18 December 2008

Disagreeing -- and feeling disagreable

Like many same-sexers, I'm none too pleased by the choice of the Rev Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at next month's inaugural. The President-Elect defended the choice today, saying

I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency. What I've also said is that it is important for American to come together even though we have disagreements on certain social issues. I would note that a couple of years ago, I was invited by Rick Warren's church to speak despite his wariness that I held contrary views.... that's what this campaign was about....We're not going to agree on very single issue...but what we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere that we can disagree and not be disagreeable....

Well, Okay Barack...but as my partner said this morning, there has to be a limit to all this "Team of Rivals" stuff. And let me be clear: I'm not only disapointed because of Warren's support for California's Proposition 8, but also because of his position against a woman's right to choose as well. If a minister had said "I don't believe black and white people should be able to get married" (and you know I'm not a fan of the "Gay=Black" formua) or, "I don't believe a woman has the right to control her own body" -- how 'agreeable' would we be toward someone with these views?

As The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder points out, some of us have been here before (Remember Donnie McClurkin?)....

One reason the Rick Warren thing is a big deal to gay rights activists is because, after their experience with President Bill Clinton, the gay community is unusually sensitive to getting the shorter angle of presidential triangulation....

Clinton was willing to say the word "gay" in public and appear in black tie at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, but, in the eyes of the gay political community, his commitment to gay rights vanished both times it counted most.

Relative to other minority groups, the LGBT community is disproportionately dependent on the goodwill of the president, because almost all of their big-ticket agenda items are federal laws (the military, DOMA repeal, hate crimes, ENDA, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, etc.). And relative to other minorities, gays still want and need basic reassurance that they are an ordinary part of American life and politics. So everyone is peering anxiously at Obama wondering if he is going to let them down like Clinton did.

Huffington Post offers differing views on 'What Now/What Next'

Lee Strnanahan: There's something bigger at play here and you can't say Obama didn't warn you. He talked about reaching out, about expanding our politics and that crazy bastard actually meant it. Nobody on the left or right quite knows what to make of it. We want to cram Obama into our old, divisive, two toned ideological and political frame and if he doesn't fit, we'll attack him too. Attacking is what we're used to doing.

Jon Hoadley: If we want to enact pro-equality policy and change, we need to take a page out of Harvey Milk's playbook: we have to give them hope. We need to say what we want, not just what we don't want.

Oh, well, I guess it's 'only a prayer.' And perhaps you'll get some goodwill cover for some of your more controversial choices that would upset the Right. At least the rest of the January 20th program looks like it will be great.

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band

Musical Selections
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA

Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin

Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
Itzhak Perlman, Violin
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
Gabriela Montero, Piano
Anthony McGill, Clarinet

Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama
By the Chief Justice of the United States
The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Inaugural Address
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Elizabeth Alexander

The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters”

17 December 2008

Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander

Dear President-Elect Obama:

Today's choice of Elizabeth Alexander as Inaugural Poet shows not only great poetic taste, but also that you read my blog as well Thank you, sir, I'm honored...(okay so I had Patricia Smith for Poet and Elizabeth for NEA Chair, but, still...).

And, uh, in case you were wondering, yes, I am available to join your team as either White House Poet in Residence, or IT Librarian of Congress....either/or, sir, not a problem: I'd love to say (a la The West Wing) "I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States"...

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Elzabeth Alexander

01 December 2008

World AIDS Day + 20

Can it really be 20 years we've been commemorating World AIDS Day? Sweet Heavens....

In honor of the day, and of the brave, openly gay men who marched in Haiti today (thanks Rod 2.0), I offer this excerpt from poet Kwame Dawes' work on AIDS in Jamaica, parts of which appeared in the Spring 2008 edition of Virginia Quarterly Review

...For Jamaicans survival has always been a delicate and necessary art of deflection. We hear about a murder and go through a series of questions. Where was the person killed? The farther away from where we live, the better. Did the person fight back? Because I would never do that. Did the person have a big car the killer may have wanted? Was it the middle of the night? And the list goes on. Eventually, we find a reason why what happened could not happen to us. That’s not me; that could never be me.

