From MUSED Magazine Online –
BY MARCUS LEE
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013
Dear President Barack Obama,
On Sunday morning, I woke up in great haste–the kind of haste that a child experiences as he/she wakes up and realizes that the school bus is only minutes away. Wearing stained pajama pants, dry skin, and yesterday’s underwear, I ran downstairs to open my laptop to witness the 129th Morehouse College Commencement at which you were the honorary speaker. Every year, Morehouse undercuts racism by proudly unleashing more than 500 African American men into the world with Bachelors’ Degrees and newfound purposes.
The historical significance of your decision to honor our Commencement this year was incredible–the year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the historic I Have A Dream speech; and, May 19 would have marked the 88th year of life of our dear Malcolm X. Now, May 19, 2013 may also go down in history as the day that the first African American President of the United States keenly addressed the graduating class of the nation’s only all-male, Historically Black Institution.
Your speech made me come alive–I get chills every time I see articles and pictures commemorating it. I’ve seen you speak [on television] many times before; however, this speech was different. This was the first time I had seen you engage in conversation by, about andbetween African American men. The enthusiasm with which you discussed racial justice was invigorating, the graveness with which you discussed masculinity & fatherhood was sobering, and the poignancy & honesty with which you used the word we was breathtaking. Your words ignited a rumble in my soul. The charges that you set forth placed us all in a state of constructive discomfort that will continue to inspire us as we continue to revel in it. The applause among the members of the audience seemed to be indicative of both an affirmation and acceptance of the challenges presented to them. When I thought your speech couldn’t get any more powerful, you proved me wrong and, in an instant, the rumble in my soul transformed into a roar.
“Be the best husband to your wife…or your boyfriend…or your partner.”
I was flabbergasted.
When the lines of “black” and the lines of “gay” are drawn, black, gay men are usually somewhere on the outskirts of the two drawing our own lines and playing hopscotch. We are conditioned to understand our identities as inconsistent and at odds with one another. As our whole truths are continually neglected, we are pushed [I was pushed] to understand ourselves as incapable of achieving the American dream. We are pushed [I was pushed] to understand ourselves as negligible creatures that are simply burdensome to each and every environment, community or divine figure with which we choose to engage. But when you–the President of the United States–chose to make mention of our existence, you underscored our humanity and implanted us squarely in the middle of a setting we were told [I was told] we’d never be a part of: a conversationby, about and between African American men.
So, thank you President Obama. Thank you for making note of my existence. Thank you for proving to the world that not every black man is an aggressively homophobic brute. Thank you for recognizing that not every gay man looks like–or wants to look like–a White Abercrombie model. Thank you for strengthening your composure through the homophobic laughter. Thank you for choosing to include me. Thank you for reminding me that I too have access to the American dream.
Please make no mistake about this letter: I do not mean to attempt to overshadow the success or graduation thrill of my brothers–the 2013 graduates of Morehouse College–by highlighting what, to some, may seem like an insignificant line of your speech. They are some of the most amazing men I’ve ever met, gay and straight alike, and I am more than sure that they will continue on to do amazing things. Although their interests vary from journalism to divinity to medicine to law, and so on, what unifies them is their commitment to equality and justice. I hope the world is ready for those awe-inspiring men. I also do not mean to exclude other members of my community–of our community–from this discussion. As the visibility of Black, gay men increases, the invisibility of our transgender and genderqueer brothers and sisters has persisted. In addition, as conversations among and about Black men become more progressive, conversations between and about Black men and women still have a long way to go. I audaciously hope that the equality that you made suggestion of in this speech marks the beginning of a path toward radical inclusion.
It is not by coincidence that the first African American president is also the first sitting president to remind the country of its promises of equality in such important ways. There is something in our communal spirit- some moral compass- that continually pulls us toward being on the right side of history. As I reveled in that spirit, I felt compelled to write you this letter in the hope that you and the rest of society will feel encouraged continuing to move in the right direction. And, for me–and for so many Black, gay men watching–that minor affirmation was moving and worthy of acknowledgement. So, thanks President Obama. It didn’t go unnoticed and it really meant a lot.
PS: See, we queer folk truly ain’t asking for much.