Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Photo of the Day

“To Walk the World Without Masks”

The Wild Reed’s 2020 Queer Appreciation series continues with an excerpt from the book Shirt of Flame: The Secret Gay Art of War by Ko Imani.

Shirt of Flame explores how LGBTQI people can adopt a leadership role in co-creating a society of equality, freedom, justice, respect, truth, and growth by living our best lives – lives “grown in love” and filled with love, compassion, and community. For as Imani reminds us, “Demanding change without embodying change will never create change.”

In the following excerpt from Shirt of Flame, Imani challenges us to “walk the world without masks.” Obviously, in this time of the global coronavirus pandemic, this isn't a reference to actual physical, life-saving masks, but rather to the metaphorical “masks” of inauthentic, life-denying words and actions that we can be tempted to wear so as to avoid change and transformation – ours and the world's. Accompanying Imani’s words are images of queer men who, in my view, are living in the world without these metaphorical masks.

All of us, whether we consider ourselves activists or not, must recognize that our oppression, like a wall, is two sided, not one sided. Our focus must be turned inward and outward at the same time, but the only way we'll be able to hold both in mind gracefully is if we stop clinging to thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that limit our attention and cause suffering. This is why self-control and self knowledge are inherent in our Power. We have to examine the ways in which we participate in our own oppression.

How many of us have walked down Main Street or through the park with a partner and not grabbed our beloved’s hand? For how many candlelit dinners in fine restaurants have we settled for eye contact from opposite sides of the table? How much of our time do we spend with the eyes in the back of our heads wide open, afraid to fully express our selves for fear of attack?

The answers? Too many. Too much.

Start small and just challenge yourself to observe the ways you think. In the examples just given, although there is an atmosphere of oppression that is sometimes present in public, and certainly there are situations in which it would be unsafe to do so, most of us actually oppress ourselves by not grabbing that hand, cupping that waist, offering that peck or special smile, or by only frequenting queer establishments. We do the oppressors’ hardest work for them by allowing ourselves to be boxed in. We assume the worst and that keeps us from our best.

You, yes, YOU, deserve a full, joyful, and abundant life filled with Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love, but if you wait for someone else, somebody “over there,” to give it to you on a platter – it ain’t gonna happen. You have to claim it for yourself.

A great example of claiming space is also one of my favorite memories from when the Rev. Fred Phelps’ family visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, in February 2001. My partner dropped me off near the University of Michigan early so I could prepare for my silent prayer vigil sitting among the Phelps family holding their "God Hates Fags" signs.

The first thing I saw after I got out of the car was an image more powerful than watching hundreds of same-sex couples make-out in the university commons later that day, more powerful than any speech I heard: I saw two young, punk men striding confidently across South University Avenue holding hands. What I didn’t see was any hint of self-consciousness, maybe a bit of defiance, true (the green mohawk was a clue), but I didn’t see a sideways glance, not a hesitation. Just the inspiring courage to walk the world without masks.

– Ko Imani
Excerpted from Shirt of Flame:
The Secret Gay Art of War

pp. 34-35

NEXT: What We Are Hoping and Fighting For

Related Off-site Link:
The One Choice You Can Make Today to Create the Beloved Community – Ko Imani (Whosoever, July 1, 2002).

For previous posts in the The Wild Reeds' 2020 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Zaylore Stout on Pride 2020: “What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?”
Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”
Mia Birdsong on the “Queering of Friendship”
The Distinguished Rhone Fraser: Cultural Critic, Bibliophile, and Dramatist

See also the previous posts:
Our Lives as LGBTQI People: “Garments Grown in Love”
Growing Strong
A Spirit of Defiance
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Michael Bayly’s “The Kiss” Wins Award at Twin Cities Pride Art Exhibition

Images: Subjects and photographers unknown.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Distinguished Rhone Fraser: Cultural Critic, Bibliophile, and Dramatist

The Wild Reed’s 2020 Queer Appreciation series continues with Stephen A. Maglott’s 2017 biographical tribute to Rhone Fraser, a writer, activist, and all-round inspiring human being.

In 2019, two years after Maglott published his tribute to Fraser on his website, The Ubuntu Biograhy Project, Rhone Fraser’s first book was published, Pauline Hopkins and Advocacy Journalism. It was followed later that same year by Critical Responses About the Black Family in Toni Morrison's God Help the Child: Conflicts in Comradeship, an anthology Fraser edited.

As founder and creator of The Ubuntu Biography Project, the late Stephen Maglott wrote numerous biographical tributes to “distinguished LGBTQ/SGL [same-gender-loving] people of color/African descent.” As a distinguished cultural critic, bibliophile, and dramatist, Rhone Fraser was a worthy subject for The Ubuntu Biography Project, an endeavor that was described as Maglott’s “soul work.”

Stephan Maglott's tribute to Rhone Fraser is reprinted in its entirety below with added images and links. Enjoy!

(NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Rhone Fraser was born on October 12, 1979. He is a widely respected literary critic, journalist, advocate, playwright, and academic. Dr. Rhone Fraser identifies himself as gay, Marxist, and Christian, “without contradiction.” [NOTE: Fraser no longer identifies as a Marxist but as a Garveyite.]

Rhone Sebastian Fraser was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jamaican immigrant parents. His mother is a registered nurse, and his father is a pharmaceutical manager. Fraser’s family moved to White Plains, New York, when Lederle Pharmaceuticals hired his father.

Fraser’s mother read to him as a child, and later told him he was reading from the age of two. He was raised in the Episcopal Church, and attended Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Valhalla, New York, until the age of ten, when his father’s job moved his family to Wesley Chapel, Florida. While there, Fraser played basketball in high school and junior high, and joined the National Honor Society at Zephyrhills High School. He also performed in drama productions of Everyman, directed by influential drama teacher, Greg Burdick.

Fraser attributes his intellect to the various range of art forms to which his father introduced him, especially Black drama. The first drama he remembered watching with his father was Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, which inspired his love for the theater. Fraser graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1997, and Yale College in 2001. He discovered his love of Black literature while performing the role of Meridian Henry in a Yale production of James Baldwin’s play, Blues for Mister Charlie.

Fraser has admitted that he did not have a sexually gratifying experience until he was 28, due in part to his own homophobia taught by his religious upbringing. He did not consider himself to be truly “out” until he told his father and mother personally in November of 2011.

Fraser has endured difficulty reconciling his sexuality with his faith, but eventually did so as a result of reading Baldwin, receiving some helpful counseling, and especially after meeting his second cousin, Jason Latty [right], in 2011. Fraser now works as general secretary at the organization founded by Latty, Caribbean Alliance for Equality (CAFE), which is devoted to ending homophobia in Jamaica and the greater Caribbean.

Fraser taught eighth grade earth science at Augusta Lewis Troup Middle School in New Haven, Connecticut, until 2003. He was invited by then-principal Valerie Reidy to teach Regents chemistry and forensic science at the Bronx High School of Science until 2004, when he moved to Florida to continue his graduate education. Fraser applied to medical school and law school to no avail, yet flourished in broadcast journalism at Pacifica radio’s WBAI program, Tuesday Arts Magazine. He interviewed and produced segments with a range of journalists, scholars, and artists, including Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Bobby Seale, Yolanda Adams, Juan Williams, Tavis Smiley, Ellis Cose, Randall Robinson, Jasmine Guy, Marcus Gardley, Tonya Pinkins, Phylicia Rashad, Shola Lynch, Amy Goodman, Dr. Charles Ogletree, and Boris Kodjoe.

While in Tampa, Dr. Fraser also read on Friday evenings for WMNF Evening News. In 2005, he started the Master’s program in Africana Studies at the University of South Florida, and wrote his first documentary play, Living Sacrifice: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, that was read at the ROAR Anniversary celebration in Hamer’s hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi, in August of 2005. In 2007, Fraser earned his Master’s degree and began the Ph.D. program in African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A year later, he completed his second play, A Sound Mind, based on a group of influential young ministers of the Gospel he met called Odd Generation.

After attending a 2008 production of Leslie Lee’s play, Sundown Names and Night Gone Things, based on Richard Wright’s experiences in 1930s Chicago, Fraser committed himself to writing historical drama, and began taking playwriting classes taught by Lee, the former artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company, at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center from 2008 to 2010. With Lee’s supervision, Fraser completed his third play, Negro Principles, about the personal and political life of A. Philip Randolph and Lucille Green Randolph during one week in Harlem in 1928.

In 2011, Fraser was personally selected by Philadelphia mayoral candidate Diop Olugbala as education chair in Olugbala’s unsuccessful campaign against current mayor Michael Nutter. He also chaired the campaign’s effort to appeal to LGBTQ voters. Frasier supports third party movements such as the Green Party and the Workers World Party.

On July 27, 2012, Fraser defended his more than 420-page dissertation and earned his Ph.D. The dissertation, “Publishing Freedom: African American Periodical Editors and the Long Civil Rights Struggle, 1900-1955,” focuses on three periodical editors – Pauline Hopkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Paul Robeson – and how their writings influenced the Black freedom movement in the twentieth century. He is excited about promoting the work of these Black writers, and especially the work of journalist-playwrights Alice Childress and Lorraine Hansberry, whose plays, Fraser argues, came from the periodical Freedom, inspired by Paul Robeson. He believes that works by Childress and Hansberry are the unsung foremothers of the Black Arts Movement.

In 2013, Dr. Rhone Fraser produced a reading of his play, Unity Valley, based on the actual 1803 pamphlet by Quaker merchant David Barclay called “An Account of the Emancipation of Slaves from Unity Valley Pen, Jamaica.” The following year, Fraser was honored to speak at, and direct shorts of, Leslie Lee’s plays at the memorial for Lee, hosted by the Signature Theater and featuring Woodie King, Jr. and Douglas Turner Ward.

