Friday, November 21, 2008

From 50 Cent to Obama: Change And Representations Of Black Masculinty.

"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree." - Barack Obama, Acceptance Speech Nov. 4th 2008

That quote alone toppled a whole reigning archetype of masculinity in the United States. "I will LISTEN to you, ESPECIALLY when we disagree?" This is a refreshing new model of masculine strength, after 8 years of "smoke em out of their holes" trigger happy cowboy/global gangsta rhetoric. The Cowboy archetype does not listen. Is not that skilled in communication period. Power is inherent through whiteness, maleness, access to money, government and tons and tons of weapons. The Cowboy is also the Playground Bully who teases and disrespects men who try to use reason instead of global bully measures. But now enter Barack Obama, whose unfolding archetype of a more balanced, communicative man (to the point of getting really close to people who opposed him, and appointing some to his cabinet!) And Cowboys now see the world shower him with adoration they know they would never receive. Its almost like the looped message we got from so many sweet (albeit heteronormative and problematically gendered in some ways) romantic comedies of the 80's: Beautiful and thoughtful girl is with the jock bully for the dance, but realizes that she really wants to be with the communicative nerd. An allegory for the rise of the outcast.

And the outcast has risen. Barack Hussein Obama, mixed race son of a Kenyan Muslim man and White American Christian woman, born in Hawaii, schooled in Indonesia... 44th President of the United States. History has yet to show the ripples that his appointment caused in the psyche of people of African descent around the world, to see one of our own, historically oppressed people in the most powerful office on the planet. I remember hearing so many fatalist conversations on street corners, brothas sucking their teeth, "They can't let him win. He can't win." And they spoke to something a lot of us felt. But i wish i could have been in their shoes, to experience what may have blossomed in their chests when the news came on November 4th. I was of course busy with my own "blossoming", elated beyond belief, jumping up and down. But i had a positive outlook from jump. And it was great to have that positive stance affirmed :)

In one swoop, there is new cred for black masculinity and strength. We have so many expressions of masculinity (as I explored in my post Nostalgia For The Gender Fluid 80's,) from jheri curls to dread locks and baldheads, from Prince, Earth, Wind and Fire, to Chuck D and Easy E. But after Easy E, it seemed that the only model of black masculinity that was perpetuated in the media was the gangsta. You know, like don't smile when someone is taking your picture, be hard. The ubiquity of these monolithic images is absorbed by all, to the point where a black man who doesn't embody that swagger and hardness may not be perceived by some people to be "really black" or "really a man".

And truly, Obama's blackness (or African American-ness, more specifically) is in question, since he is of immigrant African descent, and bi-racial. And also because he exudes Harvard and Columbia, not West Oakland or South Bronx. This dynamic and others are brilliantly critiqued and parodied in David Alan Grier's hilarious and insightful skit "Is Racism Dead?" Obama finds some solidarity amongst black men of similar masculinity... and the question as to whether racism died with Obama's appointment, is umm, dealt with appropriately :)

At the top of this post is a short documentary by African American anti-sexist activist and filmmaker Byron Hurt, a film called Barack & Curtis: Manhood, Power & Respect. Here the comparision of 50 Cent and Obama is delved into deeply, and how these expressions of black masculinity shift in the mass mind and the black community. Mad props to Byron and his work, he is definitely an inspiration to me.

I am glad that my young nephews are growing up with this new media expression of black masculinity. I am thankful to have balance restored in so many ways, including how black men are portrayed in the media. This is indeed one of the many positive manifestations of the momentum of Change. May Obama be blessed with at least two terms of exemplifying that a man can have access to aggressive power with out relying on that to express oneself, that a man can be communicative and be powerful, that a hetero man can believe in gay rights, that a black man can restore pride to a whole country. Ashé.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Today is the Transgender Day Of Remembrance. This comes at a time when Duanna Johnson's murder should be present in our minds. Statistics tell that at least one transgendered person is murdered every month, often with no justice served. Duanna Johnson's death has also ignited the progressive people of color LGBT blogosphere, since the video taped police brutality leading up to the death of a black transwoman seems to be taking a back seat to the marriage equality agenda. Which in some ways, with no disrespect to Duanna Johnson, i feel is understandable considering the momentum and magnitude of these historical elections, and the millions of people disenfranchized by Prop 8. But issues of class, gender and most definitely race further embroil tensions, even as memes in the news still perpetuate the idea that black people magically voted in Prop 8 while being only 6 percent of the electorate (new studies show age to be a more predicatble factor in who voted yes on 8... lets not start hatin' on the grannies now people...). For some, it would seem that marriage equality is not the priority when people's lives are in danger. Which is also, very understandable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Alameda County Joins Growing Lawsuit Against Prop 8

Good News!! reposted from Chris Metinko's article in the Oakand Tribune:

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to join San Francisco and Los Angeles counties in a lawsuit asking the state's high court to void Proposition 8 on the grounds that voters did not have the authority to make, what they claim, is a revision to the state's constitution.

