Selfies of a Black Queer Boi: 002

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I ended up in Milwaukee on accident. It was an intentional move, at first. The plan was to stay only from July til January, work, save money, and transfer colleges. Work was hard to find and colleges were not cooperating. Soon, January became April. April became May. May became maybe. Maybe became must. Must became August 12, 9:13 AM.

It is August 12, 9:04 AM.

I finished packing bags and boxes of things I really don’t need just three hours ago. Sick of nibbling on pizza and juice, I began to reflect on the past 403 days.

I arrived in Milwaukee with positive thoughts. I am exiting with the same.

I didn’t learn to swim. I didn’t take a fencing class. I didn’t get back into dancing. I didn’t get my driver’s license. Those things, I suppose, will come in due time. I mustn’t dwell on my failures, for they are not failures until I have given up on them. And I have not given up on them. I merely got distracted by other opportunities.

This past year was full of expected misery, but also unexpected joy. I fulfilled old desires, sparked new flames, made new friends, visited three new states, attended a briefing at the White House, met (and befriended) personal role models, spoke on a panel, found myself published for the first time, gained two new brothers and reconnected with a sister, gained three pounds (hooray, 107!), became more bold, explored new types of interactions and relationships, and learned How to Be Black. I also learned how important I am, and how important I am not.

In two hours I will begin putting the lessons of these experiences to test in a new city full of new opportunity. I fear that in such a competitive place, a lazy lackluster boi such as myself won’t make it. But I will try. I will do. And I will not fail, for there is success simply in doing.

Infinite gratitude and love goes to those who helped make this past year survivable.

“Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”

― Judith Minty

‘The Room Is Crooked’: NW Indiana Activist Group Breaks Ground With Racism Panel

Panelist Kaleidscope

Portage, Indiana: Home of roughly 37,000. Republican-run. ‘White flight’ haven for those fleeing nearby Gary. Not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think of racial and LGBTQ+ activism.

Yet in early July, that is just what took place.

Metropolitan Community Church Illiana (MCC)—a Christian church with a focus on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer spirituality—became the grounds for a locally groundbreaking event: a panel on racism. In a town that is 83% White this is no small feat.

As a young person of color who speaks on racial oppression, I was asked to sit on the panel. I arose the morning of July 12th unsure of what to expect. Two bagels and a three-hour bus ride later, I had arrived. Fellow panelists included:

  • Dr. Raoul Contreras, Chair of Minority Studies and Associate Professor of Latino Studies at Indiana University Northwest
  • Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr., founder and Senior Pastor of The Trinity United Church of Christ in Gary, Indiana
  • Lorrell Kilpatrick, adjunct lecturer at Purdue University–Calumet, Indiana University Northwest, and Ivy Tech Community College
  • Samuel A. Love, White male ally, educator, artist, and keyholder at Mess Hall in Chicago
  • Cami J. Thomas, doctoral student in the Department of Africology and Administrative Director for the Black Graduate Student Alliance at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

An Atheist, I tend to avoid churches in fear that my “unholy soul” will set them ablaze. Still, the atmosphere was welcoming. At the church entrance, a table with rainbow cloth draped over it was the home of various MCC-related pamphlets, business cards, and a bowl of condoms. (Clearly I attended the wrong churches as a child.)

A sea of 38 Black and Brown faces stared as the panelists took the stage. Present were kids, teens, adults and senior citizens, heterosexuals and homosexuals, theists and atheists, and a tree-hugger who smelled of beeswax and a substance whose recreational use is legal only in Colorado and Washington. A sole White man sat nervously in a pew to my left.

Moderator and co-coordinator of the panel, Paulie Garcia, wasted no time. In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on DOMA and the Voting Rights Act, Garcia dove into a series of questions that, while seemingly basic and superficial, ultimately created a much needed discourse that laid the foundation for what racism is and how people of color, including those who are LGBTQ+, experience it.

What is racism? Is ‘reverse racism’ real? Sharing versus waiting—in activism, is it best to share the spotlight or wait your turn? Are things better for people of color in the United States? How can we make things better?

While each panelist generally agreed in their responses to the questions, how each came to understand their beliefs varied.

“I’ve been an activist for a decade, and most of that time I was silent,” says Samuel A. Love amidst a discussion about community progress and alliances. “I’m glad that I was. I needed to listen.”

Following the panel, I spoke with co-coordinator Gail Thomas to reflect on the event. Thomas currently serves as the chairperson of Standing Together In Tolerance Changing Humanity (STITCH), an organization that seeks to support youth struggling with their sexual and gender identity to help them thrive and avoid depression and suicide.

Thomas and Garcia say they were inspired to organize the panel after LGBT Pride festivities were moved from Gary to Portage, a town that is far less accessible to people of color.

According to Thomas, the purpose of the panel was ‘to offer education on what racism really is–a system.’ “If we are a part of the system,” she says, “then we are involved in racism in some way [and] need to be responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions.”

Although Thomas’ son, who is biracial, was recently racially profiled by local police, she remains optimistic about the state of progress in northwest Indiana. “With consistency, I believe more people who need to hear the message (the White community) will come.”

In October, STITCH will team up with Northwest Indiana University for a two-day workshop on LGBTQ+ issues.

More information on the event and panelists can be found here.