Dear Ebony: Let’s Celebrate Black LGBTQ Love, Too…

I spent a portion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday randomly thumbing through books and magazines at Barnes and Noble. In the book section, I photographed the covers of several books to add to my ever-increasing ‘to read’ list. I moved to the magazine section and my eyes were drawn to Ebony magazine’s February issue with a picture of the beautiful couple Carmelo and La La Anthony on the cover. I grabbed the magazine and noticed that there were two other covers available with couples Nick Cannon and Maria Carey and David and Tamela Mann. The theme of the issue was ‘Celebrating Black Love’. Okay Ebony. I’m with you. Let’s celebrate Black Love.

Black Love - Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, Carmelo and La La Anthony, and David and Tamela Mann

Tucked away in the back of the magazine between a Nelson Mandela tribute and photo from the Ebony archives were the stories of the three couples previously mentioned. ‘Love, Actually’, ‘Through the Fire’, and ‘All-Star Romance’ were celebratory pieces that examined the business and marital success of the Cannon-Carey duo; highlighted the 25 years and going strong marriage of the Mann’s; and debunked the perception that all male professional athletes aim to be womanizers as readers were exposed to how Carmelo Anthony decided very young and very quickly that he wanted his friend La La Vasquez to be his wife. Yes, these articles did indeed celebrate Black Love.

Following the last story is more celebration of Black Love as Ebony’s ’10 Sexiest Couples’ were included in a pictorial. These couples included Nicole Murphy and Michael Strahan, Amar’e and Alexis Stoudemire, Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, Lebron James and Savannah Brinson James, Kimberly Jackson and Ice Cube, Solange Knowles and Alan Ferguson, Steve and Marjorie Harvey, Ciara and Future, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Josiah Bell, and Brandy and Ryan Press. Again, Ebony scored with these couples in different stages of their relationships. This pictorial was yet another celebration of Black Love.

But wait. I flipped through the Black Love section again and looked feverishly for some diversity. Yes, Black Love is diverse love, so where is the diversity, Ebony? Where are the ‘non-traditional’ representations of Black Love? Where are the LGBTQ couples? Yessss, there are Black LGBTQ folks out here loving on one another in healthy ways. So why were none of these couples included in this celebration of Black Love? [Don’t worry. I’ll wait.]
Before I got too hyped about this exclusionary heteronormative celebration of Black Love [yes, it became all that in my mind], I combed through the magazine looking for professions of Black Love. Voila! I found the ‘Love and Relationships’ section where Claire McIntosh compiled stories on maintaining the spark and building romance. I read each of the 23 stories exploring the Four R’s – Rites of Passage, Rituals, Routines, and Retreats. Presumably, not one of the stories included a LGBTQ couple. [Of course, the disclaimer here is that there was limited background on the couples, but the names and use of his/her pronouns suggested these were all heterosexual couples.]

Since 1945, Ebony has promoted the experiences of Black people in an affirming manner. It has been a beacon for addressing political, educational, cultural, religious, financial, relationship, and identity issues in the Black community. In recent years, Ebony has expanded its audience by providing more emphasis on the issues for Black LGBTQ individuals. Just last year, there were at least eight articles or letters focused on the LGBTQ community – Pride, Workplace Inequality, a Welcome Home Letter, Black LGBT Pioneers, Kwanzaa, and Coming out to Family. And yes, there were two articles on Black LGBTQ Love – Rashad Burgess and Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III (and their daughter) were included in the ‘Coolest Black Family in America’ and the wedding of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity members Robert Brown and Nathanael Gay were celebrated. These are great examples of Black LGBTQ Love.

Noting the previous examples, it is not my suggestion that Ebony is consistently exclusionary in its celebration of Black Love. However, it is my concern that Ebony is NOT consistently inclusionary in its celebration of Black Love – and that’s a serious issue. Black LGBTQ couples should not be celebrated only when perceived as unique. [The article on the Burgess-Allen couple noted the two were ‘revolutionary’ and ‘ardent innovators’, likely due to their commitment to one another and religious convictions; and many perceived the wedding of Brown and Gay to be unique in part due to their membership in a traditionally Black fraternity.] Black LGBTQ couples are not anomalies and the scattered inclusion of said couples suggests otherwise.

In the 2015 ‘Celebrate Black Love’ issue, I hope Ebony will begin the practice of being consistently inclusionary. While there is limited ‘out’ representation of Black LGBTQ Love among Black celebrities, those couples do exist. Consider adding Monifah Carter and Terez Mychell or Janet Mock and Aaron Tredwell to the list. Lee Daniels, Meshell Ndegeocello, RuPaul, etc. are In addition, Lewis Duckett and Billy Jones, who married last year after being together for 46 years, might not be Hollywood celebrities but they are the epitome of long-lasting Black Love.

It’s time to celebrate Black Love in its many forms. Ebony, you have the platform and the voice to remind readers that Black Love is Lesbian Love, Gay Love, Bisexual Love, Transgendered Love, and Queer Love. Black Love is Love, Actually – and Unconditionally.

Eclectic GRITS

The Mic Is Open. And I’m On It: Brother, Can We Talk?

And just like that, 2014 is here. With it, I – like many others – have made the promise to be better, do better, live better. With this promise come all kinds of lofty goals and plans – and fear. Fear that I won’t be better. Fear that I won’t live my truth. Fear that I won’t be successful at achieving those lofty goals. Nevertheless, I will wake up every morning with the best intentions of being, doing, and living better.

One of my goals is to write, write, and write. I received a Facebook message prior to the end of the year that reminded me of how the Universe knows our gifts and sends us messages when we’re not using them. The message read:

“So when I woke up this morning my very thought was of you. And my thought was to tell you to write. And when you think you can’t write anymore…write some more. Don’t ask because I don’t know lol. All I know is that every life changing, life altering thought and decision has come in the morning and this morning it was you. Personally, I believe you will change the world with your writing. It’s powerful and moving and all the things we need in this world. So go write.”

