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September 03, 1996 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-03

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6D - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - September 3, 1996

Giving voice to the unheard
Anthology speaks to, about gay blacks

By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
"It gives relief from the sun," begins Samuel R.
Delaney's introduction in the recently published
book of the same title.
Yet it has an even deeper meaning for members
ofthe gay black community. "Throwing shade" is
very similar to straight blacks' use of the term
"dis" (from the verb "disrespect"). Shade, how-
ever, tends to be more subtle. Whereas a dis is
meant to immediately cut its victim down with its
bluntness, shade often
requires a doubletake. As
Delaney writes, "'He
couldn't have said what I
thought he said ...?' That, Shade
I suppose, is the bench-
mark response to the cast- Short-story,
ing of shade." a't.y r
Shade, in short, can be edited by ruc.
looked upon as an "in the h es oend
closet" dis. Throughout Charles Rowel
the collection of 22 short $12
stories in the anthology Avon Books
Shade" much of the
shade thrown "comes
out." So as you read into
the various nuances, you realize quickly that they
are saying exactly what you think they're saying
- something you can perhaps hardly believe.
"Shade" (Avon Books, $12) is a collection of
fiction writings by gay men of African descent.
Compiled and edited by Bruce Morrow, associate
director of Teachers/Writers Collaborative, and
Charles Rowell, professor of English at the Uni-
versity of Virginia, both of whom are black and
gay, "Shade" was put together for very important
reasons. .
"One of the things I was interested in showing
is how pervasive and amazing the African dias-
pora is,' explained Morrow. a 33-year old Cleve-
land, Ohio, native. "There's black people over
here, black people over there. And of course there
must be black, gay people throughout.
"On a whole, I wanted to express that black,
gay men are part of the black community and part
of the gay community, and that there is diversity
in both of those. There is a rising political con-
sciousness and awareness within the gay world of
its diversity which hasn't been addressed a lot."
Such awareness has also taken place outside of
the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. Ever
since public attention was first directed toward
AIDS in the late 1970s (then known as the very
bigoted-named "gay cancer"), questions on the
morality of homosexual marriage, homosexual
ordinations, homosexual adoption and homosex-
ual people have been near the forefront of the so-
called "family-values" debate. Annual gay rights
rallies in Washington, D.C., Colorado's anti-gay
Amendment 2 and the Supreme Court's eventual
declaration of its unconstitutionality, Hawaii's
recent legalization of same-sex marriages and
subsequent legislation in various states to not rec-
ognize those marriages and various debates over

