Showing posts with label Black Lives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Lives. Show all posts

August 10, 2018

Black Gay and Becoming Visible (The New York Times)




Darnell L. MooreCreditEric Carter 
By Ijeoma Oluo

NO ASHES IN THE FIRE 
Coming of Age Black and Free in America 
By Darnell L. Moore  

The famous opening words of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” — “I am an invisible man … invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” — have long resonated with many black people in the United States. The idea of blackness, crafted by generations of white supremacy, has been paralyzing and narrow. Black Americans have struggled to free themselves of these limited expectations, to transcend being seen simply as the brutish thug on the corner, the sassy and strong black woman, the cheerfully selfless mammy, or the mindless entertainer. This invisibility, denying the complexity of who we really are as human beings, has constantly threatened our own sense of self and undermined our ability to realize our full potential — as well as provided a justification for centuries of societal and institutional abuse and exploitation.

But for L.G.B.T.Q. black folk, it has been worse, a double bind. Not only have they had to contend with racism, disabling as it is for all black people, but their identities as queer and trans living in a patriarchal and dominantly heterosexual world has added an extra burden, including one often imposed by their own communities. It’s a further assault on the psyche.

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In “No Ashes in the Fire,” Darnell Moore writes a deeply personal memoir of growing up in the crosshairs of racism and homophobia in Camden, N.J., in the 1980s and ’90s. Walking us through his early life as a gay black child of an impoverished 16-year-old mother and 15-year-old father, Moore shows the brutality that many young, queer black people face. We see the bias of teachers, the violent encounters with the police, the underfunding of majority-minority schools, the dehumanizing desperation of systemic poverty and the violence of neighborhood bullies.

It is a harsh environment, yet the most pervasive violence in this book is not physical — it’s the violence of erasure. As a boy trying to be seen for his academic talents in a world that expects little more than anger from black boys, as a boy trying to understand his sexuality in a world that sees black men as symbols of hyper-heterosexuality, Moore is constantly forced to choose between safety and identity — often with dangerous consequences either way. The amount of mental energy it takes to constantly re-evaluate how much of yourself you can expose is soul-crushing. 

This personal struggle also gives him insight. “I am a black man who has loved and been intimate with men and women, a black man who defies societal norms, a black man who grew up in the age of hip-hop and AIDS, and a black man from the hood,” Moore writes. “I couldn’t write a memoir full of life stories without animating all the invisible, and not-so-hidden, forces that rendered my blackness criminal, my black manhood vile, my black queerness sinful, and my black city hood.”

But despite the shocking cruelty depicted in this book, Moore also infuses the pages with great humanity — humanity capable of great horror and even greater beauty. Moore’s descriptions of parental hands that could be a source of love as well as pain reminded me of some of the most beautiful scenes in “Moonlight,” a film that also revealed the young life of a queer black man. And the honest affection that Moore shows for the black women in his life who carried him through the hardest of times, and the black queer community that helped him find his way to loving his whole self, keeps the book from drowning in the bleak reality he describes.

The reader will arrive at the end of this book with a respect for Moore and the many levels of self-realization he has reached, excited to see his already admirable career as a writer, advocate and activist continue to grow. I found myself thinking of all of the black boys I grew up with who also seemed invisible. The boys who were told that their creativity, their softness, their queerness and their beauty were incompatible with their blackness. They will certainly see themselves in Moore’s story and, let’s hope, feel a little bit less alone EDITORS’ PICKS Ijeoma Oluo is the author of “So You Want to Talk About Race.”

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and TwitterA version of this article appears in print on
 , on Page 14 of the Sunday Book Review

October 31, 2016

Black Life in it’s Joy and Sadness in ‘Moonlight’







The film Moonlight is extraordinary for many reasons, but to me it is most so for two. First, it considers black boys to be precious, at a time when news stories perpetually make it seem as if the United States considers them to be utterly expendable. Second, it acknowledges the effects that the stalking ghosts of premature death and incarceration have upon gay black masculinity – and it manages to do so without ever diminishing the lives full of complex humanity that black gay men still manage to have in America while navigating that reality.
So often, gay lives in America are coded as white, and the forces that shape the lives of queer people of color – say, how immigration affects being Chicano and gay in Calfornia, or how police surveillance affects being black and gay in the New York – are ignored, as gay identity is usually swept up into whiteness. Moonlighteschews this reductivism entirely, brilliantly portraying in a lyrical story how love and connection attempt to take hold. 
The fact that there are about a million and a half black men disappeared from American society by early death and incarceration is not a side issue to black gay men. It’s certainly no side issue to Chiron, Moonlight’s hero, who successfully seeks out a father figure, Juan (Mahershala Ali), only to lose him to an early death. And yet, Moonlight also shows how creative and brilliant black humanity is at being so much more than its pain. Director Barry Jenkins doesn’t dwell on Juan’s death as much as he does on the beauty of his embrace of Chiron in his arms in the sea, on his smile, on his joyful proclamation that you can find black people wherever you go in the world.

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