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Reflections on Pride
by Max Smith
2005-07-01

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Black gay pride celebrations should be the starting points for renewed long-term efforts to make our quality of life better. The volunteers who work to put together the mix of parades, cultural events, workshops and dance parties deserve credit and support for trying to appeal to a community in which it is easier to get a crowd to party than to be about something as serious as self-help. An awful part of that new book by J.L. King shows how badly we need the more serious aspects of prides.

Before getting to that, let me first pay tribute to one person who will be missed by many friends at pride celebrations this summer: Jason Thomas. You met Jason Thomas in the November 2004 Identity magazine Thoughts And Ideas column. He spoke of getting caught up in the criminal just-us system. He spoke out about how known gays are harassed and mistreated by guards and inmates in the Illinois Dept. of Corrections prisons. When Jason Thomas was released on parole Sept. 15, 2004 a friend who knew Jason since their high school days convinced me to allow Jason to move into my large home. It is rough getting decent affordable housing when you are 23, a convicted felon and have no work history or credit.

Jason had a can-do spirit. He helped me deliver Windy City Times newspapers last fall. Then he got pick-up jobs; moving furniture, painting houses, washing cars, etc. to be a net contributor to the house. With his honestly earned income Jason decorated my front porch with holiday lights he purchased for the house last December.

At the start of the new year, Jason resolved to get two things he'd never had before: a car and a place of his own. And surely enough, I was happy for Jason when he drove home in early spring with a 1989 Plymouth Voyager minivan that let him get even more work helping people move and doing light home improvements. His thrift and careful budgeting got him his own apartment in April.

On Tuesday May 10, 2005 my telephone rang in the early evening. The caller identified himself as a medical doctor at the intensive care unit of a local hospital. He asked 'Do you know a Jason Thomas, about 6ft 4, 200 lb. 23 years of age?' When I said 'Yes, of course, he used to live here,' the doctor apologized before saying Jason had died at 3:55 p.m. that very day. I was shocked. But then my mind went back to an unexplained illness Jason complained of in February. And just two days earlier several of Jason's friends told me Jason said 'I love all of you guys.' That was memorable because he had never said that before.

So what does this story of Jason have to do with Black gay pride? Everything.

Among Jason's friends from Jackson Park, Club Escape and Jeffrey Pub almost $1,000 was collected in small donations and given directly to AR Leak Funeral Home at 79th St. and Cottage Grove Ave. At his memorial service, Jason's relatives pointed at, and whispered and giggled about all the sissies and faggots in the chapel. Never mind that all funeral expenses were paid by the voluntary donations from Jason's 'gay family', not blood relatives.

There are lots of people in need in our community. Maybe the greatest overall need is the capacity to see the good in people society would just as soon ignore: including the homeless, ex-offenders and people without financial resources. Of course there has to be a willingness on the part of these and other people in trouble to become drug and alcohol free. Drinking and drugging to mentally escape problems usually makes bad problems worse.

On Thursday, June 9, Black lesbian activist Jasmyne Cannick of Los Angeles spoke on National Public Radio ( WBEZ 91.5 FM ) about Black Gay Prides. She was great in talking about how the Black Pride celebrations help us combat both racism and homophobia. I think the next roadblock that needs attention is the internalized self-doubt and even self-hatred that lead to self-destructive or self-limiting activities. Over the years, as much as possible, I've worked for volunteer groups that promote Black gay pride all year-around.

Lately I've become very concerned about the long-term viability of Church of The Open Door. Declining attendance and high winter 2005 heating bills have taken a toll. Show your Black pride by attending service there! Sundays 4 p.m., 5954 S. Albany Ave. Nothing like spiritual uplift to combat self-doubt and self-defeating behavior.

One year ago a book I edited, Staying Power, encouraged a new understanding of God's unconditional love of same-gender-loving people. It is possible to love another person only if you love yourself first. Of critical importance is understanding the moral correctness of, and feeling great about, same-gender lovemaking between consenting adults.

Quite the opposite is what creates self-hatred among same-gender-loving people. To my great disappointment, a message promoting self-hatred among same-gender-loving people is given four pages in J.L. King's latest book Coming Up from the Down Low. Voice is given to Tracy J Sipp. On page 166 of King's book Sipp says 'Indeed the spirit of homosexuality is an abomination to God.' Rather than give additional quotes like that from this book: suffice to say that the benefit of doubt I'd given King vanished when I read this latest book. Last year I personally sent by e-mail and handed a hard copy of Church of The Open Door's workshop 'Clobber Scriptures 101' to King. This workshop's plainly worded information gets into great detail about what the Bible says and does not say about same-gender love. I strongly encouraged King to read, study and use that information whenever he has a chance to educate literally thousands of people he is blessed to be able to contact and teach. For J.L. King to devote four pages of his book to the perspective that homosexuals are sinners, but try to love them anyway, is a terrible betrayal of me personally and of the same-gender-loving community generally. Show your Black gay pride ... boycott this book.

Usually I devote myself to one topic per month in this column. Thank you, consistent readers, for allowing me to comment on multiple topics while trying to tie each to the general theme of Black Prides. Comments? Concerns? contact MaxsonnCS@aol.com

Rocks Award

Clarence Wood, chairman of the city of Chicago Human Relations Commission and President/CEO of the Jane Addams Hull House Association, was recently chosen as the 2005 recipient of the 'President's' award, sponsored by the Rocks Coordinating Committee.

'We all have a responsibility to right the wrongs of the past and work to make this country inclusive. Our contemporary diversity discussions can only be valid if we explore the historical contexts of exclusion of many and inclusion of some,' Wood said.

The award is presented annually to individuals who exemplify civic leadership in effectively addressing issues that combat the societal ills that adversely affect many communities throughout the city of Chicago.

Wood was presented with a commemorative plaque in the offices of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

The Rocks Coordinating Committee continues to be the facilitator of the largest and oldest culturally diverse lakefront GBLT after 'Pride' celebration/minority health preventive informational linkage apparatus event in the city of Chicago, with estimated crowds of well over 10,000 African American and Latino attendees annually at Montrose harbor on the lakefront on GBLT 'Pride' day


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