Is the glass half full or half empty? Widely distributed LGBT community newspapers mostly put the pessimistic 'half empty' spin on coverage of the Millions More Movement march and rally held in Washington D.C. Oct. 15, 2005.
It took the ( San Francisco ) Bay Area Reporter 19 paragraphs of type, and continuing the 'Farrakhan' article from page 1 to page 20 to finally say, 'There did end up being an openly homosexual speaker at Millions More, but those on the mall might not have realized it: Cleo Manago, who founded the Black Men's Xchange. He is a controversial figure within the LGBT community in part because of his rejection of the word gay as being white, and use of terms such as same gender loving in its place.'
In reviewing coverage, it looks to me like several LGBT newspapers published edited versions of a press release of the National Black Justice Coalition, headed by Keith Boykin.
The bold headline in the Washington ( D.C. ) Blade was 'Gay Speaker Barred From Millions More' with ''Same-Gender Loving' Man Takes Stage As Boykin Snubbed' in smaller type. Then that paper went on to focus on the linguistic style of Cleo Manago without telling the readers that Manago gave a really great speech. From the internet I found the really substantive, historic speech given by Mr. Manago, and forwarded it to Identity. Its text shows that our community was represented very well!
Cleo Manago's Full Millions
More Speech, 10 15 05
I represent the Black Men's Xchange ( BMX ) , an organization affirming, educating and unifying same-gender-loving ( SGL ) and bisexual people of African descent, and the Black community at-large. Welcome family. I don't have sufficient time to properly thank my parents, family, friends, supporters, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, The Black Men's Xchange and community. Neither can I fully address the issues of Black manhood disorientation, the repression of homosexual and bisexual Black people and its relationship to a Black manhood resurrection agenda. I speak in honor of the victims of Katrina, and my recently deceased, beloved friend and BMX member, LeRoy Whitfield. As we plan for the political and economic strengthening of our communities, so that the framework is not vulnerable to inter-group conflict, we have to take care of our people, because, movements are made up of people. Parallel to the Minister's brilliant MMM plan, I suggest that there be mental health and restoration intervention for Black people, because many of us need it. We need cultural affirmation courses, because many of us do not know who we are.
We need healing opportunities particular to the Black experience that explicitly acknowledge our diversity, which includes same-gender- loving Sisters and Brothers, non-religious folks, powerful women, people who are differently abled physically, and others loyal to Black unity, life and success. That I'm up here, a same-gender-loving Brother, indicates that there is great possibility that this can happen.
Mind you, I've been called a Black nationalist most of my life. Most recently—a separatist, by the gay community. There are some, among Blacks, especially among those who identify as gay, who believe that white people are more tolerant of homosexuality than Blacks; that Blacks in particular are hell on homosexuals. Yet, material truth contradicts this premise. Brutal attacks on Black homosexuals by Blacks do occur ( especially between Black homosexuals ) . But outside of this sub-culture, violent attacks that lead to death or disfigurement are very rare in Black communities, nationally. Most brutal or deadly attacks on homosexuals occur among whites. And their victims have included Black, white, and Latino homosexuals and transgendered people.
Black community attacks tend to be emotional. The tendency to hear males constantly referring to each other as punks, sissies, the B- word and fags is higher among Black males than in most other groups. These terms, along with any direct critiques of homosexuality, can make Black homosexuals and bisexuals feel painfully self-conscious, judged, afraid and violently oppressed. Especially if their family is so-called Christian ( I'll explain so-called Christian later ) ; includes a father who is angrily insecure about his manhood or sexuality; or there's a mother who is angry at the missing father; or where family members are adamant or abusive in their disapproval.
Yet, typically, in the Black community when the words punk, sissy, the B-word or fag are used, they may or may not be referencing the subject's sexuality or so-called sexual preference. But what is ALWAYS being gauged with these words is the level of manhood. These words aim to establish that someone ain't representing as a Black 'man.' The fact is, in most cases hardly anyone involved in this name-calling is really a man. I'll also address that later.
Acquiring a semblance of manhood, even if superficial, has particular importance to the only male in America who was shipped here, raped of his culture and manhood, and not allowed to be a man for almost 400 years, either by law or treatment. Our obsession and anxiety about manhood is a justifiable, historically rooted concern between Black people who are fearful of Black manhood-lessness. The acculturated symptoms of not having functional Black manhood access, determination or freedom up until maybe a decade ago has had a disfiguring impact on the Black male psyche, how he sees himself, how he's seen, behaves and, in many cases, is treated.
Like any viciously violated human being, even if he or she finally does gain physical freedom, if that freedom does not include culturally and experientially tailored mental health or restoration opportunities, the psychological impact of the wound lingers. And if that wound among Black males—for example—is never addressed, or is addressed improperly for several generations, dysfunctional male behavior can be mistaken for culture, tradition and as normal. In America, not only have Black males' deep wounding not been attended to, we still experience perpetual symbolic and actual threats to our manhood, e.g. police brutality ( witness the most recent brutal attack in New Orleans ) , that we don't know our history, and there is still no prime-time powerful Black male voice with an independent, non-scripted opinion. ( Prime-time means before 11 p.m., before you get sleepy ) .
