Posts filed under sexuality

'Dear Dad' Letters from Same Gender Loving Sons Screening At Emory University [New Date]

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After being postponed last month due to Atlanta’s first Snowpocalypse of the year, the “Dear Dad” screening is finally back on.

Following a successful launch of the “Dear Dad” film last year, the film’s creator, Chase Simmons, and 50 Shades of BLACKs own, Carlton Mackey, have teamed up to facilitate a public screening for the film at Emory University.

For those who haven’t watched the film yet – and you should. No, really. Why haven’t you watched it yet? What’s wrong with you?! – “Dear Dad: Letters From SGL Sons” is an aptly titled documentary about eight same gender loving men from the Atlanta area who have allowed cameras into their world as they explore their relationships with their fathers, whether good or bad, and confront those feelings head on as they write their fathers "Dear Dad" letters. Through these letters, the eight men, including myself, discuss the ways in which their relationship has shaped them and, if possible, where they want that relationship to go from here. 

Sounds utterly, completely and undeniably interesting right? Of course it does!

So, if you haven’t seen the film already - or even if you have - and you live in the Atlanta area, come by Emory University on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. and watch the film with Chase, Carlton and myself as well as the rest of the cast. Afterwards, you can chat with us and ask us all the questions you want – but don’t get crazy – as the cast sits down for a Q&A session with the audience.

Trust me when I say it’s going to be an amazing experience and there may even be Oprah/Iyanla, Fix My Life tearjerker moments, and who doesn’t love those?!?

See you there and check out the trailer as well as our interview segment from HuffPost Live below.


Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, Storyteller and Blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

Posted on February 13, 2014 and filed under community, family, Identity, LGBT, Masculinity, sexuality.

Damaged Goods: Being Hurt By Men Is Not Why We Love Women


I was raped by someone that I knew and trusted back in 1999 and until this pivotal moment I never had the strength to stand up and admit that this had happened to me. My face didn’t look remotely close to the women who stared back at me on local commercials who were calling out their attacker. So like every other black woman I knew, I adapted the ability to accept what has been dealt to her and move beyond it. So when I finally came to terms with my sexuality a few years later the response from my friends and family wasn’t the best. In fact one of my very close cousins at the time told me that “ I know why you do what you do--it’s because of everything that men have done to you. So I understand. And I want  you to know that I defend you when everyone else doesn’t understand”.

Oddly enough I didn’t know if she was truly in my corner or if I should’ve been offended. At the time she didn't know much about the things that had happened to me in the past but I felt like she assumed that maybe because my relationships with men were a dead end--I had chose an alternate route all in a conscious effort to be loved. Sounds a whole lot like desperation to me--all of which I was not.

More often than not people assume that you turn to the same sex relationships for love and compassion when all else has failed with the opposite sex. Almost as if it’s an act of desperation.

The truth is that being a lesbian is not the easier route--it’s the harder route. The myth that “women understand women” better is a lie because being misunderstood or being treated poorly can happen in any relationship. In fact--you haven’t known hurt until you have been hurt by a woman. Women can be clever and witty creatures who have mastered the art of lies and deception in a way unlike any other. And when you have had your heart broken by one--it cuts much deeper than a knife. In fact--it seeps into your pores, peels the weight off of you and cuts into your sleep. It’s very similar to the pain you read about in books as a young adult. Yet--you keep trying again and again because no matter how painful this roller coaster is you’re addicted to her smile, her supple breasts and nurturing characteristics. You love the way her skin feels against yours and how her cologne/perfume dances around the room long after she’s gone.

So trust me when I say I have been hurt by women in ways that men never have.

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It would be so much easier to get a boyfriend and waltz off into the sunset in my beautiful wedding dress while being accepted by the world than it could ever be trying to build a life with a woman. Not only is our relationship not accepted by the government but it’s not respected nor honored by various people on different platforms. We’re often ridiculed because of the kind of love that we choose to display and given dirty looks by onlookers as we shop in the local stores. Why would I choose a life so difficult for myself?

Being sexually assaulted or abused doesn’t make homosexuals nor do failed relationships with the opposite sex. Most of us already know that we are gay before we can even identify what sexuality is and some of us have chosen to live openly rather than to live a lie.

Believe it or not--more women come out of the closet and divorce their husbands than are accounted for. Most of them prefer to wait until their children are older so that they aren’t faced with a situation where the relationship with their children are possibly damaged and the foundation of their family is destroyed. It’s not that they don’t love their husband--it’s more so along the lines that isn’t what their truth consists of and at some point she finally decided to live her life without destroying someone else's. I always speak about living your truth because it takes such great strength to do so. Living a lie is the easiest route and it’s the road that traveled most. How often do we want people to look us in the eyes and tell us the truth but we stare at ourselves in the mirror and lie to ourselves on a daily basis?

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At the end of it all--

Being sexually assaulted/abused doesn't make a person gay.  It makes you someone who has been violated. There are just as many heterosexuals that have been violated as homosexuals--so ultimately no situation can turn a person gay. Either you are--or you aren’t.

I wrote this because there are so many parents who are angry because they feel that their daughter's/son's partner “turned” them the way they are and because they cannot accept the truth--they’d rather banish them all together.  There are other people who think that you are damaged goods which is why you turned to same gender relationships. And other are other parents who recently found out that their child was recently sexually assaulted who wonder if they would have known, could they have saved them from the clutches of homosexuality. Would they be different? Could they have fixed them? Did they let them down?

The truth is that sometimes life deals us some crappy cards and no matter if we like it or not we have to play the hell out of them. And as much as we wish that we could save our loved ones--it’s just not always possible. Whether your life is perfect or not who you are is destined to be is based on two factors:

1. How well you were able to turn your negative aspects into positive ones

2. How you define yourself and not how others define you.


Those moments no matter how horrible they were don’t make you--but they mold you. You we’re never broken so you don’t need to be fixed or saved. Remember who you are and never forget that your past does nothing but create another road on the map of your life but the ending destination depends solely on you.

This is for all of the beautiful ones--

People like you--and I

Posted on February 9, 2014 and filed under feminism, Homophobia, Identity, LGBT, personal stories, sexuality.

Janelle Monae's Afrofuturism on Black History Month

Is humanoid equality the next civil rights fight?

Cindi Mayweather

And so she sings, we're all virgins to the joys of loving without fear....

Following her EP: metropolis Janelle Monae has used the analogy of synthetic intelligence to argue topics like civil and gender rights along with giving a new meaning to the ideal of LGBTQA ...perhaps the 'T' can stand for Transhuman or the 'A' for anything. In the five suite chronology of her 3 albums Monae has painted a picture of pop, rock, rap, jazz, blues, R&B, funk, and even folk to keep our attention while ranting about her own frustration with the kind of empowerment which is possible in the increasingly techno-connected world.

Modeled after the many interpretations of the storied Metropolis: a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences. Monae's consistent theme is a love between a human man and a robot women, but in this recent album has evolved into  stories about the her self confessed alter-ego cyborg Cindi Mayweather and her own identity as a seemingly lgbtR (R for Robot).

The album Electric Lady and Archandroid before that, bring to mind the issues surrounding love equality, which are socio-politically related to marriage equality. The age old dowry system of marriage is now a catalyst to normalize love across cultures and preferences, aside from its sustained bride price. Human's ability to create laws that better acknowledge independence of things of sentience will be increasingly tested as human-kind itself grows more diverse.

I'd argue that Gay is the new Asian because of all the unpacked diversity in the culture, but black seems to be the analogy that everyone is going with.