The same has been true for HIV/AIDS. As long as it was seen as a gay disease, heterosexuals could ignore the deaths. It could never happen to them. When news came that heterosexuals were dying as well, we came up with new questions. Did the person frequent prostitutes? Did he have sex abroad, or here with someone foreign? Was he promiscuous? Who exactly did she sleep with? Was it rough sex? Were they somehow perverse? Anything to keep the disease far away, to pretend it could never reach us. But I can no longer live this way. In the months I have spent traveling around the island, this other Jamaica, going to towns I have not visited in years, meeting and listening to countless people, I have made friends—and now I have to accept that HIV/AIDS is a part of my life. I know that in time, I will hear of someone’s passing. I will hear of someone’s succumbing to the illness. I now live with it as a constant presence, not something I can simply deflect. And, fortunately, it has not destroyed the humanity of the people I now call my friends, but rather it taught all of us something about the frailty of human life—and something of our capacity to find hope in the midst of such struggle.

I also want to join the call for President-Elect Obama to appoint an "AIDS Czar" to create a national strategy in the government's fight against the disease. Either of the names mentioned in the Bay Area Reporter article linked above would be great (Dr. Helene Gayle, or Jesse Milan Jr), although, I think appointing the married, openly gay, HIV+ Mr. Milan would be extraordinary and be a pronounced break with the past on many levels.

20 November 2008

Oh, The Times, they are a' Changin....

Judge Orders Five Detainees Freed From Guantánamo

In the first hearing on the government’s justification for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled Thursday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.

Longtime Head of House Energy Panel Is Ousted

Representative Henry A. Waxman of California ousted Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan from his post as chairman of the influential Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday, giving President-elect Barack Obama an advantage in his plans to promote efforts to combat global warming....

Besides seating a committed environmentalist as head of the energy committee, the vote also removes one of the auto industry’s best friends from a key leadership post — further evidence of how much power the American car-makers, whose executives have been pleading for federal money, have lost in Congress.

And here in B-town.....

Hopkins balks at Confederate banner
Changing course after 20 years, university tells groups it won't rent them space for January march

Every January, descendants of Confederate soldiers gather in Wyman Park to march under the banner of the Confederacy, sing "Dixie" and lay wreaths at the monument to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, legendary generals of the Confederate States of America.

And afterward, for 20 years now, everyone has gone across the street to the Johns Hopkins University for coffee and refreshments, with some of the 200 descendants and observers still wearing the uniforms of Confederate re-enactors and carrying the flag. But next year will be different.

Hopkins has informed the Maryland divisions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans that it will not rent space to them. The Jan. 17 event is scheduled for only a few days before the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president. The university received complaints after the march last January and says that it no longer wants to see the Confederate flag flying on campus....

(And in case you're wondering why Baltimore has the world's largest double equestrian statue, depicting two Honored Sons of the South, a bit of history: Maryland was a slave state, Baltimore was home to more than 2,000 slaves, and the city was quite the font of Southern Sympathy during 'The Late Unpleasantness', and the first blood of the war was shed here -- by a black man, Nikoles Biddle, of course....)

Now to decolonize some of the MINDS on campus at Hopkins, across the US and elsewhere...That will be some real change!

18 November 2008

Please, Please, Please

Congratulations to a real sweetheart, Jericho Brown, on the publication of his extraordinary and heartbreaking first collection, Please (New Issues Press). An interview with him recently appeared on the National Book Critics Circle blog, and IMHO he's right on the verge of 'blowing up' into a very well deserved major success.

Here's the opening poem, which originally appeared on Post Road:

Track 1: Lush Life
The woman with the microphone sings to hurt you,
To see you shake your head. The mic may as well
Be a leather belt. You drive to the center of town
To be whipped by a woman’s voice. You can’t tell
The difference between a leather belt and a lover’s
Tongue. A lover’s tongue might call you bitch,
A term of endearment where you come from, a kind
Of compliment preceded by the word sing
In certain nightclubs. A lush little tongue
You have: you can yell, Sing bitch, and, I love you,
With a shot of Patrón at the end of each phrase
From the same barstool every Saturday night, but you can’t
Remember your father’s leather belt without shaking
Your head. That’s what satisfies her, the woman
With the microphone. She does not mean to entertain
You, and neither do I. Speak to me in a lover’s tongue—
Call me your bitch, and I’ll sing the whole night long.

Run, don't walk, to your local bookseller and get this fine and moving book.

What's in Barack's Bookbag?

Hey! *I* was about to do the whole Oprah/Obama line -- and then the NYTimes steals it right from under me!

For Books, Is Obama New Oprah?

When President-elect Barack Obama appeared on “60 Minutes” on CBS on Sunday in his first interview since winning the election, he mentioned having read “a new book out about F .D. R.’s first 100 days” without specifically naming a title or author.

