Black Ministers and Queer Community

Black Ministers and Queer Community


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One of the real issues behind black homophobia is African Americans’ lack of understanding

about the pernicious nature of white supremacy that not only impacts the lives

of black heterosexuals, but also the lives of black women and black LGBTQ people.



No Marriage Between Black

Ministers and Queer Community

By Irene Monroe

A minute after midnight on Monday, May 17, was a great getting-up morning for us lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents in the state of Massachusetts – at 12:01 a.m., same-sex marriages became legal. But it was also a sad reminder for many African Americans in light of the fact that 50 years ago the issue of racial segregation in America’s public schools was nationally shamed and ruled unconstitutional in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. Although these two marginalized groups have much in common in terms of their struggle for freedom, as well as in terms of celebrating their individual civil rights victories, both African-American and LGBTQ communities are not compadres in the struggle for liberation. “The gay community is pimping the civil rights movement and the history. In the view of many, it’s racist at worst, cynical at best,” the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a local African-American Boston minister and president of the all-male National Ten Point Leadership Foundation , told The Boston Globe . While Rivers is known to take black nationalist and Afrocentric points of view in dealing with all issues of race, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow Coalition , is a more moderate voice. And while Jackson adamantly feels that LGBTQ people deserve equal protection under the law and that the Constitution should not be amended to ban same-sex marriage, Jackson does, however, think the comparison between gay rights and the black civil rights struggle is “a stretch,” as he mentioned at a talk in March at Harvard Law School. “Gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution.” Jackson told his audience. To get African-American male ministers, in particular, to think outside of their narrowly constructed boxes about race is an arduous task. And much of the reason is because of the persistent nature of racism in the lives of black people and the little gains accomplished supposedly on behalf of racial equality. Many African Americans see that civil rights gains have come faster for queer people. From the Stonewall Riots of 1969 to May 17, 2004, the LGBTQ movement has made some tremendous gains into mainstream society, a reality that has not been afforded to African Americans. And while the freedom to marry has been an arduous struggle and a right long overdue for LBGTQ people, the debate did not begin with queer people. The marriage debate here in the U.S. began when African-American slaves were forbidden to marry, so they “jumped over the broom” – an African-American tradition – in front of their slave masters to consecrate their nuptials until the end of the Civil War in 1865. A century later, the debate concerning interracial marriages between African Americans and white Americans ended in 1967. That year marked the moment when the U.S. Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the case of Loving v. Virginia. For many African Americans, the LGBTQ debate about the freedom to marry appears to be more than just a pimping of the civil rights movement to them. It also appears as the erasure of their history as a people who are still striving to get what they feel LGBTQ people already have – access to mainstream society. While the feeling among African Americans is understandable, the reason is, nonetheless, wrong. With such a myopic construction of race, the oppressions of African-American LGBTQ people are ignored not only at the expense of the AIDS epidemic ravaging the entire African-American community, but is ignored also at the expense of combating white supremacy. One of the real issues behind black homophobia is African Americans’ lack of understanding about the pernicious nature of white supremacy that not only impacts the lives of black heterosexuals, but also the lives of black women and black LGBTQ people. African-American LGBTQ people suffer under the reign of white supremacy, as do African-American heterosexuals. Racism is as rampant in the white queer community as it is in the larger society. And one of the reasons it continues to play havoc in the lives of all African Americans is because subcultures within the African-American community – like straights and queers – work against each other rather than together to combat racism.

With the LGBTQ movement persistently donning a white face, all other faces of color are marginal at best and invisible at worst. And it is these faces that are also marginal or invisible within their ethnic communities. However, these faces of color become important, visible and needed to the larger white LGBTQ movement only when the white LGBTQ movement is actually pimping a black moment of the civil rights movement for a photo-op to push their agenda. In other words, many African-American ministers scoff about the LGBTQ movement comparing its struggle to the black civil rights movement for the following reasons: * the LGBTQ movement exploits black suffering to legitimate its own; * it appropriates the content of the black civil rights movement, but discards the context that brought about it; and * it is white queers’ rallying cry against heterosexist oppression, yet they dismiss the responsibility that comes with their white skin privilege. Also, because white LGBTQ people don’t take responsibility for their white privilege, it is their visible domination we see in the movement. The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, started on the backs of working-class African-American and Latino queers who patronized that bar. Those brown and black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but they are also bleached from its written history.

Because racial prejudice was a dominant oppression all black people faced – straight or queer – during the troubling black civil rights era of the 1960’s, Dr. Gerri Outlaw, an openly lesbian African-American professor of social work at Governors State University, just outside of Chicago, said, “Had those patrons been white the cops would have harassed them, but there would not have been a riot.” I posit that because of the bleaching of the Stonewall Riots, the beginnings of LGBTQ movement post-Stonewall is an appropriation of black and brown queer liberation narrative absent of black and brown people. And it is the visible absence of these black, brown and yellow LGBTQ people that makes it harder for white queers to confront their racism and for African-American ministers to confront their homophobia. At 12:01 a.m. on May 17, the city of Cambridge was the first to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Much deliberation went on about who should be the first couple to get their license. The photo-op would become one of the iconic images of the event. The immediate thought was to look for same-sex couples of color. But the few that reside in upscale Cambridge were not available for a myriad of reasons. And the few same-sex couples of color I talked to all told me they would feel exploited. The next search was for biracial same-sex couples. However, the couple Cambridge got was an elderly white lesbian couple that we in Cambridge know and love dearly. However, the selection process for the photo-op moment does not negate the nagging problem of how race shows its face even in an important historical moment like this one. On the evening of May 16, Cambridge City Hall opened it doors to celebrate all the work that went into gaining civil marriage rights for LGBTQ people. African-American and out lesbian City Councilor E. Denise Simmons dubbed the event, “Cambridge Celebrates Marriage Equality.” Simmons was the first to suggest that Cambridge jump-start same-sex marriages. On May 16, as we waited for the clock to strike midnight, I was reminded how many African-American Christian churches across the country celebrate “Watch Night Services.” These can be traced back to December 31, 1862, which was also known as “Freedom Eve,” when African-American slaves came together across the nation to await the good news that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had finally become law. And on that day, January 1, 1863, a new life began for us even as the Civil War was still going on. While the war on same-sex marriage will continue to be debated in Massachusetts and across this country, in order for this victory won by the LGBTQ community to be fully embraced, understood and celebrated by the larger African-American community, the LGBTQ community must also work with African-Americans to combat their white supremacy.

The Rev. Irene Monroe is a regular contributor to “A Globe of Witnesses.” Her monthly online column is Queer Take.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 27 December 2011




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