Prop. 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote earlier this month, overturned the state's Supreme Court's decision in the spring which legalized gay marriage. The measure changes the constitution to limit marriage to that only between a man and a woman.

The suit, which also has been joined by Santa Clara County, claims any measure is not merely an amendment to the state's constitution, but rather a major revision and should therefore have had to pass through the state Assembly and Senate before going to the voters this November.

Its going down y'all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reportback From The Oakland No On 8 Protest.

Wow. I'm just recovering from co-organizing this rally. I have to give mega-props to fellow organizers Monifa Porter, Lawrence Ellis, Maya Scott-Chung, Carrie Leiser-Williams, Jen-Mei Wu and special props to Natalee Kehaulani, Molly McKay, Michelle Rodriguez, Aimee Suzara, Xiaojing Wang, Chelsey Oda, Ruth Villasenor, Sapana Doshi and Tracey Osbourne for all the support, behind the scenes work, and documenting (awesome pics Natalee! check here to peep the beauty!). So much love and respect also going out to those who delivered an uplifting, essential performance. And much love to everyone who showed up, and all who support this cause in any way!

This was really difficult to get together, with zero time for outreach (i still have so many flyers leftover!!) so we are thankful that it actually had a really good turnout!! There was a point in the organizing process where we came up against a huge obstacle. The name of that obstacle was unconscious racism. Without naming anyone, i will say that two queer white men (not listed above) who did a lot of work to procure the permits, and get some high profile politicians to sign on... also then proceeded to feel a sense of ownership over the process, and was expressing their unconscious racism by not wanting to "allow" people of color from Oakland communities to represent on the mainstage. Yes, we are taking about Oakland! They felt that they "couldn't be racist" because they invited Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Mayor Ron Dellums (who didn't show unfortunately). As a straight ally, i didn't feel like i could get all up in their face about how effed up their politics were. This really could have turned into a protest of the mostly poc organizers against a whitewahed rally in Oakland, with a separate stage of people more represenative of Oakland. But in the end, we actually came to a compromise. And it became a micrcosm for the work that has to be done to move forward into positive Change. So despite differences of vision and consciousness, and across lines of race, privilege and sexuality... we worked it out, and shared the stage and had a beautiful program.

There was so much that happened. The Two Spirit-Drummers created sacred space by opening and closing the event with the sacred ceremonial drum Two Eagles, which had been made by Two-Spirit/LGBT Native elders. We heard from LGBTQ families of various backgrounds. We heard from recently married couples. We heard a maybe 8 year old boy speak simple yet immensely powerful words about the humanity of his two moms. There was an emotional testimony from City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan. Aimee Suzara took the crowd by storm, debuting her poem "Dangerous" that was made for that moment in time (go to to read it and see what else this amazing poet/educator/perfromer is up to!)). And there was much much more. I was proud to represent str8 black ally, and to evoke to power of the ally: Bio allies for Transfolks, Men and boy allies for girls and women, white allies for people of color (white allies that would intercept dialogue that would make people look at me and assume i voted yes on prop 8, etc). I also then presented a piece that was directed towards people of faith who interpret their sacred texts to disapprove of love between people of the same sex. I call it the Parable Of Empathy (forward liberally, but please ask permission before utilizing in a program or something):


Parable Of Empathy

You, who love your God, Love your place of worship, love your community
Hear me.

Imagine that your religion, like all religions have been, is oppressed by a majority religion.

Imagine that this majority religion has a lot of power.

Imagine that the people of this majority religion very deeply believed that your ways were wrong, immoral, heathenlike. And though you love your ways and they are so right for you, it was wrong for them.

Imagine that they used their power to take away your places of worship that you so dearly love.

How would you feel?

How would you feel, knowing that instead of just loving their gods, they chose to take the time and energy to strike down how you love your God, strike down your place of worship, strike down your community?

How would you feel, knowing that the people of this powerful religion are people that you work with? Friends? Members of your family?

In your heart, you would know that not everyone in this powerful religion did this, but wouldn’t it be difficult to see the humanity of those who associate with people who assaulted your way of of living and loving?

Is what we need to cultivate right now.
We all have a task up ahead.
And that is for everyone, on both sides
To figure out how to see the Humanness
In the other.

(c) rmw 2008


Yes yes y'all. The work towards affirming the humanity of all continues! And I have good feelings about these revolutionary baby steps we are making. Fight The H8! Liberate The Love!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Protest The H8. Historical Nationwide March This Saturday Coming To A City Hall Near You.

*This just in! Oakland is now on the map for the nationwide protest! This Saturday, 10:30am, Frank Ogawa Plaza! I proud to say I am one of the organizers, please hit me up with contacts for speakers, poets, conscious comedians, community leaders, etc at! And for those who use Facebook, spread the word thru this link:
Coo? Lets do this!