Michael Joseph Gross coined it The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle. Pundits are rightfully quick to make something finite in order to capitalize on it. Aside from marketing, it’s not true. There will always be more struggles, as minorities exist and define their niche forte. We are reverse engineering our way to pure individualism. Imagine 7,000,000,000 cultural labels and counting. LGBT issues are just the latest struggle, but the next or perhaps the one after that, will be Humanoid or even Robot issues. There is an ethnography to everything including the technology that compels and propels our daily lives. As we humans try and engineer our ways out of all labor we've started to create sentience. Just as Edgar Rice Burroughs writes in The Master Mind of Mars we have the potential to fall in love with a beautiful mind transferred to a horrible body. How will our ethical code change legally when Cindi Mayweather a humanoid lady falls in love with Anthony Greendown, a gentleman?

Originally posted on 10/3/2013 in H+ an extension of the World Transhumanist Association by author James Felton Keith


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

Posted on February 1, 2014 and filed under activism, art, blog, education, Homophobia, Identity, LGBT, music, sexuality.

Happy Black History Month: Minorities as a Heuristic


For everyone unfamiliar, a heuristic can be an experience-based technique for problem solving, learning, and discovery that give a solution which is not guaranteed to be optimal.


This past November 6, 2013 I attended an event at the City University of New York’s Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies for a roundtable discussion on Black Queer Diaspora. I thought it would be ultimate in minority topics, next to Asian Queer Diaspora. I have to admit that I was unsure what would actually be discusses at the event. The event was a critique of Jafari Allen's new book and mostly about the "connectivity" of the black queer diaspora to other cultural genres of the world.

In a special issue of GLQ, Jafari Allen beckoned us to see that “Black/queer/diaspora is an organic project of multivalent and multiscalar reclamation, revisioning, and futurity (yes, all at once).” This event brings together preeminent writers and thinkers at the forefront of engaging with this work. Issue editor Jafari Allen (Yale) and contributor Vanessa Agard-Jones (Columbia) present research from their new projects emerging from the conversations of the special issue. Robert Reid-Pharr (CUNY Graduate Center), and Rosamond S. King (Brooklyn College) will offer responses to this new work, informed by their own scholarship and research interests. Collectively, they will each present new research that considers and expands the methodological and conceptual inquiries grounding the issue.

After the presentation of Allen’s new book project Black/Queer/Diaspora and a Agard-Jones’s beyond fascinating paper What the Sands Remember (which could suggest radical political warfare on ethnic and sexual minorities via unethical bio & chemical policy. READ IT!) their critiques made the event much more compelling. Rosemond King’s poetry was beautifully easy yet provocative, although I’m not sure she’d agree with my choice of language. But the kicker was Dr Robert Reid-Pharr’s critique of Allen & Agard-Jone’s work. He said

Black Queer Diaspora should be presented as a heuristic

The way he used it, meant that it “can” go away. I immediately thought about my own work and how colleagues, peers, critiques, and I regularly explore the ends of things to push understanding beyond our understanding from the day-to-day lives we lead. Of course it's an effort to understand the exponential growth potential of our lives. I’ve never seen so many minorities clash. %0 Shades of Black regularly employes the clashing of many minorities as we individuals recognize so many sub-groups in our own minority.

If you are still reading, please indulge my logic of Reid-Pharr's comment briefly: Think of "minorities" as "problems" to potentially be "solved" with less-than optimal outcomes; or rather a diluted existence into some broader culture (majority). Anthropological history of culture systems and even physics system suggest that Reid-Pharr is on to something. A minority that is tolerated and accepted should eventually dilute into the norms of the broader culture.

Even further and most interesting to me as a socialized African American, although my genome sequence reads quite different, was question posed from the audience by a woman asking Jafari Allan if he agreed with Rober Reid-Pharr’s comment about heuristics. Allen agreed that “Queer” could go away, as he elaborated about his and the academy’s difficulty with the term. He continued to say that “Black” could never go away. After he laughed at the the statement he switched subjects.

To this point I haven’t dealt with Afro-futurism mainly because it is not an interest of mine, even after the request of editors at organizations like Humanity+ & IEET. Having stated that, the writings and comments around Afro-futurism concern me simply because I am classified as black. Phenomenologically I am inclined to reject Allen’s suggestion that “Black” could never dilute, especially while considering “Queer” to have the potential to do so. While we are still early in the commencement of our technological evolution it is possible to consider the potential of ethnic ranks pervading the humanoid population. Simply, human selection aside from that of natural selection is allowing each individual in the human-kind race to design themselves in the favor of their own ambitions. I’m compelled to think of the green-honed four-toed tri-breasted Spanish-speaking avatars designed in SecondLife and those in real life. If I extrapolate the cultural changes that I see in 2014, it seems that our population will be a large sea of minorities. From a socio-cultural standpoint, I think that Anthropologists can find and will continue to find remnants of tolerance leading to the acceptance from individuals living OUT... Those transparent lifestyles dilute the majority and minority normative: exposing everyone as an individual participating in a group.



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

Posted on January 31, 2014 and filed under art, blog, education, Identity, LGBT, sexuality.

[UPDATE] 'Dear Dad' Letters from Same Gender Loving Sons Screening At Emory University


Due to the current weather crisis in Atlanta, today's Dear Dad Screening at Emory University has been postponed. Emory University will actually be closed today. We will let you all know the moment we've set a new date. We hope everyone is safe and warm. Thank you for the support and we look forward to hosting this event soon! 

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After a successful launch of the “Dear Dad” film last year, the film’s creator, Chase Simmons, and 50 Shades of BLACKs own, Carlton Mackey, have teamed up to facilitate a public screening for the film at Emory University.

For those who haven’t watched the film yet – and you should. No, really. Why haven’t you watched it yet? What’s wrong with you?! – “Dear Dad: Letters From SGL Sons” is an aptly titled documentary about eight same gender loving men from the Atlanta area who have allowed cameras into their world as they explore their relationships with their fathers, whether good or bad, and confront those feelings head on as they write their fathers "Dear Dad" letters. Through these letters, the eight men, including myself, discuss the ways in which their relationship has shaped them and, if possible, where they want that relationship to go from here. 

Sounds utterly, completely and undeniably interesting right? Of course it does!

So, if you haven’t seen the film already - or even if you have - and you live in the Atlanta area, come by Emory University on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. and watch the film with Chase, Carlton and myself as well as the rest of the cast. Afterwards, you can chat with us and ask us all the questions you want – but don’t get crazy – as the cast sits down for a Q&A session with the audience.

Trust me when I say it’s going to be an amazing experience and there may even be Oprah/Iyanla, Fix My Life tearjerker moments, and who doesn’t love those?!?

See you there and check out the trailer as well as our interview segment from HuffPost Live below.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, Storyteller and Blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

Posted on January 26, 2014 and filed under film, Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, Masculinity, personal stories, race, sexuality.

Race, Sex, and MLK: 50 Shades of Black Creator to Moderate Conversation at Emory University

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Join Volunteer Emory for a social justice dialogue on overcoming inequality in the 21st century.

Moderated by Carlton Mackey from the Emory Center for Ethics, creator of 50 Shades of Black

Zai Air - Emory's own Davion Ziere


Let’s Talk About It: Why Do I Have To Choose Between Being Gay and Being Black?

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Earlier this week, our 50 Shades of BLACK creator, Carlton Mackey, posed a question to all of Facebook and Twitter, asking, “What assumptions have people made about you about your skin tone?” In the past, I’ve written about how, much to my never ending surprise, some people look at my skin and face and think I’m mixed with another brown race. But when I read Carlton’s question, I somehow immediately thought of a conversation I had with a former schoolmate back in undergrad.

It was the beginning of my third year at Georgia State University and I’d just moved back into the dorms, the Olympic Village, and since most of my friends had moved out and found their own apartments, I was left with only a handful of people to socialize with while I got acquainted with the new people in the building.

Luckily for me, an old female acquaintance of mine was still around and invited me over to her place to hang out and catch up on our summers at home. During our convo, I opened up to her about having finally, after years and years of bad acting in the closet, come out to our group of friends, and how dealing with my sexuality had been such a struggle for me.