That tantalizing reference set off a scramble for the claim to First Reader rights all day Monday before a spokesman for Mr. Obama disclosed what the president-elect had actually read.

Perhaps we both, ur... 'borrowed' ... the idea from yesterday's "GalleyCat" blog:

Barack Obama can sell books. Yesterday, he admitted to reading two books about Franklin D. Roosevelt, (see below) sparking a major run at the bookstore.

And then there's this:

Yes We Can Sell Out First Printing: Obama Campaign Photo Book Is Pre-Sale Hit

Yes We Can: Barack Obama's History-Making Presidential Campaign, the book of Scout Tufankjian's campaign trail photos, is a pre-publication hit for powerHouse Books. The publisher reports that it has sold out the 55,000-copy first edition of the book nearly a month before its scheduled mid-December release date. A second printing of 25,000 copies has been ordered to arrive at the same time

And please don't forget to stop by the magazine rack on your way out of the bookstore...
Obamas Drive Magazine Sales

Mr. Obama’s status as a recurring cover star is thanks in part to the healthy sales that the Obamas bring in. Last week’s issue sold more than 1.1 million copies on the newsstand, and in June the issue with the Obamas on the cover sold about 900,000 copies. That is just about what the magazine sells when it puts its array of Hollywood celebrities on the cover.

The First Family could revive the publishing industry all by themselves. Who needs a bailout? Detroit should just put a photo of The Obamas on each new car!

BTW: If you want to understand why he's reading Alter's book, check this:

FDR was not a socialist as he is often portrayed today. To the contrary, he was a pragmatist fighting for the survival of free enterprise and individual rights against a rapidly growing populist movement towards socialism or fascism ...This book does a great job of reminding us what FDR faced and who he really was. We can only wonder if another FDR will be able to hold us together in the next downturn when a wave of hungry, destitute, ailing old baby boomers is clambering (and voting en masse!) for government help while the economy disintegrates around them hampered by a mountain of debt.

....Seems I've heard some of that before...

Here's what I remember of mentions of The Prez-Elect's recent reading:

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter

F D R by Jean Edward Smith

Selected Poems by Derek Walcott

Just Received:

State-By-State: A Panoramic Portrait of America by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (Hat Tip: Mark Savaras at The Elegant Variation)

and, of course, the book EVERY political pundit can't seem to stop referring to:

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Stop the H8 Baltimore Edition

Scenes from Baltimore's Stop the H8 rally, 15 November 2008

Catching up, and trying not to think about Certain People who have aggravated me recently, like the Senate Democrats on the Joe Lieberman issue (Shame! SHAME!!!), or Baltimore's own Cardinal James Francis Stafford and his astonishingly incendiary and idiotic anti-Obama remarks at my Library School Alma Mater, THE Catholic University of America (I need to be careful -- I might run into His Eminence on the street outside work!).

Ah well, at least it looks like one of my picks, Eric Holder, will be the new Attorney General, so all is not entirely wrong with the world today...

“We owe the American people a reckoning. It is our responsibility as citizens to preserve and protect our constitution… Let me be clear: I firmly believe that there is evil in the world, and that we still face grave dangers to our security. But our ability to lead the world in combatting these dangers depends not only on the strength of our military leadership but our moral leadership as well. … To recapture it, we can no longer allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. We must evaluate our policies and our practices in the harsh light of day and steel ourselves to face the world’s dangers in accord with the rule of law.” -- Eric Holder


Here are a few photos from Baltimore's "Stop the H8" rally last Saturday. Many thanks to Doug Rose, Mark Patro, and Steve Charing (BTW: if the photo is from a long distance away or fuzzy, like the ones above, then they're mine!)

Towleroad is gathering and posting a collection of photos from around the country.

Poet Emmanuel Xavier and actor Wilson Cruz (photo by Leo Toro)...okay so they were in New York, not Baltimore, but Emmanuel is a friend and as for the stunning Mr Cruz, well... a guy can can dream can't he? (Thanks Andres!)

Since the rally, I've been thinking a lot about Wanda Sykes. She took to the podium on Saturday in Las Vegas and took the opportunity to not only come out as a lesbian, but also as married. I was particularly struck by her saying this:

"You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn't feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life...Everybody that knows me personally, they know I'm gay. But that's the way people should be able to live their lives."

