Posts filed under LGBT

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.

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.

Bisexual Malcolm X: Black History Month

Yesterday 1000 question, comments, and rants ran across Facebook.  Some ran towards but most ran away from my picture below. Homophobic rants, racist rants, nationalist rants, religious rants, lifestyle rants, confusion, and misunderstandings of others is still carrying on the conversation(s) today.....

 Bi Malcolm X

Bi Malcolm X

In Harlem this week and reviewing the latest biography on Minister X from 2011 by Columbia University professor Manning Marable titled "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" and its opposition Jared A Bell's "A Lie of Reinvention".

 Life of Reinvention

Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable identifies a homosexual relationship had by Malcolm X with a white business man, and also identifies him as a street hustler looking to survive by what many deemed necessary means. Regardless of the context of the homosexual activity, it was identified thought US corrections documentation that profiles then Malcolm Little's criminal activity. I only posted this picture labeling X as a bisexual after a picture of Mississippi's NAACP President and politician Aaron Henry who was arrested 4x for "public indecency" and "sodomy" which was documented by MS corrections. I was lifting thhem up and admiring them. I tagged them as my #MCM (man crush monday). The response to Marable was that FBI documents were collected on Mr. X after the dates of his alleged homo activity. What they fail to identify was classification of homo activity by municipal corrections in the 20th century.

 Bi Aaron Henry

Bi Aaron Henry

It should be stated that the American Psychiatric Association identified homosexuality a "mental illness" until 1974, and so did the United Nations as a result. Malcolm was murdered in 1965, but had a profile by corrections facilities and officers since the late 1930's.

Facebook erupted with disgust and skepticism of my label for the more famous and reigning symbol of Black American masculinity, Mr. X, and it disregarded Mr. Henry. Labels are important for their cultural context. Even though branding campaigns like "Labels are for clothes" have pervaded our culture, a more formal labeling of everything is in fact what is connecting our many communities across the globe. Labels are not merely for clothes.

 Lie of Reinvention

Lie of Reinvention

The context of this picture is a loaded one, mainly because a community’s external identification of an individual can differ based the many identities of individuals from the community. For instance, men and women can regularly view rape differently based on their identity and informal understand of that identity. Wealthy and poor individuals regularly understand the activist and anarchist in different ways, as identities often lay within the eyes of the beholder. Malcolm X is such a controversial figure because of the many lives with which his identity lays. We will never completely know how he identified or felt about his lifestyle(s) or work(s). The picture of Malcolm himself was a part of a series on my instagram that put identity labels on images worth 1000s words, for Black History Month.

 Labels Are For Clothes

Labels Are For Clothes

While the truth can be debated regarding Malcolm’s sexuality, the 1000 words used in a growing group of viral comments can be boiled down to the various community's understanding of identity. In an analog era, Malcom’s identity was divided into “Little” & “X”, a luxury that the latest digital spawn of the civil rights movement cannot enjoy. The most thoughtful interpretation of the picture’s 1000 words was from editor Carlton Mackey, the creator of “Beauty In Every Shade” and LGBTQ ally. He asked what if people associate LGBT identities with the worst of Malcolm Little and his early actions. Mr. X himself identifies his early years as “regretful” and “embarrassing” in multiple biographies. My intention with the image was to tie in all of X’s identities while thinking about myself and so many other people who have transformed throughout the journey of life. Erykah Badu's analog girl does not exist in the digital world., and every leader ends up humanizing themselves through digital transparency. Neither Malcolm nor his community of onlookers can wholly own the identity of his person, alone. As individuals we have free will over some of our choices, but those choices are reflections of interactions with others. Having played many different roles in 39 years, it’s important to understand that we as individuals do not have totally autonomy in this world of increasing interconnectivity. We are not alone.

 Malcolm X

Malcolm X

I was only waiting on one question from Facebook. It came very early. “Why is this important?” ...my response:

Civil Rights are about humanizing individuals and integrating them into the social fabric of our community through legal means. Having stated that, labels are important. They come in two forms. The labels that we choose for ourselves and the labels that other people give us. Aside from the label bisexual that was give to Malcolm by a biographer through research leveraging the Freedom of Information Act and government files, his timeline showed that Malcolm was extraordinary in reinventing himself to leave an impactful impression on the people he met directly or indirectly. Through all of the identities that he lived in (street hustle, homosexual, convict, student, minister, traveler, thought leader, badass, proud man) the bisexual one wasn’t one that stuck. Black History Month is here to cover all of the history. This is important because I know it wasn’t something that he could be proud of before 1965. It is also important because in 2015 it is something that he could be proud of, if he were alive, as a result of the work he did 50 years ago. It’s important because “Civil Rights” was not a time period, but it is a continuous period of identifying and including more individuals into the social fabric of our community through legal means. People too often avoid or ignore or reduce the significance of a given reality in order to avoid controversy. I’ve posted this pic of Malcolm with these words to be obviously provocative and integrate the latest spawn of civil rights with Black History as it has always been a piece of the movement. Regarding the comments that state we don’t need to know about someone’s sexuality, you should know that is a ridiculous statement. When we truly look at the most intimate friendships and relationships we share, the intimate details about how who why where when and what we like are relevant. It is a very civil activity that we humans use to identify similarities and build camaraderie with each other. Now we can do more of that around Malcolm X as an ice breaker ;-) #FullSpeedAhead #TheMoreYouKnow

Posted on February 18, 2015 and filed under Homophobia, LGBT, Masculinity.