As I recounted a shortlist of hurtful names that I’d been called in my childhood over my sexuality, I assumed that my friend would offer a sympathetic ear and lend a shoulder for me to lean on. Unfortunately, all she had to offer was laughter at the names I rifled off and a claim that she and all of our friends had already known that I was gay.

I tried to shrug off her insensitivity and continued talking about how I was working to embrace myself as a gay man and somehow champion the LGBT community to the rest of the world. However, my confessions continued to fall on semi-deaf ears and my so-called friend went on to tell me that, although fighting for equality and change was all well and good, I had to choose which community I wanted to fight for. “Are you gonna choose the black community or are you gonna choose the gay community? You can’t do both,” she said to me.

Stuck in something of a state of shock, I struggled to process her question and find the right words to respond. If the 2014 version of myself was a sideline commentator  – and I kind of am right now – he’d prolly say that the younger me felt a lot like the character of Lena Duchannes, a young Caster on the verge of new powers and self-discovery, in the book/movie Beautiful Creatures when her evil mother, Sarafine, repeatedly told her that she had to be claimed for the Light or the Dark, and that there was no option outside of the two.


However, there was no side commentator and I had no super cool and relatable movie character to pull wisdom from in that moment. All I had were my feelings and my sense of right and wrong, and with that I was able to respond that I just couldn’t see how her question was right or logical. I told her that I couldn’t see how I had to choose between living life as a proud black men or choosing to live proudly as a gay man. They were two parts of me that were both undeniable and unchangeable and yet she was asking me to sacrifice one to live the other.

I asked my friend to try to understand where I was coming from and how wrong that choice felt, but she didn’t understand me and we simply had to agree to disagree. I soon left her place still feeling just as alone and misunderstood as I had before I ever sauntered through her doorway. All I knew is that I had to walk my own path to finding out just who I wanted to be.

To this day, I still think about that conversation from time to time and it irks me that she had the audacity to ask me such a self-destructive question. Aren’t we all, as human beings, three-dimensional creatures? Aren’t we all a mixed bag of cultures, races, communities, interests and philosophies? Aren’t we all inevitably connected by those intersections? And aren’t we all really fighting for the same thing: The freedom to exist as we are and to be seen and loved as full human beings?

If I were to live by her logic and choose to only be black, as she strongly implied, how could I call myself an activist or simple a good and whole person if I denied a part of myself and ignored the needs of an entire community of people who are suffering from damn near the same oppression and hate as every other minority group? How can the world ever really change for the better if the people in it don’t believe in the simple philosophies of unity and solidarity?

If someone ever had the audacity to ask me that same question that she asked again, my answer wouldn’t change much. I refuse to choose somebody else’s so-called options for how I have to live my life. If anything, I choose myself. I choose the black, the gay, the weirdness, the dark, the light, the checkered middle part and everything else about me. I choose to be infinite within myself and allow whatever makes me me to live.

However, the one thing I would add to my response is this, because this accurately explains how I feel about ANYONE who would DARE tell another person to choose an identity simply for the sake of their own sense of comfort.

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Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, Storyteller and Blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

Posted on January 17, 2014 and filed under Identity, LGBT, personal stories, sexuality.

The New Morlocks: How Jamaica Has Forced Its LGBT Youth Into The Sewers

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As a self-professed geek and a lifelong fan of Marvel's "X-Men" comics, one of the things I've always loved about it is that the X-Men comics are all about art imitating life for the outcasts of the world. It showed us that even the bravest of superheroes, the kindest of souls can be seen as castaways and outcasts when they don't look, act or behave like the majority of people.

In the world of the X-Men, that point was never made clearer than when the comic's former writer, Chris Claremont, introduced a group called The Morlocks. Like the X-Men, they were mutants, but they were the runaways and outcasts of even the mutant world. They were the mutants whose powers were bizarre, unconventional, or had left them disfigured and monstrous in the eyes of others. And they ended up living in the sewers beneath Manhattan because they were the ones that the fictional people of the Marvel world has discarded and pushed underground because they were just too different.

Eventually though, even their existence in the underworld of society wasn't tolerated and their group was nearly annihilated when their home in the sewers was invaded by a lethal mob in the "Mutant Massacre," one of the most bloody, devastating, heartbreaking and darkest storylines that X-Men fans ever seen.

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In all my years of reading X-Men comics, I'd always seen how the lives of the superheroes and mutants who live in the light played out in our everyday real lives, but I never thought I'd see the day when I'd see a real-life group of "Morlocks" in our own world. However, that all changed recently when I came across BuzzFeed article about a group of runaway gay youths in Jamaica who literally live in the island's sewer system as rejects of society. 

Jamaica has long been regarded as one of the most homophic nations on Earth. In Jamaica, a British colonial law outlawing same-sex intercourse, called the "buggary law," is still in effect. And in recent years the island nation has seen a dramatic spike in anti-gay attacks, which have included beatings, firebombs and brutal murders at the hands of angry mobs. And that anti-gay mindset is bolstered by Jamaica's government and press, which refuses to run any ads that shine a positive light on the LGBT community. As well, most articles about Jamaica's LGBT citizens describes them as delinquents, vagrants, molesters and all-around villains.

In a climate where homophobia and effemiphobia are so rampant and accepted, many of Jamaica's gay youth (lesbians were not so oddly less affected) have, sadly, found themselves kicked out of the their family homes and pushed to the wayside by society, leaving them few places to go other than the streets.

Recently, BuzzFeed scribe J. Lester Feder traveled to Jamaica and spoke to six of the young gay youths, ranging from teens to early twenties, who have been forced out of their homes and are now living in an open sewer in New Kingston, the Jamaican capital’s financial district, for several months.

Life for the castaways has already been horrifying and turbulent, to say the least, but the group suffered a major blow to their already thread-thin sense of security on Dec. 1 when Cmdr. Christopher Murdock and a team of police entered the sewers and raided their makeshift him, burning much of their belongings and their food. This isn't the first time an invasion of the sewers has happened. In previous raids, police, have pepper-sprayed, beaten with batons and shot the youths with metal marbles fired from slingshots. However, police deny any acts of brutailty.

Murdock and his police team claim that the cause for their raids are the multiple complaints (more than 30) that they've received about theft and robbery ever since the young men began living in the sewer system. And although they admit to stealing to live, they claim that the police are trying to get rid of them because they're LGBT.

“They are trying to pin something on us,” says Michael, who has the blonde hair in the photograph above. “Because I am gay and it’s not legalized in the country, they want to get rid of us."

Even the police department's statement about the raid carries a heavy homophobic message about their reasons for trying to rid the city of the youths.

 “The aim of this operation was to remove men of diverse sexual orientation who continue to plague the New Kingston are," said Murdock in a statement after the raid.

And the police aren't the only threat to the youths. As Davel, the man on the far left with the pink bag in the photograph, notes, his group of friends and comrades are vulnerable to attacks from anyone who would wish to do them harm because of their sexuality.

 “Here in the gully anyone can climb down at any time,” Davel said. “You are probably asleep and they come throw stones at your head, catch [you] on fire. Because that’s what Jamaica is for and all about with homosexuals.”

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The threat of such brazen violence is a bitter reality for many LGBT people on th island and in July the world got a devastating glimpse into the anti-gay attacks when Dwayne Jones, a "cross-dressing" 17-year-old teen from Paradise Rowe, was chased and "chopped and stabbed" to death by a mob after a man he was dancing with at a party discovered that he was biologically a male.

And the violence doesn't end there. In October, four homeless men were forced to flee the home they were occupying near St. James after a mob of 14 angry men attacked the house with firebombs. Between 2009 and 2012 alone, there were 231 reports of discrimination and violence against LGBT people in Jamaica.

“They’re out there because their communities are not at all interested in allowing them in being part of that space. They remain out there because we have a society that says, ‘Yes, they are second-class citizens and the state does not feel it needs to provide protection," said Dane Lewis, director of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG).