the teaching of "alternative lifestyles" in schools Morrow does take the hatred, the evil, the
have fueled a growing realization across this denunciations personally, as well he should.
nation that like blacks, women, immigrants and Imagine if you will, living under the same restric-
others before them, gays in this country are fed up tions as he: "Imagine not being able to touch or
and fighting back. kiss your lover of seven years on the streets,"
"The question of gays in the military and same- Morrow said. "Imagine never holding hands with
sex marriage is important for the same reason your lover while on a summer-night stroll. Imag-
blacks in the military were really important in ine that. Imagine getting the shit beat out of you
helping to shape the civil rights movement," Mor- for looking at someone the wrong way. Imagine
row observed. "You need to have the government not being allowed to attend your lover's funeral
say that gays are not people whom you can vio- because the family doesn't approve. I don't think
late. Black gays and lesbians have been major heterosexuals really understand the concept of
contributors to American culture, and this book having their relationships so greatly restricted by
will show that there is variety within even these society. It's not happening to them."
cultures." Relationships are stressful. The extra societal
The short stories in "Shade" cover a wide range pressure placed upon gays makes having a suc-
of topics of interest for people of all races and sex- cessful same-sex relationship nearly impossible.
ual orientations. "Spice;"by A. Clinqu6 Hicks, tells So it should come as no surprise that few gay
the story of a man whose mother knows of his relationships are long-lasting. What should be
homosexuality, yet hopes he will keep it secret disturbing is that even without these pressures,
from her friends. "Summertime, and the Living Is half of all heterosexual marriages are still des-
Easy .,." by Reginald Shepherd, is the story of a tined for divorce. And attesting to the true love
young black man in love with his white best friend. some gays have for one another is the fact that
"Zazoo," by Larry Duplechan, is the reminiscings there are gays involved in very stable, happy and
of a man's childhood and what he viewed as his strong monogamous relationships. Morrow
first sexual experience. "Powers That Be," by L. knows; he's one of them.
Phillip Richardson, tells of a "bad boy" with a "I've been in a relationship with Robert for
longing to leave his dangerous lifestyle. In seven years," Morrow said, a shy smile creeping
"Church," by G. Winston James, a black, gay man into his voice. "We're very similar but very dif-
with AIDS returns home to die. "Your Mother ferent. I'm black; he's white. I'm analytical; he's
from Cleveland," by Bill Wright, is the story of a visual. We both love jazz. We live together with
drag queen's posthumous effect two cats, Dexter and Lambada the
upon a more conservative, closet- Forbidden Cat."
ed gay neighbor. ,, i He tells how they met. The story
Morrow has been hit over the is reminiscent of such chance love
head with a double whammy: -ieencounters as seen in "Jason's
Being a member of two groups Sv Voice Lyric," "While You Were Sleeping"
- gays and African Americans Ao What or "Forget Paris."
- blamed for the depletion of "We met at the New York subway.
"American morals." From the many mi ht Robert had a big can of film, and I
stereotypical view of the black asked him about it. We started talk-
welfare queen to the false belief not want to ing, and it turned out that we lived
that gays give children distorted right across the street from one
views of family, they are unwit- hear. et another. So we agreed to meet again.
ting scapegoats for all that is But I would never ever, ever call up
wrong with the world. seg d to , someone whom I was interested in,"
"I don't think the majority of he laughs. "So we didn't talk to each
white Americans have accepted - Bruce MorroW other for a year. Since he lived
blacks," Morrow said. "So I Co-editor of "Shade" across the street, I thought it was
wouldn't wait for straight, white inevitable that we'd meet again any-
Americans to accept me. I do way, but it took a year. We ran into
think it's true that on a day-to-day each other in the music store, and he
basis, on a very local, personal level, homosexu- had all these jazz albums in his arms. We talked
ality is becoming more accepted. Still, it is the big again, and again we agreed to see each other. But
battles with institutions we need to fight because of course I would never ever, ever visit him. I guess
these institutions set up the rules and structure for he figured that out because the next day he came
the rest of society." and visited me. So technically, we've been togeth-
Morrow questions those who see homosexual- er for eight years if you count the year we didn't
ity as a major contributor to a decline in morals in meet."
the country. "What's a gang bang? Why are there Black gays, lesbians and bisexuals have made
so many unwed mothers in America? I'm sure it's a strong, positive impact on American life. They
not because of some gay man. Why are the major- deserve respect and recognition. They deserve to
ity of the fathers of the babies of unwed, teenage be heard. Singers Bessie Smith, Freddie Jackson
mothers grown men over the age of 20? There are and Josephine Baker; writers James Baldwin,
a lot of one-night stands going on and it's not all Alice Walker, Langston Hughes and Lorraine
homosexual." Hansberry; mathematician Benjamin Banneker;

Bruce Morrow said "Shade," which he co-edited, shows diversity within the black community and
gives a voice to gay blacks who have been ignored.