That same year, Dr. Fraser produced and directed a historical drama reading series called “Readings at the X,” which featured Starletta DuPois, Zuhairah McGill, Brian Anthony Wilson, Caroline Clay, Alexander Elisa, Carlene Taylor, Shayne Powell, Norman Marshall, and many other notable actors. The series featured a new historical drama written by Ted Lange about John Brown and his collaborator Osborne Anderson entitled The Journals of Osborne Anderson, a gathering which Lange himself attended.

In 2015, Dr. Fraser joined the faculty of the Department of English at Howard University, where his teachings featured Between the World and Me, a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates that he said changed the course of his life. He believes this is the first mainstream publication that spoke to him directly, because he related so much to Coates’ thoughts on manhood, and the fact that he and Coates are fellow Librans and there are similarities between his Aquarian father, Anserd, and Coates’ father, Paul. In September 2017, Fraser was invited to lecture at Pacific Lutheran University about his critical response to Between the World and Me, during which Coates was compared as a journalist to the likes of Ida B. Wells, Pauline Hopkins, Hubert Harrison, and Marcus Garvey.

In 2016, Dr. Fraser organized a panel, “Marcus Garvey: 100 Years Later,” about the historical significance of journalist Marcus Garvey, who sailed to the United States exactly one hundred years prior. The gathering at the Left Forum included historians Horace Campbell and Jeffrey B. Perry. That October, the son of Marcus Garvey, Dr. Julius Garvey, called Fraser and asked him to join a lobbying effort, organized by Howard University’s Dr. Goulda Downer, to get then-President Obama to grant Marcus Garvey a posthumous presidential pardon. Dr. Fraser committed himself and got others to write and tweet weekly to President Obama for the pardon, which was ultimately not granted.

On January 1, 2017, Dr. Fraser completed his fifth play, The Original Mrs. Garvey. The work is based on two biographies of Amy Ashwood Garvey, the first wife of Marcus Garvey, by Lionel Yard and Tony Martin. He has lectured about Amy Ashwood Garvey at the Francis A. Gregory Library in Washington, DC, at Howard University, and at a U.N.I.A. Division #330 meeting.

Dr. Fraser considers his dramatic works much more nourishing than the stale and bland diet promoted by the mainstream. His says his plays are “gems waiting to be discovered” for any play director ready to be challenged and develop them. They are works which come from many influences, including his Temple University dissertation adviser, Dr. Heather Thompson, who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Blood in the Water, about the 1971 Attica prison rebellion. The book was optioned and selected by TriStar Pictures last year to be produced as a film by Amy Paschal and Rachel O’Connor.

Dr. Fraser is also a scholar of the novel. He is a member of the Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society and the Toni Morrison Society. Fraser completed scholarly book reviews about the work of novelists Paule Marshall and Elizabeth Nunez [right]. The Journal of Pan African Studies is publishing a special issue on the fiction of Nunez, edited with an introduction and a critical article by Dr. Fraser. He is also completing a manuscript for publication which is a literary criticism of the four novels by the Boston-based journalist and dramatist, Pauline Hopkins.

Fraser appreciates all novels and nonfiction by Professor Ishmael Reed. He presented a paper about the novels Batty Bwoy by Max-Arthur Mantle and Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn at a conference organized by Antoine Craigwell called “In My Mind,” dealing with mental health in the queer community of color.

Fraser, true to the values of Lorraine Hansberry and Malcolm X, makes Black liberation from race and class oppression a priority in his dissertation and his historical drama. He sees this as the root of all oppression, including homophobia, and ties themes of liberation theology into all his plays. He is featured in the “Modern Day Black Gay Project” by Donja Love.

Like the thinkers he studies and teaches about, Fraser eschews the two-party system, and supports the formation of a political party that supports the interests of the working class and not the current ruling capitalist class named by George Jackson in his book Blood in My Eye. Fraser supports the kind of revolutionary nationalism endorsed by Malcolm X and Jackson, and is increasingly resistant to reforms to the current two-party system because of its clear advancement of austerity and increasing mass incarceration of Black youth.

Fraser is also a staunch supporter of army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, whom he believes is an important example for all other U.S. soldiers to follow, because she challenges the repression of the U.S. military, and the military dictatorships across the globe that they support.

The Black SGL/LGBTQ community is very important to Fraser, who cherishes open dialogue about racism within and outside the U.S., such as the struggle for LGBTQ youth in Jamaica to be heard in a way that does not stigmatize them. He resists the gay tourist industry’s privileging of white experiences, and supports a U.S. State Department boycott of the Tourist Board of Jamaica, until the nation repeals its English colonial anti-buggery (anti-sodomy) laws. Fraser applies the anti-colonial theories of Martinican Frantz Fanon to understanding the endemic homophobia in Jamaica, and is working with CAFE to further that.

