Thursday, June 26, 2008

Enough is Enough

What follows is a petition penned by my fellow Rutgers alum William Jelani Cobb on behalf of the mass of black men who understand why R.. Kelly's recent aquittal is no cause for celebration. If your share our sentiments, add your name. It's that simple.

To: Concerned African Americans

Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women

Six years have gone by since we first heard the allegations that R. Kelly had filmed himself having sex with an underage girl. During that time we have seen the videotape being hawked on street corners in Black communities, as if the dehumanization of one of our own was not at stake. We have seen entertainers rally around him and watched his career reach new heights despite the grave possibility that he had molested and urinated on a 13-year old girl. We saw African Americans purchase millions of his records despite the long history of such charges swirling around the singer. Worst of all, we have witnessed the sad vision of Black people cheering his acquittal with a fervor usually reserved for community heroes and shaken our heads at the stunning lack of outrage over the verdict in the broader Black community.

Over these years, justice has been delayed and it has been denied. Perhaps a jury can accept R. Kelly's absurd defense and find "reasonable doubt" despite the fact that the film was shot in his home and featured a man who was identical to him. Perhaps they doubted that the young woman in the courtroom was, in fact, the same person featured in the ten year old video. But there is no doubt about this: some young Black woman was filmed being degraded and exploited by a much older Black man, some daughter of our community was left unprotected, and somewhere another Black woman is being molested, abused or raped and our callous handling of this case will make it that much more difficult for her to come forward and be believed. And each of us is responsible for it.

We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it.

We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly's claims to innocence. It is about our survival as a community. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end.


The Undersigned

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

LarryLy Sightings: Newark-Essex Pride Week

Next week is Newark-Essex Pride. Needless to say, LarryLy will be out in full support of his new hometown's annual celebration of it's own diverse and wildly dynamic queer community. If you're in the 973-area (or willing to commute), the week will feature a series of events that'll give other [more generously funded] Prides a run for their money.

Perhaps most importantly, there are two opportunities to catch your boy LarryLy in his element: facilitating, moderating and doing that activist/scholar thing he does so well.

Marriage Equality final

Now, yall know I have a precarious relationship with gay marriage. As I've devoted myself primarily to anti-violence work, building coalitions across identity categories and re-framing the conversation about the value of black queer life, marriage equality is not one of my key organizing areas. In fact, if there is a consistent thread connecting my thinking and speaking about marriage, you'll find it to be more akin to that of (which insists upon legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status) than (which advocates for same-sex couples receiving the full range of rights and responsibilities afforded by civil marriage).

Mais, c'est la vie. The panel is really quite amazing and methinks the ACLU will benefit from having a moderator who can see beyond the short-sighted clamber for equality and actually identify the need to critique the problematic underpinnings of the institution of marriage itself.

At the "Theologies that Heal, Theologies that Kill" conference, Pride attendees will explore that vexed terrain where religion and spirituality enter into conversation with non-normative sexualities. LarryLy will be presenting at Breakout Session C: Alienated in an Alien Nation: Interesectionality and LGBTQ-TS Experience of Black Churches. Here's the blurb:

Often, LGBTQ-TS people feel estranged from family, friends, and their own religious communities. When LGBT-TS people go to non-affirming communities for religious practice, there is often a feeling that the community is an “alien nation.” Hear LGBTQ-TS people speak from their context in what will be a safe space to question, to challenge and to work together to hear each other.

I'll be expanding upon several things I've touched upon on this very blog (see: Passage to Heterodoxy, parts 1-3) as well as in my undergraduate thesis. Good times. Good times.

If you can make it, make it. And give a brutha a hug while you're in beautiful Brick City.