Jason Collins: Why The Retiring Legend Meant So Much To The Culture

2013 was one of the biggest years in sports history for LGBT athletes, and that was due in large part to Jason Collins, then a free agent after leaving the Washington Wizards, announced to the world in a Sports Illustrated feature that he's gay. Even more, Collins added that he hoped to continue his NBA career and sign to another team.

In that moment, Collins became a one of a kind history maker for LGBT sports. Never in the history of any of the four major sports leagues in the United States had any professional player come out while still an active player, much less tried to continue their sports career after coming out.

But in 2013, such a feat was no longer out of the realm of possibility. Just the year before, President Obama had come out in support marriage equality, bolstering a surprising slew of celebrities, like Jay Z and 50 Cent, to follow Obama's lead and push for the legalization of same-sex marriage. And by the time Collins came out, the Supreme Court had struck down Prop 8 and DOMA, helping to cement the idea that America's idea on homosexuality was changing for the positive.

And in the world of sports itself, Collins was just the latest in a slew of LGBT athletes that had come out of the closet. Before 2012, it was only on the rare occasion that we Americans saw any pro athletes come out as gay or bisexual. But in 2012, it seemed that gay athletes weren't only kicking down the closet door, they were opening the flood gates to freedom as athletes like former NFL star Wade Davis, Olympic gymnastics hopeful Josh Dixon, pro boxer Orlando Cruz, and fitness guru Shaun T all came out as gay.

And the momentum continued in 2013 as Collins led another barrage of coming out tales that included athletes like WNBA star Brittney Griner, British Olympic diver Tom Daley, and WWE star Darren Young. Equally noteworthy was the fact that most of the popular coming out stories were courtesy of athletes of color

And though many of Collins comrades were either finding or had already found success in their own fields, there was still a sense of uncertainty and fear when it came to idea of a man coming out as gay and still thriving in one of the four major sports. Initially, it seemed as though Collins was fallingn victim to the typical homophobic trappings that have plagued the sports world for years as NBA team after NBA team passed on signing the free agent, forcing him sit out the first half of the NBA season and seemingly proving, once again, that America just wasn't "ready" for gay male sports star.

But all of that changed on February 23 of this year, when Collins was offered a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, a deal which was advocated by his former teammate, former Nets coach Jason Kidd. Collins eventually signed another 10-day contract before signing on for the rest of the season. And Collins even dedicated his achievement to the memory of Matthew Shepherd by wearing No. 98 on his jersey.

Finally, after years of long waits, discouraging battles, and harsh struggles, we had a black gay man representing the community and proving that not only could gay men play sports just as well as anyone else, but also that straight people, specifically their straight male teammates, could understand and embrace them as people and comrades.

For many of us, Collins was the fulfillment of a dream that was helped realized by all of the closeted gay athletes that came before him, wishing they could live their life freely and successfully. He was proof that, once again, the black queer community is brimming with the groundbreaking human beings who are ready to change the course of history, just like we have before with movements such as the Stonewall Riots. And Collins represented the hope that he was just the first of what will be an ever-growing line of openly gay and bisexual athletes who will not only disrupt the culture of homophobia, effimiphobia and transphobia in major sports, but also lead us to a truly even and equal playing field.

So, with the recent news that Collins is retiring from an amazing 13-year career in the NBA, we congratulate and salute Collins for helping to change the world for the better.

Watch and read his official Sports Illustrated statement on his retirement below. 

"It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports. And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.

On Wednesday at the Barclays Center, I plan to announce my retirement as an NBA player. The day will be especially meaningful for me because the Nets will be playing the Bucks, who are coached by Jason Kidd, my former teammate and my coach in Brooklyn. It was Jason who cheered my decision to come out by posting on Twitter: “Jason’s sexuality doesn’t change the fact that he is a great friend and was a great teammate.”

Considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room, Jason’s support was significant. It had been argued that no team would want to take on a player who was likely to attract a media circus from the outset and whose sexuality would be a distraction. I’m happy to have helped put those canards to rest. The much-ballyhooed media blitz to cover me unscrambled so quickly that a flack jokingly nicknamed me Mr. Irrelevant.

Among the memories I will cherish most are the warm applause I received in Los Angeles when I took the court in my Nets debut, and the standing ovation I got at my first home game in Brooklyn. It shows how far we’ve come. The most poignant moment came at my third game, in Denver, where I met the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. For the past two years I have worn number 98 on my jersey to honor his memory. I was humbled to learn that number 98 jerseys became the top seller at NBAStore.com. Proceeds from sales, and from auctioned jerseys I wore in games, were donated to two gay-rights charities.

There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.

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 22, 2014 and filed under current events, LGBT, sexuality.

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.

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.

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.

