LGBT Pride celebrations: Toronto, Canada – June 30th, 2013

DSCF0002ZP_Volunteers for Africans in Partnership Against AIDS

DSCF0017DSCF0024ZP_Lovely Ladies!

ZP_LGBT Pride Toronto_June 30th 2013_Rainbow SmileZP_Rainbow Smile

DSCF0032 - CopyDSCF0030DSCF0038DSCF0046ZP_Sexy Brazilian visitor to Toronto

DSCF0047DSCF0048DSCF0051ZP_Brothers workin’ it – one heterosexual, the other gay


Got muscle – got spirit! Christopher Senyonjo to Vanessa Brown – Justin Fashanu to Jason Collins: role models for Black LGBT strivers

ZP_Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. born 1932_In 2002 he was stripped of his bishopric by the Archbishop of The Church of Uganda (Anglican) for his LGBT rights sympathies.  He continues to be vocal in support of the increasing clamour for human rights in Uganda, knowing that discrimination against gays is neither in Jesus' teachings nor is it "an African way".ZP_Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, born 1932_In 2002 he was stripped of his bishopric by the Archbishop of The Church of Uganda (Anglican) for his LGBT rights sympathies.  This heterosexual Man of the Lord continues to be vocal in support of the increasing clamour for human rights in Uganda, knowing that discrimination against gays is “neither in Jesus’ teachings nor is it an African way”.

AllenZP_One of the first “All-Embracing” American churches was Bishop Carl Bean’s The Unity Fellowship of Christ, back in 1982.  Bean believed that “God is Love — and Love is for EVERYBODY.”
In this photograph Oliver Clyde Allen preaches at The Vision Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  Founded in 2005 by Bishop Allen and his partner — now husband — Rashad Burgess (wearing striped tie), The Vision Church is described as being part of a “new progressive Pentecostal movement” and one of Vision’s core beliefs is “that the gospel of Jesus Christ cuts across all barriers that fragment and divide us. We are called to love, affirm, and welcome all people regardless of race, gender, affectional orientation, class, or life situation. We are to be known for our love, compassion, reconciliation, and liberation for all who are oppressed. We emphasize the “whosoever” in John 3:16.”

GoodlifeZP_Poster for the January 2012 opening of The Good Life Church in Columbus, Ohio.  An initiative of Pastor Michael W. Heard (left), the Church is an “affirming” one, and the preacher is often assisted in his ministry by boyfriend Aaron Leigh, the Church’s ‘First Gentleman’.

bbc_ccbZP_Congregants of Rivers at Rehoboth Church in Harlem, New York City_The Reverend Vanessa M. Brown, a lesbian born and raised in Harlem, states: “We want people to know that they are loved, there’s a safe space for them in the House of God where they can truly worship the Lord and be their authentic selves.”  Many Black gays and lesbians feel welcomed at Rehoboth.

ZP_NBA basketball player Jason Collins on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine in May 2013.  In April, Collins "came out".  He is the first active player in North-American professional sports to do so - and in one of the most homophobic sports - basketball.  Only hockey is more homophobic - but one day.....ZP_NBA basketball player Jason Collins on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine in May 2013.  In April, Collins “came out”.  He is the first active player in North-American professional sports to do so.  Basketball is one of the most homophobic sports – hockey may be worse – and it’s the fans as much as anyone else.  Yet reactions have been generally positive – helped enormously by high-profile heterosexual players such as Kobe Bryant giving Collins their public support.  Homophobia is becoming less and less “cool”.

The brave pioneer was Justin Fashanu in soccer (he “came out” while playing professionally).  There’s been John Amaechi in basketball (after his retirement), Wade Davis in football,  Orlando Cruz in boxing – the list of “out” athletes – who are role models for youth, of course – will continue to grow.

ZP_Justin FashanuZP_Justin Fashanu, the first “out” Black athlete.  May he rest in peace…

ZP_John AmaechiZP_John Amaechi, now a motivational speaker and broadcast commentator

ZP_Wade DavisZP_Wade Davis_Davis’ “An Open Letter to Young Gay Athletes” was featured at http://www.thegrio.com on June 14th 2012.  It is well worth reading…

ZP_Orlando CruzZP_Orlando Cruz:  “I wanted to take out the thorn inside me and have peace.”