And though it's painfully clear that these youths are being driven out of society because of their sexuality, the additional problem is that they're left with little resources to find a safe space to call their own away from the threat of persecution and violence. Back in 2009, J-FLAG partnered with Jamaica AIDS Support for Life to set up a shelter for LGBT youth a short distance from the New Kingston sewer. However, due to a lack of funding, the difficulty in dealing with a large group of emotionally scarred teens, the apparent desertion of support for the youths from J-FLAG, the shelter eventually shut down in 2010.

Plans for a new shelter are being pushed by activists like Maurice Tomlinson, who filed a lawsuit to get an LGBT rights ad on TV, and McCalla Sobers, a 76-year-old former schoolteacher and founder of the anti-police brutality organization Families Against State Terrorism. The shelter is tentatively set to be called Dwayne's house in honor of Dwayne Jones. A fundraising campaign was launched this month and organizers expect that it will cost $150,000 to establish a shelter to house 50 youths and will cost a monthly $450 per resident to keep it running.

But with funding still up in the air and no concrete expectations on when or if the shelter will get off the ground, those LGBT youths are left to call the sewers their home and hope that they survive until the day where they have a safe space above ground where they can rest their head, feel safe and feel loved. 

“They just want to get rid of us … but we don’t have anywhere to go. We have to stay right there until something is done for us," said Michael.

One, or rather all of us, can hope that help will come soon enough for those youths and that a shellter will be made soon or that somehow somebody or some group will come to their rescue. But with what seems like an entire nation and culture of homophobia standing against them, it seems like a terrifying countdown until they suffer their own "Mutant Massacre" and the sewers of Jamaica become not only the lone safe haven for these young LGBT people, but also the gravesite for young people that should not have to unnecessarily suffer or die because of who they are.

One can hope that life doesn't imitate that dark and tragic art. One can hope.


Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

Posted on December 22, 2013 and filed under activism, sexuality, LGBT.

Let Jesus Walk (Part 2)


*I put a very challenging image into the universe two days ago to start a conversation not to shut down one.

Images are important to all of us.  This is part of the reason I believe in the power of art to change the world.  The fact is it already has.

The fact that the most reproduced image in history is a piece of art created in 1940 is testimony of that. Therefore, that piece of art not only has to bear accountability but also comes with a huge responsibility.  I believe that now that responsibility is ours: those of us who spread it, those of us who believe in it, and those of us who consume it...and there are consequences for us all.

The images we consume in media and art where the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Superman, John Wayne, Mel Gibson, or Sandra Bullock comes in to save the day are infinite.  This troubles the identity forming process for all: for those who always look like the savior and those who look like the ones who always need saving or defending against.  It impacts all of our religious, charitable, philanthropic, personal lives, and relationships.  It plays a role in shaping the way we see ourselves and the way we see others.  That is in essence what art does and why it is so powerful.

It is super hard for all of us to grapple with the fact that this is the reality...particularly if we are well meaning and good hearted.  But we must if we wish to change it.  The fight to rebel against this narrative belongs to all of us and it starts with acknowledging not only its existence but its deadly consequences.

If for those who believe that the First Century Palestinian Jew named Jesus is the Savior of the world...who was born to be a liberator, a healer, a revolutionary, and the one who is to reconcile relationships between all of humanity and God, then the way the teachings, message, and images of him are understood, spread, and interpreted...and the consequences of all of the above have to be taken seriously.

If Jesus is the savior of the world and IF human beings must see images of Jesus to truly worship him and IF who he was/is does not have to match a fixed point on a historical timeline AND therefore we are allowed to create images in a way that help us relate to make him personal for make him the embodiment of our hopes and make him one's personal savior, then Sallman's Head of Christ may, in all fairness, may be one of those images.

But IF all of the above exist, then it can't be the only one.  The fact is that Sallman's rendition is an imaginative, historically inaccurate, personally suiting, reflection of Jesus from the perspective of the artist. Since this is true, then there can (and always have been) others...and the others should not be seen as any less valid.  The problem is that in a context of Western dominated, classist, patriarchal world, this is a tough sell...and they are hard to seen as anything but "alternatives".  Although they were all created by artists just like Sallman, they are often hard to be taken (by people who they are created in the image of or by others) as legitimate options.  (Selah)

But nevertheless they do exist.  Folks who understand Christ as the "suffering servant" of varying ethnic and gender groups have created images of Christ in (maybe/maybe not) the same way Sallman did.

Just like those of us -all of us who are committed to justice have reached across the aisle to break down segregation and have done everything in our power to erase hate and love our neighbor as ourselves we can continue to do so.  Let us challenge ourselves to do just that.

None of these images are sacred simply because they were created.  The only thing sacred about any of them is what or who they point us to.  What is your image of Jesus?  What/Who is it pointing you to?  

Your ideal?   

A transcendent, resurrected savior?  

The suffering in the world? 
The people you most need to be reconciled to?
Does it call you to action...or does it make you complacent?

When you look at it, does it make you want to love more?  Does it make you want to fight against injustice? Does it make you forgive?

Whatever it is, let it be a choice...a conscious choice...a well thought out conscious choice...even if you decide that it is better to not have one at all.

...and may it lead to all of our collective liberation.


Carlton Mackey

Creator of 50 Shades of Black
Exploring Sexuality & Skin Tone in the Formation of Identity

Questioning: Black Transexuals & Intersex People

Michael Quattlebaum Jr., better known by hir stage name Mykki Blanco, is an American rapper, performance artist, and poet.

Michael Quattlebaum Jr., better known by hir stage name Mykki Blanco, is an American rapper, performance artist, and poet.

If one is attracted to intersex or transexual people, they are not technically bisexual. They classify as pansexual. Identity, is something that the individual has to adopt and communicate. 

In the video above are clips from the Underground Black Gay Ballroom Scene, of which there have been a growing number of participants since the 1970's. The Latex Ball in New York City is still the largest ball and attracts international participants who identify as straight from Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. In short, people come from all over to imitate the black boys who showed acts like Madonna how to "Vogue"    

This niche culture has been participating in the main stream for decades, and it is understandable that they've peaked some of the macho interests of even a traditionally homophobic culture like Hip Hop. Some weeks ago, a legendary Hip Hop DJ and producer of acts like Notorious B.I.G. and Big Daddy Kane named Mister Cee was profiled on New York's Hot 97FM radio station after being charged with engaging illegal prostitution in his home state. Because sexuality is something that can, but will not necessarily evolve, the acronym LGBTQ is the best representation of categories, and stands for (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Question). The tears and nerves of Mister Cee coming out as "Questioning" his sexuality are real events.

Shortly after the interview with Mister Cee Melissa Harris-Perry’s “Open Letter” went out to Hot 97 Program Director Ebro Darden, who refused to accept the resignation of Mister Cee, a DJ at the radio station who admitted to sex with transgender women. She says, “Mr. Darden, when you intervened this week, you helped to interrupt this practice. For a moment you made room to question this automatic reaction. A reaction that has life and death consequences for transwomen.”

Today the face of Hip Hop culture is changing as the raps represent the newest minority compelling tolerance from their minority peers. I'm not sure if Mister Cee can or will ever identify as pansexual, but perhaps Hip Hop can be the genre of the extreme minority for yet another generation. 

Azealia Banks - 212

Mykki Blanco - Wavvy

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


Posted on December 4, 2013 and filed under sexuality, Masculinity, Identity.

Gay is NOT the new Black

gay is not the new black2.jpg

Gay is NOT not the new Black.

The term "black" is now trivialized in popular culture, and all are influenced by it. In 20th century marketing, The New Black and the Old One are all synonymous with “The Cool”. One could assume, therefore, that all black people are cool or that we have some inherent rhythm that compels the non-black community to adopt us as a trend. It’s not true. Fads come and go, but "minorities" (or minority status) tends to remain. Historically, there has always been a recognizable minority, but the cool will always come from the majority’s interpretation of the minority’s current events.