Fraser was disappointed in Jamaican church leaders rallying hundreds against the repeal of anti-buggery laws, yet being unable to rally against the Jamaican Minister of Agriculture’s sale of thousands of acres of Jamaican land to the Chinese government. On his blog, Edifying Debate, Fraser has described this as behavior of a tragically “colonized bourgeoisie” (to borrow Fanon’s term).

As a Marxist, Fraser is also suspicious of the American government’s use of “pinkwashing,” a term coined by Jasbir Puar to express the promotion of gay rights as only a cover for supporting corporate interests that enforce racist practices, such as Shell Oil, which prides itself on being tolerant, yet has a history of supporting a military dictatorship in Nigeria. As a Christian, Fraser is also highly critical of the lack of political education and consequent ignorance that the Western church promotes, in order to privilege homosexuality as a moral issue instead of what he sees as the more serious problems within the United States: militarism, austerity, and mass incarceration. He is a staunch supporter of a Free Palestine, and supports the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Fraser believes it is important for Black SGL/Queer men and women to be proud of who they are because, true to James Baldwin’s teachings, “it is our responsibility to support revolution of this morally decaying system, while at the same time teaching those who are uncritical supporters of American hegemony about its racist and capitalist nature in order to ultimately dismantle it.” According to Fraser, part of this means rejecting hetereonormativity, not just for its own sake, but to restore the leadership of women to its rightful place in human history, and to stop the increasing concentration of wealth and power that denies most people the right to self-determination.

Dr. Fraser makes his home in the Philadelphia area. He says he has yet to have the pleasure of meeting his life partner, however by loving himself and the intellectual path that life has allowed him, he believes he will find that special someone.

NEXT: “To Walk the World Without Masks”

Related Off-site Link:

For previous installments in the The Wild Reeds' 2020 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Zaylore Stout on Pride 2020: “What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?”
Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”
Mia Birdsong on the “Queering of Friendship”

Images: Photographers unknown.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Mia Birdsong on the “Queering of Friendship”

The Wild Reed's 2020 Queer Appreciation series continues with an excerpt from Mia Birdsong's insightful June 20 Salon article, “The Queering of Friendship: Rethinking Platonic Relationships, Guided by LGBTQ Models.” It's an article that's actually an excerpt from Mia's book, How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community.

The idea of platonic boyfriends/girlfriends/partners and “Boston marriages” (a 19th-century phrase describing two women who shared a life and lived together without the support of a man) has been around for a while. Back in the day, sometimes these relationships were actually sexual relationships between folks who couldn't be out as gay because it was illegal, socially unacceptable, and dangerous. But sometimes they were intimate non-sexual friendships.

A more modern umbrella term for these relationships is queerplatonic. The word was coined, defined, and redefined by asexual and aromantic people to describe a relationship that is not romantic, but emotionally closer than what we generally think of as friendship. The “queer” part is not about sexuality, but about the queering of our ideas about what relationships look like. As writer and activist Shon Faye puts it, “Queer is about removing labels and replacing them with a question. It is a side eye and a challenge back to mainstream society and politics. It says, 'I don't know the answer, but why are you asking the question?'” Queering relationships is rejecting the restraints of convention, but it's also liberatory truth-finding. It allows us to look at a relationship (and so many other things) stripped of preconceptions and ask, What is this really? What are the components? What is happening inside of it? Anyone of any sexual orientation, gender, or other relationships status can be in a queerplatonic relationship.

Having more language and examples that articulate a way to be in relationship with others outside conventional understanding is affirming because I have, and want more, relationships like that. Even though I'm not aromantic or asexual, the paths people with those identities are forging to be wholly who they are makes room for the rest of us too. People are living into identities that aren't accepted or even recognized by society at large. Their insistence on self-definition creates space for all of us to be self-determined in our identities.

. . . “I think of my family as a queer family even when it's full of straight people. This is an unconventional approach to family,” Gabi, who is queer, transgender, and genderqueer, told me, reflecting on the idea that “queering” is about bucking convention — not just for its own sake, but because it's what actually works. They told me, “I love the defiance of the bumper sticker 'Not gay as in happy but queer as in fuck you.'”

. . . Perhaps part of our challenge in thinking expansively about our friendships is that we're limited by the word friend. Like community, the word friend has come to be so broad as to have lost meaning. We can have thousands of “friends” on social media, including people we have never met and make no effort to know. Friend can describe a work acquaintance whose personal life you know nothing about or a close intimate with whom you share history and your realest self. There are beautiful words in languages other than English that get at some of the richness and variety of friendship, like the Gaelic phrase anamcara, which literally translates as “soul friend”; or the Aramaic havruta, which means “friend” and, depending on your brand of Judaism, can mean a person with whom you study the Torah or someone with whom you engage in self-education; or the Japanese nakama, which can mean “buddy” or “people who you can trust in all things.” And then there is the Black American practice of applying familial words to friends who are like family, like auntie or brother. Knowing that there are other words supports my ability to see the possibilities that were previously obscured to me even if I never use them.