The momentum of change continues people! This very well may be the largest protest in the history of the United States that was organized in **3 DAYS**. Protests have been rallied together to be occurring simultaneously in over 80 cities, all 50 states. And now its gone international, with allied protests in Canada, the UK, France, Puerto Rico, Japan, China...Wow. This is the next level right here people. The unfortunate passing of Prop 8 has sparked what might be one of the largest manifestations of the LGBTQ Civil Rights movement. I know I want to be a part of it. Go To Join The Impact (hosted by Wetpaint) to see where the protest nearest you is, and when it will happening to in order for it to be synchronized, all-city style.

Aw man, they took down the awesome timeline of response to basically, how this movement happened! They are juggling servers with all the traffic they are getting, maybe it got lost. Luckily I left a window open with it on there, i cut and paste, check this out:

  1. November 7th – Launch (original Join The Impact blog)
  2. 5 Hours post launch – First 10,000 visitors
  3. Midnight on November 7th – 20 cities organizing
  4. November 8th (Afternoon)– Thanks to the help of organizers, we made CNN’s iReport.
  5. November 8th (Evening) – Our site hit 35K visitors
  6. November 9th (Morning) – 30 cities organizing
  7. November 9th (Afternoon) – We got the attention of
  8. November 9th (Evening) – The tipping point – Traffic jumped to 50K visitors/hour. With the help of, we immediately switched to a new webhost (Generously donated by Hostdango!)
  9. November 10th 8am PST – Our initiative goes international! Now there are protests being planned around the world for the exact same minute on November 15th!
  10. November 10th 10am PST – Hostdango shows even more generousity by upgrading us to an amazingly robust server to ensure that we can handle the traffic! That server goes live the morning of November 11th!
  11. November 10th 11am PST – enters the mix of local Seattle based companies donating time and services. Thanks to WetPaint, we now have an amazing Wiki to upload contact information and protest locations for every single city! They created a social site just for us:
  12. November 10th 11pm PST – All 50 states have local organizers in over 80 cities!!!
  13. We have had almost 1million visitors to the site since launch!
Incredible. History being made right here folks. I'm just waiting for the next revolutionary movement to step up, whats next??

In the meantime... Say No To H8! And Liberate The Love!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


My brothers, we need to TALK.

I know that we are glowing from the beautiful and historical triumph of Barack Obama becoming President Elect. But with the passing of Prop 8, we have left so many of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters behind.

With statistics that showed that 70% of black voters voted for prop 8, it becomes clear that there is urgent discussion and healing that needs to be done in our communities.


You don’t have to be a super activist or anything. Just a brotha with a conscience. I would love to hear from straight ally sistas too, but i really think at this is work that at least initially black men need to take on. If anyone wants to form a sister group, beautiful! Holla!! And for LGBTQ folks reading this (especially those of African descent), please feel free to let me know what your idea of a good straight ally is in this context, though you are not expected to educate me/us.

All who fit these criteria, please contact me at or right here. And a way that everyone and anyone can help... start a dialogue here, and also please forward this on to others in the Bay Area (lets start local).

I can’t do this alone, and our LGBTQ family can’t wait. Humanity can’t wait. Let us harness the wave of change that is sweeping our nation. We need to act now. I look forward to hearing from you!

str8 black ally

ps to be CLEAR, black folks were NOT the majority of Yes On 8 voters. I believe we were like 6% of the vote. This is not about vilifying or targeting black people. It is an acknowledgment of deep work that has to be done in our communities, work that i strongly encourage others to do in their own communities as well.

pps i would ALSO like to emphasize that it should not be assumed that same-sex marriage is a priority in all LGBTQ lives. It is a choice. For some, there is a choice to invest energy in other issues where discrimination could actually be life threatening. Also, still others may see marriage as an archaic institution steeped in patriarchy and capitalism, a trope of heterosexual culture that some can do without. All very understandable. To me anyway. To be clear, I am allying with LGBTQ folks who are affected by Prop 8 passing. And i would like to see this heterosexual privilege topple. Blesss....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Envision... Two Little Black Girls Living And Playing In The White House!

Thank you Bea, for this most precious image! I am now holding it in my heart and mind with a smile that I will have when I cast my ballot. My good friend, Beandrea Davis CYT of always BRINGS IT in a most positive and insightful way. A magic weaver, helping others to weave magic too. I invite you to also hold this image, as you vote (if you haven't voted already!!) Beandrea goes on to say:

The image of two Black girls living in the White House, being tucked in at night by their parents – the President and First Lady of the United States of America – fills me with hope. I see them laughing, having sleepovers, playing. (I recently read their mother actually puts “play” on to-do lists for them!) Malia and Sasha Obama are ages 10 and 7, and they are Black. Two Black girls living in the White House. The sweetness of that picture!

Mmmm. Yes. I Vote For The New Sweetness!! Ashé! more>>