The affirming words of this message encouraged and humbled me. Even as I retyped the message into this blog, I couldn’t help but shed a tear. (Yes, even I cry occasionally.) A few days after I received this message, my partner and I held a NYE party at our home and were thankful to have all kinds of creative friends present. Our guests blessed us with their voices and lyrics, through song and spoken word. I added a few haikus here and there. And it was at that party, among the food, drinks, and fabulous friends that I knew I had to get back to writing and back to my first loves – poetry and spoken word.

I have stage fright. Yes, I know I’ve been in stage plays and have performed spoken word in the past, but I have stage fright – and imagining the audience naked doesn’t help. There is no stage on my blog, but I can pretend in order to move beyond the fright. So picture my living room as the stage – transformed: Warm shades of brown, orange, green, and yellow. Buddha, African dancers and masks, and Bob Marley on the walls. Small adornments of candles and bamboo plants. My Christmas tree still standing in the corner and the bookshelf as the backdrop with some of my favorite authors whispering “You got this” from the shelves. Nikki Giovanni. Jill Scott. bell hooks. Alice Walker. Audre Lorde. Tupac. Zora Neale Hurston. Rebecca Walker. Angela Davis. Baba Asa Hilliard. And my Donny Hathaway ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, unopened, looks over my shoulder. I take center stage. The mic is open…and I’m on it.

Hostess:

Tonight, we’d like to bring to the stage an artist who describes herself as an “Afrolezfemcentric/Black feminist mother, educator, writer, poet, eclectic Southern Belle.” This artist is a Bama Belle and an imported Peach with a passion for life and love. I know she’ll bring the heat for us. It’s been a minute since she’s been on stage, so ya’ll be nice. So without further delay, I give you Qiana, Nilah Monet, Eclectic GRITS.

Applause, snaps and whistles. [I take the stage.]

Eclectic GRITS:

Who in the hell said
All the Southern Belles were White girls?
Ya’ll can kiss my GRITS.

How ya’ll doing? [Aight…] Good. Ya’ll aight? So that’s a little haiku that I love. Uhm..this piece is about Black women. And Black men. And the disconnect. [Whispers…] Wait, wait. Ya’ll hear me out. I paid attention to US in 2013. Black women were under attack at every turn, and no, it wasn’t always by Black men. But when Black men came for us, they came hard. And that hurts. A post on Facebook from a Black male indicating that he felt “bad for Barack” because, according to this gentleman, Michelle Obama scowls – and therefore, she must be the angry black woman, right? Rick Ross put something in our drinks (and we didn’t even know it). Nelly wanted to kick our ass. Those are just a few examples, and I just knew that 2014 would be better. But the messy comments of Chuck Smith on Sunday night’s episode of ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ and yesterday’s Internet buzz about Dr. Samori Swygert’s vision of femininity for Black females – a vision that basically translated to “Woman, your ass should be more submissive. Cook, clean, look pretty, and be quiet.” – reminded me that Black women are still under attack. Well, Dr. Swygert and all of my brothers…I have a vision for Black men.

Eh-hem…

bell hooks (2004) wrote:
“Black women cannot speak for black men.
We can speak with them” (p. xvii).
And with that thought in mind,
Brother, I want you to listen.
I’m not claiming to have your struggle.
But I do know your pain.
Proverbially free men
Realistically enchained.
But
No keys do I hold.
No prisons do I keep.
So you gotta understand
That your fight ain’t with me.

Your fight ain’t with me.

I’ve been your anchor
Your ‘round the way girl’
Holding you up when you fall
The calm in your world.
When you’re wandering aimlessly
I guide you home.
And feed you
And clothe you
And love you
And cry for you
when you roam.

I birth your sons and daughters
I boost your self-esteem
And all I’m asking for
Is my rightful place as your Queen.
Yes, I turn tricks for you.
Immaturely fight other chicks for you.
And when you leave me stranded
I raise your kids for you.

See, this is about intimacy.
Not about sex.
No heteronormative assumptions
Just reciprocation at best.
This patriarchal society
Repeatedly
Deals me blows to the face.
We are one in the same.
Like you, I’m trying to find my place.
Carve out a space where my spirit
Can thrive and my love can grow
Dissecting this metaphysical dilemma
Of being a Black woman
Is all that I know.
I’m Hottentot’d
And Sapphire’d
And Welfare Queen’d
And Jezebel’d
I’m that neck rolling, loud talking
Angry Black Bitch…
That’s all they can tell.
That’s what they see.
But you should be my solace.
Because I hope you understand
That your fight ain’t with me.

Your fight ain’t with me.

My vision for you
Is a vision for us.
I want you to love me.
Like unconditionally…
Immensely…
Without restraint.
Love me
When my actions aren’t true.
If I turn to you for support
Hold me up
Like I do for you.
Don’t be so quick
To point out my flaws
To pen the stereotypes of me
In your lyrics and blogs
Be my shield, my protector.
When I’m being stoned from all sides.
Be my shoulder, my comforter
Kiss the tears when I cry.

Your expectations of me are great
And to them I’ll rise.
But I have to deal with the world’s oppression
You should be the last
To contribute to my demise.

Brother, I love you.

Our existence is challenged.
Our freedom ain’t free.
You’ve always gotten acceptance
When you’re defeated
And come to me.

So please realize…

No keys do I hold.
No prisons do I keep.
You must understand
That your fight ain’t with me.

Your fight ain’t with me.

Applause, snaps and whistles. [Thank you]

Qiana

Nilah Monet

Eclectic GRITS