While part of what I'm working toward is flattening the relationship hierarchy, I'm also clear that my friendships are part of what keep my marriage working. I get a range of love, affirmation, attention, inspiration, perspective, and engagement that isn't dependent on my husband or the state of our relationship. My husband, as wonderful as he is, does not have much to offer me when it comes to some things that are important to me, like narrative change strategy or Black feminist liberation (and I don't have much to offer him when to comes to music creation or particle physics). When I am pissed at him, my friends allow me to vent, but also move me toward empathy and reconciliation. And there is a deep joy and rightness with the world that I get from sitting in the presence of my closest girlfriends, loving one another, laughing, eating, drinking, and being unapologetically ourselves, something that no man will ever give me.

To read Mia Birdsong's article on the queering of friendship in its entirety, click here.

NEXT: The Distinguished Rhone Fraser:
Cultural Critic, Bibliophile, and Dramatist

For previous installments in the The Wild Reeds' 2020 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Zaylore Stout on Pride 2020: “What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?”
Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Manly Love
Reclaiming the Power of Male Touch
Edward Sellner on the Archetype of the Double and Male Eros, Friendships and Mentoring
Remembering a Daring Cinematic Exploration

Image 1: Getty stock image.
Image 2: Photographer unknown.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”

The Wild Reed's 2020 Queer Appreciation series continues with the sharing of the June 16 statement by Francis DeBernardo, the Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Title VII that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Title VII decision protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination is a reason for all Catholics to celebrate. While pro-LGBTQ Catholics, who are the overwhelming majority in the U.S. church, will obviously applaud this decision, even Catholics who take a negative stance toward LGBTQ people should welcome this decision because it is absolutely in agreement with Catholic teachings about the human dignity of LGBTQ people, anti-discrimination, and respect for workers’ rights.

Unfortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not agree. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles denounced the decision in a statement, saying, in part:

I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life. . . . No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.

Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.

What Gomez doesn’t realize is that such a “legal redefinition” actually helps in the goal of “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination. . . .” He commits the error that the bishops conference has continually made by viewing all LGBTQ issues through the lens of sexuality instead of through the more basic and correct lens of human rights and dignity.

Moreover, for decades upon decades, and with increasingly mounting scientific and social scientific evidence, the bishops have been exhorted to listen to the voices of LGBTQ people so that they can learn how these individuals experience and discern “God’s plan” for themselves, instead of being constrained by an abstract philosophical model.

Even Catholics opposed to marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples should be rejoicing that the Court’s decision is in line with Catholic teaching on homosexual people that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).

Even Catholics who do not support transgender people should be rejoicing that their dignity and humanity are upheld by this ruling. As the U.S. bishops have stated: “Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.” (Economic Justice for All, 28)

As Pope Paul VI said, “All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families “to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level. . .” (Octogesima Adveniens, 14)

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this decision will protect the rights of LGBTQ workers employed in church institutions. Church agencies often hide behind religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ workers in their employ. It is shameful that Catholic bishops and administrators do not themselves live up to their own teachings in regard to LGBTQ non-discrimination and workers’ rights.

As with other LGBTQ issues, it is sad that the Supreme Court is ahead of the Catholic Church when it comes to employment non-discrimination – a policy which should Catholic teaching speaks of eloquently in its words, but fails miserably in putting into practice.

So, while Catholics of all political persuasions can rejoice that the U.S. Supreme Court supported LGBTQ workers in a manner consonant with Catholic teaching, the work for justice and equality inside the Church will continue.

Francis DeBernardo
New Ways Ministry
June 16, 2020

NEXT: Mia Birdsong on the “Queering of Friendship”

Related Off-site Links:
Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ+ People Protected From Job Discrimination – Brendan Wetmore (Paper, June 15, 2020).
Because of Sex: A Historic Win for LGBTQ Americans During Pride Month – Adam P. Romero (Ms., June 15, 2020).
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch Just Handed Down a Historic Victory for LGBTQ Rights – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, June 15, 2020).
Kavanaugh Slams Ruling, Alito Compares Same-Sex Desire to Rape – Trudy Ring (The Advocate, June 15, 2020).
Conservatives – Led by Justice Alito – Melt Down Over Supreme Court’s Pro-LGBTQ Ruling – Alex Henderson (Salon, June 16, 2020).
Supreme Court Upholds Trans People’s Workplace Protections — but Trans Lives Remain Under Constant Threat – Natasha Lennard (The Intercept, June 15, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Marriage Equality Ruling
Acknowledging, Celebrating, and Learning from Marriage Equality's “Triumphs of Faith”
An Inspiring Evening of Conversation and Camaraderie

Friday, June 26, 2020

Zaylore Stout on Pride 2020: “What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?”