What SHOULD Happen When A Young Kid Comes Out As Gay

When it comes to sexuality, it's easy to say that we live in the best times the Western world has ever seen when it comes to being LGBT. But that doesn't mean things are the best they can be for us LGBT folks, and it certainly doesn't mean that coming out to our friends, family and loved ones is always a breeze. 

To this day, it's still not uncommon to hear about young LGBT kids being chastised, bullied, beaten, kicked out, or even being murdered for coming out of the closet. For some, coming out is still a dangerous crapshoot of a gamble of the lesser of evil outcomes.

But for others, a growing number of LGBT kids, coming out can be an amazing experience where they are, rightfully, embraced with unconditional love from the people around them and shown that sexuality is to be embraced and praised, not used as a negative mark against someone - especially not someone you're supposed to love.

Today, I found a great example of that kind of amazing story when I watched a video of a young 14-year-old boy named Joshua Felix as he comes out to his sister as gay. 

Like I always do when I watch someone coming out, I cringed a lot and tried to suprress the urge to stop the video for fear that i might see them being rejected or attacked. Having come out myself 8 years ago, it's a fear I know all it too, and one I can't seem to let go of for others. But thankfully, Joshua's sister gave her little brother the greatest response any young gay kid can hear when they say the words "I'm gay."

"What’s wrong with that?" she responds casually. "That’s nothing you need to worry about. I’m glad you felt you could come and tell me. I am, seriously. That was very brave of you as well for telling me—I’m proud of you.”

With society continuing to find greater accetpance and understanding of the LGBT communities everyday, hopefully more coming out stories will look like this until the day coming out won't even be an issue....or a thing that occurs at all.

Check out this amazing video below.  

 

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 September 28, 2014 and filed under Families, family, Homophobia, LGBT, sexuality.

Being Black and Finding a New Queerness at Dragon*Con

When people think of queerness, they usually think of the word in regards to sexuality and gender expression as opposed to its original definition of unusually different or odd. For me, that's what I did until I had a conversation with the 50 Shades of BLACK creator, Carlton Mackey, about this past weekend's Dragon*Con convention.

While being asked about the geek experience as a black gay man, he described the event as queer. I'd honestly never thought to describe a convention of geeks, freaks and gamers as queer. But if you think about Dragon*Con, really, there isn't much around that's as fundamentally queer as that.

For one weekend in Atlanta, Labor Day Weekend, over 100,000 people flood the city for NASCAR racing, football, Black Pride Weekend, and, of course, Dragon*Con, the biggest sci-fi gaming convention in the Southeast region.

It's quite a sight to see as the jocks, the gays, the trans, bisexuals, the drag queens, and the geeks all come out into the streets at once and paint the town a bright rainbow palette of diversity.

And that's just on the streets. Once you go inside the convention, you're immersed inside a world where being a regular human is just an option, and the simple act of cosplaying can transform you into any race, any gender, any species, or any object that you want to be.

But despite such diversity in creatures, styles, and looks, what many people outside of the geek culture still don't seem to see is the growing number of black people who are unabashed geeks and love comic books, cartoons, video games, manga, and anime.  

For many of us black geeks, we are a different version of queer. We are anomalies both in and outside of our race who embrace blackness, but also embrace being infinitely more; as much as our fantasy-loving, child-like imaginations can allow. 

And for me and my crew of bleeks (black geeks) and blerds (black nerds), a crew which we've given the awesome title Sasuke Hate, conventions like Dragon*Con are nothing short of an indulgence in that new queerness, that new anomalous existence. It's a place that, while not devoid of social issues surrounding race and queerness, bends them in ways that allows for a new way of seeing the world.

Walking the lobbies and bars of the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Marriott and the Westin, it felt amazing to see so many geeks out and about in the real world, drinking, dancing and posing for row after row of cameras in their cosplay creations. 

Though diversity is praised at these conventions, it'd be foolish to dismiss the fact that it's been a struggle to find diverse black representation in the world of comics, anime and gaming. Although characters like Storm, Blade, Black Panther, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, and Spawn have paved the way for black mainstream superheroes, we still have a ways to go when it comes to seeing these superheroes take center stage and lead films and TV shows. It's can be even harder to find well-rounded and respectable representations of black people overseas in Japan, where black anime characters are often played to stereotypes based around hip-hop and 70s Blaxploitation.

For that reason, and because it feels damn good to see ourselves as authentic and powerful, there's an extra sense of pride taken when we bleeks can cosplay as black characters and show that we can be superheroes, villains and all-around cool characters as well . And my friends definitely represented that idea to the fullest as they cosplayed as iconic black superheroes like Green Lantern, Aqualad and Static Shock and got praise from geeks of every color. 

But race isn't the only thing that's skewed and warped by these conventions. Ideas of gender are played with and twisted as well. When walking through crowds of cosplayers, it's absolutely normal to geeks of all races gender bending to their hearts desire. At Dragon*Con alone, my friends and I saw men as Wonder Woman and the Sailor Scouts, or women dressed as Deadpool and The Flash. Sometimes it was simply bold expressions of sexuality as women dressed in nothing but body paint and underwear, and men donned their own tiny undies and oiled themselves up to show off their bodies.