Small things are cute. Ironically, The Cool is not. It’s contrarian and controversial and cultish. It's like turning the word bad into a good concept or using instruments from the structure of a symphony to create an improvisational music genre. Minorities (black folks) are ironically The Cool because of our inability to pervade a society even in their best Pop effort. Those in the demographic majority are keen to differentiate themselves via a minority, so much so that pieces of the minority can be identified as the poplar majority...for a short time.


Gay is NOT the new Black.

Still, I’m reminded of America: the low cut leather shirt, the pants, men's high heels, silk, jerry-curls, and the prominence of closeted style homophobia of the 1980s. Twas the age after Blaxploitation, and satire like Im Gonna Get You Sucka poked fun at what we used to be. Words like sucka were bad words in my house hold, and “nigger” was the worst word anyone could speak; although when my uncles came around I heard “niggas” and “motherfuckers” thrown around frequently. The most fascinating thing about the curses that I’ve written over the past 282 words is that none of them have a red-underline as misspellings in my 2013 Microsoft Word. At some point clichés and things once considered taboo dilute into the broader culture and are no longer The Cool.  They morph into the standard. Black, however, will likely be the new black for a long time to come, because it’s an economic minority.


Gay is NOT the new Black.

I’ve never been shocked at how my identity plays into the emotional and rational responses of my derogatory culture. My race was given to me before a time that I remember, so to hear the word nigger from someone who doesn’t identify as black has always been offensive.  On the other hand, my sexuality is much more interesting (to me).  It hasn't been a fixed point like my race. It evolves. I grew into my current sexuality, as we all have to. In the 1980's per my memory, gay people didn't exist, and fag wasn't a slang or curse that was used by my parents and uncles (like motherfucker and nigga). Although I was the type of guy whose parents had no clue about his sexuality until I told them, I’ve never identified as a faggot, and still don’t. But prior to my living OUT, the word didn’t bother me much either. Today, as a sexual minority, I'm beyond offended. Time creates all wounds.

Gay is NOT the new Black.

Because its not necessary for a member of a majority to ever identify as “other” I spent about 18 years before considering identifying as straight or gay or bi or eventually pansexual. Without any identity, I didn’t have to own the negative connotations of any broad sexual group as I did with my broad ethnic group. Consistently, with that understanding, I used to think Eddie Murphy’s Delirious was the funniest stand up of all-time. It aligned with who my generation (another group I fit into) looked up to and the brand of vulgarity with which we align. Some 30 years later as Eddie says that he has no problem with Gay people at the end of his faggot skit, it leaves me with a straight face, pun intended.

I've internalized the queer cause; whereas, I hadn't years ago. At the same time, Chris Rock’s portrayal of black people vs niggers is not at all offensive. The difference is that Chris identifies as Black, but Eddie doesn’t identify as Gay or Bi, regardless of his rumors.

Gay is NOT the new Black.

Because minorities are defamed by their majority counterpart, each subcategory is further degraded. This manifests as ironic, because the conservative group seeking to slander its minority is also fighting a relatively progressive cause against its majority; reference African-Americans against progressive LGBT issues.

As individuals discover and develop their identity, they also discover and begin to own all of the flattering and defamatory connotations that come along with that identity. Pride is a trait of the activist. Activism stems from a place of anger. After confronting the ugly reality of being a socio-economic outcast, progressive, black, gay, etc. we can accept how ugly we actually are in order to find the beauty of our reality. Jokes help, but our growth will never stem from alignment with our broadest demographic groups; it will only come from acknowledging our actual identity in all of its ugly niche splendor.

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


Posted on December 3, 2013 and filed under sexuality, personal stories, race, Identity.

Hip-Hop, Bitches, and the adage "Cock Sucker" Pt 1

Words are important. As an 80s baby, I find myself forever connected to Hip Hop, its culture, its faces, its raps, and it as an identity. I own it. We own it. It’s ours. We made it Pop after it was created by older brothers, sisters, and intersex people (recall Mr. Cee pioneering influence on hip-hop) .

On J. Period’s Abstract Mix tape, Q-Tip (Abstract) called "Hip Hop ignorant; coming from an age of revolution both sexual and civil…an ignorant group looking to express itself used what they had – language over loops". While rapping is something that is done, Hip Hop is a bonafide culture far greater than rhymes over loops. 

Beyonce via ArtInFact Mag

Beyonce via ArtInFact Mag

Fast forward 30 years: the most influential black rapper of all time married the most famous black woman of our time. They flaunt their power by solidifying the word "Bitch" into our everyday language while ironically endorsing the fragrance of an openly gay man. [Jay-Z doesn't pop molly, he "rocks Tom Ford" and Beyonce is a "Bad Bitch" from the "H-Town".] This is nothing new, as their cultural forefathers propelled the use of nigga into our every day vernacular through Blaxploitation, R&B, and so many other cultural strong holds. It all originated from and manifests itself in the most modest of social interaction: our neighborhoods, out friends, and our families.

Transgender Male via Z107.9

Transgender Male via Z107.9

Culture is personal: So, I think about the so-called "niggers and bitches" I encounter in my life. I’m reminded of a group white tranny kid’s -powdered white faces, red lipstick, and black leather kufi to match their black leather jogging pants. I met these high teenagers one night at the Cafeteria Restaurant in New York City as they were calling each other “my-nigga” just before they invited me to sit with them in the 3AM line for an overpriced $25 plate of waffles and chicken. These "sort-of" boys, had horrible conversation, mostly about knife-fights and former lovers. One talked about his girlfriend getting lost in the club which shocked even me. A girlfriend!? The others gave me a one over and asked about sharing my taxi ride. They were aggressive like tiny dudes, because they were tiny dudes. They were also "bitchy", especially the mulatto kid who called himself “Queen B” after Beyonce. Mostly, they were bitchy about standing in line at 3AM after a night of dancing on MDMAs and other drugs. 

As a "Bitch", Beyonce would have to be glamorized like a Diva: a bitch that can get away with it...or plainly Bad in order to validate her inherent wretchedness: an unfortunate state. Unlike the popularized slang "ratchet" which misuses the name of  a mechanical hand-tool to suggest a person as being belligerent or ignorant. In Hip Hop and society our gender reality is such that even the woman who holds that "girls run the world" is deemed unfortunate for her uncontrollable gender status. Everything unrelated to a chauvinistic God-like hetero male figure is wretched. Cocksuckers and those who fantasize about fellatio are forever burdened by the fact that their deemed submissive acts, add them to the category of the inherently weak or wretched. While it’s unlikely that we’ll remove "bitch" from the cultural clichés of the day, it’s necessary to acknowledge it as a heuristic

Today I was invited to a group on LinkedIn called Reaching Out MBA for LGBTQ people with Masters of Business Administration degrees. For the unfamiliar, MBA’s are the most formidable and ambitious people with training on the planet, they hold more offices of power than any other discipline. These are not the punks of their generations and cultures. They may even be sociopathic cannibals. Luckily society has Jurist Doctorates to curb their enthusiasm.

In the United States, the formal tolerance of homosexuals at the Supreme Court after its DOMA and Porp8 decisions is actively changing the perception of women’s inherent weakness. While tolerance is a desirable first step for civil rights wins, acceptance is the end goal. We are different; and actively recognizing our individuality as it's own niche. Further it brings into question all of the ignorant language of machismo that Negro culture’s spawn shoots from the hip. Hopping from man to woman to other is still considered a scandalous act, but it’s an acknowledged and accepted reality of the feminine sexual prowess in 2013, even the black and effeminate. What will happen when we live in a post tolerance world that actually accepts the ideal that feminine and effeminate people who have a preference for fellatio aren’t actually bitchy, but formidable. I suspect, nothing much. 


Jimmy II Sticks
writer, cultural critic, special contributor to 50 Shades of Black
Creator of Moral PromiscuityMemoirs of a Black Polyamorous Bisexual Man

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

Posted on November 30, 2013 and filed under music, sexuality, feminism, Masculinity.

Sexuality & Skin Tone: 28 Years of LL Cool J's Radio

28 years ago almost to the day (November 18,1985), LL Cool J released his first studio album RADIO
...and has been at the center of conversations about (sex)uality and skin tone every since.

Tomorrow 50 Shades of Black presents a concept photo shoot (with a twist) inspired by the light skinned, lip-licking legend himself. the meantime Download the Free 50 SHADES OF BLACK MUSIC Mixtape
feat music from LL Cool J to Lord Invader!  TELL A FRIEND

Photography by Carlton Mackey   Make up by Chevon Dominique   Styling by Kari Mackey

Photography by Carlton Mackey
Make up by Chevon Dominique
Styling by Kari Mackey

Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under art, fashion, music, sexuality, skin tone.

Introduction - Jimmy II Sticks

I've yet to meet a black or white person in my travels and I get around, as they all say. For that reason I'm looking forward to exploring the many similarities we all have in recognizing our stark differences. Greetings beautiful brown faced people of the world!

around <6> by Moms

around <6> by Moms

I publish as much of my life as possible while living for a living and rarely the moment(s). Jimmy II Sticks is not an alias. It’s the nickname given to me as a young James by my grandmother and again by my step-father, for which I'm still known. I'm the second one. Detroit stand up...LOL. I loved growing up in Detroit surrounded by black folk, and as soon as I got out I realized how much I despised it. Now I'm participating in its restructuring from a far.

Daniel Arzola 2013

Daniel Arzola 2013

I'm an engineer, published author, ethnographer of technology, and frequent traveler...just a regular dude most days. While many umbrella terms define me, I identify as African-American pansexual polyamorous and male.

  1. My race is not a choice, its deterministic, although when I got my genome sequenced by Harvard's personal genome project I realized that I'm actually much less African than I am native America and Nordic ethnicities.
  2. My orientation is not a choice, I've always known that i was different since about age 5, but my preference grew in adolescence to girls, guys, and intersex. In adulthood I had a few hundred partners collaborate on my orientation.
  3. My relationship structure is not monogamous, because its not realistic for me. I understand that this isn't suitable for everyone, nor do I think it should be. I don't think monogamy is synonymous with commitment.
  4. Lastly, my gender is a choice. Because of the technology available to humans I could be anything I feel like being in this century, and I feel like a dude able to fall in love with plenty of other types of people.

For these reason I cannot be rigidly straight, or gay, or even bisexual. Redundantly,  they suggest that there are only two gender types. All of my posts will be presented from my identity perspective; I promise not to ever try and present anyone else's.

Jimmy Apple Seed  

Jimmy Apple Seed

Leading Authors Discuss Colorism and Impact on Global Society


*Why should we be concerned about colorism in 2013?
*How is it impacting our lives and our progress today?
*What are some of the ways that colorism intersects with racism and sexism?
*Why is it urgent that we address colorism, in the midst of "The Browning of America"? 
*What are the solutions? What can we do as individuals? And as a community?


Dr. Yaba Blay: (1) Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race


 Dr. Yaba Blay is a professor, producer, and publisher. As a researcher and ethnographer, she uses personal and social narratives to disrupt fundamental assumptions about cultures and identities. As a cultural worker and producer, she uses images to inform consciousness, incite dialogue, and inspire others into action and transformation

While her broader research interests are related to Africana cultural aesthetics and aesthetic practices, and global Black popular culture, Dr. Blay’s specific research interests lie within global Black identities and the politics of embodiment, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics.  Her 2007 dissertation, Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Politics of Skin Color in Ghana, relies upon African-centered and African feminist methodologies to investigate the social practice of skin bleaching in Ghana; and her ethnographic case study of skin color and identity in New Orleans entitled “Pretty Color and Good Hair” is featured as a chapter in the anthology Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities.

One of today’s leading voices on colorism and global skin color politics, Dr. Yaba Blay is the author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and artistic director of the (1)ne Drop project. In (1)ne Drop, she explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics and Black racial identity, and challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality. In 2012, she served as a Consulting Producer for CNN Black in America – “Who is Black in America?” – a television documentary inspired by the scope of her (1)ne Drop project. In addition to her production work for CNN, Dr. Blay is producing a transmedia film project focused on the global practice of skin bleaching (with director Terence Nance).

Dr. Blay received her BA in Psychology (Cum Laude) from Salisbury State University, M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of New Orleans, and M.A. and Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University with a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. She is currently co-Director and Assistant Teaching Professor of Africana Studies at Drexel University. Dr. Blay is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of BLACKprint Press.

Carlton Mackey:  50 Shades of Black

@ carltonmackey @50shadesblack

Carlton Mackey is a visual artist and Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics.

50 Shades of Black is committed to exploring the complex relationship between race, skin tone, sexuality, and the formation of self-identity. Through collaborations with visual artists, scholars and the general public, this project hopes to offer a deeper understanding of what diversity means. It is in the recognition of this diversity that 50 Shades of Black acknowledges the historical role that race and skin tone have played in shaping the way we engage the world, how we perceive beauty, and our own self worth.

Marcia Alesan Dawkins: Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity


Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Ph.D. is a technology-loving, diversity-oriented intellectual entrepreneur from New York City and communication professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles.

An award-winning author, speaker, and educator, Dawkins -- known to "tweeps" as @drdawkins09 -- is a leading authority on how diversity, technology and creative storytelling are changing everything.

Her expert opinion has been sought out by Google, NPR, WABC-TV, TIME Magazine, The New York Times, HuffPo Live, The Leadership Alliance, The Mayo Clinic, The Nashville Public Library Foundation and The Public Relations Society of America.

Her first book, Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, was released in August 2012 to rave reviews. Most notable among these is Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, who remarked, "Clearly Invisible is a thought-provoking analysis... that challenges the way we view race and culture in our society." Dawkins's second book, Eminem: The Real Slim Shady, is now available and nominated for the 2013 USA Best Book Award.

Dawkins has received grants and awards from organizations such as the National Communication Association, the Eastern Communication Association, the Irvine Foundation, the California State University and Google Project Glass. She has been recognized by the University of Southern California for outstanding teaching and mentoring. In addition, she has been awarded residencies and fellowships from Brown University, Vanderbilt University Law School, New York University, Villanova University and the USC Graduate School Office of the Provost.

Dawkins holds a doctorate in communication from USC Annenberg, master's degrees in humanities from USC and NYU and bachelor's degrees in communication arts and honors from Villanova.

Lakesia D. Johnson, JD, PhD
Grinnell College Department of  Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies and English

Lakesia D. Johnson has a law degree, M.A. and Ph.D. in Women's Studies from The Ohio State University. Her areas of teaching and research include visual and narrative culture, Black women's studies, Chicana feminist theory, critical race theory and feminist legal theory. Her essay, "Othermothers, Amazons and Strategies of Leadership in the Public and Private Spheres" is featured in Black Womanist Leadership: Tracing the Motherline (SUNY Press 2011) edited by Toni C. King and S. Alease Ferguson. Her book Iconic: Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman was published in August by Baylor University Press.

Book:  ICONIC: Decoding the Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman
When Lakesia D. Johnson set out to write her book – ICONIC: Decoding the Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman – she had two primary goals in mind: to explore how representations of strong, revolutionary black women within pop culture are used to reinforce mostly negative stereotypes about black women and to trace the numerous ways that African American women activists, actors, writers, and musicians have negotiated, confronted and resisted stereotypical representations of black womanhood by taking control of their public images and constructing iconic depictions of and narratives about African American womanhood.  