Since 2009 I’ve shared every year during the month of June a series of “Queer Appreciation” posts. Each series is comprised of a number of informed and insightful writings to mark Gay Pride . . . or, as I prefer to call it (since 2011), Queer Appreciation. I always try to include in each series a diverse range of writers and topics; and, in general, the writings I share are positive, proactive and celebratory.

I start this year’s Queer Appreciation series with an excerpt from Zaylore Stout’s commentary, “Happy Pride: What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?,” first published June 8 by The Advocate.

Zaylore is an active advocate for LGBT issues, primarily through his law firm, Zaylore Stout & Associates, which specializes in representing HIV+ and transgender employees discriminated against at work. Zaylore is also the author of Our Gay History in Fifty States, and, like me, he is a resident of Minneapolis.

“Happy Pride!” is a phrase I would have uttered thousands of times starting June 1, the first day of Pride month. I had some damn high hopes for Pride in the year 2020. I published my first book, Our Gay History in Fifty States, and planned an amazing whirlwind book tour, advocating for the inclusion of a more diverse rendition of our community’s history. I envisioned myself demanding more states join the ranks of California, Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, and Oregon in requiring the teaching of LGBTQ+ history in schools. I had a goal to get 1,725 of books donated to LGBTQ+ youth-focused learning centers across the country, especially in conservative states and counties, so that kids there know that they are seen, valued and part of a rich community that has contributed so much to this country.

However, my plans were hit with a one-two punch: First Covid-19, and then the murder of George Floyd.

I am a Black man in Minneapolis and my world stopped on Memorial Day. The Black community is crippled with grief and anger, but not disbelief. We’ve seen this story before: We watched Ahmaud Arbery murdered by vigilantes. We followed the trial of Trayvon Martin’s murderer as the state let him walk free. Our eyes were glued to the video of Eric Garner in New York gasping for his last breath crying out, “I can’t breathe.”

George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe” too. And yet, we are here, still unable to breathe. The Black community, my community, is being snuffed out and nobody cares.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, which began as a commemoration of the events of June 28, 1969, when, empowered by the Black Power, women’s liberation, and anti-war movements, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn said “enough is enough!” Black, brown, transgender, and gender non-binary people spearheaded the resistance. A revolutionary riot lasted six days. There were both peaceful protestors and defiant rioters. There was unrest. There was violence. There was property damage. And people went to jail.

Today, the country celebrates their contributions, even though none of them were celebrated at the time. Stonewall, like every riot in our country’s history was sparked by a push back against police violence and brutality.

Today, as I stand in Minneapolis, I ask, where is the groundswell of LGBTQ+ community warriors now when my Black community is under attack? Peaceful Black Lives Matter protests occurred at Pride parades across the country have been met with boos, jeers, and social media rants. This is what happens when we fail to tell the history of our movement, including who was involved from the very beginning. This is what occurs when we fail to ensure that Black, Brown, and Indigenous voices are part of our leadership structure and have an equal voice. Without diverse voices and leadership, people believe the false narrative that white gays and lesbians secured gains on their own without the rest of us.

To read Zaylore Stout's commentary in its entirety, click here.

NEXT: Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling
on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”

Related Off-site Links:
Meet Zaylore Stout – E.B. Boatner (Lavender, June 7, 2018).
LGBTQ Communities Are Elevating Black Voices During Pride 2020 in Solidarity – Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman (CNN, June 9, 2020).
No, We Should Not Condemn Uprisings Against Police Murders Like George Floyd’s – Peter Gowan (Jacobin, May 28, 2020).
Prolonged Uprising Is the New Normal – Jade Begay (Common Dreams, June 20, 2020).
In Defense of Destroying Property – R.H. Lossin (The Nation, June 10, 2020)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“I Can’t Breathe”: The Murder of George Floyd
He Called Mama. He Has Called Up Great Power
Honoring George Floyd
Emma Jordan-Simpson: “There Will Be No Peace Without Justice”
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
“Say Her Name” Solidarity Action
“We Are All One” – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Nancy A. Heitzeg: Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
“This Doesn't Happen to White People”
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color

The Wild Reed's 2019 Queer Appreciation series:
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2019
James Baldwin’s Potent Interweavings of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual
John Gehring on Why Catholics Should Participate in LGBTQ Pride Parades
A Dance of Queer Love
The Queer Liberation March: Bringing Back the Spirit of Stonewall
Barbara Smith on Why She Left the Mainstream LGBTQI Movement
Remembering the Stonewall Uprising on Its 50th Anniversary
In a Historic First, Country Music’s Latest Star Is a Queer Black Man
Historian Martin Duberman on the Rightward Shift of the Gay Movement
Queer Black Panther

