades of Black, Carlton Mackey, will host a transforming photographic encounter as part of the Third Annual Butler Island Plantation Homecoming, --the much anticipated celebration and reunion of the Gullah/Geechee communities of Butler Island.  

This conceptual portrait series titled "BRINGING THE GIFTS THAT THE ANCESTORS GAVE..." was inspired by the conclusion of the late Maya Angelou's poem.

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave. - Maya Angelou

Through a process that is as much about honoring the ancestors and spiritual transformation as it is about photography, Mackey will invite participants to spend some moments in quiet meditation while looking through the photographs of former enslaved Africans from various parts of Georgia.  Mackey was doing just this when the idea first "awakened in his spirit".

Mackey states that he saw a photo online that essentially instructed him exactly what to do.  He paired this image with one of himself and was overcome with emotion.

"I knew something powerful was about to take place because I was experiencing anxiety all morning.  I knew I needed to make a post about the fact that we had been invited to host an Open Shoot as part of the Homecoming, but I kept putting it off.  I was experiencing fear about the whole event.  This let me know that something of great magnitude was about to happen.  Virtually every endeavor that I'm about to embark upon of significance is shrouded in fear and doubt.  This is my sign that it must be something that I have to do.  I'm learning to push through it until I have the clarity of knowing what is possible is greater than the fear.  What I didn't know was that my entire plan for hosting a traditional Open Photo Shoot was about to be exchanged for a plan that literally came from "the voice" of an ancestor in a photograph." -carlton mackey

Title: "Grandma" Lawrence, ex-slave on the Mercer Reynolds place in Greene County, Georgia | Delano, Jack photographer | Date Created/Published: 1941 May.

Participants will choose a photo (or be chosen by one) to honor.  At various locations on Butler Island, Mackey will photograph participants in a similar fashion.  This pairing is meant to invoke the essence of the living participant being the embodiment of the "dream and hope of the slave".  The pool of photos will mostly be from the Library of Congress (U.S. Farm Security Administration) and have no restrictions upon use and images from the Emory University's Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection.  Mackey hopes to secure funds to create an exhibit of diptychs coupling the historic and the contemporary photos.

Free and Open to the Public

This photo shoot will be part of a much larger Butler Plantation Homecoming.  The Butler Plantation Homecoming pays tribute to those enslaved Africans that lived out their lives as the property of Pierce Mease Butler on Butler Island Plantation, and those that were sold in the nation's largest sale of slaves that took place in 1859.

Please join us as we celebrate the culture and heritage of the enslaved people originating from Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Angola, Whydah and Igboland areas of Africa.

***Breaking News*** The Butler Island Plantation Slave Cemetery has been discovered! The cemetery is potentially one of the oldest documented in the state. This year's celebration will include a commemoration ceremony in honor of approximately 919 enslaved people buried in the cemetery.

The festival features a presentation by Dr. Teresa Singleton - Archaeology Professor of Syracuse University and expert in Butler Island Plantation slave artifacts; Ancestor Cemetery Commemoration; "50 Shades of Black" Open Photo Shoot; "A Taste of Geechee" food and culture; guided tours; a parade of flags; performances; music; vendors; children's activities; family fun and much more.

REGISTRATION & INFO

http://www.exploregeorgia.org/listing/47501-third-annual-butler-island-plantation-homecoming-festival

Why A (Gay) Bully Learned To Let Go Of His Homophobia

When people think of homophobia, they usually think of a group of straight men violently attacking gay men. But homophobia doesn't have to be expressed through violence to be real, and it doesn't have to come from a straight man to be felt. Too often when it comes to LGBT youth homophobia and it's equally hateful sibling, effemiphobia, comes directly from one LGBT person to another.

That was exactly the case when Joseph Barden was a freshman at his Richmond, Virginia high school where he bullied a young gay classmate for being, as he put it, too feminine.

As Barden explains in this new video for "I'm From Driftwood,"nonprofit archive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories, he was privileged enough to befriend a group of upperlassmen girls. One day, as the group sat at a lunch table, the girls' gay friend, David, walked over to greet them and after he left, Barden trash talked the young man for being gay.

"I said, 'Oh my god! He's just so disgusting!' And my friend Johnetta looked at me and she said, 'What did you say?" And I said, 'He's so disgusting. The way he acts. The way he just prances. It's just uncalled for.' And she looked at me and she said, 'Wow, Joseph. I thought you were better than that.'" Barden recalled.

But instead of getting defensive, Barden explained that he took Johnetta's words to heart and they sparked a lifestyle change in him that not only shifted his mindset about bullying but also forced him to accept the truth about his own sexuality. 

Growing up in a small homophobic town, I know very well how life at school can feel like a battlefield among gay kids, because instead of showing solidarity and standing together to fight against homophobia and effemiphobia, too often young LGBT kids harass and fight each other as attempts to deflect attention away from their own insecurities about their sexuality. And I've personally been on both sides of that offense, both trying to defend myself and trying to belittle other gay men to look cool so that other kids wouldn't bully me.

Looking back, I wish that there would have been a stronger sense of community between the LGBT kids at my school, but I hope videos like this can be a learning tool for the LGBT youth coming up behind my generation to stand together, validate and applaud each other, and love each other. 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on October 9, 2014 and filed under Homophobia, Identity, LGBT, Masculinity, sexuality.