From MUSED Magazine Online –
by Aaron Talley & Steven-Emmanuel Martinez
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
From dinner tables to community board meetings, black gay men have used shade throwing as cultural currency to popularity. We have a tendency to harp on the most unfortunate aspects of our community, and this ultimately leads to the disavowing of our community as a whole. Essentially, many members of our community find subtle, yet destructive ways of rendering our community as incomplete, shameful, and broken. Though often accidental, it’s a perception for which we are all responsible for birthing.
A perception adopted by a sizeable majority of our leaders, community activists and acquaintances carry an idea that is embedded in the thick of our being, and the edges of the stories told by us. But what should concern us most, is that it is a perception that works to divide us, rather than strengthen the bonds between us. It is an ideology that fails to give credence to the richness of our culture, and our culture’s contribution to the broader world. And this perception of brokenness suggests that we must work harder to appreciate and recognize the magnificence of our community. Only through this recognition can the collective consciousness of our community thrive.
In many ways, it is not surprising that ideas of brokenness and shame might operate so richly in our community. The multi-headed hydra of oppression has worked to rob us of the fullness of our being, and forced us to hide in the shadows of our society. Yet, rather than thinking about how a history of being forced to remain in the shadows can have real economic and social consequences today, we often resolve to completely hold ourselves to blame. The common trope among people of color, the lazy trope, is to assume that the woes afflicting our communities are completely a result of our individual actions. Along this line of thinking, troubles like homelessness, poverty, joblessness, and HIV/AIDS are somehow reduced to a matter of our own personal effort.
We are suffocating in the belief that because we navigate the world with multiple oppressions, we are not good enough. However, though our collective narrative is profoundly undervalued, our community is enriched with culture, history, and a heartbeat that carries the blood of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin and Essex Hemphill. There’s a legacy of giants – both dead and alive – that illustrate that we are better than whatever limited notions society restricts us to. We walk in deep and vast legacies, from Alvin Ailey to Frank Ocean, Mel Boozer to Keith Boykin, from Langston Hughes to Alphonso Morgan, from Glenn Burke to Jason Collins. Indeed, nothing broken can flood through our veins; truly, we are a blessing to humanity.
So the question is not a matter of if we are broken. But rather, do we as a community recognize and understand the contributions we have made to this world? It’s time that we begin to recognize the position we play in this society – we have a collective history of resilience, of overcoming the impossible and demonstrating our vitality. As black gay men, we must begin to make the conscious and intentional effort of recognizing what is most beautiful about our culture, and unapologetically celebrating it, despite the many challenges we must face. We need to validate, educate, and unite each other. And, most importantly, remind each other that our lives matter.