Posts filed under LGBT

The New Morlocks Part II: Jamaica Allows LGBT Youth Refuge In Its Sewer Systems

Original Image courtesy of BuzzFeed

Original Image courtesy of BuzzFeed

It was only a few shorts months ago back in December when reports initially hit the global scene detailing the tragic reality that many of New Kingston, Jamaica’s LGBT youth were living in the city’s sewer systems after being kicked out of their homes and discarded by their communities.

Making matters even more grim was the fact that the homeless youths were being routinely arrested and harassed by the police as well as angry homophobic mobs, who could attack them at any time.

Now, after months of raids and attacks, a Kingston court has ruled that youths can legally stay in the sewer systems.

Activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, who is chair of the planned LGBT shelter Dwayne’s House, gave an account to 76crimes.com and explained that the last raid occurred, ironically, on March 5, Ash Wednesday, when New Kingston police entered the sewers and demanded that the youth leave. The youth, however, refused and some put up a struggle as they simply had nowhere else to go. Some of the youth were arrested for resisting eviction and some were even charged for using swear words, which is illegal in Jamaica.

Police had previously gone so far as to try and burn the youth out of the sewers and had even run them out of the abandoned buildings they were occupying when they weren't in the sewers. Police have now completely torn those abandoned buildings down to stop any chance of the youths coming back. Sadly, that's also helped to keep the youths in a permanent state of homelessness. 

When the youths appeared in court two days later, a judge fined them for their “calumnious language.” However the judge also advised the police that the sewers are a public space and therefore the youths have a right to reside there.

Dwayne’s House paid the small fines for the youths, and in what could only be described as an utterly bizarre and tragic victory, the youths have now returned to the sewers with the hope that they will be left alone by police.

As I wrote in my original article on this matter, this scenario frighteningly mirrors the plight of the fictional X-Universe group The Morlocks, a bizarre, unique and discarded group of mutants who lived in the sewers of Manhattan because they didn't fit in with either humans or human-looking mutants.

Like these youths in Jamaica, The Morlocks were constantly criticized and discriminated against when they walked into the light with the rest of the world and even when they stayed underground in the sewers, they were susceptible to attacks from anti-mutant groups. Sadly, in the X-Men comics, help came to late for the The Morlocks and their group was brutally massacred in their sewer home by, of all things, a group of mercenary mutants. 

It’s mind blowing that in the real world a group of young men and women are so oppressed and unwanted by their community that the main issue surrounding the governments response to them isn’t how they can be aided before even more disastser strikes or how to  change th mindsets of citizens to allow for a society that values human life over judgment and irrational hate, instead it's how and where the powers that be in New Kingston can dump these youths off and relieve themselves of responsibility in the matter. 

The shining light in the matter is the tenacity and resilience of these youths to stay alive as well as the efforts of a activists like those at Dwayne's House who are trying to create a safe space in Jamaica for these youths and advocate for their rights and their existence.

I just hope that life doesn't imitate art first and that these youths don't end up massacred and forgottten before real help arrives.

If you'd like information on how to donate to Dwayne's House you can check out their website here.

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 March 18, 2014 and filed under activism, current events, Homophobia, LGBT.

Atlanta Fans Pack The 'Dear Dad' Premiere Film Screening

Patrick Saunders/The GA Voice

Patrick Saunders/The GA Voice

The "Dear Dad: Letters From SGL Men" premiere screening was everything we expected and more as Atlanta fans poured into the Emory Center For Ethics on Wednesday night to watch the film with creator Chase Simmons and 50 Shades of BLACK creator Carlton Mackey.

Over the course of an hour and a half, more than 100 audience members crowded into a lecture hall and watched as the eight black gay Atlanta men poured their hearts, minds and tears into confessional interviews and, of course, deeply personal letters to their fathers about their relationships and how it strengthened them, hurt them and ultimately shaped them as adult men.

Throughout the film, the audience could be heard laughing and whispering with intrigue and emotion at the storis playing out on the screen, sharing in the intimate, comical and sometimes heartwrenching moments of film until the very last credit rolled.