former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan; federal
judge Deborah Batts; baseball player Glenn
Burke; philosopher Alain Locke; pastors Patrick
Maye and Renee McCoy; army veteran Perry
Watkins ... in Morrow's eyes, "Shade" is for
them and for the many lesser-known non-white
non-heterosexuals whose existence has neverthe-
less allowed the sun to shine just a little bit
brighter on another's life.
Further, it is a reminder to those who would
choose to selectively forget that the legacy of
black gays, lesbians and bisexuals in this country
and throughout the world is rich and constantly
unfurling. It should be ignored by neither
straights nor by whites because what these people
have done - and continue to do - have bene-
fited the lives of world citizens many times over.
But, as with blacks, women and others, the
story of gay contributions is accompanied by a
sad reality: Many would prefer to keep the

accomplishments while forgetting the accom .
"In the past, one might overlook the fact that
James Baldwin was gay and read him only for his
opinions on race," Morrow said. "Or white gays
might read 'Giovanni's Room' as a whie gay
novel and not really acknowledge the fact that the
author, Baldwin, was black. You miss half the
story if you don't keep in mind that Baldwih was
black and gay writing a novel about a white
American in Paris.
"So the advice I'd give to someone reading
'Shade,' regardless of their race or sexual otien-
tation, is the same. Open your eyes and your
mind. See what you've denied existence and
voice. 'Shade' gives voice to what many Meight
not want to hear. Get used to it. Learn from it.
Then do what these courageous writers have done
in contributing to this anthology: Go out and
speak the unspeakable."


Art Fair artists draw big crowds

Opinions vary
depending on who you
ask about annual fairs
By Ryan White
Daily Arts Writer
So, what is Art Fair?
Well, you'll get a different answer
depending on who you ask.
Ann Arbor Resident: It is when I try
to leave town on vacation.
Tourist In Town For The Event: It's
lots of really cool art, food, entertain-
ment and sales.
Resident: It is nearly the same thing
every year, and I can't get around town
because it is full of extra people and half
the roads are closed off.
Tourist: It is hard to find a place to
park, and it usually rains, but it is still a
lot of fun and one of the nation's top art

Resident: I usually have at least six
strollers jammed into my shins.
Tourist: Sorry.
Truth be told, the answer to the ques-
tion is probably found somewhere
between the Resident's rantings and the
Tourist's ravings.
To start with, there are actually three
fairs: The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair
which is held on South University
Avenue, East University Avenue and
Church Street; The State Street Area Art
Fair occupies the center of the downtown
area on Maynard, Liberty, and William
streets and North University Avenue; and
The Summer Art Fair on portions of
State, Liberty and Main streets.
More than 1,000 artists draw more
than 500,000 people to Ann Arbor over
a four-day span. There is also lots of
food and live entertainment. Basically

. .. .,-

Ann Arbor Art Pairs
>When:Four days at the end of July
What. Three art fairs take over
South University Avenue, South
State Street and Main Street
Information: Ann Arbor Convention
and Visitor's Bureau, 995-7281
Size: More than 1,000 artists,
more than 500,000 visitors
it's four straight Football Saturdays, but
with a bunch of roads blocked off.
What draws people, however, is the
The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair cele-
brated its 37th year this summer. The
State Street fair is 29 years old and th
SummerArt Fair is in its 26th year. Intfi
past, the fairs have begun the Wednesday
of the third full week of July. Beginning
next year, however, the fairs will start on
the third Wednesday in July.
Despite being the oldest of the three
fairs, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the
smallest. The organizers took nearly
2,000 applications for just 190 spots.
It is also the most distinguished,
though. In September 1995, Sunshine
Artist selected the Ann Arbor Street Art
Fair as the No. 1 fine craft show in the
At the fair you'll find paintings, etch-
ings, silkscreens, handmade crafts and
work from the Ann Arbor Potters Guild.
The other two fairs offer much of the
same when it comes to art, but the back-
grounds are different. From the restau-
rants and shops on and around Main
Street, to the bars and coffee shops that
line South University Avenue, the fairs
have something for all tastes.
One plus for Ann Arbor residents who
don't necessarily enjoy the fairs is the
fact that many of the downtown stores
use the time to mark prices down. One
can get discounts on anything from corn-

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