Essex Hemphill: “We keep treasure any king would count as dear”: Poems of lust, poems of tenderness

ZP_portrait by Rotimi Fani Kayode_Dennis Carney and Essex Hemphill in Brixton, London, 1988.  Hemphill is holding Carney and kissing the back of his neck.ZP_portrait by Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Dennis Carney and Essex Hemphill in Brixton, London, 1988.  Hemphill is holding Carney and kissing the back of his neck.

.

Essex Hemphill (1957-1995)

From: Ceremonies (1992)

Rights and Permissions”

.

Sometimes I hold

my warm seed

up to my mouth

very close

to my parched lips

and whisper

“I’m sorry,”

before I turn my head

over the toilet

and listen to the seed

splash into the water.

.

I rinse what remains

down the drain,

dry my hands –

they return

to their tasks

as if nothing

out of place

has occurred.

.

I go on being,

wearing my shirts

and trousers,

voting, praying,

paying rent,

pissing in public,

cussing cabs,

fussing with utilities.

.

What I learn

as age advances,

relentless pillager,

is that we shrink

inside our shirts

and trousers,

or we spread

beyond the seams.

The hair we cherished

disappears.

.

Sometimes I hold

my warm seed

up to my mouth

and kiss it.

.     .     .

Object Lessons”

.

If I am comfortable

on the pedestal

you are looking at,

if I am indolent and content

to lay here on my stomach,

my determinations

indulged and glistening

in baby oil and sweat,

if I want to be here, a pet,

to be touched, a toy,

if I choose

to be liked in this way,

if I desire to be object,

to be sexualized

in this object way,

by one or two at a time,

for a night or a thousand days,

for money or power,

for the awesome orgasms

to be had, to be coveted,

or for my own selfish wantonness,

for the feeling of being

pleasure, being touched.

The pedestal was here,

so I climbed up.

I located myself.

I appropriated this context.

It was my fantasy,

my desire to do so

and lie here

on my stomach.

Why are you looking?

What do you wanna

do about it?

.     .     .

Invitations All Around”

.

If he is your lover,

never mind.

Perhaps, if we ask,

he will join us.

.     .     .

From: Earth Life (1985)

.

Black Beans”

.

Times are lean,

Pretty Baby,

the beans are burnt

to the bottom

of the battered pot.

Let’s make fierce love

on the overstuffed

hand-me-down sofa.

We can burn it up, too.

Our hungers

will evaporate like – money.

I smell your lust,

not the pot burnt black

with tonight’s meager meal.

So we can’t buy flowers for our table.

Our kisses are petals,

our tongues caress the bloom.

Who dares to tell us

we are poor and powerless?

We keep treasure

any king would count as dear.

Come on, Pretty Baby.

Our souls can’t be crushed

like cats crossing streets too soon.

Let the beans burn all night long.

Our chipped water glasses are filled

with wine from our loving.

And the burnt black beans –

caviar.

.     .     .

Better Days”

.

In daytime hours,

guided by instincts

that never sleep,

the faintest signals

come to me

over vast spaces

of etiquette

and restraint.

Sometimes I give in

to the pressing

call of instince,

knowing the code of my kind

better than I know

the National Anthem

or “The Lord’s Prayer”.

I am so driven by my senses

to abandon restraint,

to seek pure pleasure

through every pore.

I want to smell the air

around me thickly scented

with a playboy’s freedom.

I want impractical relationships.

I want buddies and partners,

names I will forget by sunrise.

I only want to feel good.

I only want to freak sometimes.

There are no other considerations.

A false safety compels me

to think I will never need kindness,

so I don’t recognize

that need in someone else.

.

But it concerns me,

going off to sleep

and waking

throbbing with wants,

that I am being

consumed by want.

And I wonder

where stamina comes from

to search all night

until my footsteps ring

awake the sparrows,

and I go home, ghost walking,

driven indoors to rest

my hunter’s guise,

to love myself as fiercely

as I have in better days.

.     .     .

From: Conditions (1986)

.