But the real magic happened during the following Q&A, which featured cast members Gee Session-Smalls, Kevin Dwayne Nelson, Chris Barker, Marcus J.W. Borders, Jon Diggs and myself, Nicholas Harbor. The cast shared both sweet and bitter updates on the state of their relationships with their fathers, such as Nelson and Smalls, who discussed making peace with their journeys now that their fathers have passed on. Barker and Simmons also opened up to the crowd about continuing to work to better their strained relationships with their fathers.

Many of the men in the audience personally related to the cast's stories and offered up their own struggles to change and strengthen their relationships with their parents. But if a tangible example of hope was needed, it certainly seemed to come forth when the fathers of both Borders and myself stood up and announced themselves to the crowd as they showed their support for their sons and shared some poignant, comical and touching words for the crowd.

By the end of it all, little else could be seen other than smiles sailing across the room as the cast, their families and audience members all mingled and bonded over what could only be described as a night where we not only celebrated eight brave men who decided to come out, but a tribe of people who decided to come together in unity and love.

If you couldn't make it to the premiere, don't fret too much. Simmons announced that "Dear Dad" is being submitted to film festivals, and there are plans in the works for future screenings in Atlanta, Tennessee and other states.

And if you want to see a bit of Wednesday night's magic, check out photos from the screening courtesy of Patrick Saunders of The GA Voice 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

'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

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

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

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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.

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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

 

@JFKII
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

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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.

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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.

 

 

@JFKII
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

*****EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER*****

Hello:
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

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

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 http://www.50shadesofblack.com/

and
**FEATURING**
Zai Air - Emory's own Davion Ziere
https://soundcloud.com/zai_air

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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.

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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

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

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

Say Hello to Maya Leroux: 50 Shades of Black Welcomes New Blogger

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Born May 7th 1982 in South East Washington DC, Maya has always had a knack for visual arts, music, writing and community organizing mainly centered around overall wellness of Lesbians and women of color. Since then she has served as a board member on two lesbian based non-profit organizations and is currently working on the publication of her first book. She also previously owned a small business geared to putting women back into the workforce as well as a small photography business that focused on giving visibility to lesbians and their family elements as she saw them as being lost, forgotten and wrongly perceived in society as a collective whole.

Although Maya is her birth name LeRoux is a name that she has taken upon herself to represent her and the person that she feels that she has involved into. LeRoux is a French originated name whose soul urge number 5 states that those with this name are “dynamic, intelligent, visionaries who are versatile and able to make constructive use of freedom while fighting not to be constricted and by rules and conventions” She ultimately hopes to inspire and uplift those who are in need of it and hopes to do that through the power of words and visual artistries. 

Tune in as she invites you to be a reader in every chapter of her life. Turn the page, bookmark and share with a friend. Words are meant to be shared and they never die even when the writer has moved on.

Bless. Maya LeRoux

Posted on January 15, 2014 and filed under blog, LGBT, personal stories.

Beauty Tells Lies To The Eyes of The Beholder

Beyonce - Pretty Hurts

Beyonce - Pretty Hurts

Once I heard “Oh I didn’t know that was your type”. I had to consider the possibility that I actually had a type: the type of person that I would date or even fall in love with for the rest of my life based on the last person I was seen attracted to in public. I’m a sort of tall, curly haired, very fair skinned guy, mixed with too many ethnicities to even try and claim one background, but my race as stated previously is: Black. I’m so fair skinned that I used to think my father was white. My sister and I couldn’t understand why he wanted to teach us about civil rights history when we were growing up in the 1980s. Seriously!

Insta-jokes via Instagram

Insta-jokes via Instagram

My whole life I’ve had some assumptions made about me. I’ve considered them advantages because of how other people reacted to “Jimmy, the light skinned(ed..ed) guy”. The jeri-curled pastor at a little church in Chicago called Little Mountain of Hope called it “favor”, as he stared with lusty eyes on my visiting mother standing in-between her dark skinned cousins who were lifetime members. Girl you and your kids are blessings, he said. People smile more, especially women. I’m more eligible when I am a bachelor. I’ve even heard people describe me, as “the light skinned pretty bastard”. With a long pause and laugh before the bastard. It’s like an acceptable amount of disgust, understood by all as something less than hate.

Well into my thirty’s it hasn’t stopped. Light skinned jokes on Instagram, tagged to me, even Zambian friends from my years living in Johannesburg who changed my name to Jamujay call me “Yellow” as a nickname from time to time. Their friends would introduce themselves and say “Jamujay, don’t fuck my girl”, with an LOL. I’m fine with it honestly, because there is no derogatory sentiment in the nickname or assumptions, specific to me. It’s hard to be offended when someone else is punched, right?  But I should be offended by the meaning that the assumptions hold for every dark skinned person.

insta-jokes via instagram

insta-jokes via instagram

My life experience suggests that beauty is in the eyes of the society, or rather beauty is a method and not simply an exploration of the beholder. Ugly is an awesome concept when I think about it. My closest friend and I used to dispel a sort of philosophy in college about what good-looking was and how to maximize ones potential, as the younger men would bring beer and sit around to hear us rant. We had a categorization the likes of a movie critic to establish differences between cute, pretty, beautiful, sexy, etc.

I typically dated the big-breast light skinned girls...and it was expected of me. It wasn’t forced and I was always attracted to them of course. I also liked the flat-chest, skinny, dark girls. In high school, my first was just like that. She was self conscious until I told her to just show off and that I like everything, the way she had it. Even the first girl I liked enough to steal a kiss from was a wide-eyed black girl from around the corner. It wasn’t sexual harassment in 1988.

As a bisexual, my type is pretty broad to begin with, but the socialization of what I should like combined with what I initially liked has rendered me type-less. I’m a stickler (no pun intended) for design, so lines and symmetry are important in my partner’s look, relative to me. My partners should look good with me as an accessory. Some people prefer other things. The boys just made it more complicated. My big-breast light-skinned former fiancé said to me once, “I just didn’t see you dating a skinny black man”. Projecting onto me: her tone was offended. I’m sure that she couldn’t see his beauty.

Ugly Betty w/ Bow Wow

Ugly Betty w/ Bow Wow

As I look around the LGBTQ community and consider what queer people think is beautiful or more importantly attractive, I’ve noticed a large number turn away from the norm. Skinny, Chubby, Black, Albino, Oblong, Squinty-Eyed, Wide Thigh, Effeminate, Egg Shaped, Straight Haired, Four Eyed, Bearded, boys & girls finding love in familiar places…

Men have it easy because they haven’t historically held a "beautiful" status in Western culture. Something as simple as a bath and a suit (any suit) goes a long way. Men’s attractiveness has structure; it has been taken away from their person and assigned to their stature or status or suit, even.

Feminine beauty is a seemingly cyclical business. Women, Lesbians, and Trans-people find themselves wearing their label under constant scrutiny: with immediate reactions of disgust for disapproval. Once I heard “Oh I didn’t know that was your type”, and I thought of my dark plump cousin Pooh and her girlfriend who looked like the full bodied video vixens of 2000s rap videos. Queer attractions range from narcissistic to gallant. Simply because we’ve accepted ourselves and are OUT as outcasts in a system of beauty, the love and relations are relatively uninhibited. I’ve been into a sex act with people who were given the label "beautiful" and the inhibitions surrounding beauty killed the potential for a good time. A woman who can’t mess up her hair, makes everyone frown...and grimace is always ugly.

WHAT LIES HAS BEAUTY TOLD TO YOU?  DID YOU BELIEVE THEM?

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NYE 2014.jpg

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

My life experience suggests that beauty is in the eyes of the society, or rather beauty is a method and not simply an exploration of the beholder.
Posted on January 8, 2014 and filed under personal stories, LGBT, Body Image.

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

Jamaican Gay Youth-001.jpg

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.

The Morlocks.jpg

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.”

Jamaican Gay Youth 2.jpg

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

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

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