To my ear, that strikes me as the default "Black Position on Homosexuality." We don't care what you do, keep it quiet, live your live, and we'll leave you alone. It's how most black gay people live, I think -- within our communities, as opposed to in 'gay ghettos' like what The Castro, The Village, Boy's Town, or Dupont Circle used to be before being slowly gentrified out of existence by 'trendy' straights. We really don't tend to march or put on t-shirts or demand our les/bi/gay rights. The velvet closet of the black community suits us just fine.

Except when it doesn't:

Syracuse man was killed for being gay, police say

SYRACUSE, NY - Dwight R. DeLee shot and killed Moses "Teish" Cannon with a .22-caliber rifle Friday night because he didn't like that Cannon was openly gay, Syracuse police said.

Cannon's family accepted his sexual orientation. The Post-Standard reports "pictures of Cannon in women's clothing were on display in the family's living room, and the family selected one" for the newspaper to publish."

We can sit in the warm bubble bath of acquiescence all we like, but unless and until we come out, speak up, and stand up for ourselves in our homes, *in our churches*, and in 'da hood', crimes like this will continue to occur. Just as the election did not end racism, so, too, we are not in a 'post-gay' society.

A few other things about the rally: Like most over 30 people who went to these events I was struck by how young most people were. Fresh faced and full of excitement, a very welcome sight for those of us who are veterans of various Marches on Washington and other demonstrations. Everyone had either digital cameras or cell phones, so these were probably the most FaceBooked protests ever. And the first and loudest cheer from the crowd went up at the first mention of the name of our President Elect.

And I saw one person carrying a "Gay is the New Black" sign.

Now, this is not a new idea, as this article from 2003 attests, although it has been updated for our times. Over the course of time, and particularly in the fashion industry where the phrase originate, a lot of things have been "The New Black" (although there are those of us who will insist that Black is ALWAYS Black).

I have problems with this formulation (as a black gay person, does that mean that Half of me is the new Other Half of me?), and I confess I wimped out and didn't engage the person with the sign to ask what it meant (see my opening comments on why that may have been for the best!). So, I'll leave it to someone very much smarter than I am, Mendi Lewis Obadike, to break down why this particular phrase gives many of us pause:

Here are a few of the reasons why that slogan rankles me:

1.Queer people didn't start being gay or start having to fight injustice with the end of Jim Crow, nor with the election of a black president of the US. The struggle is old; "gay" is not "new".

2.Black people didn't stop being black or stop having to fight injustice with the end of Jim Crow, nor with the election of a black president of the US. The struggle continues; "black" is not "old".

3.Queer black people experience discrimination based on sexuality and race at the same time. The struggles are coterminous.

4.Who is the ideal audience for this sign?

(a) Queer black people? Probably not, since the slogan seems not to acknowledge that we exist.

(b) Straight black allies in the crowd? If so, what is the message? Your struggle is over? Seems like a strange way to strengthen alliances.

(c) Straight black people you imagine to be your enemies? Seems like a strange way to pull them in.

(d) Other people of color? Probably not, since, the slogan seems not to acknowledge any other races of people have had struggles or movements of any importance.

(e) Antiracist queer white people? Maybe, but don't anti-racists struggle to make our visions of community more complex instead of narrower?

(f) Queer white people who don't really think about race? Yes, to me it seems like the ideal audience for this sign is white queer people who want permission to think simply and narrowly about what the queer community is and who matters in it.

The most generous reading I can make is that "gay is the new black" is a sloppy way of saying "discrimination against gay people is a serious civil rights issue that we should all care about" or "we have fought problems this big before and won" or "this issue is going to take all of us working together" or "none of us is free until all of us are free". Why be sloppy about it for the sake of a presumption of wit when there is so much at stake and the risk is so big?

The odd thing about the Advocate cover above is that, while the accompanying article makes some good points about how the gay/black equasion is a less than perfect fit, and includes a question mark at the end (Gay Is The New Black?), the cover does not.

Gay is the new black in only one meaningful way. At present we are the most socially acceptable targets for the kind of casual hatred that American society once approved for habitual use against black people. Gay is the dark pit where our society lets people throw their fears about what’s wrong with the world. (Many people, needless to say, still direct this kind of hatred toward black people too. But it’s more commonly OK to caricature and demean us in politics and the media in ways from which blacks are now largely exempt.) -- Michael Joseph Gross

I understand the need to sell magazines by being provovative, but this still makes me uncomfortable (and feels like a bit of a bait and switch). More people are going to see the cover, and either instantly agree or disagree, than take the time to read the more reasoned article. More black people of all sexual orientations, are going to see that cover and be put off by it than will read the article. The addition of a mark of punctuation on the cover might have lead magazine rack browsers to think and consider the proposition, rather than turn them off.