Our anxiety about homosexuality, especially Black male homosexuality, is grounded in a Black fear or presumed realization of ultimate Black male desecration. But, how many Black men are not desecrated, regardless of sexuality? Negative reactions to same-gender-loving women often result from a male's resentment that he doesn't have consensual sexual access to her. Only, every now and then do we see great examples of Black manhood. Kanye West recently slipped in some Black manhood and opinion on 'prime-time' television. And of course, when it was noticed, he was instantly censored. Though America is supposed to be a democracy, Black manhood ain't allowed.
Another young Black man is cartoonist Aaron McGruder, with his bold comic strip, The Boondocks. He and Kanye are among very few young Black men who have gotten away with exhibiting spurts of Black manhood, when it was needed ( and it is always needed ) . Kanye also recently talked about having been called a momma's boy, because he loved his momma, and had taken on some of her traits. As a result, he was called sissie, fag and punk. Over time, before discovering his manhood, he mimicked his abusers and would verbally bash others perceived or known to be homosexual. Then, his love for his same-gender-loving cousin kicked in, and he became man enough to apologize, and stop the abuse of people, Black people perceived or known to be homosexual. Our communities are filled with mythologies: That manhood is an outfit, determined by what you wear ( sagging pants ) , what you call yourself ( gangsta, thug, heterosexual, nigga ) , and by how much sex you have. But none of this really makes a man! It's crucial we understand that all the time many Black males put into acting like, appearing like and claiming to be men, has gotten in the way of many of us ever becoming men.
Let me explain man to you, more specifically what a man is: The male species of the human family; a post-pubescent male whose life consists of strengthening, sustaining and nurturing the legacy, lifespan, power, 'health' and prosperity of his tribe/people/community. 'A Black male defender, protector, supporter of the Black collective,' Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
No matter how much you sag your pants, your income, your sexuality, your low voice, your artificial gangsta status, the length of your locs—if you are not doing what was just described as a man, you are not a man. America does have Black men, but they are not allowed to be seen. There was once a Black male, who by chance, despite being a comedian, grew up into a Black man right before our eyes. He had a very popular late-night talk show, the most successful one to date. It was called The Arsenio Hall Show. He, bless his heart, actually thought that because the show was named after him, that it was really his show. But it wasn't. Unbeknownst to him, after awhile, he began allowing Black men and women on his show—un-edited. The non-Black people whose show it really was became concerned. In a very rare moment of Black manhood, he invited one of the most powerful Black men of our time on his show—the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan—un-edited. To Arsenio's surprise, that was the beginning of his end. His show was soon cancelled. Neither he nor Farrakhan have been seen unedited on a popular television show since.
For the record, my background is in cultural anthropology, community mental health and pubic health. I am the founder and CEO of the AmASSI Community Health & Cultural Centers—with projects in LA, Harlem, Alanta, and South Africa. We have several phone numbers, but the most memorable one is ( take it down ) —1-800-STOP-HIV. Despite AmASSI's being one of the most successful centers for Black people in the country, you may never have heard of it, because it's run by a Black man. A same-gender-loving Black man—and that's not allowed!
But I'm here, at the invitation, as selected by my community, The Black Men's Xchange ( an organization affirming, educating and unifying same-gender-loving ( SGL ) and bisexual people of African descent, and the Black community at-large ) , and by people close to the minister.
Speaking of AIDS, another reason we as a people must talk across our differences is because HIV/AIDS has a predominantly Black male, female and child's face. Still, it's primary sufferers are same-gender-loving males.
Briefly, I want to share some considerations regarding our diverse children. Children come here in most cases already primed to be who they will be. So, the best way a parent or guardian can help make sure their children, if born healthy, will have good mental health, will prosper and grow up to be men and women, first you have to love them. If you don't know how to love, and many of us don't, go get some help, and learn. Read Iyanla. Provide your child with skills, be a good role model as a woman, or as a man, create practical boundaries ( don't hit; love and respect your Black self; love your people, but in some cases at a distance—and explain why; and be a decent person. ) Allow them to understand that this is a society entrenched with racism and sexism and oppressive attitudes toward human differences. So, when they see imbalances and the mistreatment of people based on these differences, they don't get confused. If, from observation, you believe your child may be a homosexual, because of instinct or choices you see them make ( for example, a young girl is more masculine than you would like, a boy more feminine ) , don't disfigure them emotionally. Don't defensively and brutally use so-called Christianity as a weapon to convince them of what else to be. Remember what Christ would do, if nothing else. ( That many of us forget is what I meant earlier by so-called Christianity. ) Regardless of your own biases and preferences for your children, help make sure they don't hate themselves so much they grow up to become an enemy of the Black community. This is very common, and the gay community takes advantage of this. Help them not to spend so much time questioning their worth that they allow themselves to be at-risk for HIV, or run to the white, often racist gay community for shelter, so they don't commit suicide, self-destruct or wind up physically or mentally dead. You have to love this child—for the rest of your life. I'm not suggesting that you buy 'how to' books on homosexuality for your child. Trust me, if they are loved and affirmed, and not traumatized, they will seek what they need. Stop wasting time emotionally disfiguring them with religion. Go to many Black churches, look at the pulpit or the choir, and all with eyes and ears can see that prayer did not make the homosexuals go away! It may have multiplied them. Just love them, provide direction, give them confidence as Black human beings, actively teach them to avoid internalized oppression as Black and male, Black and female as Black and possibly same-gender-loving.
My goal today was not to tell you how to think, but to invite you to think. I love you family. I can be reached at 1-800-STOP-HIV or firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you.