One image that has circulated the Internet for months was the mugshot of recording artist Lauryn Hill. Once viewed as a strong, independent, extremely successful pop cultural figure, one which extended beyond the boundaries of her music, Lauryn is now depicted through this very photograph as an unhappy, sad woman.  And in many respects, it might be easy for some who view the picture to categorize her blank, empty stare as typical of the "angry black woman."  Johnson is able to discuss this present-day image of Lauryn Hill, what it means to her musical legacy and how it may or may not change the scope of how she is viewed today as a once iconic black woman figure. 

Further, Johnson can focus on how ICONIC chronicles how strong black women, from the past to the present, have taken control of their own imaging despite consistent negative characterizations.  Through their speech, demeanor, fashion, social relationships and historical contributions, women from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama have counteracted these negative depictions.  With ingenuity, fortitude and focus on the greater good, these women transformed the cultural images of themselves and, simultaneously, those of American black women as a whole.

Sophia A. Nelson, Esq 
Author. Columnist. Political Pundit. Speaker. 

Book Title: "Black Woman Redefined - Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama"

Sophia A. Nelson, Esq.  is “redefining” the rules for 21st Century living and success. She is the author of the award winning book “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama” (May 2011). 

Sophia A. Nelson writes a national lifestyle & political column for Newsweek/Daily Beast, and does various opinion columns for Huffington Post Healthy Living, Black Voices & Women.  She also writes for NBC's theGrio , and is a contributor to MSNBC, Essence Magazine, USATODAY and NPR. You can watch Sophia regularly as a noted political pundit & social commentator on MSNBC & TVOne's Washington Watch with Roland S. Martin. Her second book "The WOMAN CODE" is due out in late 2014. You can learn more about her on

Black Woman Redefined was inspired in part by what Nelson calls “open season on accomplished black women,” which reached a tipping point in 2007 when Don Imus referred to black female Rutger’s University basketball co-eds as “nappy-headed hos.” Since then, we’ve seen First Lady Michelle Obama caricatured on the infamous New Yorkercover, when she was called “angry” and “unpatriotic”; the 2009 groundbreaking Yale University Study on professional black women titled, “Marriage Eludes High-Achieving Black Women”; ABC’s “Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” and the Internet video that went viral, “Black Marriage Negotiations,” featuring a successful black woman interviewing a nice black man to be her mate in a robotic, controlling, emasculating, Bible-thumping demeanor. 

More recently, we were subjected to the 2011 Super Bowl commercial that started a national firestorm featuring an “angry black woman” throwing a soda can at her mate, after first kicking, slapping, and emasculating him.  Nelson says black women are tired of such depictions that portray them as manless, childless, angry, and unfulfilled. Nelson sets out to change this cultural perception, taking readers on a no-holds-barred journey into the hearts and minds of accomplished black women to reveal truths, tribulations, and insights like never before.  She says it is time for a REDEFINITIONamong black women in America.

TaRessa Stovall: Other People’s Skin: Four Novellas


TaRessa Stovall is an author/blogger/identity activist committed to honesty, healing and progress. She co-edited and contributed to the anthology, Other People’s Skin,crafted with fellow sister-authors Tracy Price-Thompson, Desiree Cooper and Elizabeth Atkins to explore ways of healing the rifts between Black women caused by colorism and hairism.

Other People Skin, which kicked off the Sister for Sister Empowerment Series, was followed by My Blue Suede Shoes,four novellas exploring what lies behind and ways of healing from various forms of intimate violence/domestic abuse.

TaRessa, a native of Seattle and graduate of The Evergreen State College, co-authored the book A Love Supreme: Real-Life Stories of Black Love, which was featured on Oprah, and has authored, co-authored and/or co-edited (with Tracy Price-Thompson) several other works of fiction and non-fiction.

TaRessa blogs at


Ella Curry, President of  EDC Creations 
About Me:
Black Pearls Magazine Online-Founder
Black Authors Network Radio-Founder
Social Media Expert - Internet Publicist - Brand Strategist


TONIGHT, Nov. 22. 

Call in number:  (646) 200-0402

Listen here:



Meeting the Legendary Joyce Bryant (Part Two)

"Up to the debut of Joyce Bryant at the Aladdin black entertainer had ever performed at a Miami Beach hotel."-Ben Burns

"Up to the debut of Joyce Bryant at the Aladdin black entertainer had ever performed at a Miami Beach hotel."-Ben Burns


(READ Part 1)

“It is such an honor to meet you”.

A smile preceded her words.  But when she responded I realized that I was not prepared for the person I was about to encounter.

“Why, thank you so much.”  It was a simple phrase in part, but she spoke it with such power in her voice that I was taken aback.  When I admitted this to her toward the end of our visit, she responded, "What did you expect?"  Even in her 80's she refused to be defined by perceived limitations.  She would be understood on her own terms.  I know now that this approach was inevitably behind her rise to the spot light and her enigmatic existence since purposely leaving from in front of it.

Her words were immediately followed by a hot plate of food with a taste and smell so good that they still linger in my memory today (two weeks later).  I was sitting down for a meal with Joyce Bryant.


I raved and raved about the food.  I publically confessed that the only reason there was food still on the plate was because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

“Eat!  That’s what it’s there for!  You don’t have to sit up here trying to eat pretty on account of us.  Eat son.”  I smiled.  Everyone else laughed.  It was a laughter that suggested they knew very well that she would then and for the rest of our time together speak exactly what was on her mind.

“You cook?”

I paused.

“Obviously, not very well if you have to take that long to think about it”.  The same laughter ensued.  This time I was prepared for it.  I felt like part of the family.

“I know my way around the kitchen; let’s just say that.”  I was curbing my comments knowing that I was in the presence of the person, her niece Robyn, who invited me…an organic chef who had prepared meals for Aunt Joyce and A-listers for years.

“What is one of your best dishes?” she asked.  I told her about my new favorite kale dish and my honey Dijon mustard, pecan encrusted salmon.  She was affirming but not overly impressed.

I gobbled down the rest of my food and played friskily with Jazz, the adorable Rottweiler puppy that had been weaving between our feet.  When Aunt Joyce finished her food we picked up the conversation and followed it wherever it lead.  Like kids running down a trail in the woods for the first time there was both the mystery of the unknown but the confidence that the trail would be safe -the grass beaten down before us signaling that others have been this way before.

We talked about race relations in the American South.  When I told here I was in Atlanta now she asked if they were still lynching folks down there and if I felt safe.  When I said that I did (for the most part), she seemed to have a flash back to her days performing and touring in the south.  She lifted her head and peered off in to the distance commenting that they’d lynch you in a heartbeat back in the day.

joyce bryant beautiful dark skin.JPG

I stared at her beautiful skin.  It was dark and smooth.  There were no wrinkles in sight.  When I asked her what her secret was, she invited me to touch it.  It felt like her voice sounded.   She asked to touch mine.  I leaned in closer and she touched my face –forehead then cheeks.  She told me some ‘beauty secrets’ and warned about keeping it moist.  The advice was followed by a very interesting conversation about dark skin wrinkling less than light skin.

With a sudden turn on the trail, we ended up somewhere that totally caught me by surprise.  What seemed like out of the blue she commented on my voice and asked me if I could sing.  Like earlier when she asked me about my cooking, I paused.

“Oooh, I guess not.  Here you go taking forever to think about your answer,” she responded.  Everyone erupted with laughter…again.  I told her that I could definitely hold a tune and that I was raised in the Baptist church.  She knew exactly what I meant by that.  The moments that followed will forever be etched in my memory.

"I think as a group, entertainers should fight Jim Crow because as individuals we can't break it down."-Joyce Bryant

"I think as a group, entertainers should fight Jim Crow because as individuals we can't break it down."-Joyce Bryant

“It’s all in your breathing,” she said as she sat straight up in her chair.  For the next 15 minutes, Joyce Bryant coached me on how to breathe.  It was a lesson that surpassed any expectations that I had of my visit.  It was a lesson with meaning that stretched far beyond any implications on bettering my vocal ability.  It was a lesson about centering.  It was about being present.  It was about being fully present.  It was a lesson about being whole.  As we sat exhaling and inhaling together, I felt connected to myself and to a woman who I had just met for the first time –a woman who as I was seeking so hard to know more about, so many before me seemed to have forgotten.