Isn’t It Funny”

.

I don’t want to hear you beg.

I’m sick of beggars.

If you a man

take what you want from me

or what you can.

Even if you have me

like some woman across town

you think you love.

.

Look at me

standing here with my dick

as straight as yours.

What do you think this is?

The weathercock on a rooftop?

.

We sneak all over town

like two damn thieves,

whiskey on our breath,

no streetlights on the back roads,

just the stars above us

as ordinary as they should be.

.

We always have to work it out,

walk it through, talk it over,

drink and smoke our way into sodomy.

I could take you in my room

but you’re afraid the landlady

will recognize you.

.

I feel thankful I don’t love you.

I won’t have to suffer you later on.

.

But for now I say, Johnnie Walker,

have you had enough, Johnnie Walker?

Do-I-look-like-a-woman-now?

Against the fogged car glass

do I look like your crosstown lover?

Do I look like Shirley?

.

When you reach to kiss her lips

they’re thick like mine.

Her hair is cut close, too,

like mine –

isn’t it?

.     .     .

Between Pathos and Seduction”

(For Larry)

.

Love potions

solve no mysteries,

provide no comment

on the unspoken.

Our lives tremble

between pathos and seduction.

Our inhibitions

force us to be equal.

We swallow hard

black love potions

from a golden glass.

New language beckons us.

Its dialect present.

Intimate.

Through my eyes

focused as pure, naked light,

fixed on you like magic,

clarity. I see risks.

Regrets? There will be none.

Let some wonder,

some worry, some accuse.

Let you and I know

the tenderness

only we can bear.

.     .     .

American Wedding”

.

In america,

I place my ring

on your cock

where it belongs.

No horsemen

bearing terror,

no soldiers of doom

will swoop in

and sweep us apart.

They’re too busy

looting the land

to watch us.

They don’t know

we need each other

critically.

They expect us to call in sick,

watch television all night,

die by our own hands.

They don’t know

we are becoming powerful.

Every time we kiss

we confirm the new world coming.

.

What the rose whispers

before blooming

I vow to you.

I give you my heart,

a safe house.

I give you promises other than

milk, honey, liberty.

I assume you will always

be a free man with a dream.

In america,

place your ring

on my cock

where it belongs.

Long may we live

to free this dream.

.     .     .

Essex Hemphill (1957 – 1995) was a poet and activist, as frank and raw – and as radical – as one can get.  Hemphill’s compañero (and hero) in activism was Joseph Fairchild Beam (1954 – 1988), writer, editor, Black-Gay civil-rights agitator for positive change.  In a 1984 essay Beam declared:  “The bottom line is this:  We are Black men who are proudly gay.  What we offer is our lives, our love, our visions.  We are rising to the love we all need.  We are coming home with our heads held up high.”

When Hemphill wrote “In america, place your ring on my cock where it belongs”  he was probably – though one cannot be sure – not talking about the symbolic ring of the traditional marriage rite as we all know it.   And yet…his fervent desire was for Black, Gay Americans to be meaningfully re-connected to their own communities, communities to which they felt a powerful yearning to belong – having never left them, deep down in their hearts.  We feature the following photographs because we feel that Hemphill – even though he called his black, gay world “this tribe of warriors and outlaws” – would get it.  To paraphrase the final line of his poem American WeddingLong may you live to free your dream.

.

ZP_Two women celebrate with friends and relatives after their outdoor marriage in Washington Square Park , New York City.ZP_Two women celebrate with friends and relatives after their outdoor marriage in Washington Square Park , New York City, 2011.

ZP_After 33 years together these two handsome septuagenarian New Yorkers married legally in 2011. Dignity and great pride are evident on their faces.ZP_After 33 years together these two handsome septuagenarian New Yorkers married legally in 2011. Dignity and great pride are evident on their faces.

ZP_2008 poster directed toward the fathers of young, black, gay men_Gay Men's Health Center, NYC_© photographer Ocean MorissetZP_2008 poster directed toward the fathers of young, black, gay men_Gay Men’s Health Center, NYC_© photographer Ocean Morisset_Essex Hemphill, were he alive today, would’ve been heartened by such an initiative, knowing full well that the blood, sweat and tears of many ordinary people – who are also activists who love their communities – made such progress possible.