I can only hope that Prop 8 causes "the gay community" to consider its approaches, tactics, and how it talks to all segments of the country in the fight for civil rights.

17 November 2008

"Scrum in the Hood"

I promise to post photos from Saturday's "Stop the H8" rally here in Baltimore very soon...but

Since my partner and I got hooked on Rugby thanks to watching the Wallabies, the All-Blacks, and the Tri-Nations tournament on Fox Sports, I can't resist pointing to this video and article about The Hyde Leadership Public Charter School in Washington DC, from the New York Times.

When the team starts the post-game singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," I get all choked up....
Aim High, boys!

Here's a link for those who wish to contribute to Hyde

13 November 2008

Advising the President: Patricia Smith for Inaugural Poet‏!

The President-Elect has a more than a few things on his plate right now, including a number of vacancies in the Executive Branch. One position that needs to be filled relatively soon is "Inaugural Poet‏". True it's only a one-day job -- but what a day!

I'm adding my name to the endorsement list for Patricia Smith for Inaugural Poet‏. One of the Founders of Slam as well as an amazing 'on the page' poet, her new book about Katrina Blood Dazzler is a finalist for this year's National Book Award. And she is from Chicago, and we've already seen how the new Prez likes his homie's:)

Patricia Smith:

We've lost them all beneath their swaddling clothes.
Cavernous sweats and denims droop with air
and hide our loves inside. They strike the pose,

craft the swagger, these boys everyone knows
are surely doomed. And yet they're wrapped with care.
We've lost them all beneath those swaddling clothes.

Inside that hug, they're smaller than their woes.
Their lives can't reach them. They don't fear the air.
Love hides inside—they coil, they strike. The pose,

if strutted right, can shield them from the blows
that must rain down. No, we can't save our heirs.
We've lost them all beneath their swaddling clothes.

That they choose this soft way to drown just shows
despite our touch, our kiss, the ways we cared,
they must hide love inside. They struck the pose

of men—because, as we have come to know,
no babies thrive upon the streets they dare.
We've lost them all beneath their swaddling clothes.
They hide our love inside, then strike the pose.

And since I'm playing 'Acting Adviser to the Transition Team' here, allow me to toss another name out -- how about Poet and Yale Professor Elizabeth Alexander to replace the departing Dana Gioia as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts ?

Elizabeth Alexander:

From the Latin negrorum, meaning
“to tote,” said Richard Pryor
in an etymological mode.

Look it up in Cab Calloway’s
Hepster’s Dictionary, the giant book.
Be negro, be ‘groid, be vernacular, be.

Hey, yo, Hey bro’, Hey blood,
high five, big ups, gimme some skin,
keep it on the QT, the down low, the real side.

What it is? What it look like?
Vernacular: Verna, a house-born slave.
Ask your mamma what it means.

Old school lyin’ and signifyin’.
That chick has a chemical deficiency:
no assatol.

And who knows,
on the radio, what evil lurks
in the hearts of men?
The shadow do,

quoth the brethren, and fall out,
cack-a-lacking and slapping,
high-top fade to black.

(From American Sublime)

Power to the Poets!

And Again more happiness: USA Fellowship grants

From Poets and Writers:

Harryette Mullen and Barry Hannah Among This Year's USA Fellows

United States Artists (USA) today announced the recipients of the third annual USA Fellowship grants. The nine literature fellows for 2008 are poets Forrest Gander, Laura Kasischke, Lê Thi Diem Thúy, Joy Harjo, A. Van Jordan, and Harryette Mullen, novelists Barry Hannah and Tayari Jones, and nonfiction writer Jeff Chang.

Full list with photos here

UberBlogging Ms Jones (shown here with fellow USA Fellow, Cave Canem's own A Van Jordan) in the house! The next award's gonna be for your photographs, right? Stay by your phones, friends -- I'll be making calls asking for a little 'Economic Stimulus Package' from you VERY soon:)

Cheers, ya'll!

I want to give a special Congratulations to two Elders on the list: jazz giant Muhal Richard Abrams, co-founder of the great Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the magnificent multi-instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader Henry Threadgill. His 1995 recording Makin' a Move is one of the pieces of music I MUST have with me every time I travel, and is a continuing source of inspiration. I can never seem to get enough of it....

Congrats to all!