There at that dinner table, I was remembering how to breathe by someone who probably doesn’t have as many breaths in front of her as those she has already taken but insisted on teaching someone else while reminding herself to make each one count.

For that I’m forever grateful.  For that, I want to work harder to ensure that who she is, the breaths she has taken, the lives she has touched, and the breaths that she has helped others take more deeply are not forgotten.                                                    

It’s not every day you get to meet a legend.  Yesterday I did.  I’d like to introduce you to her.  Her name is Joyce Bryant.


-carlton mackey
Creator of 50 Shades of Black

**A Special Tribute and Exclusive Reflection by Joyce Bryant's Niece is featured in our Coffee Table Book, 50 Shades of Black Vol. 1! 


Posted on November 21, 2013 and filed under art, history, music, personal stories, sexuality, skin tone, race.

The 'Dear Dad,' Cast Talks Relationships Between Black Gay Men & Their Fathers on 'HuffPost Live'

Dear Dad - HuffPost Live Cover.jpg

+Since its inception, the Dear Dad documentary, which explores the relationships between black gay men and their fathers. has taken its cast to places in our lives that we’ve never known or dreamed. But last week the film took us all the way to HuffPost Live for an amazing panel discussion with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin about the lives and experiences of black gay men and how bettering our relationships with our fathers can better our entire community. 

n the interview, Dear Dad creator Chase Simmons explained how his relationship with black men overall was shaped by his relationship with his father, which ultimately helped to inspire his groundbreaking film.

“There was always a certain level of discomfort [with other black men]. I didn’t feel very connected a lot of times. I sort of felt “othered” and a little ostracized so that kind of stems from not feeling really close to him [my father] growing up a lot. And I think that just manifested and rolled as I became an adult,” Chase explained.

“I know that my relationship with my father not only shaped who I am, but also my relationships with men; Romantic relationships with other gay men and also with straight men as well,” added Yoli Akili, author of Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation & Empowerment For All of Us. “I really see that those early relationships really influence how we understand intimacy, how we are able to connect to vulnerability. Until we kind of do that emotional healing work with our fathers or at least address our relationships with our fathers, our primary caregivers, it’s really difficult to be in love with other men or be in relationships with other men.

Akili explains that part of the difficulty that gay men have in bonding with their fathers and other men comes from our the black community’s strict gender roles and the homophobia that plagues religion, especially Christianity, which is a cornerstone of the black community.

"Masculinity in America is very rigid itself," added Yolo Akili. "When you are African-American, because of the history of slavery and the history of race in this country, that is even more rigid. So when you come out as a queer person, there’s a way in which, historically, that is not connected to ‘blackness’ or 'black masculinity.’”

And as internet blogger Kevin Dwayne Nelson explains, cultural stigmas surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has historically been connected to the LGBT community, still influence the way that the black community views black gay men.

“I actually grew up in church, and I still am very much involved in church. Growing up, it was harder. It was being a black person but also I was born in the late ‘80s and so that’s when the AIDS stigma was really starting to push,” said Nelson. “I actually had an uncle who died from AIDS and I got to see at a young age how my family reacted to that. And not to step on anybody’s toes but they kind of rejected him. And I noticed that it was heavier in the black community because they didn’t understand it and they didn’t want to understand it. And then also in church there’s just this whole mentality that you just kind of ex-communicate it and move on.”

For Simmons, those issues are just of things he wants to tackle with the film. But on an even more personal level, he says that he simply wants to help not only himself, but other gay men to heal their psychological wounds and to heal their relationships with their fathers.

“I feel like it’s difficult to have emotional and difficult conversations when you’re not used to it and you’re not taught to do that growing up,” Simmons explained. “We had a lot of things going on in my household when I was growing up so there weren’t a lot of conversations, there wasn’t a lot of emotions exchanged. So as an adult, you just sort of end up doing the same thing and once you get to a point where you’re like, ‘something’s not right or I just don’t feel connected.’ Then you have to start doing the work and it’s really hard and it’s really uncomfortable,”

“I thought the main reason to make this film was to encourage people to heal or try to heal, and to reach out and to take that leap and attempt to try,” said Simmons.

All of the men certainly hit the nail on the head with all of their points and as a fellow cast member I’m proud of their message and hope that their words reached the black gay men who need a voice and an image to relate to. Hopefully, this film and all of our life stories can help other black gay men to, as Chase said, do the life work in dealing with our past, learning to be honest about our thoughts and feelings, despite society’s strict gender rules about men and emotions, and ultimately learning how to be vulnerable and better communicate with the men in our lives.

Watch the HuffPost Live interview here and watch Dear Dad below. 

Posted on October 28, 2013 and filed under activism, community, film, sexuality, race.

50 Shades of Black Announces Team of Photographers for 3rd Open Photo Shoot at Decatur Book Festival

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50 Shades of Black, the collaborative artistic and scholarly project exploring issues of race, sexuality, and identity, announces that it has been invited by the AJC Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the country, to be part of the inaugural art|DBF, an arts and culture showcase within the Decatur Book Festival. art|DBF recognizes that a vibrant, creative, and economically thriving community can be achieved by elevating the value and visibility of the arts. 

The Atlanta community is encouraged to join 50 Shades of Black on Saturday August 31st and Sunday September 1st 2013 on the Decatur Square.  The Exhibition Pavilion: Decatur’s entire MARTA plaza — the heart of the city — will be transformed into an exhibition, installation, demonstration, conversation, and performance space.  Here, 50 Shades of Black will host its 3rd Open Photo Shoot.  Participants will enjoy a free photo shoot courtesy of a diverse group of 5 local photographers including celebrated photographer and Inaugural Open Photo Shoot host Ross Oscar Knight. Participants will receive link to download a free copy of their photo, as well as have the photo considered for possible inclusion in upcoming 50 Shades of Black projects.

50 Shades of Black founder, Carlton Mackey also announces the Inaugural Open Photo Shoot of Typical American Families, a timely new project created to celebrate and affirm the changing face of the contemporary american family.  

About 50 Shades of Black

50 Shades of Black affirms the beauty found in all human beings while being committed to exploring the complex relationship between race, skin tone, sexuality, and the formation of self-identity. Through collaborations with visual artists, scholars and the general public, this project hopes to offer a deeper understanding of and appreciation for what diversity means.  Mackey and other featured artists and writers of the coffee table book 50 Shades of Black: The Conversation will be on hand to sign copies.   

For More Information please visit

About Typical American Families

Typical American Families –a fresh new look at American families was created to celebrate and affirm the changing face of the contemporary American family. Its mission: To demystify and remove both the 'exoticism' and assumptions that are associated with being a (quote/unquote) 'non-traditional' american family.  Typical American Families is also as much about re-imagining some of our narrowly held, normative understandings of what a family can be and what one should look like. 

For More Information please visit

50 Shades of Black and Typical American Families were founded by Carlton Mackey, visual artist and Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics.


Carlton Mackey


What are we so happy about? (Team of Photographers for the 3rd Open Shoot of 50 Shades of Black at Decatur Book Festival)

What are we so happy about? (Team of Photographers for the 3rd Open Shoot of 50 Shades of Black at Decatur Book Festival)

Elaine Oyzon-Mast - 

Breonca Trofort - 

Munir Meghjani - Paradoxical Photography

Mechal Roe - 

Jeremiah Ojo - 

Ross Oscar Knight - 


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Believe that you are beautiful...and live your life in such a way that when others are around you they are convinced they are too.

-Carlton Mackey
Creator of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on August 19, 2013 and filed under skin tone, sexuality, race.