.     .     .     .     .


T’ai Freedom Ford: “fourth: a blues”

T'ai Freedom Ford

.

T’ai Freedom Ford

“fourth: a blues”

.

…she taste like the colour blue…all beautifully bruised and melancholy on my tongue. like blue glinting golden…bee-stung and swollen in a field of cotton…like blue verging black until all memory’s forgotten…she taste like blues…like muddy waters…like daughters of the dust…like mississippi goddamn…like thrust and thirst…like heartbreak so new it tastes like trust at first…like a wound you must nurse with your own salty tears…she taste like blue…cause that’s the colour of her: fears/fierce…like an azure hue reminiscent of sky breaking wide open…blue like coloured girls who done tried dope when hope wasn’t enough…when that man wasn’t enough…when being tough wasn’t enough…blue like nina’s voice and storm clouds…she rains blue-black…arm, tattooed jack, and sometimes her loyalty is tragic…still she blue like magic…all stardust and confetti and taps of wands…and when the house of cards collapses she responds…with jesus on her breath…eyes watery with devotion…taste like blue: royal and periwinkle and aqua…blue like the fifth chakra vibrating her throat translucent…rocking with holyghost trying to shake loose sin…within her, blues run deep and honeysuckle sweet like grandmama’s hambone on a sunday morn…blue like early morning beckoning sinners toward their reckoning…blue like night sky sucking up light like a magic trick…tragic as guitar strings breaking like my heart…she taste blue like tragedy…all shakespearean and love unfulfilled…but that’s what she do…slips into characters like new skin…ingénue…sparkling blue on silver screens…beautifully blue…making art outta life…all spit-shined and bruised like the blues of the south…a new shade of truth…exploding its name in my mouth…she taste like…

.     .     .

T’ai Freedom Ford is an American “slam poet” who performs at spoken-word events.  Of performance she has playfully said:  “Most poets would say it’s about sharing their message or rallying a cause, but let’s be honest:  it’s about ego.  Signifyin’ and looking cute.”

.     .     .     .     .


Loving the Ladies: the poems of Pat Parker

ZP_Pat Parker in 1989_photograph © Robert GiardZP_Pat Parker in 1989_photograph © Robert Giard

Pat Parker

Sunshine”

.

If it were possible

to place you in my brain

to let you roam around

in and out

my thought waves

you would never

have to ask

why do you love me?

.

This morning as you slept

I wanted to kiss you awake

say I love you till your brain

smiled and nodded yes

this woman does love me.

.

Each day the list grows

filled with the things that are you

things that make my heart jump

yet words would sound strange

become corny in utterance.

.

In the morning when I wake

I don’t look out my window

to see if the sun is shining.

I turn to you instead.

.     .     .

I have”

.

i have known

many women

and the you of you

puzzles me.

.

it is not beauty

i have known

beautiful women.

.

it is not brains

i have known

intelligent women.

.

it is not goodness

i have known

good women.

.

it is not selflessness

i have known

giving women.

.

yet you touch me

in new

different

ways.

.

i become sand

on a beach

washed anew with

each wave of you.

.

with each touch of you

i am fresh bread

warm and rising.

.

i become a newborn kitten

ready to be licked

and nuzzled into life.

.

you are my last love

and my first love

you make me a virgin

and I want to give myself to you.

.     .     .

Sublimation”

.

It has been said that

sleep is a short death.

I watch you, still,

your breath moving –

soft summer breeze.

Your face is velvet

the tension of our love,

gone.

No, false death is not here

in our bed

just you – asleep

and me – wanting

to make love to you,

writing words instead.

.     .     .

Metamorphosis”

.

you take these fingers

bid them soft

a velvet touch

to your loins

.

you take these arms

bid them pliant

a warm cocoon

to shield you

.

you take this shell

bid it full

a sensual cup

to lay with you

.

you take this voice

bid it sing

an uncaged bird

to warble your praise

.

you take me, love,

a sea skeleton

fill me with you

and I become

pregnant with love

give birth

to revolution.