The Wild Reed's 2018 Queer Appreciation series:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Liberating Paris: Exploring the Meaning of Liberation in Paris Is Burning
Stephanie Beatriz on the Truth of Being Bi
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July

The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series:
Our Lives as LGBTQI People: “Garments Grown in Love”
On the First Anniversary of the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre, Orlando Martyrs Commemorated in Artist Tony O'Connell’s “Triptych for the 49”
Tony Enos on Understanding the Two Spirit Community
Making the Connections

The Wild Reed's 2016 Queer Appreciation post of solace, inspiration and hope:
“I Will Dance”

The Wild Reed's 2015 Queer Appreciation series:
Vittorio Lingiardi on the Limits of the Hetero/Homo Dichotomy
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Standing with Jennicet Gutiérrez, “the Mother of Our Newest Stonewall Movement”
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
Clyde Hall: “All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful”
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On

The Wild Reed's 2014 Queer Appreciation series:
Michael Bayly’s “The Kiss” Wins the People's Choice Award at This Year's Twin Cities Pride Art Exhibition
Same-Sex Desires: “Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture”
Lisa Leff on Five Things to Know About Transgender People
Steven W. Thrasher on the Bland and Misleading “Gay Inc” Treatment of the Struggle to Overturn Prop 8
Test: A Film that “Illuminates Why Queer Cinema Still Matters”
Sister Teresa Forcades on Queer Theology
Omar Akersim: Muslim and Gay
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues

The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: “It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash”
Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement
On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized
Manly Love

The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series:
The Theology of Gay Pride
Bi God, Somebody Listen
North America: Perhaps Once the “Queerest Continent on the Planet”
Gay Men and Modern Dance
A Spirit of Defiance

The Wild Reed's 2011 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series:
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Gay Pioneer Malcolm Boyd on Survival – and Victory – with Grace
Senator Scott Dibble’s Message of Hope and Optimism
Parvez Sharma on Islam and Homosexuality

The Wild Reed’s 2010 Gay Pride series:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously in the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

The Wild Reed's 2009 Gay Pride series:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?

See also:
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2017 | 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Gay Pride: A Catholic Perspective
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Image: Photographer unknown.

Helpful Rebuttals

. . . to Racist Talking Points

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“I Can't Breathe”: The Murder of George Floyd
He Called Mama. He Has Called Up Great Power
Something to Think About – May 28, 2020
Honoring George Floyd
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Mayor Melvin Carter: “The Anger Is Real, and I Share It With You”
“An Abolitionist Demand”: Progressive Perspectives on Transforming Policing in the U.S.
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Trevor Noah on the “Dominoes of Racial Injustice”
Emma Jordan-Simpson: “There Will Be No Peace Without Justice”
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Quote of the Day – June 9, 2020
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
“Say Her Name” Solidarity Action
“We Are All One” – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Nancy A. Heitzeg: Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
“This Doesn't Happen to White People”
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Sweet Darkness
Photo of the Day, 5/3/2015: “Black Is Sacred”
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part II)
Something to Think About – March 25, 2016

Saturday, June 20, 2020

On This Summer Solstice, A Proclamation of the Power of Fire

In celebration of the Summer Solstice today, I share an excerpt from the book, The Circle of Life: The Heart's Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr. In this particular excerpt, the power of fire, both physical and spiritual, is proclaimed and celebrated. Enjoy! . . . And Happy Summer Solstice!


We proclaim that the lights of the cosmos unite all people on the planet in a great oneness. As the fiery stars, the intense sun, and the reflective moonlight shine on us, so they bathe each one who dwells on this beautiful sphere of life with a great illuminating energy.

We proclaim that there is an unquenchable fire shining within each person, a light that is strong, deep, and enduring. It is the vigilant fire in the hearth of the soul, maintaining hope and truth amid life's many ups and downs.

We proclaim that the fire of those who have gone before us has never left this earth. We are heartened by the truth that their sacred fire has become an eternal light that leads us on, a fire continually blessing us, encouraging us, affirming us to live our life to the fullest for our own benefit as well as for the good of all humankind.

We proclaim that the fire within cannot be contained. It seeks to move out, to permeate, to enter into every place that lacks passion and vitality. When the inmost self is opened with love, trust, and confidence, an energizing and healing light shines forth to fill the corners of the world.

We proclaim that there is a divine fire within us that is immeasurably loving, inconceivably caring, consistently non-judgmental, and enormously passionate. This light will never give up on us. It will cherish us into eternity.

We proclaim that the light within us is beautiful, precious, and wild. We urge everyone to do all they can to tend this fire, to care for it with courage and kindness. Let the inner light shine forth radiantly so all will benefit from the power of this immense warmth and goodness.

– Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr
Excerpted from The Circle of Life:
The Heart's Journey Through the Seasons

(Sorin Books, 2005)

Related Off-site Links:
Summer Solstice 2020: Sensual Traditions on the Longest Day of the Year – Daisy Carrington and Forrest Brown (CNN, June 19, 2020).
Rare ‘Ring of Fire’ Solar Eclipse Will Coincide With Summer Solstice 2020 – Laura Italiano (New York Post, June 19, 2020).
Summer Solstice 2020: How Midsummer Is Celebrated Around the World – Sophia Waterfield (Newsweek, June 20, 2020).
A Summer BlessingThe Leveret (June 21, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Light Within
A Summer Solstice Reflection
Photo of the Day – Adnan in Morning Light
Celebrating the Summer Solstice
In Summer Light
Summer Blooms
Summer Boy
The Source Is Within You

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Black Pumas’ “Colors”: A Celebration of Family, Connections, Movement, and Life

In the spirit of Juneteenth, I share this evening for “music night,” the video for the Black Pumas’ song, “Colors.”

Black Pumas is an American psychedelic soul band based in Austin, Texas, led by singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada. The group received its first Grammy Award nomination earlier this year for Best New Artist at the 62nd awards.

“Colors” is from Black Puma’s 2019 self-titled debut album, an album described as “perfectly realized” by The Guardian, and as “a polished, timeless-sounding debut album,” by Headliner Magazine. Pitchfork declared the band’s sound to be “acutely cinematic,” while Rolling Stone complimented frontman Eric Burton’s “tireless, charismatic energy.”

Kristian Mercado, who directed the music video for “Colors,” said that he and lead singer Eric Burton wanted to capture the complicated experience of growing up; to “capture the feeling that is both beautiful and sometimes imperfect.”

I'm thinking that after viewing Mercado's video, you'll agree with me that he definitely succeeded in his goal.

I woke up to the morning sky first
Baby blue just like we rehearsed
When I get up off this ground
I shake leaves back down
to the brown, brown, brown, 'til I'm clean
Then I walked where I'd be shaded by
the trees by a meadow of green
For about a mile I'm headed to
town, town, town, in style

With all my favorite colors
All my favorite colors
My sisters and my brothers see them like no other
All my favorite colors
It's good day to be, a good day for me,
a good day to see my favorite colors
My sisters and my brothers,
they see them like no other
All my favorite colors

Now take me to the otherside
Where the baby blues birds fly
In grey clouds, or white walls,
or blue skies we gon' fly, feel alright
Now we gon' woo ooh woo ooh woo ooh ya
They sound like woo ooh woo ooh woo ooh ya
The least I can say I anticipate
a homecome parade as we renegade in the morning

All my favorite colors
All my favorite colors
My sisters and my brothers see them like no other
All my favorite colors

All my favorite colors
All my favorite colors, yes ma'am
My sisters and my brothers see 'em like no other
All my favorite colors

It's good day to be, a good day for me,
a good day to see my favorite colors
My sisters and my brothers, they see them like no other
All my favorite colors

Following is an excerpt from American Songwriter magazine’s article about the video for “Colors.”

The cinematic [video] – a powerfully intimate, Melanin-packed depiction of the joys and hardships of life colliding – was directed by Kristian Mercado, fresh off his Best Music Video win at this year’s SXSW Film Festival for Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “Pa’lante.”

“I really wanted to capture how powerful the sounds and vocals of Black Pumas are,” says Mercado. “I’m driven by emotion and felt a strong connection to the music. I was on a trip in Florida at Banana Records, when I heard ‘Colors’ playing. I was instantly moved and asked tons of questions about who they were. It was such a powerful song and experience that I sought out to do the music video for the song. We shot the whole film in the Bronx, wanted to show the Bronx as a place that was alive and vibrant. We wanted to celebrate family, connections, movement, and life. We explored the idea of the Bronx as a living garden, always growing always moving forward, and finding a cinematic landscape in places people often ignore.

“[Lead singer] Eric [Burton] and I spoke in great length about perspective and growing up, and how sometimes it’s a complicated experience,” says Mercado. “And we want to capture the feeling that is both beautiful and sometimes imperfect. We wanted to show both the joys and hardships of life colliding and expressing things in movement with images colliding together. Black Pumas are an extraordinary band and the visual needed to share the timeless quality of the song.”

Related Off-site Links:
Black Pumas Share “Colors” Live Video in Honor of Juneteenth – Andrew O'Brien (LiveForLiveMusic.com, June 19, 2020).
What Is Juneteenth? – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS.org, June 19, 2014).
Why All Americans Should Honor JuneteenthVox via Millenial June 19, 2020).
How Juneteenth's History Is Being Reshaped as America Reckons With Its Past – Janell Ross (NBC News, June 19, 2020).
How to Mark Juneteenth in the Year 2020 – Matthew Cunningham-Cook and Ryan Grim (Jacobin, June 19, 2020).
Why Juneteenth Is a Celebration of Hope – Rachel Jones (National Geographic, June 17, 2020).

Previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard