I am kind of sad today because I was supposed to have a reading at the University of Toronto this afternoon at the St. George Campus. Dr. George Elliott Clarke teaches a graduate class called African Canadian literature and he invited me last month to read from my poetry collection “You Don’t Know Me”. However, last week Dr. Clarke cancelled my reading he explained that he had booked another writer from Ottawa at the exact same time. Dr. Clarke apologized for the mistake. Dr. Clarke says I might be able to have another reading in February 2008.
There was a town hall meeting in the city of Toronto yesterday between educators and the public about black focused schools. The educators think it would be a good idea because they say a disproportionate amount of black students are dropping out of school. I can admit that I used to have negative thoughts about “black” focused schools. I still have visions of the African American feminist writer Zora Neale Hurston denouncing the “Brown Vs Board of Education” decision from the Supreme Court in the year 1955. I don’t know anymore? I can honestly say maybe a black focused school should be opened. What harm could one school really do?
I remember a book that was published a few years ago by a black York University professor Joseph Mensah called “Black Canadians”. Every single black Canadian should read professor Mensah’s groundbreaking book its available at the public libraries or at the book stores. You have no excuse to not read professor Mensah’s book. Professor Mensah’s book was a real eye opener it was depressing at times but also Mensah comes out with some hard hitting facts. Yet notice, Professor’s Mensah’s book wasn’t a blockbuster best seller he also wasn’t on CBC, or in the Globe and Mail, and his wonderful book wasn’t discussed much in the Canadian media. Its just typical of the Canadian media to ignore the issue of race as though ignoring it the issue will go away.
Although Professor Mensah’s book was talked about in the ivory towers of Canadian universities and Academia it didn’t reach the masses. Go read Professor Mensah’s book “Black Canadians” it will change your life and it will open you eyes to the truth about Canadian racism against black people.
In the book “Black Canadians” professor Mensah provided evidence through statistics that black Canadians encountered racism in terms of finding employment despite having university and college degrees. The racist stereotype is that black Canadians are not graduating from post secondary education at decent levels and that’s a lie. All you got to do is read professor Mensah’s book and the truth is there. I went to York University during my undergraduate days and York has a very large black student population. I didn’t like the University of Toronto because there simply wasn’t enough courses about black Canadian history and culture compared to York.
When I was younger during my middle school and high school days history class was extremely Eurocentric. We learned about Europe, and the English and French Canadians. I don’t think I learned anything about black Canadian history until grade seven or grade eight. Most of the discussions were about white Canadians and occasionally Asian Canadians and First Nations people were explored in history class. However, the contributions of people of colour wasn’t a focal point of the Canadian history curriculum. The contributions of black Canadians was definitely at the bottom of the list in my history classes. Usually, black people we were only discussed the topic of slavery, the war in 1812, and the underground railroad and that was it. What about the domestic workers scheme of the 1970s? Is that all there is? Why wasn’t that included in Canadian history classes? However, blacks have been living in Canada for over the past four hundred years since the 1600s.
It wasn’t until I reached university that I was able to take courses in black history and truly learn about the incredible contributions blacks made in Canada. The truth is black Canadians we are not considered a real “part” of the “fabric” or “members” of Canada. Why deny the honest truth? In Canada, black people we are still considered “immigrants” or children of “immigrants” and “outsiders” looking in. Black Canadians we are “framed” with the “lens” of being the “other”.
There are more Asian Canadians in Canada then blacks. The social hierachies in the province of Ontario dictate that Asian Canadians are considered less of a “threat” to the white Canadian majority. If you’ve noticed the media in Ontario doesn’t really “attack” Asian Canadians in Ontario with the same venom they do to blacks. However, in the Western provinces the racism in the Canadian media is a different story. In Vancouver British Columbia the incredible racism against South Asians is very real and its disgusting. Next, in the Western provinces and in central Canada First Nations people are attacked by the Canadian media.
In the United States despite the racial discrimination African Americans encounter they view themselves as “Americans”. I admire the African American people because they fought so hard for their rights and for social change. In Canada there is this utopia attitude that “racism” doesn’t “exist”. The Canadian media acts as though “race” is not a social construct and that its all a mirage or an illusion. At least African Americans are a “part” of American history and culture. There are also forty million blacks that live in the United States they make up 12% of the American population. Canada only has about 600,000 blacks we make up less then 1% of the total Canadian population. America has a lot of social problems but in America if you’re black you can still make it you can be a somebody. Sometimes I wonder if this is possible here? I mean pay attention to Canadian culture, Canadian politics, and Canadian society its all white. Do you think a Canadian Barack Obama could exist? America has black mayors, black governors, and black politicians. The city of Toronto always has a white mayor we don’t even question it? Why is the police chief of the city always white? Why are all the editor in chiefs of Toronto or national newspapers or broadcast media always white? We all become numb to this collective thinking that whiteness must always not only be exclusive but the “only” way to think about society.
We always have white male Prime Ministers in Canada. Do you think a black Canadian could ever be Prime Minister in this country? When hell freezes over! The status quo is very hard to change here because the Canadian society is afraid of change. The anger about the black focused schools and the sensationalism by the mainstream media I think “centers” on this “irrational” fear. I think that’s the real fear here is “change” to admit the public school system is failing some children.
Next, the Canadian media will say that black Canadians “complain” too much. The attitude here is that black Canadians we should just “ignore” the “obvious” racial prejudices and biases against us we should just “go with the flow”. Whenever overt or covert racism takes place here the Canadian media will say blacks play the “race card”. Next, the Canadian newspapers or radio stations will find the “resident Oreo” or “House Negroes” that “agrees” with the “status quo” and they use these blacks as though they speak for “all black Canadians”. The white Canadian media also plays the “race card” very well. The white card attempts to circumvent the power of racism.
Black Canadians we are constantly “framed” and ” attacked” by racist Canadian editors, television producers, radio editors, story producers, managing editors, in the mainstream Canadian media. Yet you will never read about the hypocritical racist bigots that work “behind” the scenes in the Canadian media. The social constructions of race, class, gender, come into play when discussing black Canadians. African Americans have so much more social, economic, and political weight and power in the United States. There are also racist radio and television talk show hosts in Canada that sit and “wait” for the latest controversy and then they bash black Canadians or any other “marginalized group”.
I have conflicting thoughts about Canada. Sometimes I think the opportunities such as education, low crime, living in a prosperous nation, are solid reasons why black people should live in Canada. I would rather live here then say Switzerland, Austria, or Germany that’s for sure. There are other times when I absolutely hate living here there are not a lot of writing opportunities here in Canada. The Canadian press is drenched with supremacy, racism, and lies. The Canadian press will sensationalize the whole black focus school subject because it spikes up television ratings, radio show ratings, because the incredible racism against black Canadians is so strong. And its not just whites that have anti black prejudices in Canada. Some Asian Canadians also believe black people we are inferior. I have noticed that at major Canadian news, print, or broadcast media they will hire Asians before they will hire blacks. The Canadian media in Ontario definitely has a racial bias against black Canadians and that’s a fact. I keep on wondering sometimes why did my parents choose this country to live and start a life instead of the United States? Most of my relatives live in America.
I recall when the former Prime Minster Paul Martin asked CBC journalist Michaelle Jean to become the new Governor General in Canada there was discontent in the Canadian media. Suddenly, editorials and opinion articles sprouted up like a wild fire across various Canadian newspapers denouncing Paul Martin’s decision. The Canadian media complained that Ms. Jean must give up her French citizenship and that her white husband was a separatist. The bottom line is the Canadian media didn’t want a black Canadian woman to have such a high profile role as a symbol of Canada.
Paul Martin got it right if Canada is truly a “multicultural” nation as the Canadian media claims then black Canadians we should be allowed the opportunities to be able to reach our “dreams” and break the glass ceiling. Of course the racism in the various opinion articles about Ms. Jean were “covert” no N word was used no racial slurs. However, beneath the surface the ugliness of Canadian racism was easy for the eye to see. The editorials and articles by various white Canadian writers did not want to just be “real” and “honest” for five seconds.
Another problem I have with the Canadian school system is the “kinds” of books black children are forced to read. White literature is forced on black children all the time and this has got to change. Why can’t there be more diversity in the classroom? Why can’t children of colour read books by Canadian writers of colour more often? Where are the books that are required reading by Canadian writers of colour such as Nalo Hopkinson, Wayson Choy, or Evelyn Lau, or by Rohan Mistry?
I also remember when I was in grade ten I was forced to read Harper Lee’s racist garbage book “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I absolutely hate that book! Lee may be praised by the North America media but Harper Lee’s novel is a racist piece of filth. Lee uses the N word to the extreme in the novel it makes me want to vomit. I can understand the use of the N word to make a point but Lee uses the N word about a million times in the book.
I also have a problem with the paternalistic racist approach to the novel. The Atticus Finch character is a classic example of white supremacy and patriarchy. Mr. Finch he is the classic the white male lawyer he is the “voice of reason” to defend the “savage” black man accused of raping a white woman. I find this subjective kind of reasoning to explain racial apartheid abhorrent and derivative. Black male sexuality once again is presented as violent and deleterious.
Also, notice in “To Kill A Mockingbird” Lee also made sure the two young white characters in the book Scout and her brother Jem have a black mammy maid Calpurina. Calpurnia is the stereotypical “mystical”, “loving”, “nurturing”, mammy. Lee frames black women in a racist, sexist, and very stereotypical light. Yes all black women are good for according to Harper Lee is to be the resident black mammy dispenses “advice”, “cook”, “clean” make pancakes and be the universal mother figure to the rich white Southern children. Calpurnia has no thought no purpose in the novel other then the be the loving mammy and inferior and obedient to white people.
Notice that the Atticus Finch character in “To Kill A Mockingbird” is the classic noble “white male liberal”. The white man is still viewed as the real ” white hero” of the book. The racist stereotype of black male sexuality as “savage”, “pernicious”, and “dangerous” permeates through this abhorrent book.
I want to take a bottle of gasoline and set “To Kill A Mockingbird” on fire! It angers me that I had to read this book when I was just a kid. Lee fails in her pathetic attempt to “bridge” the racial divide. Lee still stereotypes black people as “dumb”, “poor”, “stupid” that we have no “reason” no “thought” that blacks still need the “white male savior” to “save us” from ourselves. The political, social, and economic systems in the American south kept many blacks poor it wasn’t because blacks didn’t want to achieve. Blacks were denied access to higher education in America despite being taxpayers in various cities and towns. It is also the reason historical black colleges and universities such as Howard University were created to give blacks a chance to advance in society.
It makes me cringe how racist Lee’s book really is! I remember being disgusted when I was in grade ten I was forced to read this racist piece of crap! In order to graduate high school I had to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” a book that is false. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is not about fighting racism in fact the book reinforces racist and sexist stereotypes about black people. Black kids still have to read this racist shit book “To Kill A Mockingbird” if they want to graduate high school.
I remember being so upset with the racist language, the plot, and also the storyline. No one questions the psychological effects racist literature such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” still has on black children?
I also recall when I was in grade twelve I was forced to read Shakespeare for my English class. I did like the play Hamlet. I hated the play Othello though and the obvious racist language Shakespeare uses in that play against black men. However, I never had the chance to read black Canadian writers such as George Elliot Clarke, Dionne Brand, Makeda Silvera, and Austin Clarke when I was in high school.
The curriculum needs to change ASAP its too whitewashed. No wonder some black kids are “bored” with school when white history and white literature is slammed down the throats of black children. We are just told to “accept” this kind of racism. Why shouldn’t black kids and all children in general be allowed to have a range of diversity of books to read? Why does Harper Lee gets so much praise for her racist novel? Why isn’t Richard Wright’s book “Native Son” on the book list for high school English classes in Canada or Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” or Langston Hughes work such as “The Big Sea” or “I Wonder As I Wander”?
The discussion was passionate on both sides about the issue of “black” focus schools. In a previous blog entry I said that I didn’t agree with black only or black focused schools. Now I am not so sure about that. I can admit that I may be wrong. I do remember when I was a kid I did not have a black teacher until I reached grade eight. I recall how shocked I was that my grade eight science teacher was a black man. I remember I did feel a sense of “comfort” and a sense of “pride” having a black teacher.
The bottom line is the Toronto district school board isn’t hiring enough teachers of colour. Now of course, black parents have a responsibility they have to be involved with their children’s education and that’s a fact. When I was a kid my parents always went to the parent teacher meetings because they wanted to know how I was doing in school. Now when I think about it I see both sides of the argument. On the one hand black children need to “learn” to get along and study besides children of other races there should be no “segregation” based on race. However, I also see the other side that states due to the statistics some black kids simply aren’t performing well in school and are dropping out. I think there should be a compromise. I think a program should be created to help the most at risk black children that do need more assistance with their school work. The truth is the Canadian media of course ignores the issue of the lack of black teachers in the class room. Also, why do black children and children of other races always have to learn about white Canadian history all the time? I think the course work should not alienate black kids and other children of colour. The Toronto District School Board needs to realize the issue is much larger then just “creating” a black focused school.
The issue here also pertains to the deleterious attitude Canadian society has for black kids. Let’s face it when teachers talk “privately” everyone knows what they are saying. Who decides what kids have to read in school? There needs to be more public forums taking place for everyone to see what’s really going on. Some educators and teachers are racist they think black kids and black people are “dumb”, “lazy”,” not willing” to “work hard” and are “slow to pick up” the material. Now think about it? How can some black kids achieve when racist bigots are grading black students assignments? I remember when I was in high school there was a controversy over a teacher that was a part of the KKK. Nobody wants to admit in Canada these racist stereotypes exist. Recently a white Nobel Prize winner insulted black people and said black people were stupid. So how are some black kids going to do well in school when they have white or Asian teachers that also believe these racist stereotypes?
Nobody wants to be real nobody wants to be honest. Whites and Asian Canadians will say “in private” that white kids and Asian kids “do well” under the current education system in Ontario so why can’t some black kids also achieve? Maybe the framework is all wrong?
I remember when I was a child I had white teachers that made me feel “stupid” and “dumb” and didn’t encourage me or give me the assistance with my school work that I needed help with. I’m not going to mention the names of these teachers but I definitely felt that some of these white teachers have covert racist beliefs about black people. I think anyone that wants to be a teacher should be forced to take anti racism and anti oppression training. I also believe that the attitude of the Toronto District School Board needs to change. Maybe black children wouldn’t feel so “left” out if the school board actually did their job and hired more black teachers.
The Toronto District School Board needs to be held accountable because a complete overhaul of the education school must take place in the province of Ontario. One black focused school isn’t going to solve the problem that is just a band aid solution. No the Ontario government needs to admit racism against black kids in the Ontario school system is a serious problem. Education is so important its crucial to advancing up the social ladder. No wonder some black children children are apathetic about the educational system when the racist framework exists? How can black kids in high school truly be interested in English class when they have to read books such as Harper Lee’s racist novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” ? The issue here is clearly larger then just black focused schools racism needs to come out of the closet in Canada. Canada needs to “change” and address the fact that the hiring standards of the Toronto District School Board, the curriculum, and even the Ontario government needs to wake up and get with the program.
Links to articles about black focused schools: http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20071109/balck_focused_schools_071109/20071109?hub=TorontoHome
I remember when I was in high school a good friend of mine introduced me to the singer Vanessa Daou. Daou’s first album “Zipless” incorproates Erica Jong’s poetry with music. The hit song off of “Zipless” is Sunday Afternoons. I love this song I recall playing the song over, and over, and over, and over, again. Vanessa went on to explore other musical sounds such as smooth jazz, trip hop, electronica on other albums.
The first time I was introduced to “Anne Sexton” was a song on “Zipless” called ”Dear Anne Sexton”. “Dear Anne Sexton” is actually a poem Erica Jong wrote about her friend. I kept on wondering as I listened to “Dear Anne Sexton” over and over again who was Anne Sexton? Why did Erica Jong decide to write a poem about her? I think the poem is a tribute to her. I remember visiting the public library and researching Anne Sexton because I wanted to know more about her. I began reading the volume of poetry by Sexton called “To Bedlam And Part Way Back” immersing myself into Sexton’s world. I also read another volume of poetry by Sexton called “Love Poems”. Anne Sexton was born in the year 1928 in Newton Massachusetts. Sexton had a history of depression for most of her life but she found solace through writing.
I definitely find internal peace when I have something interesting to write about. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I identify with Sexton? I only tend to write my poetry when I am depressed. Isn’t that strange? Anyhow, when I write poems I tend to be confessional. I cannot write about a flower, or a bug, or a plant. I cannot just “write” a poem. Something in my life has to push me or even force me to write poetry. I have to have conviction when I write poetry there is no other way for me to write poems. Now of course, I know I can improve my poetry I will definitely admit that. Perhaps I am afraid to write poetry? I get insecure and I wonder is my poetry any good? I don’t know these thoughts race through my mind. I know other poets can just “write” a poem at any moment with free will but I cannot. I never write my poetry that way. I usually grab a piece of paper sit down and I think about what I want to write about.
I usually just write a quick first rough draft. After that I will rewrite the poem over and over. I usually get my good friend to listen to my poems and he will tell me if he likes it or not. Its so funny because my friend will be silent and then he will say “oh Orville this is really good or oh this can be improved to or oh this sucks”. I really value his opinion so much because he’s honest with me about my work. I can pretty brutal and extremely critical about myself its one of my major flaws.
Most of the poetry I write is autobiographical I’m not going to lie about that. I hate when writers say ”oh my work isn’t autobiographical or it doesn’t have any autobiographical elements.” Its like give me a break. Perhaps this is true but I think with poetry the poet is “closer” to the “material” then say when a writer writes a novel. I think poetry is one of the most “real” forms of writing because the poet is trying to “send” a message to the “reader” and its up to the reader to discern what the poet is trying to say. In some ways I feel poetry is one of the most honest forms of writing even more honest then the autobiography or the memoir. A poem is like a picture at first it is a blank canvas that needs to painted in, coloured with the essence of the poet’s life experiences. I think that’s one of the fun parts about poetry there are so many interpretations to a poem.
I think when when I write I take my life experiences and in some way it can become a sentence, a phrase, or paragraph in a poem. Of course, I also write poems that are pure fiction but in my first poetry collection “You Don’t Know Me” most of the poems were mostly autobiographical. I mean why should I lie to readers about that? Its pretty obvious to anyone that bothers to read “You Don’t Know Me” that this volume deals with a lot of painful experiences I had in my life when I was younger. Even though “You Don’t Know Me” is out of print now I wonder if people still read it? Well that’s another blog entry isn’t it?
I gained a lot of appreciation for Anne Sexton because of her fearlessness. Sexton challenged the American literary industry in the sense she brought the issues of gender to the masses. Sexton was indeed very popular in her lifetime in North America and in the United Kingdom. I really feel a connection to Erica Jong’s poem about the poet “Anne Sexton”. I don’t think Anne Sexton gets the credit she deserves.
Everyone talks about Sylvia Plath she definitely is considered more “famous” then Anne Sexton. I wonder why Plath was more “famous”? I don’t get it? I never felt a connection to Plath although she definitely was a solid poet. I remember when I was a kid I loved reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry a lot. I always felt I had a connection to Anne Sexton’s poetry I just loved the way Sexton used language. Sexton’s poetry in my mind had much more “urgency” and power.
Erica Jong even uses the line “Live or Die” in her poem “Dear Anne Sexton”. Anyone that has read Anne Sexton’s poetry knows that Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for her powerful confessional poetry collection “Live or Die”. If you ever get the chance read “Live or Die” its such a great read. Sexton is a confessional poet the emotion, passion, frustration, and anger, from her poetry moves me. Its sad that Anne Sexton is not respected as a “premier” American female poet as Plath. Sexton was more controversial she wrote about abortion, depression, suicide, death, menstruation, and other topics in the 1950s and 1960s.
Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath were actually “friends” there have been rumors about the “nature” of their friendship may have had an undercurrent of lesbianism but perhaps that’s just mythology? There is no “proof” of a “lesbian relationship” between Plath and Sexton even though the rumour still exists after all these years.The truth is though Sexton and Plath did meet at a poetry workshop in Boston in the 1950s and became friends. After Plath died Anne Sexton even wrote a poem about Plath.
Another poetry collection by Anne Sexton that I love is called “Transformations” in this volume Sexton takes classic fairy tales and puts her own “twist” on them. “Transformations” is a very interesting read. Sexton committed suicide in the year 1974 but she will never be forgotten. If you ever get a chance go to the library and read Anne Sexton’s poetry you will shocked by the incredible power, imagery, sadness, and honesty of her poems.
Who is the real Zora Neale Hurston? Is she the black feminist icon that lived her life passionately and independently on her own terms? Or is Zora Neale Hurston the opportunist that wrote controversial articles during the civil rights era to create publicity? I love Zora Neale Hurston because she wasn’t perfect. Zora was ahead of her time a black woman scholar in an era where many black women were domestics. Zora also was a domestic for a period of time in her life but she was so determined to make it as a writer. Zora fought racism and sexism to become a major literary superstar.
For instance, Zora Neale Hurston wrote a controversial letter to an Orlando newspaper denouncing the decision the Brown Vs Board of Education 1955 case about segregation in American schools. In fact, Hurston stated that she didn’t want black children to feel inferior by the system and felt separate schools should continue. Hurston was slammed by the NAACP and other black civil rights leaders for her explosive articles and viewpoints on polemical issues.
I think far too often in the black community we like our role models or heroes to be saints. Zora was so outspoken I love this side of her personality! I love Zora Neale Hurston because she had a lot of spunk. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind for what she believed in. Hurston openly criticized the black male leaders of her era such as W.E.B. Du Bois and his pretentious uppity attitude about the “talented tenth”. Du Bois believed that only the “elite blacks” should speak up for the “race” and be “leaders” of the race. Hurston although a scholar she never believed she was superior to the masses.
Hurston is best known for her incredible 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” an important black feminist novel about a black woman’s liberation from patriarchy and male domination. However, Hurston didn’t just write novels. Hurston was also an anthropologist she wrote two books “Mules and men” in 1935 and “Tell My Horse” in 1938 two important books on black folklore . Hurston’s first book “Jonah’s Gourd Vine” is about the problems in Zora’s parents marriage. Hurston’s father was a preacher and he was unfaithful to Zora’s mother.
Zora Neale Hurston was overlooked in her era because she was an outspoken black woman. Zora lived in an era when women were supposed to be submissive to men. However, Zora Neale Hurston was a feminist and she refused to allow any man to control her!
Some of the most famous black male writers of Zora’s era had no respect for her. Richard Wright the author of “Native Son” criticized Hurston because in her novels she utilized the southern dialect and not “standard” English. Feminist scholars now praise Hurston because they believe her writing were authentic because she wrote the way the southern blacks talked.
Zora Neale Hurston was a republican and conservative. Although, I must admit, I was not impressed that Zora wrote the incendiary public letter to a Florida newspaper after the famous Brown Vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Zora said she was against allowing black children to attend the same school as white children. Zora ignored the fact the USA government provided more money for white schools than black schools.
Zora was not afraid of rocking the boat. When I read Hurston’s autobiography “Dust Tracks On A Road”, I am aware that she does fabricate sections of her life. For instance, Zora was not born in the town of Eatonville she actually was born in Notasulga Alabama in the year 1891 and not the year 1901 as she often claimed. Parts of Hurston’s autobiography is pure fiction.
The parts of Hurston’s autobiography I found most interesting was Zora’s sheer determination to become a successful writer. Zora went to high school when she was well into her twenties. Zora was also very shrewd in finding wealthy people to help support her to advance her education. Zora attended Barnard College and she graduated with a B.A. degree in anthropology.
Next, Zora studied with the famous anthropologist Franz Boas.
Hurston she talks about how she “fell” in love with fellow anthropologist Jane Belo. Hurston doesn’t explain what this statement means. Perhaps it was just a phrase a way for Hurston to express her devotion to her good friend Jane Belo? Hurston briefly discusses her friendship with the white writer Fanny Hurst. I didn’t really feel like Hurst respected Zora completely as an equal.
Hurston’s three marriages were brief and short. Hurston also doesn’t seem to place much emphasis on these relationships and she totally glosses over her love life in her own memoir. Perhaps Hurston was reticent because she believed part of her life deserved to be private?
Two years ago a young African American writer Scott Poulson-Bryant wrote an explosive book called “Hung”. It is also excellent that a young black man wrote this book because I can relate to the material he writes about. The title of the book “Hung” has a double meaning it refers to black men being lynched in the south for daring to look or date white women. The word “hung” also refers to the size of a man’s penis.
Poulson-Bryant’s book is brave and bold it opens with a letter to Emmett Till. Emmett Till was a young black boy that was brutally murdered by white Southern men in the year 1955 in the American South. Till was only fourteen years old when he died he was accused by some white Southern men for “whistling” at a white woman. During America’s racial apartheid one of the ways in which white males attempted to control black male sexuality was through killing innocent young black men by lynching them and hanging them in trees. Lynching was also a method in which white males had an affirmation of their male dominance and their own sexuality. White men did not want white women to date or have children with black men.
The white males in the South controlled the white females, black males, and black women sexuality. The hypocrisy here is that it is well known white men brutally raped black women and exploited black female sexuality. The white males were able to assert their male dominance over all women. However, the white males did not want the black men to also have sexual relations with white women.
Black women were also vulnerable because the laws did not protect black women from rape just white women. Black men were emasculated because the legal system did not even allow black men to protect black women from being raped by white men. The legal system discriminated against black men and black women.
During the days of slavery and even into the 20th century it is well known that white men in the American South raped black women and got away with it. Often young black female domestics were raped by their white male employers in the employer’s residence. Black women were treated as inferior to white women since white female sexuality was placed on a pedestal.
Sometimes the penises of young black men were cut off by the lynch mob to symbolize the fear white men had of black male sexuality. Often white Southern people treated lynching black men as a town event. A white mob would cheer and laugh at these hangings some people even brought their children to a lynching. And if you don’t know pick up a history book and learn about the history of lynching and this disgraceful disgusting period in American history.
Poulson-Bryant discuses the sexism of women and the prejudices women also have about the “myth” of the black penis. Poulson-Bryant explores an incident from his own life experience. One year in college Poulson-Bryant met a white girl at a bar and later on they had sex. The white girl was not thrilled that Poulson-Bryant’s penis wasn’t “large” enough. Poulson-Bryant was shocked at the attitude of the white girl and began questioning himself and his manhood.
One of the strongest parts of the book “Hung” is when Poulson-Bryant explores the sexual racism of the gay community and the racist damaging stereotypes of black gay male sexuality. I know from my personal experiences that some white gay men do indeed view black men as sexual fetishes for sex. All you got to do is watch a DVD of “Queer As Folk” or “Six Feet Under” to understand what I am saying. Black men on these white gay TV shows were treated as window dressing characters that could be sexually exploited and placed back into the shadows. And there is more to black gay male sexuality then being a sideshow for white gays that’s for sure.
I remember a white guy I went out with ten years ago when I was barely out of my teens. One day I was over at the ex boyfriend’s apartment and he went to the bathroom. I don’t know why I did it but I saw his diary by his bed and I opened it. I was so disgusted in the diary entry of the former boyfriend of mine he wrote that he loved my “black penis.” Feelings of anger and disgust just washed over me. Am I not a complete person? Or was was this ex boyfriend of mine just interested in me because of a part of my anatomy? Well lets just put it this way the relationship ended very quickly after that. And I am glad it did.
Have I ever had sex with white guys before? Of course I have I’m not going to lie. Have I had sex with black men before? Of course I have. The difference is when I was intimate with black men I didn’t have this “myth” of the “black penis” and I definitely didn’t treat other black men as sex objects. Has the sex sometimes been good and pleasurable? Sure it has. I know men and women are different because I can separate between love and sex. Love is one thing and sex is a totally different issue. Some white gay guys will chase black gay men and vise versa for sex.
I will explain for the straight people that read my blog this next issue. In the gay male community there are “tops” and “bottoms”. If you ever go to a gay dating website the issue of “tops” and “bottoms” is the main issue. Everybody wants to know what “position” you play. Often when I am on gay dating websites I will receive messages from white gay men and sometimes from Asian gay men if I am a “top”. Sometimes I choose not to answer these questions because I find them not only annoying but it also verges on racism. In the gay male community the stereotype is that all black gay men are aggressive, Asian gay men are stereotyped as submissive and yet white gay men don’t get stereotyped because they are the majority.
The “top” is viewed as the more “masculine” male he is the one that penetrates the other male in his anus. The “bottom” is the more submissive male during gay sex that receives the penetration. If you’ve ever watch gay porn you will notice black gay males are often always tall, dark skinned to symbolize the “exotic” factor but also be extremely well “hung.” The white gay males in gay male pornography will be smaller have a smaller penis and will be the “submissive.” The gay male pornography acts out the whole master and slave complex but with a twist. The black gay male is depicted as the sexual “aggressor sexual master” and the white gay male is viewed as the “victim” or “passive” role. The black gay male will always have a deep voice in these gay porn movies and the white gay male will be meek and timid.
Also in the gay community it is well known that some white gay men chase black gay guys because they think all black men have large penises. If you take a look at the glossy mainstream white gay magazines often you will see half naked black men in advertisements for pornography or for contests at gay bars.
However, take a look at the masthead of these same white gay magazines you will never see a black gay man as the editor in chief or a top editor at these publications. Once again white gay males have the economic, gender, racial, and political power. Even gay porn skin mags that feature black gay men are run by white gay males.
A few years ago when I was younger I used to write for a Toronto gay publication Xtra! It had taken me a while to realize that the so called Toronto gay community was not “my community” it still was a “white” community although gay. The only reason the editor wanted me to write for Xtra! was because he wanted me to write about the “black gay” experience.
Xtra! wasn’t interested in my writings about other issues I was interested in. And my life is more then just my sexuality. I found the gay media limiting to me as a writer. Also in Xtra! you are never going to read many articles about the hypocrisy, double standards, and entrenched racism of the Canadian white gay community that’s for sure.
Scott Poulson-Bryant’s book struck a chord with me because I know how dehumanizing sexual racism in the gay community is. For some reason in the gay male community the subject of sexual racism is taboo and off limits?
Also when I was younger I used to hang out with a bunch of Asian gay males. Often these Asian gay males would complain to me and whine that white gay men weren’t giving them the “attention” they so desperately craved. Now of course, not all Asian gay men want white boyfriends and that’s not what this blog entry is about.
I am writing about a specific experience that I know about. One Asian gay male friend who is now a former friend of mine he also was very upset whenever we went to gay bars that the white gay men would ignore him. I told my so called friend that everyone has a sexual attraction and that there were white gay males interested in Asian gay men. Yet I question why my Asian gay male friend was so upset about “specifically” seeking out white gay guys. Poulson-Bryant effectively writes about the sexual organization of the gay male community is not only Eurocentric its also very racist as well.
In the gay community it is well known that men of colour and especially black gay men are depicted as just sexual objects for white homosexual male desire. Poulson-Bryant discusses a story about a friend of his that went to a gay party that was basically a sex orgy. Poulson-Bryant’s gay friend told him how some white gay men were so excited to perform oral sex on a black man’s penis simply because of the “color”. Bryant crafted the message that the “color is the size and the size is the color.” The only thing that was important to the white gay men at the sexual orgy was that Scott Poulson-Bryant’s friend’s penis was black.
The most important section of “Hung” is when Poulson-Bryant also explores the racism of the pornography industry. I found this section of the book to be one of the most honest readings I’ve ever had about the porn industry. Poulson-Bryant shatters the mystique and the silence about racism in pornography. The racist stereotypes about black male sexuality these manifestations not only exist but are mass produced on DVDs and easy for the eyes to see. I am not saying people should not enjoy porn and I am not a prude. I watch porn like every other gay guy.
I just want people to be more “cognizant” about what they are watching. Some porn I definitely stay clear of if I find it to be dehumanizing and racist. The racist beliefs about black men penises and depicting black men as ” sexual beasts” and “savages” that seek to “conquer”, “rape”, and “ravage” white women is definitely takes place I feel more in “heterosexual interracial porn.”
Details Magazine earlier this year publsihed an article about an interracial sex orgy that had taken place in suburbia at a residence of a white middle class couple. The white wife had a “hunger” for the black penis and the husband “allowed” black men to come into his house and screw his wife. The white husband claimed he didn’t mind his wife “screwing” black men because he knew she would “never” leave him for a black guy. When I read the Details article the writer didn’t even question the underlining homoerotic element. Why would a husband be “cool” with his wife screwing a whole bunch of young black men? I think the white husband got “off” and he was “turned on” by seeing black men have sex with white women. And I think a lot of heterosexual “interracial porn” has a kind of voyeuristic feel to it. You don’t see the white heterosexual men but they are the ones pulling the strings in the background. I also believe some white heterosexual men are “turned on” by black men.
Perhaps the fact that gay porn is between white gay men and black gay men both are male and it cancels out the “intimidation factor” and the “submission factor” is much less. Since gay male interracial porn is male on male I think racism definitely exists but not to the extreme as in heterosexual interracial pornography.
However, the straight interracial porn I have viewed between black men and white women I must admit I find some of it incredibly racist and very offensive. I wonder if the black men that make straight porn with white women understand they are being “used” and I feel in some ways “exploited”. In some interracial porn its all about the black straight men being depicted as a “rapist” or as “marauder” invading white heterosexual male territory and taking “advantage” of their women. The white women in interracial porn are depicted as “sluts” and “whores” that crave the “black penis.” So white women in heterosexual interracial porn don’t come off looking “good” either. I wonder if these young black men and white female entertainers in straight interracial porn understand what the porn video directors are “really” trying to say with the imagery? The porn industry is white male dominated a lot of the “interracial porn” between black men and white women is actually made for white heterosexual men and I find this to be homoerotic and perplexing. It appears to me some white heterosexual men have fascination with the black male penis and black male sexuality although they won’t admit it.
Everyone has seen a porn movie but have you ever paid attention to why there is so much interracial porn films between white women and black men? If you ever visit your local adult video store take a look. In the porn movies black men are of course depicted as sexual monsters with extremely large python like penises. Poulson Bryant asks the question who is this porn really for? I believe there is a homoerotic element to this kind of pornography and that some so called white straight guys are actually sexually attracted to black men. I mean why would a white heterosexual male want to see a black man have sex with a white woman? You can argue the white guy is just staring at the woman but I doubt it. I think some white men have an attraction but also a repulsion to black male sexuality.
Poulson-Bryant interviews the famous black porn star Lexington Steele. Steele is well known in the porn world for his enormous penis and his good looks. However, unlike most porn stars Steele doesn’t feel he is being exploited. Steele has managed to maintain control over his image and his product unlike many other people in the porn industry. Poulson-Bryant examines the reason interracial porn is popular but it is also taboo. Interracial porn porn is still considered “forbidden” and “salacious” and “dirty”.
Poulson-Bryant points out the large number of porn DVDs that are available for purchase at your local video store and the lack of mainstream movies with black heterosexual men having white female love interests. Remember the Super Bowl controversy over the commerical with the white actress Nicolette Sheridan from “Desperate Housewives” and the African American football player Terell Owens? White America had a heart attack. In the commerical Sheridan is in the men’s change room she takes off her towel and leaps into Owens arms. The controversy over the commerical was incredible because whites feared seeing black men and white women together.
If you’ve noticed these movies are rare for a variety of reasons. Poulson-Bryant also investigates another issue and that is the fear the white heterosexual male has of black male sexuality. Interracial marriage in some American states was illegal up to 1967 when the Supreme Court in the famous Loving Vs Virgina stuck down the racist law.
Poulson Bryant also explores the stereotypes that exist about black male sexuality in the media and pop culture especially with hip hop. In many hip hop music videos the black heterosexual rappers have to boast about their sexuality and masculinity because that’s the only power they have in society. In North America white men have political and economic power. I remember in a Caribbean Studies class during my undergraduate days my professor Andrea Davis said at York University black men only have two social markers one is physical strength and the other is sexual prowess. If you notice heterosexual black male rappers such as P Diddy and 50 Cent have to boast about how many women they sleep with because they don’t have any cultural signifiers of power.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada its a national holiday and I’ve been thinking about some things. One of the things I’m thinking about is self publishing my next book. I’m tired of receiving rejection, after rejection, after rejection. The book industry in Canada is so small anyhow. My first book “You Don’t Know Me” was published by a small press TSAR in Toronto.
For the past two years I’ve haven’t found a second publisher for my non fiction manuscript. I’m tired of waiting. I am indeed doing my homework. There is a self publishing company in Canada called Trafford Publishing based in British Columbia. I hear Trafford is good but I find they are a bit too expensive. I’ve heard about Authorhouse but they mainly deal with USA authors. I definitely will avoid Publish America I read an article about that company in the Washington Post and they seem unprofessional.
I’ve been thinking about iuniverse nothing is set in stone of course. Right now I’m just researching. Anybody that reads my blog have any advice about self publishing? I’ve heard a lot of horror stories. But I think there is a positive side to self publishing as well and the most obvious is control of your own work. And of course I know it will be hard but I think I’m willing and able to work hard and make things happen for myself.
Of course the hard part isn’t really getting a book published. For self publishing you simply pay the fee and they will publish the book for you. However, the problem is distribution. How does the book reach the public? I read that only 10% of books are actually bought online. Most people still go to bookstores to buy books. So how would a self published author get people to buy his or her’s new work? Now that’s a quandary. Of course, the internet is a good resource. And as it appears I have a lot of homework to do. I haven’t decided on self publishing but the more I think about it. I might consider it?
Also there is a social stigma towards self publishing. The mainstream book industry looks down on it because its not viewed as “genuine” publishing. Sometimes though self publishing cuts through a lot of red tape. Anyone with advice about self publishing please feel free to send comments. I want to learn as much as I can about this before I make a final decision.
I just finished reading Langston Hughes first memoir “The Big Sea”. I love Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston so much they are my favourite writers. I really can’t choose between Langston and Zora both are incredible writers and they mean so much to me. I love them both.
If you want to gain a real appreciation for Langston Hughes as a writer do yourself a favor read the book at the public library or just buy the book. The Big Sea was published in the year 1940 it is an account about the early part of Langston’s life from birth to his early 30s. Langston discusses how he got “discovered” by the white American poet Vachel Lindsay. Langston writes eloquently about visiting Africa and Europe for the first time during the 1920s and the trials and tribulations of being a sailor.
I was most impressed with Langston’s description of the Harlem Renaissance. I felt like I was there with all of the energy, excitement, and electricity of the moment. Langston met other famous black writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent, the sculptor Aaron Douglas, and the white gay writer Carl Van Vechten. I think Langston was brave to travel to Africa and Europe as a young man. I guess he was seeking adventure and wanted to see the world.
Carl Van Vechten is a very interesting figure in the history of the Harlem Renaissance because he was the only white person that was a part of the “inner circle”. Later on in his life Van Vechten also got involved in photography. Van Vechten met Langston and Zora Neale Hurston in the 1920s and he was friends with both writers for the rest of their lives.
Van Vechten became famous in the 1920s because he was part of a controversy over a book he had written called “Nigger Heaven”. Now the title of the novel of course is controversial. However, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and other black writers actually defended Van Vechten when some black critics during this era slammed Van Vechten and called him racist. The term Nigger Heaven actually refers to the balcony section in the movie theaters where blacks were forced to sit during the 1920s.
I think Van Vechten had another meaning for “Nigger Heaven” that “Harlem” was like a gallery where whites were able to “watch” blacks but at a “distance”. I also believe Van Vechen was “referring” to whites viewing blacks as science experiments something to be “gawked” at and not taken seriously. Van Vechten was clearly writing about the racial and social apartheid in America he was criticizing white Americans for their hypocrisy. If blacks are so fun to be around why the need for the American laws to treat blacks as second class citizens? I won’t call “Nigger Heaven” a protest novel but clearly the book is important.
Van Vechten was ahead of his time he was cognizant of the hypocrisy and racism of white America. In Harlem blacks were barred from certain clubs such as the Cotton Club that was reserved for whites only. The only blacks allowed inside this exclusive venue were the entertainers such as the singers, musicians, and dancers that performed for whites.
Van Vechten also was very instrumental in connecting Langston Hughes with Alfred Knopf to publish his work he also helped other black writers reach a larger audience. Van Vechten, although gay, he was married to a woman; he drank heavily too, but he was a very charismatic kind of a person and threw great parties. Van Vechten is really one of the few whites during the Harlem Renaissance that wasn’t “exploiting” blacks but really had a genuine interest in black art and black culture.
During the numerous parties on the weekends regular folks mingled with celebrities like Ethel Barrymore, Salvador Dali, and even royalty in Harlem. White people flocked to Harlem to “watch” blacks. Josephine Baker was a hit on Broadway in the play “Shuffle Along.” Langston also discusses his cynical view of the Renaissance about how white Americans viewed black people as “primitive” and as a form of a social experiment or entertainment.
Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston also had a patronage with a mysterious wealthy white woman named Charlotte Osgood Mason also known as “godmother.” Ms. Mason paid Zora and Langston a salary to find the black “primitive art” she was so interested in. Hughes became disillusioned with Ms. Mason and stopped working for her around the year 1930 because he didn’t feel that she really “respected” African American culture. Langston felt Ms. Mason had a myopic view of blackness and black people.
Langston also discusses a legendary feud with Zora Neale Hurston about a play they wrote together called “Mule Bone.” Its kind of sad that this great literary friendship ended over a play. The story goes like this Zora wrote the play and wanted Langston to help her fix it up and he did. Langston helped write the final draft of the play. Now a typist Louise Thompson was hired but Zora didn’t want the other “woman” to claim credit to the play. Zora visited Langston’s mother’s house in Cleveland and she was furious screaming and yelling at Langston. Ms. Hughes had to calm Zora down. Zora continued to insist that Langston was trying to give credit to “another girl”. Ms Hughes was not pleased but eventually Zora and Langston had a discussion about the play but the friendship was over at this point.
In Zora’s memoir, “Dust Tracks On A Road”, she ignores Langston and the entire Mule Bone incident. In Carla Kaplan’s wonderful biography “Zora A Life In Letters” she connects the dots. Now I know Langston was a homosexual but I get this sense that maybe Zora had feelings for him? Were Langston and Zora lovers? I wonder? Maybe I am imagining things but I sense Langston and Zora may of had a romantic relationship? Did Zora know she had feelings for a homosexual? Now I am not suggesting Langston and Zora were lovers but why was Zora so upset about Louise Thompson? Its interesting in Langston’s memoir he doesn’t mention the typist Louise Thompson by name yet Carla Kaplan’s book does. Its kind of sad that this play destroyed their friendship. Langston and Zora only briefly communicated after the “Mule Bone” incident a few times in the 1930s and that was it.
Langston discussions about the incredible racial discrimination blacks experienced even in Harlem is very powerful. Blacks were viewed as just the “entertainment” often blacks were not allowed to enter certain clubs such as the “Cotton Club.”
I just love this book so much! Its so inspiring to read about his writing career and his life and the difficulty he had with maintaining a relationship with his father. Langston did not enjoy visiting his father in Mexico he even says he “hated” his father.
It was depressing at times to read about the incredible struggles Langston endured just because he was a young black man. I just cannot imagine the incredible amount of racial discrimination Langston endured during his life. I am not just talking about just the physical also the psychological effects this racist treatment must of had on older generations of black people. I think younger black people we forget the horrible treatment our elders experienced. I cannot imagine what he went through. Langston was forced to sit in the black section of a train or bus due to race. Langston also was not allowed to get accommodations at certain hotels due to being black. Blacks also were barred from using washrooms in public places as well. Even going to the park was an a big issue for African Americans during this era.
The racial apartheid of America was in full force. The Harlem Renaissance was an important time for black writers because it was the first time blacks believed there was “hope” through art. Angelina Weld Grimke the black lesbian poet had written her play about lynching “Rachel” in the year 1920. Nobody knows exactly when the Harlem Renaissance started but historians do say it ended around the 1929 or perhaps 1930.
The one area of “The Big Sea” I noticed Langston was reticent about is his love life. I was so curious I craved to know more. I believe this is the most frustrating part about the memoir I still didn’t feel like I knew everything about the real Langston Hughes? I find it very hard to believe that a man so attractive, so handsome, so charismatic, so beautiful, so intelligent such as Langston Hughes was unable to find a male lover?
Langston must of had some male or female lovers during his early life? Langston’s love life is basically non existent in “The Big Sea”. The question remains why?I find this part of the memoir most perplexing. I want to peak into Langston’s mind. I want to peel beneath the surface and shatter the canyon of silence. There isn’t even a section about his so called “heterosexual” romances much less about his gay love affairs. There appears to be a dissemblance by Langston around the issue of his homosexuality. Later on in Langston’s life he does write about homoerotic themes such as the poem cafe 3 am.
I understand during this period it was hard for African American gays and lesbians to be “respected” by the heterosexual black community. It was basically impossible to be out of the closet Langston didn’t have a choice he had to conceal his homosexuality. I think the constant need to “hide” his sexuality affected Langston emotionally and psychologically. I cannot imagine the intense fear and pressure he endured wondering if the black race would respect him if they knew he was gay.
Although the famous butch piano player Gladys Bentley was “out” about her lesbianism during the 1920s society was less fearful of lesbianism then male homosexuality. Gladys moved from Harlem to Hollywood and later on in her life shifted back to heterosexuality. Bessie Smith the Blues singer she “out” as a bisexual she had numerous affairs with female singers and dancers during the 1920s. Ma Rainey was also bisexual as well. However, Langston was a black man and the fallout would of been much greater if he did come out as gay.
It makes “sense” for Langston to conceal his homosexuality during his lifetime. How could Langston possibly come out in an era where black people still didn’t have equal rights? What good would that do? People have to remember that black gays in Langston’s era encounted multiple layers of oppression.
If Langston came out during his era it would destroy his career and maybe even his life. Langston also didn’t write much about homosexuality during his lifetime because I believe he always had a “fear” of being outed for a variety of reasons. The USA government even had witch hunts against gays in the 1940s and 1950s. Langston most likely did the “right” thing to remain in the closet he had no choice. Sure, one can argue the African American James Baldwin was brave and he was.
James Baldwin was also born in 1924 he was over twenty years “younger” then Langston Hughes. Baldwin I believe really was brave to write “Giovanni’s Room” in 1956. Notice though in “Giovanni’s Room” the protagonist is a white boy and not black. Some people say Baldwin made the characters in that book “white” to reach a larger mainstream audience there was a higher potential to make more money. And of course its true its just shrewd business. Baldiwn knew if he wrote the main gay characters David and Giovanni as “white” both white and black America would just see the book as pure “fiction”.
After all, an argument is why can’t a black writer write a book with white characters? However, think about the time period that Baldwin lived in. Would “Giovanni’s Room” really be as celebrated by the white heterosexual or homosexual communities if the characters in that book were African Americans? Wouldn’t this give racist organizations in America ammunition to pathologize blacks more?
Often a lot of gay historians and scholars always exclude this important point. Baldwin wouldn’t be “celebrated” at the beginning of his career by the black or white press if “Giovanni’s Room” was about black gay men. The civil rights movement just started in 1955 one year before “Giovanni’s Room” was published. Baldwin would be crucified by the NAACP and other black heterosexual leaders if “Giovanni’s Room” was about black gay men they would brand him as a traitor and a sell out. Baldwin would lose his “place” within the private sphere of black society. I also believe the white mainstream media would be hypocritical. Racist organizations such as the KKK would just say blacks had “no morals”. During the 1950s homosexuality was thought of as a disease of the mind an affliction that could be “cured”. James Baldwin would be thought of as a “race traitor” and as a disgrace.
Also, the black media didn’t mind “Giovanni’s Room” because the book had “nothing” to do with the black community. If Baldwin had written “Giovanni’s Room” with black gay male characters during the 1950s I think it would really tarnish his reputation with the heterosexual black community during that era. There would be a storm of controversy and anger by straight blacks it could of been a major uproar against Baldwin.
Its easy for people in the 21st century to say Langston Hughes could of or should of come out but we have to remember the time and space Hughes lived in. Homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder during Langston Hughes lifetime. The black and white heterosexual communities still looked down on homosexuals for both religious and personal reasons.Homosexuality was also considered to be something “white people” engaged in but not civilized black folks. If Hughes did come out he never would be respected by the heterosexual black community. Hughes would never be considered the “hero” of black literature that he is viewed as today. Its not right the kind of thinking that existed during Langston Hughes lifetime but that was the reality. The gay and lesbian movement didn’t really start until the late 1960s and early 1970 far beyond Hughes lifetime.
I sense some internalized homophobia from Langston in the memoir when he describes other gay black men. Langston is projecting the image in the memoir that he is heterosexual and this is false. In fact, according to Faith Berry’s 1992 biography on Langston Hughes she says Hughes had an intense romantic relationship with a Jamaican man.
However, in “The Big Sea” Hughes does write about drag balls from a homophobic perspective. Langston calls the black drag queens “pathetic”. The whole aspect of drag in black queer history is important because it proves black gay men existed despite living in separate spheres. Black gay men won awards and prizes for wearing the most sensational outfits and performances at the drag balls. during the 1920s.
One black man that had an intense infatuation with Langston was the openly gay black professor Alain Locke. In fact, I believe Alain Locke and Langston could of had a secret relationship perhaps? Locke has written many letters to Langston that are quite passionate and if you read between the lines you can tell Alain was in “in love” with Langston. Although I think it was an unrequited love. Langston doesn’t discuss Alain Locke’s obvious attempts to “gain” his attention and his infatuation with him. I think its a tragedy that Langston Hughes wasn’t able to be more free and live without judgement as a black gay man during his lifetime.
I am reviewing the “Well of Loneliness” for a second time because I just felt the urge to revisit this wonderful book. The first time I read the “Well of Loneliness”, was in the late 1990s. I decided to purchase a copy of the book for myself. When I went to the bookstore the clerk bluntly said ” you do know this book is a dyke classic right?” I answered “of course.” I was insulted. So because I am a man it means I am not supposed to know about this excellent book? Give me a break! I knew about “The Well of Loneliness” since I was in high school.
I think this novel has some autobiographical context in relation to Hall’s own life. In Hall’s real life,she also dressed very butch and masculine often seen wearing suits and ties just like Stephen Gordon. Hall also had a very masculine appearance.
The first time I remember learning about ”The Well of Loneliness” ,was when I read Maya Angelou’s first autobiography “I know why the Caged Bird Sings”. Maya talked about this book and that got me curious about learning more about the “The Well of Loneliness.”
”The Well of Loneliness” is often called the “lesbian bible” because it was the first novel that was published in the 20th century to deal honestly with lesbian love and lesbian passion. The “Well of Loneliness” is about a girl named Stephen Gordon her parents Sir Phillip and Anna wanted a son. Sir Phillip insists on naming the girl Stephen. Stephen looks just like her father and he adores her. Yet Stephen has a tense relationship with her mother Anna, her mother hates Stephen she has a strong disgust and a quiet hatred for her daughter.
Stephen first discovers she has same sex feelings for the servant Collins when she is a young girl around the age of seven. Stephen grows up to become a famous writer she falls in love with an American actress Angela Crossby but she actress betrays Stephen. The actress husband finds out about the affair and writes a letter to Stephen’s mother Anna. Anna of course is disgusted and Stephen and her no longer have contact. Stephen then meets a woman named Mary. Mary and Stephen fall in love but Stephen feels like she is unworthy of her love. Stephen sets Mary up with a male friend of her’s Martin Hallam. In the end Stephen kills herself. I know the book is kind of depressing but its so well written.
The novel is very tame by 21st century standards, there are no scenes of lesbian sex in the book. However, when “The Well of Loneliness” was first published in 1928 the book was banned in England and there was a famous trial. British writers such as EM Forester and Virginia Woolf defended Hall. Hall wrote several over books such as “The Unlit Lamp” but she’s best known for the Well of Loneliness.
Now some lesbian critics bash the novel because the main character Stephen Gordon is a negative stereotype of lesbianism. However, some lesbian critics are forgetting the time and place the book was written in 1929 England. I can kind of see what they are saying because even I was sort of confused about the Stephen character. Was Stephen a butch lesbian or was she a transsexual? It seemed to me the character Stephen was trying so hard to deny her femininity. Now just because a lesbian wears suits and is butch doesn’t mean she wants to be a man. But even now I do wonder why do some lesbians wear suits or dress in a more masculine style kind of clothing? Is it because some lesbians think by dressing in a more masculine manner they are more comfortable?
I do think modern critics have to remember the time period Hall wrote the book. The world was a very different place in 1928 and although Hall refers to the character Stephen Gordon’s sexuality as an affliction we have to remember the social and cultural period of 1928 in England.
Does anyone know any other good novels about black lesbians or other lesbians of colour? Please let me know? I’ve been looking around various book stores and its hard to find good black lesbian fiction. The black lesbian writers I had recently are Dionne Brand and Makeda Silvera. If you know any new novels about black lesbians or lesbians of colour let me know?
Well it was bound to happen I am surprised it took the white American media this long at the US OPEN to commence their usual annual anti Williams racist rhetoric. Usually the white American newspapers complain about the Williams Sisters during the first week of the US OPEN. I wonder why they waited until now to attack Serena Williams? Oops I guess the minute they “found something” really “horrible” that they just had to report it. Its like a broken record and its so pathetic and lame of the mainstream USA press. The latest uproar is that Serena did not give “credit” to Justine Henin? Did Justine Henin give credit to Marion Bartoli when Henin choked the Wimbledon 2007 semifinals? Henin claimed the match with Serena the day before was too “emotional” for her and that contributed to her loss to Bartoli. Henin wasn’t exactly very nice to Bartoli either. Did the UK or American newspapers complain about that? Of course not.
It is racist incidents such as this why I suggest to the readers of my blog to pick up the book on black tennis called “Charging The Net” by Cecil Harris and Larryette DeBose. Harris and Debose compile sixty five interviews with black tennis players and coaches. The truth about the white American tennis establishment is exposed in this book but of course I am sure my dear readers you haven’t heard much about this wonderful book. Harris and Debose point out the obvious but they back up their claims with proof that the white American tennis establishment has a unwelcome mat for black tennis players. Is it any surprise that this wonderful book hasn’t really gotten much press in the mainstream USA media? The USTA certainly doesn’t want to be reminded of their racist and sexist history against black people. And don’t expect USA network or CBS to be promoting this book either.
Today in various American newspapers the white American media have lashed out at Serena Williams for her “attitude” after her loss to Belgian Justine Henin. Serena lost last night in the quarterfinals of the US OPEN. And I guess the white American tennis player Andy Roddick is perfect? Roddick is very unprofessional on the court and off the court in press interviews. Roddick also has had tense press conferences. Yet you will never read anything in the mainstream American newspapers complaining about Roddick’s immature behaviour with the media. Roddick swears at his opponents, at the lines people, at the chair umpires. Yet Roddick is the white American tennis hope that has faded into oblivion. Andy Roddick has proven to be just a bunch of hot air and hopeless he’s no longer a top contender in men’s tennis. The hype machine has burst for Roddick he hasn’t won a grand slam singles title since 2003. Why doesn’t the white American media complain about Roddick and his often outbursts on the tennis court? ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe applauded Roddick for his disgusting behavior at the 2007 Australian Open when he played a black Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga the match was close and Roddick was cursing at Tsonga. I guess in the USA media there are different standards for black and white American athletes.
Is Serena supposed to be happy or thrilled that she lost to Henin? Of course not. I can honestly say that Justine Henin was the better player on the court last night she simply out played Serena. Justine is a very quick player and her speed won her the match. I felt like Serena was kind of slow tracking down balls.
The real reason the white American media are so “distraught” is because they want Serena to say that Justine Henin is a “better” tennis player then her. Serena is never going to utter those words. Justine may be having a more “consistent” year then Serena but I personally believe Serena at her best is the superior tennis player. Henin and Serena are tied 6-6 in their head to head matches . My personal opinion is when Serena is playing her best she is better then everybody else on the WTA TOUR.
Isn’t it interesting that the white American press are so quick to turn on an American tennis champion such as Serena Williams because they want her to give praise to a foreign player Henin just because Henin is white? Let’s be real here that’s the real reason the white American press are so “angry”. The white American media have no respect for Serena Williams as a great champion so why should she give respect to them? Respect isn’t just one way traffic.
It just goes to show in this world nationality can be thrown out the window because race always matters. And in the USA since Justine Henin is white and Serena is black the USA mainstream media will be firmly in Henin’s corner. Henin is a great tennis player she’s a lot better then the blonde bimbo of the WTA Maria Sharapova that’s for sure. Henin is a champion but Serena is also a champion and I certainly didn’t expect Serena to sit in a press conference and give ten minutes of praise to Henin. I think the speed and the swiftness of the white American media’s hatred for Serena Williams speaks a lot about them and how disgusting American racism truly is.
After the difficult loss Serena was well within her rights during last night’s press conference to answer the questions the way she wanted to. The press conference was short and quick and the white American tennis reporters just didn’t like that. The avalanche of negativity is not only surprising its a bit disconcerting but typical of white America. Although I am a foreigner I am cognizant of how the white American media operates in relation to black people. The public lynching Serena got in the USA press just demonstrates and speaks volumes to the kind of vindictive white reporters there are in America.
I watched the match on TSN alternative feed and I had to turn the volume down low because I wanted to concenrtate on the match. I just didn’t want to hear the termagant tennis analyst Tracy Austin and her sidekicks the two spineless cockroaches John McEnroe and Ted Robinson. John McEnroe is no fan of the Williams Sisters everyone knows that. McEnroe’s along with Austin and Robinson have been anti Williams for the past ten years. McEnroe never has anything intelligent or insightful to say he’s just a bitter old man. Ditto for the for “scarecrow” Ted Robinson he has zero credibility and veracity at all. Tracy Austin was at least kind of professional but that’s saying a lot about her. Austin its hard to believe actually was netural which is surprising for her. Austin usually always has something negative to say about Serena yet last night she was quiet. Austin let McEnroe and Robinson do all the bashing.
I read various articles on the web in American newspapers and no surprise the white American tennis reporters unleashed their racism, their bigotry and their lack of class against Serena Williams in print. Serena already lost to Justine Henin isn’t that what the white American tennis reporters wanted? Will they ever have the guts to admit the truth? Of course not. Why can’t these white American tennis reporters just be honest? They don’t like Serena Williams because she’s a strong, inteligent, young black woman that has talent, confidence and she won’t kiss their white asses. And why should she? Serena owes the American press nothing.
Its just like clockwork though whenever Serena Williams loses a tennis match the white American media always have to find something to complain about. I am not American but I am not blind to the legacy and history of this obvious pernicious racism. The white American tennis reporters are intelligent enough not to pull a Don Imus in print. However, these covert racists aren’t fooling anybody that’s for sure. The white American press always have some negativity against the Williams Sisters. Race, class, and gender, are framed. The white American tennis media want to paint a negative picture of Serena Williams. These tennis crtiics have always had a gruding disrespect for Serena and last night she just wasn’t interested in it. Why can’t these racist tennis reporters just be real for five seconds? People are smart enough to discern and read between the lines. The white American tennis establishment should be thanking Serena and her sister Venus because they are the only American women winning grand singles titles. The other American women currently playing behind the Williams Sisters simply are not talented enough to become champions. Serena won the Australian Open in January and Venus won Wimbledon.The last American woman that wasn’t a Williams Sister to win a grand slam was Jennifer Capriati five long years ago.
Serena is a champion she’s not like James Blake she’s not an Uncle Tom she’s a fighter. Serena didn’t want to be fined $10,000 dollars so she showed up at her press conference. Serena did her part of the job. The white American tennis media are just “upset” that Serena didn’t give them the answers they wanted. However, Serena owes the American press nothing she did her job she gave the answers she felt best to answer. I doubt Serena cares what the white American media thinks of her because she already knows they are a bunch of anti black bigots. As I have written on this blog before racism in tennis is not just overt its also covert.
For decades the white American tennis establishment has had little respect for black tennis players. The USTA so called “tribute” to Althea Gibson was conducted posthumously. It was so disgusting the way the USTA has treated the late great Althea Gibson for all these years. The USTA contacted Gibson only twice during her lifetime for a tribute. Of course the USTA waited until Gibson was sick and unhealthy to contact her. Why didn’t the USTA have the tribute in 1987 when Althea was healthy and strong? I think Althea declined the USTA tribute because she most likely felt the USTA was insincere and not genuine. The USTA’s actions speaks volumes about what the USTA thinks of black tennis players. I thought the USTA tribute was not only very insincere I also thought it was just a very contrived and deleterious public relations ploy.
The USTA does not reach out to black youth or other minority youth. The American tennis estabishment and the white American media want a white American girl to be the USA’s next big tennis star. Its the reason why the USA press fawn over the blonde Russian Maria Sharapova. Sharapova wasn’t exactly thrilled when she was upset in the third round she was also sullen in her post match press conference. Why didn’t the white American media go after her? Oops I forgot even though Sharapova is Russian she’s still white and blonde.
The sad thing is there are plenty of white American tennis journalists and the white American tennis establishment that were openly rooting for the foreigner Justine Henin of Belgium. I have checked out various internet tennis websites and there are plenty of white and Asian American tennis fans that openly cheer for Henin even though Serena Williams is an American. I think the callous and bigoted attitude of some of these white American tennis reporters speaks volumes about the lack of class they have.
Also, I find it very sexist that people expect female athletes to act differently then male athletes when they lose. There are too many male sports stars to count that lose big matches and I don’t see them get the kind of blood thirsty venom that Serena Williams received today. Just because Serena Williams is a woman doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a right to her own feelings and emotions. I think its pretty pathetic for the press to bash an athlete that just lost a major tennis match. When you lose are you supposed to be smiling and all happy? Also, this is professional tennis its not Serena’s job to praise Justine Henin if the white American media want to do that they can. Serena’s been around for ten years so I don’t understand why they are surprised by her behaviour? Should Serena have given Henin credit I have to say no I think the match speaks for itself.
As I said yesterday the white American media want their black athletes to be nice losers like James Blake. Serena Williams is not a loser she’s a winner and she’s got eight grand slam singles titles.
The NY TIMES writer Selena Roberts slammed Williams in an article today and the Sports Illustrated writer John Wertheim of course bashed Williams as well. Yet would Roberts or Wetheim have the courage to write about the covert racism in American tennis or of the USTA? I have not read any articles by Roberts or Wertheim criticizing racist tennis analysts such as Mary Carillo, John Mcenroe, or Tracy Austin.
Wertheim has no credibility he’s been anti Williams for the past decade and a classic racist bigot. Wertheim and Roberts are like wolves waiting in the darkness just waiting to rip Serena Williams apart. I guess for white American tennis reporters Serena cannot be sad about a loss. Serena was unhappy and she’s human she just lost a tough match against the world number one Justine Henin. It is also weird that Serena has lost to Henin three times in a row usually this just doesn’t happen to Serena. The white reporters of course reported what they wanted to see and hear. I never listen to just what the media presents I remember from reading Dionne Brand’s work that the white media have their own anti black prejudices.
Bill Dwyre the Los Angeles Times writer is the same writer that wrote a piece earlier this year saying that Williams Sisters should return to the racist Indian Wells tennis event they boycotted six years ago. Since the Williams Sisters are the only superstars on the WTA the Indian Wells event has lost its commerical value and importance on the WTA tour. I also have to point out Chris Evert the former tennis champion is a part owner of the Indian Wells event. Dwyre bashed Serena as well. Its really tiring but not surprising when these white American tennis journalists claim that Serena should be more “nice” and credit her “white opponents” when they just hate her because she’s a proud black woman.
Its just like clockwork whenever the Williams Sisters lose the white American media’s tentacles become unleashed. Let’s be honest here, the white American media just wanted an opportunity to gang up on Serena and naturally they did. They want to destroy Serena’s spirit and soul but she won’t allow it and that’s why the press conference was a very quick one. Serena Williams is still the best player on the WTA tour she has won all four grand slam singles titles and she already won the Australian Open title this year. The Williams Sisters don’t care about rankings they play the events they want to play and they proved this year that can still win grand slams. Serena had a solid year she won a grand slam and a tier I event in Miami this year. Serena has nothing to prove to anybody and I am so proud of Serena that she’s true to herself she doesn’t allow these racist bigots to try to force her to play by their rules. The Williams Sisters have always done things their own way and I applaud them for that. Well done Serena!
I was at the bookstore in downtown Toronto and I read the first page of Terry McMillan’s latest novel “The Interruption of Everything.” I thought the opening of the book was very funny and decided to buy the book. Terry’s novels all have an autobiographical theme. In “Stella Got Her Groove Back” it was about McMillan marrying a younger man Jonathan Plummer. And in this new novel the main character Marilyn Grimes is a middle aged black woman that works at a craft store. Marilyn’s three children have all grown up gone to college or moved out. Marilyn has a bit of the empty nest syndrome she feels as though her family takes her for granted. Marilyn’s marriage to her husband Leon is on the rocks. Next, Marilyn’s mother in law Arthurine and her annoying dog Snuffy are driving her crazy. Arthurine finally decides she wants more out of life and gets a boyfriend . Marilyn is having a mid life crisis. Marilyn’s two best friends Paulette and Bunny are very funny and well written.
In this novel McMillan definitely still has her sense of humor I was laughing so hard at times. However, I find it really irritating the way Marilyn constantly complained about her husband Leon it was getting on my nerves. So women are perfect and all men are scum? I wonder why no one speaks out about this misandry?
It was so obvious McMillan is bitter about her divorce to her ex husband Jonathan Plummer. Terry says Jonathan lied to her about his sexuality. I kind of wondered why didn’t Terry make the Leon character have a homosexual affair instead of a heterosexual one? At least it would of been more honest. Maybe Terry’s next novel will be about that whole down low thing?
In this novel the main character Marilyn complains and goes on and on about her husband Leon. Leon decides he has to go to Costa Rica to “find” himself. Leon admits to having an affair. I found the Leon character flawed but I didn’t find him to be this kind of “monster” that Terry was attempting to paint this character as. I found myself actually having sympathy for Leon and finding myself hating the Marilyn character she is so annoying. I wanted to know more about Leon and why he cheated on Marilyn? Leon’s character wasn’t developed enough he was the typical lousy cheating husband. I think that’s a total copout. I am sure Marilyn had character flaws yet that was just glossed over. I didn’t get a complete sense of Leon’s character and it was just a cheap way for Terry one again to do some serious male bashing. It was obvious to me that Leon represented her ex husband Jonathan. Of course Terry denies this but I mean its pretty obvious Leon is Jonathan.
The writing isn’t up to the same standard as “Waiting To Exhale” or “Disappearing Acts.” I found myself bored at times the story dragged a bit. Also there wasn’t enough character description and too much dialogue. I did find the other main storyline which was the drama going on with Marilyn, her adoptive sister Joy, and their elderly mother Lovey much more interesting. I felt like the novel came to life when Terry concentrated on that storyline. She should of concentrated on that section of the story more.
I know some gay black men are pissed at Terry because of the whole Oprah show incident. Some gay black men were annoyed that Oprah and Terry were “attacking” Jonathan on the show. I agree with them. What was the purpose of Oprah having Jonathan on the program yet he had no support? Why wouldn’t a young Jamaican kid pack up and move to America for a new life? Terry says her ex husband used her. Well didn’t Terry use Jonahtan as well? Its a two way street. Its called sex tourism. City TV in Toronto has a TV show called Sex TV and on that program a few years back there was an episode about rich North American and European women that fly down to the Caribbean to chase young black men for sex. Terry wanted a young black man to screw and make her boy toy. She exploited Jonathan even though he didn’t know anybody in America and he obviously lacked life experience . He matures meets new people and understands he’s gay and Terry loses the boy toy she once owned so of course she’s going to be bitter. Jonathan could of been honest with Terry that’s for sure. What did Terry expect?
And in this new novel all Terry is doing is stereotyping and trying to blame black men for her own personal problems. Why can’t some women take responsibility for their own actions and lives ? Why is everything the black man’s fault? Where is the agency? Despite the problems Terry McMillan is having in her personal life she is a good writer. Terry McMillan along with E Lynn Harris opened the book industry’s eyes to black writers. For so long contemporary black stories had been ignored. I don’t know if I will read anymore of Terry’s books? I am tired of reading books that put down black men. Yes black men have flaws but the way Terry goes out of her way to write the Leon character had me rolling my eyes. Its just bad writing. I think the next book I will read deals with gay black men. I have had enough with these kinds of books that put black men down.