.     .     .

For Willyce”

 

.

 

When i make love to you

 

i try

 

with each stroke of my tongue

 

to say

 

i love you

 

to tease

 

i love you

 

to hammer

 

i love you

 

to melt

 

i love you

 

and your sounds drift down

 

oh god!

 

oh jesus!

 

and i think

 

here it is, some dude’s

 

getting credit for what

 

a woman

 

has done

 

again.

 

.     .     .

Pat Parker (1944-1989) was a Black-American lesbian and feminist.  She was born in Houston, Texas, and lived and worked (at a women’s health centre) in Oakland, California, from 1978 almost up until her death from breast cancer. Racism, misogyny, homophobia – Parker “kept it real” about such facts at numerous poetry readings throughout the 1970s.  She had had two marriages – and raised two children from them – but when her second marriage ended in divorce she journeyed down a different road, stating: “After my first relationship with a woman, I knew where I as going.”  Known for her “hard truths” in poems such as “Exodus”, “Brother”, “Questions” and “Womanslaughter”, Parker also had a whole other lesser-known side to her as a poet who made love poems – several of which we present here.  Some are tender and euphoric and one – “For Willyce” – has Parker’s characteristic ‘edge’.

.     .     .     .     .


Zwelethu Mthethwa, Zanele Muholi, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso: African photographers who make you think

Zwelethu Mthethwa (born 1960, Durban, South Africa) photographed pre-adolescent and teenage boys in KwaZulu-Natal in 2010. The boys are adherents to the doctrines of a branch of the charismatic Shembe Nazareth Baptist Church.  Mthethwa named this photograph series “The Brave Ones”.  He has specialized in photo-essays of sometimes-marginalized people in South Africa’s “Townships”, including migrant workers, miners and sugarcane harvesters.

ZP_Zwelethu Mthethwa_from the series Brave Ones_2010_AZP_Zwelethu Mthethwa_from the series Brave Ones_2010_BZP_Zwelethu Mthethwa_from the series Brave Ones_2010_CZP_Zwelethu Mthethwa_from the series Brave Ones_2010_DZanele Muholi (born 1972, Umlazi, South Africa) is a lesbian photographer and “visual activist”.  Among numerous projects, she has documented the lives of South African lesbians, some of whom have suffered from persecution and  violence.

ZP_Nhlanhla Esther Mofokeng, Thokoza, Johannesburg_copyright Zanele Muholi_2010ZP_Nhlanhla Esther Mofokeng, Thokoza, Johannesburg_© Zanele Muholi_2010

ZP_photograph copyright Zanele Muholi_AZP_photograph copyright Zanele Muholi_BZP_Anelisa Mfo Nyanga, Cape Town_copyright Zanele Muholi_2010ZP_Anelisa Mfo Nyanga, Cape Town_© Zanele Muholi_2010

ZP_photograph copyright Zanele Muholi_CZP_Martin Machapa_photograph copyright Zanele MuholiZP_Martin Machapa_photograph © Zanele Muholi

ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Untitled, 1987ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Untitled, 1987_Rotimi Fani-Kayode was born in 1955 in Lagos, Nigeria, and he died of an AIDS-related heart attack in London, England, in 1989.  Of photography he said:  “It is the tool by which I feel most confident in expressing myself.  It is photography therefore — Black, African, homosexual photography — which I must use not just as an instrument but as a weapon if I am to resist attacks on my integrity and, indeed, my existence on my own terms.”

ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Nothing to Lose IX (Bodies of Experience)_1989ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Nothing to Lose IX (Bodies of Experience)_1989

ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Every Moment Counts II_1989ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Every Moment Counts II_1989

ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Tulip Boy_1989ZP_Rotimi Fani-Kayode_Tulip Boy_1989

ZP_Samuel Fosso_La femme américaine libérée des années 70_1997

ZP_La femme américaine libérée des années 70_© Samuel Fosso (as both photographer and model)_1997.  Samuel Fosso was born in 1962 in Kumba, Cameroon.  At the age of 12 he began to work as an assistant to a portrait photographer.  By the end of his teens he had his own studio where he frequently shot self-portraits, many of them fanciful or referencing famous figures in Black popular culture.

ZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_Selfportrait as Angela DavisZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_Selfportrait as Angela Davis

ZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_Selfportrait as himself 2ZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_a teenaged selfportrait as himself 2

ZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_Selfportrait as himself 1ZP_Samuel Fosso_From the series Autoportraits des années 70_a teenaged selfportrait as himself 1


From Lagos with Love: two gay poets

ZP_Pastor Macaulay leading a House of Rainbow gathering of conversation and loving prayer

.

Rowland Jide Macaulay (born 1966) is an openly gay Nigerian poet and pastor who – as of tomorrow (June 30th 2013) will also be an ordained preacher in The Church of England. He begins duties as a curate in London this July and says that his will be “an inclusive parish ministry – and I cannot wait!”

Macaulay’s involvement in church activity has deep roots. He was raised Pentecostal in Lagos, where his father, Professor Augustus Kunle Macaulay, is the principal of Nigeria’s United Bible University.

But the truth of his sexuality needed telling and Rowland reached a juncture in the spiritual road, founding House of Rainbow Fellowship which gives pastoral care to sexual minorities in Nigeria, and includes sister fellowships in Ghana, Lesotho and several other African states.

The Easter story holds great power for Macaulay; the following is a poem he wrote in 1999:

.

Rowland Jide Macaulay

In Just Three Days”

.
For a life time
He came that we may have life
He died that we may have life in abundance.

In Just Three Days
Better known than ever before
Crowned King of kings
Tired but never gave up
Alone, forsaken and frightened
The world is coming to a close
Doors closing, wall to wall thickening.

In Just Three Days
Prophecies have been fulfilled
Unto us a child is born…
Destroy the world and build the kingdom
Followers deny His existence
His betrayer will accompany the enemy.

In Just Three Days
The world had Him and lost Him
Chaos in the enemies’ camp
Death could not hold Him prisoner
In the grave, Jesus is Lord.

Bethany, the house of Simon the leper,
Alabaster box of precious oil
Ointment for my body
Gethsemane, place of my refuge
Watch and pray.

In Just Three Days
Destruction, Rebuilding
Chastisement, Loving, Caring
Killing, Survival
Mockery, Praises
Passover, Betrayal
The people, The high priest
Crucify him, crown of thorns
Hail him, Strip him, bury him.

In Just Three Days
He is risen
Come and see the place where the Lord lay
His arrival in the clouds of heaven.

In Just Three Days
He was dead and buried
My resurrection, my hope, my dream
Hopelessness, helplessness turned around
In Just Three Days
In Just Three Days.

.     .     .   

Nigerian Abayomi Animashaun, now living in the U.S.A., completed a university degree in mathematics and chemistry but then took that precise quantum leap into the ever-expanding universe that is Poetry. He teaches at The University of Wisconsin (Oshkosh).

The following poem is from his 2008 collection, The Giving of Pears.

.

Abayomi Animashaun

In bed with Cavafy”

.

After pleasing each other,
We laid in bed a long time…

Curtains drawn,
Bolt fastened,

We’d been cautious,

Had made a show for others—

We ordered meat and wine
From the local restaurant.

And, like other guys, we talked loud
About politics into the night,

But whispered about young men
We’d bent in the dark.

At midnight, when from the bars drunks
Staggered onto the streets,

We shook hands the way they did,
Laughed their prolonged laughs,

And warned each other to steer clear
From loose girls and diseases—

All the while knowing
He’ll circle round as planned,

Sit in the unused shack behind my house
Till my neighbours’ candles are blown out.

And, after his soft knock,

I’ll slowly release the latch

As I did last night.

.     .     .

Editor’s note: “In bed with Cavafy” captures the mood, nuance, and subtle tone of the poetic voice of Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), the homosexual Greek poet who was a native of Alexandria, Egypt. Animashaun updates this Cavafy-an “voice”, making it heard in his description of two bisexual lovers in Lagos who are caught up in strategies of social hypocrisy and secret honesty in a place where sexual open-ness means great personal risk.

.

Special Thanks to Duane Taylor (York University, Toronto) for his editorial assistance!

.     .     .     .     .