12 November 2008

Now Back to Your Irregularly Scheduled Poetry News (Awards Season, continued)

Fantastic news for two dynamic, genre-busting artists.

Congratulations to the 2008 Whiting Writers Awards. I know the work of two of the winners, playwright Dael Orlandersmith (her play Yellowman), and fiction writer Manuel Muñoz, whose beautiful and moving short story collection The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue was a finalist for last year's Lambda Literary Award.

Especial congratulations, however, to my friend Doug Kearney (I'm using a blurry 'action photo' of DK on purpose here, because he and his work truly has to be seen/experienced to be fully appreciated). This well deserved award is the perfect end to a somewhat difficult year for him. Happy, Happy/Joy Joy, boy-ee

Three poems by Doug with must hear mp3 audio from Mipoesias

Good news also for Poet and sound collagest Latasha Natasha Nevada Diggs, who has recently recived an Individual Artist Grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. She, also is an artist who needs to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated (Hear her Live at the Knitting Factory here). Both are doing fantastic work that pushes the envelope of sound and poetry both on the page and in performance. It's a thrill to see them getting much deserved support.

Shadowboxer On The Lookout
(Doug Kearney)

they wait for me to turn my back
leave something open they’ll climb in
sooty fingerprints staining drums
push past my dead bolts window
bars chain raise heavy fists
make my home tremble
* * * *
sunday a woman screams
loud enough to stun a cab someone
runs in the street his voice
a flare undershirt blood
his woman all over his hands
it could have been me both of them
* * * *
smoke on the corner
shadows on the porch
niggers in the street
* * * *
. . . broke into a million pieces luck already
bad as it can get now’s no time to stare at
mirrors they’re out there I better . . .
* * * *
nigger eyes rifle through me like some wallet
war drums batter their radios ribcages
swollen with nicotine tough talk I cross

the street

(from Fear, Some, Red Hen Press, 2006)

blank cassette
(Latasha Nevada Diggs)

you showcase the worst of summer
by noon the forest details your scorch
I taste the battery from your match alone, I chase the hum of helicopters. make a melody from the evoke of hum
alone, I sing blue lakes’ dinleave me a rock with some seed. leave me a drop or more.
my name is whyI am here in pink carpenters and ashy palms
while rain purees the soot
I pelican from couch to window

make a melody from the evoke of hum

leave me rocks with some seed. leave me a drop or more
my name is whythe creek keeps me in pulse an elegy for peppery char
I whisper leave me something something
the volcanic rocks are everywhere.

my terrain dead soon newborns.leave me rocks with some seed. leave me a drop or more
my name is whyyou last whispered a sorrel refrain
I forgot to press record

first published in Semantikon, Vol 3, Version 4, March 2005, reprinted (with audio) on the glorious From The Fishouse

... And a few steps back

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage.

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal... in 1967. 1967. The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry...black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized. You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are... gay.
-- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Nov 10, 2008

The sad news from last Tuesday concerns rollbacks in rights for gay and lesbian people across the country

Arizona and Florida approved anti-gay marriage propositions, and Arkansas approved an Initiative barring unmarried people from adopting children.

The big loss, however, was in California, with the passage of Proposition 8, reversing the California Supreme Court's decision approving gay marriage.

Fingers are being pointed over the loss -- many of them pointed at African Americans:

"African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state. Seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, according to exit polls, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters.... I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there — and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum — are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color." -- Dan Savage

"Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, 'Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!' A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were 'very disappointed with black people' and 'how could we' after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn't matter because "most black people hated gays" and he was "wrong" to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay." -- "Ronald" at the marriage equality rally in Los Angeles, reported by Rod McCollum (More follow-up from Rod here)

Many Gay Rights organizations continually just don't get it when it comes to people of color, as Andres Duque points out:

"Let me say this: I don't have much money but I have donated to the "No on 8" campaign to support their efforts (as well as "No on 2" in FL and "No on 102" in AZ); I also know that they have attempted to make inroads among Latino communities; but I was less than thrilled by their discourse in media during these last few days on the issue of Latino voters and not too impressed by their ads targeting Latino media."

From the VivirLatino website:

Gloria Nieto had a sense of those demographic forces, too. When Nieto, a lead organizer for the No on Proposition 8 campaign in San Jose, wanted to distribute campaign signs in Spanish and Vietnamese this fall, she had to get them made herself because the statewide campaign only had signs in English.
What this suggests to me is that communities of color have their problems--but largely white organizations seem to not value those communities until the time comes when they need them for their own agendas, and even then not so much.

I have been wanting to comment about this since November 5, but everytime I start I get extremely upset (okay, as La Familia would attest, the right word for me to use here is not "upset" but "livid"). I probably would have come out with something similar to Ernest Hardy's long and 'colorful' response to Mr Savage, or it's followup

I'm upset at the racism of some members of the white gay community

I'm upset at the homophobia of some members of the black community

I am saddened and disturbed by the 'white' "Gay Community" for their lack of understanding of non-white communities. As well as the fact that there's little to no realization from many of them that people can be BOTH black and gay.

And I'm mad at both groups for playing directly into the hands of Right Wingers who would deny ALL of us of our rights if given half a chance.

There's more than enough 'blame' to go around. For example, some folk would have been attacking Catholics if one could tell religion by looking at someone, for, as blogger JoeMyGod points out:

The last Field Poll, conducted a week before the election, showed that weekly churchgoers increased their support in the final week from 72 percent to 84 percent. Catholic support increased from 44 percent to 64 percent - a jump that accounted for 6 percent of the total California electorate and equivalent to the state's entire African American population combined. The shift in Catholics alone more than accounted for Prop. 8's 5 percent margin of victory.

I'm glad to see folks are challenging the Morman Church, which poured huge amounts of money across the border from Utah into California to pass Prop 8. (They should all watch the very moving film "Latter Days" to get some idea of what it might feel like to be a young gay Mormon)

I also agree with some friends who think the idea of having voters decide on the rights others should have is an extremely bad idea. A lot of American's wouldn't vote for the Bill of Rights in the US Consitution either! And I doubt that there would be school desegregation, Civil Rights Acts of 1964 or '65, nor legal-all-across the US interracial marriage if they had been put to a vote either.

So: rather than get mad, lemme DO something

National Fight the H8 rallys at city halls across America, Saturday November 15, 2008
As poet C Dale Young says:

You don't have to chant. You don't have to carry a sign. We just want you to stand with us. If you have ever loved someone enough to want to marry them; If you have ever married; If you thank God every day for your husband or wife; If you ever wonder how you would get through the week without your significant other, stand with us. Everyone deserves the right to love someone and be treated with dignity. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness. None of us want to be treated like second-class citizens. So stand with me for Love. Stand against H8.

Continuing Updates on Prop 8 and protests at Towleroad

Some resources for our us and our Straight Allies to help discuss heterosexism/homophobia within the Black community, courtesy of the all-across-the-spectrum-of-sexual-orientation poets of Cave Canem:

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II: Sexual Orientation
Daily effects of straight privilege

How Homophobia Hurts Everyone: A Theoretical Foundation by Warren J. Blumenfeld

"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" by Adrienne Rich

Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch by Dwight McBride

Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism by Patricia Hill Collins

Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South by E Patrick Johnson (Performing part of Sweet Tea here)

Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing edited by Catherine McKinley & L. Joyce DeLaney

Redbone Press' Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity

Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent by Thomas Glave

Marlon Rigg's Black Is...Black Ain't

Cheryl Dunne's The Watermelon Woman

Brother to Brother

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

Last but most decidly NOT least, Keith Olbermann's emotional Special Comment, which asks a question I ask myself -- what the hell's it to YOU if Gays and Lesbians want to get married?

Thank You, Keith

10 November 2008

The First Reader

Some friends and I are doing the 'happy dance' over this:

Obama spotted carrying poetry book
CHICAGO, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- President-elect Barack Obama was carrying a book of poems while leaving the Chicago school of his daughters, witnesses say.

The U.S. senator, fresh off his Election Day victory, presumably had time to enjoy some poetry while visiting his daughters' school Friday, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

While the Illinois Democrat was not spotted reading the book of poems by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, he personally carried the new-looking book to an awaiting car.

Versifyers around the world rejoice.....

06 November 2008

This New Tomorrow

The New Era of Obama

We did something remarkable Tuesday, but our work isn't done. The challenges we're facing are great, and the obstacles to progress won't disappear overnight. We all have to remain active and engaged if we are to realize the promise of yesterday's election.

--Joan Blades, co-founder MoveOn.org

I believe that historians will look back on 2008 as the end of the Reagan conservative era and the start of a new period of progressive federal activism.

-- Robert Dallek, author, presidential historian

He has the chance to overturn Bush administration policies that compromised basic human rights. One of Obama's first actions should be to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and either transfer its inmates to federal prisons or release them. Guantánamo is an international embarrassment and has become a symbol of America's violations of international law.

Obama also needs to immediately rescind Bush administration policies authorizing torture, permitting renditions that violate international law, and authorizing extrajudicial spying on Americans. From the moment of his inauguration, Obama must declare that the United States will comply with international law and follow its own Constitution.

-- Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law

Yes, it's historic and incredible that a black man is president of the United States. But, dang it, it's just as important that a black woman is the first lady. Think about it. Jackie O! Lady Bird Johnson! And Michelle Obama in her Gap dresses! Please don't discount the cultural power of the first lady. I am very excited to see how Michelle Obama also revolutionizes the White House.

-- Sherman Alexie, novelist and poet

03 November 2008

Madelyn Dunham (1922-2008)

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances.”

Thank you for raising a remarkable young man. Our thoughts and prayers are with Barack and his family at this time.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Grandparents:

One of the big mistakes we make when we look at the history of race in this country is to focus on big people and big events. What should be remembered is that, though our racial history is mired in utter disgrace, though the deep cowardice of post-reconstruction haunts us into the 21st century, at any point on the timeline, you can find ordinary white people doing the right thing

Do Your Duty

(From designforobama.org)

And for our California friends

No on 8

31 October 2008

While you were voting....

It seems obvious that the Bush administration is determined to be evil to the end: not only have they saddled their successor with a quagmire of a war and a wreck of an economic system, this article in the Washington Post notes that they also wish to gut a number of rules and regulations before Dick and Dubya leave office, further tying the next president's hands.

The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January..... would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis....


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited us, and my partner decided not to attend, in part because he didn't want to 'slip' and tell her how upset he was over her decision not to impeach George W Bush. It took me a while to get around to agreeing that impeachment proceedings should have been seriously considered by the House. It now seems obvious that, for the sake of the nation, our Constitution, and our future, throwing the bums out truly was the way to go.

We all need to closely watch the current administration from now until the moment the next president takes the oath of office in January 2009. I wonder, for example, who will get a traditional end of year/end of administration pardon?

30 October 2008

Sunrise in America

Watching Barack Obama's half-hour campaign 'infomercial' last night, my first thought was "Ronald Reagan." Obama and his team have obviously learned quite a bit from "The Great Communicator" about production, stagecraft, and putting a message across. From the opening shot of the 'amber waves of grain,' followed by some purple mountains in the distance above fruited plain to the end, as an animated sun rose over a multicolored arc to turn into the Obama "O".....amazing. What can I say? It's "Morning in America" again!

I'm not saying this to be negative. I'm saying this because I'm very impressed -- and enjoy the irony of how tactics and techniques of the GOP's favorite president have been turned against them. And there was not a dry eye in our house during the segment concerning the elderly black couple where the cost of medication for the wife's severe arthritis forces her 70+ year old husband to work at WalMart (having cared for older relatives that one almost makes me teary just thinking about it).

If Senator Obama wins next Tuesday (and I hope and pray that he does), I'm expecting to see four - to - eight years of speeches, podcasts, e-mail blasts, and YouTube video from a President poised to join Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and yes Ronald Reagan (although somehow his messages were always lost on me), as one of the truly finest 'communicators' ever to use the Bully Pulpit of the White House. And considering the amazing network of supporters that have joined together for the campaign (all ready and waiting to continue to work after the election) it's going to be a very interesting administration, not only in Washington, but also (especially?) out here in the 'grass roots.'

23 October 2008

Poem: Palinode, Once Removed by Kyle Dargan

In honor of a missed connection between myself and Kyle Dargan last week (and today, too, since I was supposed to be off but.....), here's one of Mr. Post No Ills' poems from Bouquet of Hungers, winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award in Poetry.

Palinode, Once Removed
Bloomington, Indiana

The Negro is America's metaphor
Richard Wright

The girl from Martinsville sets her eyes on me
like they are elbows -- intently boring
at my cheeks. This sentiment bleeds
throughout my class. Slouched, heads
tilted, they wait for the day I come in,
pull out a handkerchief, a vial of alcohol,
and wipe this vexing complexion from my skin.

Before I left home, Uncle called -- said,
"You're going to teach them people, huh?
Well, teach 'em.:

The day we pursue metaphor, I will
teach them about the brain -- how there is a center
to catch discrepancy between the expected
and the perceived. Stimulate the mechanism,
you are working in metaphor.

Though surprising
I am not a metaphor. This is: I am a period,
small and dark. If you read me correctly,
you are to stop. Pause. Breathe.