Truly, it was an anything goes kind of affair.

But no place is a paradise, and as with any convention, there were times when the racial issues of the regular world reared their ugly head.

For us, that moment came not while doing anything particularly geeky, but instead during Saturday night's hotel rave. Not to toot my own horn or the horn of my crew too much, but being the charismatic and fun-seeking people that we are, we happened to dominate an entire side of the dance floor and had nearly half the crowd circling us and trying to dance with us as we grooved, twerked, bounced, and rocked to good ol' hip-hop music. But after perhaps 15 minutes of that dance floor dominance, the DJ abruptly changed the music to softer pop and dance thusly killed our dance circle. Although the DJ could've simply wanted to change the mood and allow for every genre of music to shine, for us it seemed weird that any DJ would want to kill the vibe of a raucous party. For us, it came off as a small reminder that we can't be too black, too unabashed and too in control of the scene. 

As that instance shows, perhaps there are always limits to how queer an event can be and how high those usually on the bottom can soar, but as minorities, it's no unfamiliar script to us. 

As bleeks, though, there's still so much to be said still for the freedom that's enjoyed just taking ownership in expressing different versions of blackness, different versions of gender and sexuality, and different versions of self. 

For us, the new frontier of identity expression lies in the realm of fantasy. Because, as another character, we find ways to tap into parts of ourselves that we may never know or never express. More importantly, we find ways to be bigger than the way society sees us....embracing our blackness, embracing queerness, while at the same time being bigger than it all. 

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 September 6, 2014 and filed under community, Identity, LGBT, race, skin tone.

Truth Tella - Cakes da Killa #beOUT (Afro Punk Prelude)

 Cakes Da Kill at Afro Punk 2013

Cakes Da Kill at Afro Punk 2013

Because Cakes Da Killa will be performing at AfroPunk Fest in Brooklyn this year, I thought I'd add these opinions of mine: Cakes da Killa is the best new rapper of any style. It’s the flow. If the Notorious B.I.G was an effeminate gay man, he would sound like this. There have been a handful of openly queer rappers over the course of the past decade, but none of them quite like this one.

Identity is important on this site, so I’ll identify as one of the oldest people that identify as a Millennial and I’m a Hip Hop kid, all grown up. I’ve been seeking the truth from the beginning, which is not the same as perceived authenticity. For those reasons I’m a 50cent over Ja Rule kind of guy, I’m a Kool Moe Dee over LL Cool J kind of guy, a Ice Cube over Common kind of guy, a Lil Kim over Foxy Brown kind of guy…the same kind of guy who will not comment on Nas vs Jay-Z. To those family feud points, Hip Hop has always been aggressive and brutally honest; as a result, it has always been offensive. Every transition has come with a new truth teller. Ignorant people will always find a reason to be offended; Reference Kevin Hart in 40 Year Old Virgin.  Q-Tip on his perfect J.Period tribute said it best, or at least as well as anyone in the genre could have:

“It was a rebellious music, y’nahmean? It was the ghetto folk that wasn’t supposed to really have a voice. We just had just came out of the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution and all this and all that. Then here comes this music and it’s the perfect description; this music describes us perfectly because it’s not taught, we at this point had poor education. We didnt have access to a lot of instruments, it was a voiceless music. We had been theoretically robbed of our whole voice as a people. So here’s this symbolic art form called Hip Hop where the music aspect of Hip Hop – it embodies us taking from only what’s there, we can only take from what’s there – we had the records that’s what we used, that’s what Flash used, that’s what Herc used, thats what Bambatta used. We could only take from what’s there, we didn’t really have a voice ? So we had to use it to talk… that’s kind of it in a nutshell.” 

This relatively ignorant art form is all about being OUT. Rashard Bradshaw better known as Cakes Da Killa is the raw deal of what life is like for an early 20-something gay man today, and he is bring a bottom's perspective. Educate yourself on the langauge, as there have been too many in-depth articles on him to mention here. I only thought to mention him because of a video I stumbled upon from Too $hort showing how being out changes the minds of people. Kudos to Rashard for showing off on these two mix tapes…download: Hunger Pangs  (2014) The Eulogy (2013)

Different than the trivializing of black gay culture, which is not synonymous with that of LGBT culture in general Cakes Da Killa steps outside of the surface level lyrics of someone like Fly Young Red who states the obvious over standard Hip Hop loops with the acclaim of his 2014 track Throw That Boy Pussy. Yes Red,  the world is aware of the anal sex and your music might as well be a straight man's point of view on gay sexual interaction. I don't mean to suggest that he has no business creating the ground breaking music that he does, but there is more depth to Cakes. Similar to NWA, Rakim, Snoop Dog, Biggie, Lil Kim, and yes Drake he has provided a new series of authentic slang specific to his culture along with a new series of instrumental sounds derived from the gay ball scene to produce an entirely new yet rhythmically viable sound. Sometimes it takes a college sophomore who just raps because he can to lead the way....

@JFKII
writer, cultural critic, special contributor to 50 Shades of Black

Posted on August 16, 2014 and filed under LGBT, personal stories, music.

The High Five: The Day a Brother Invented the World's Most Famous Salute

high 5-history2.jpg

The High Five - The Day a Brother Invented the World's Most Famous Salute.

Have you ever reached your hand high in the air for an awesome High Five?  Ever wondered who was the "first" to do it?  Well, in this amazing documentary you'll learn a lot more than you ever thought you could in 10 minutes about the high 5, baseball history, and the first openly gay athlete in any major sport...and no he isn't Jason Collins.  

The High Five - The Legacy of Glenn Burke.

50 Shades of Black examines Sexuality and Skin Tone in the Formation of Identity.

Posted on July 28, 2014 and filed under blog, history, Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, personal stories, sexuality.

Jason Collins Tells Us How 'It Got Better'

As a part of the “It Got Better” video campaign, launched by Lexus in collaboration with the "It Gets Better" project, Jason Collins, the first openly gay baller to sign with an NBA team, recalls his journey from a life of struggle in the closet to a life of freedom after coming out last year in a Sports Illustrated feature.

And as expected, Collins heartfelt words paint an poweful portrait of a journey that not only left him standing in his own truth, but also wise enough to help others sturggling with their sexuality to live their truth as well. 

“In 2011 I started thinking about the rest of my life … thankfully I had a trainer and I saw online that he did an ‘It Gets Better’ video,” Collins says. “There were so many times that I heard parts of my story in his story. I sent him an e-mail and told him in the e-mail I was gay and that I needed someone to talk to about it. We sat on a bench and it was actually the first time I said the words out loud, ‘I’m gay.’”

“It felt so good to finally realize what it is to be myself. I didn’t have to, like, say I’m going on a fictional date with some girlfriend who doesn’t exist. I could take the mask off and see that everything was okay. I was still the same person, same mannerisms, same everything. I didn’t have to lie,” Collins added.

Check out his amazing "It Got Better" video below. 

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 June 6, 2014 and filed under activism, LGBT, Identity.

RuPaul and The Problem With The Big 'Tranny' Debate

Living in this country, it’s already hard enough being a minority but it’s doubly problematic when your specific community is lumped together with other oppressed minority groups and you find these communities in conflict with each other. It’s a predicament that has plagued black people, brown people, women, people of various classes for many years. And now America is seeing it play out within the LGBTQIQA community (Seriously, that is too many groups lumped together) thanks to gay drag icon RuPaul’s ongoing battle with the transgender community over the use of terms like “tranny” and “she-male” in “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Just to give a recap, for several months now “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has come under fire from the transgender community for using words that were considered anti-trans slurs, like "tranny" and "she-male." The controversy grew so large that producers for the show apologized to the trans community and edited out a mini-challenge called “Female or She-male” from the season. They also pledged to stop using trans slurs as well.

Recently, RuPaul was asked how he feels about the controversy and he fired back at what he called a “fringe” group within the trans community who are simply looking to play victim and police others when it comes to language.

“Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny,” RuPaul said.  “No, it is not the transsexual community. These are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a fucking joke. But, some people haven’t … You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road.”

“But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt … You know what? … You need to get stronger. You really do, because you know what, if you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think,” he added.

Not so surprisingly, his words caused an uproar among the LGBT communities, and even some of his drag race alumni weighed in on the matter. Season 3 contestant and transgender superstar Carmen Carrera, who previously criticized the show for its use of trans slurs, slammed RuPaul for what she claimed was insensitivity to the trans community.

"This battle of respect is something very real to me," Carrera previously stated in a Facebook post. “I've watched my friends get called out in public for not being passable as female and hurt big time about it, I've watched my friends in the news that got murdered and never investigated, I've watched my friends believe all they can do in life for money is escort. I'm very passionate and believe that every time the LGBT community is featured in the media, people are learning about us. Now more than ever. My thing is, teach them the good of who we are that way it will cause a ripple effect and open the doors for respect and then ultimately lead to more people loving us."

However, Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio fired back at Carrera and implied that the she should be silent and grateful that Ru gave her a platform to superstardom.

“There’s all this madness about shit we can say and shit we can’t say…it’s not that fucking serious. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t know who the fuck Carmen Carrera was if she didn’t fucking get on ‘Drag Race.’ Maybe she should stick what’s left of her dick and shove it in her mouth and shut the fuck up,” Del Rio said at a recent performance.

Ru was also supported by famous transgender activist Justin Bond, who argued in a Facebook post that “tranny” should be considered an empowered word of endearment in the LGBT community.

“In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless “word police” instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and -as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it’s just EASIER to “evolve” back into silent, bullied shame. What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way. What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn’t know it WE’RE TOUGH!”

And those three opinions exemplify the strong arguments that are being hurled across the board over the use of trans-focused words.

On one hand, it’s understandable why queens like RuPaul and Bianca feel such a strong ownership of the word “tranny.” Before the Western world even had an inkling of an understannding of what a trasngender person is, tranny was a word used to describe drag queens and anyone else dressed as the opposite sex. For some in the older generation, it became a word of pride, being used not only in conversation but also as a powerful descriptor when advertising for shows. 

But like the way many words change over time, the context and definition of tranny has changed as our society has opened its eyes and mind to the existence of transgender people. What was once just used as an umbrella term to describe anyone who used fashion to break gender norms has now been used, mainly in a comical or offensive way, to describe members of the transgender community. And although some in the LGBT world feel a sense of ambivalence or pride about the word and others like it, clearly there are those who are offended by it's use.

I'm not a transgender person and I've not done drag enough times to call myself anyones drag superstar (I was quite BEAT though), so I'll never fully understand what it feels like to be in their shoes or be called a tranny. But as a black gay man, I look at a word like tranny and the way it is dividing communities of people and it reminds me of the impact that words like "faggot" and "nigger/nigga" have had on my own respective communities. 

As minorities, or rather oppressed groups, we know that those words were born from hate and used to brainwash us into thinking we were less than human, less than worthy of life, love and knowledge. And for many of our ancestors, and, sadly, for many of our friends and family, those words were that last that many of us heard as we were brutally victimized in hate crimes and lynchings. 

Unlike most other offensive words in the English language, those two are drenched in the blood of millions. They're so scarlet stained that even though both the black and gay communities, more so the black community, have taken their respective words of hate and tried to turn them into terms of endearment, they still bring about feelings of pain, frustration and loss when said in the wrong way, or by someone of the wrong race, or to a little black or gay child who undoubtedly will have that word forced upon them, even by his or her own people.

I understand the reasoning behind wanting to reclaim a word of hate and I also understand the reasoning behind wanting to ban it as well. I even understand the reasoning behind wanting to take power away from all of those words and focus on the forces behind them. I think that everyone must choose to handle those words in the way that works best for their own spirit.

But what I have trouble understanding is how a person, especially a minority, can tell people of another minority group that they're weak for being angry about hearing a word used to sometimes degrade and dehumanize them. 

I believe that RuPaul has done a lot to improve the lives of the LGBT community especially when it comes to giving us representation in the mainstream world, and superstars like Carrera have many reasons to praise RuPaul for that. But just like I don't owe any other black person my silence about the word "nigger/nigga", or any other gay person about the word "faggot", and I especially don't owe anyone outside of those two communities my silence, no transgender person owes anyone their silence about the word tranny and how it makes them feel.

I think that, as minorities, we often forget that we don't all sit equally on the bottom of the social totem pole. There's a privilege to being a biological man or woman, especially a man, and being able to play in gender and revert back to your biologicial form at will when you take off the clothes, the fake dicks, the wigs and the makeup. It's easier to shrug off painful words when they don't have to apply to you at all times. But it's a hell of a lot harder when there is no drag, no mask, no act and you are simply transgender. There is no easy escape or solace then. You have to actively and willfully find strength and power in yourself everyday to rise above the hateful words and actions of others, all while trying not to succumb to the self-hate and esteem issues that such attacks will inevitably cause. And while that doesn't sound too different from the lives of every other minority group, like all of them, there are nuances to that struggle that can only be fully understood if you live it.

And I'm not the only one who shares that sentiment. Of all of the responses to the "Drag Race" controversy, I think the one we can all take to heart is that of Season 6 runner up Courtney Act, respectfully challenged Ru’s words in a Facebook post and explained that we should spend less time fighting each other and more time trying to love each other and end oppression.

“I’m a little surprised by @rupauls recent reaction to trans issues. I understand and apply in my own life the logic about not giving other people power over how I feel, but I am not 1 in 12 trans people in America who will be murdered. As Ghandi said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” so why doesn’t everybody say “Love?”

If you’re gay, how do you feel about straight people in the media using the word f—-t? If you’re black, how do you feel about white people using the word N#@$^? At some point we agreed that those words are not acceptable, I can’t even type the “N-word,” so much as say it out loud. Why are we so flippant about tranny? I don’t agree with polarizing the argument either way, but I do think we need to overcome the ego, coming from both sides, and have some compassion and consultation so we can move forward. Let’s change the way we are looking at this argument, cause when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

What would be energy better spent right now is focusing on helping trans people improve their quality of life.  Here are some facts I'm sure we all can agree are not acceptable and that we need to come together and bring about positive change:

Transgender facts

1 in 12 transgender people in America is murdered. (This one fact alone is more than enough)

Although social acceptance for transgender people is growing, parents continue to abandon youth with gender-identity issues when their children need them most, advocates say.

49 per cent of transgender people attempt suicide.

Transgender youth account for 18 per cent of homeless people in cities such as Chicago, but researchers estimate fewer than 1 in 1,000 people is transgender.

Transgender youth whose parents pressure them to conform to their anatomical gender report higher levels of depression, illegal drug use, suicide attempts and unsafe sex than peers who receive little or no pressure from parents.

Sources: Guidelines for Transgender Care (2006), Gender Spectrum Education and Training, Families in TRANSition (2008).”

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

The Lioness Project: Unleashing Female Beauty

"It took me a long time to realize that being beautiful has nothing to with the size you are, the shade of your skin, the texture of your hair or the price tag on your garments. Beautiful is a frame of mind--it's how you identify yourself and not how others identify you. But before I came to that realization I struggled with things about myself that the world told me wasn't good enough. It caused insecurities and self hate that consumed me on the regular basis. At 32 years old--I've FINALLY accepted me. I'm a brown skinned, bald headed, DC native turned Southern Belle who smiles a lot and is always down for a good laugh, being in the company of beautiful people and good food. What's not beautiful about that?"

-Maya
50 Shades of Black Blogger
Creator of P8prbutterfly and The Lioness Project


The Lioness Project is a  collection of beautiful and tastefully orchestrated nude photos of women of all shapes, sizes, colors and sexual orientation. 

The truth is that women are some of the most exotic creatures on the earth and we often forget that and it's easy to do. Between raising children, working everyday, being a lover, a friend and rescuing the world--we lose ourselves. Our creativity fades and our identity dwindles. We forget to love the love handles, enjoy our full lips and embrace the stretch marks. It's who we are and real women don't look like Beyonce or Kim--but we are just AS beautiful. So--this will surely be a friendly reminder to continue to embrace your authentic true self in everything that you do. 

I am also happy to have acquired support from Carlton Mackey and BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE on this project. 

More at: www.p8perbutterfly.com/lioness-project

  These shirts provided for free to the first round of ladies participating in   #TheLionessProject

These shirts provided for free to the first round of ladies participating in #TheLionessProject

Posted on May 21, 2014 and filed under activism, Body Image, Identity, LGBT.

50 Shades of BLACK vs. 50 Shades of HUMANITY

The title 50 Shades of Black is a word play. What is often lost in the word play is its reference to sexuality. A major function of our platform is to examine the ways in which both sexuality AND race are constructed and the similar ways in which they are regulated, made exotic, placed into a structural hierarchy. We seek to explore the intersection of both as well as the ways in which normative views are established and maintained. Both represent a spectrum of identities and both represent real life people like you and me who are trying to make sense of those identities in a very narrowly defined framework. It started off with voices of people who see themselves as and identify as black. The spectrum was unbelievable.

It moved quickly to include voices of people from India and other Asian countries, Brazil, and varying African countries who offered insight into the global influence of skin tone in the shaping of identities across the world and in hetero-normative views. The closer you fit patriarchal, heterosexual, european, Christo-centric norms in look, actions, belief, the better you faired across the globe. We see ourselves as contributors to a nuanced conversations about identity formation in the world.

Because "Black" is stigmatized and, based on the framework and construction of race (as opposed to identity), is often marginalized, we seek to affirm black identity...across the spectrum of the diaspora and among the many people who seek to align themselves with it. We also seek to affirm the LBGTQ community. "There can be no hierarchy of oppression".  At the intersection of sex and race is a depth of assumptions about masculinity and femininity and, believe it or not, the assumptions are different based on shade AND sexuality. 

When we established our signature empowerment campaign and called it beautiful in every shade, it was b/c of how clear it was made through the stories that we received that people didn't believe it to be true. Now in incremental ways, people who identify ALL KINDS OF WAYS are appreciating the ways in which we are working to critically examine AND affirm.

Someone asked why don't you change it to 50 Shades of Humanity then?

I'll change the name to 50 Shades of Humanity when people find it as easy to say Black as they do Humanity.

Carlton Mackey
Creator of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on May 7, 2014 and filed under activism, blog, LGBT.

Emory Black Star Magazine & 50 Shades of Black Release Special Edition Magazine

 Screen Shot of Digital Magazine Release.  Print copies available this week!

Screen Shot of Digital Magazine Release.  Print copies available this week!

Emory Students at Black Star Special Edition Magazine Release Party.

Black Star, Emory University's first and only black student publication partnered with 50 Shades of Black to release a special edition magazine to close the year.  Dressed to impress, students crowded into the Emory Black Student Union (EBSU) for the unveiling of the magazine.

This special edition magazine comes on the heels of the two organizations successfully executing the first college campus open photo shoot of the BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE (TM) Campaign, the signature empowerment campaign of 50 Shades of Black.  Atlanta Sports and Fashion photographer Breonca Trofort captured over 100 Emory University students, faculty, and staff.

A collage of images from the BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE (TM) Open Photo Shoot grace the cover of this Special Edition Magazine.  The magazine also includes a 10 page spread featuring deeply personal reflections from students who explore their own identities ranging from black Latina, biracial, queer, Jamaican, and East African.

Samantha Scott, the editor and chief of Black Star, wanted to offer a platform for exploring the question: "What is it like being black at Emory University?"

We couldn't be happier that she chose 50 Shades of Black as a partner for helping navigate that exploration.  We are so grateful for the entire Black Star Staff, and the 100's of people from the Emory community for their powerful witness and testimony.

>>HOST A BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE OPEN PHOTO SHOOT AT YOUR SCHOOL<<

BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE: One Year of Affirming Beauty

Tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of the Inaugural BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE (TM) Open Photo Shoot.  Actually, the inaugural photo shoot wasn't even recognized as part of the trademarked BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Campaign when we held it 1 year ago (tomorrow).  

Celebrated, international photographer and photo-culturalist Ross Oscar Knight and I planned a singular event to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the many people who supported 50 Shades of Black, a grassroots movement seeking to utilize the power of art and personal narrative to not only critically examine the role of sexuality and skin tone in the formation of identity, but to celebrate and affirm the beauty of every human being.  Little did we know that a year later, we would have photographed nearly 400 beautiful people all across the world including Africa and Brazil...holding photo shoots on college campuses, at cultural events like an Indian Garba, and at the largest independent book festival in the country.

We look back to that day with amazement at the strength found in community, in the power in each of your stories, and in the reality that we've only just begun.  With BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE (TM) Open Photo Shoots being planned in other countries and in other parts of the United States, we are committed to our work of "Spreading Beauty".  With so many messages that tell us that we are not, our motto is >> 

Wonderroot Podcast: Interview with the Creator of 50 Shades of Black

In this WonderRoot Artist Feature Carlton Mackey, creator of "50 Shades of Black", talks with WR Interactive Media Manager Floyd Hall about the origins of the project, its evolution as a platform for dialogue about race, sexuality, and identity, and why the tag line "Beautiful In Every Shade" is so meaningful.

For more information on 50 Shades of Black, visit: http://50shadesofblack.com

WonderRoot is an Atlanta-based non-profit arts and service organization with a mission to unite artists and community to inspire positive social change. By providing production facilities to Atlanta-based artists and coordinating arts-based service programs, WonderRoot empowers artists to be proactive in engaging their communities through arts-based service work. For more information, please visit:

http://wonderroot.org 
http://facebook.com/wonderpage 
http://twitter.com/wonderroot 
http://instagram.com/wonderroot

Introducing The New Cool Kids On The Scene: The Tenth Zine

As a black, gay writer, I’m always happy when I see people from my community planting a flag in the world of media, whether it be behind the scenes, writing or designing, or giving me LIFE in pixelated in pixelated form in glossy pages or on my computer screen.

Earlier this month, I’d heard about a new magazine geared toward the black gay community called The Tenth, the first independently published project from the Brooklyn-based Pink Rooster Studio. Recently my 50 Shades of BLACK cohorts, Carlton Mackey and Chris Barker, and I checked out the online site and we all raved at what came across our screens.

 The creators of Pink Rooster Studio, &nbsp; André Verdun Jones, Khary Septh, Kyle Banks

The creators of Pink Rooster Studio, André Verdun Jones, Khary Septh, Kyle Banks

In the past, friends and I have complained about black gay magazines focusing too heavily on the fluff of party scenes, well-oiled Adonis models, flyers, ads, flyers and more ads. But The Tenth, though only offering a glimpse into its pages on the site, seems to skew left of middle and simultaneously travels the roads of art, fashion, sex appeal and literature.

Boasting more than 80 contributors for its first bi-annual issue, which was released on April 10, The Tenth promises offerings from the likes of performance artist Andre Singleton, fashion designer Telfar Clemens, photographers Idris & Tony, activist Darnell Moore, contemporary artist Rashaad Newsome, and literary critic William Johnson.

"We really talk about what's happening now in our culture and have no agenda to represent an image or counter any perception. We just want to play in the sandbox with other exceptional black gay boys and be faggy and angry and smart and silly and beautiful and ugly and radical and perhaps more than anything just learn to trust each other through collaboration. It really has been an incredible experience," said the founders of Pink Rooster studios to Huffington Post.

"The work is born out of our queerness. We know that we, as black gay men will always be forced into a box. This is us coloring that box, and that is a very queer thing. Making anything beautiful, elegant, and joyous," they added.

Yet, most intriguing, so far, is the Courtney Harvier helmed short film "The Masters." Perhaps playing on the layered opening phrase of “I Saw Africa On His Mind,” the stunning visual piece showcases black men, slaves, on the plantations of the south as they work the fields and their master’s home, all the while yearning for the freedom of their homeland, as well as the solace and familiarity of each other’s bodies and hearts. It’s provocative and immediately enthralling and undeniably an awesome teaser for the work that’s the come from The Tenth.

If you want to know more, check out The Tenth website here. And be sure to watch "The Masters" below. 

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 April 19, 2014 and filed under activism, africa, art, blog, Body Image, LGBT, Masculinity, sexuality.

50 Shades of Black Creator in Featured Podcast at Wonderroot

 Floyd Hall in Recording Studio at WonderRoot in Atlanta, GA

Floyd Hall in Recording Studio at WonderRoot in Atlanta, GA

This morning I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Floyd Hall, the Interactive Media Manager for Wonderroot for an interview.  Floyd curates the WonderRoot Podcasts series which offers listeners a vast array of conversations and insights into WonderRoot, artists and the Atlanta cultural community. Each podcast is recorded in the audio studio at WonderRoot Community Arts Center.

I can't wait to share to share more with you.  Expect podcast release early next week.

 50 Shades of Black Creator Carlton Mackey and Floyd Hall at WonderRoot - Atlanta, GA

50 Shades of Black Creator Carlton Mackey and Floyd Hall at WonderRoot - Atlanta, GA