Expert Opinion

One of the strengths of The Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians is the number of qualified and credentialed experts who offer their opinion about contemporary issues and challenges that face persons of African descent nationally. Our thought leaders write about a number of different topics including race, sexuality, gender, religion/spirituality, politics, media, parenting, etc. You can learn more about our Thought Leaders by clicking hereAlso, follow our experts on Twitter @TheABSC1.

December 20, 2015
The Black Bisexual Men’s Moment
By H. Sharif Williams aka Dr. HerukhutiMiles Brock and Yusaf Mack. Where do I begin to speak my part of the conversation about these two Black bisexual men? I asked myself that question as I struggled for a week to write this article. It was a new sense of discursive constipation for me—someone who can crank out an article or well-developed response email in a matter of hours. But I couldn’t seem to start even the first paragraph as the days came and went, which is a problem in the age of social media public intellectual work. Gotta get the story out quick. No more than 800 words. Get in and get out. Move on to the next trending topic.

My only comfort has been that I know something that most people don’t. This moment of reflection on Black bisexual masculinities is going to be with us for a while (however long a while lasts at this time in human history when the public’s attention span seems to be shrinking by the hashtag). In mathematics, three or more points on the same line suggest a pattern. Meaning, if something happens once it can be an isolated incident; twice and it still may not be predictive of anything, but three or more times and you start to have reason to believe something like a movement or a series of related re-occurrences may be happening. That’s what I see happening now with the emergence of a continuing conversation at the intersection of Blackness, bisexuality and maleness.

In 2012, R&B/Hip Hop music artist Frank Ocean published a letter of love on his social media account to share with the world his capacity to romantically love men, thereby opening up a conversation about his sexual fluidity. Gay journalists and social media commentators rushed to label him gay. For his part, Ocean maintained an illusive posture, eschewing labeling of his sexuality and generating more ambiguity, mystery and liminality regarding his sex life than is associated with the coming out cliché of openness, transparency and definitiveness.

One year later, 2013, Mister Cee, former DJ for Big Daddy Kane, associate executive producer on Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album Ready to Die and New York Hip Hop radio personality, responds to arrests that include solicitation of sex workers some of whom are transgender women. Resisting gay as an identity, he discusses the challenge of living with desires that cut across genders while being Black and male.

The fall of 2014, New York Times columnist Charles Blow publishes his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones and publicly declares himself to be bisexual and launches a nationwide book tour in which he discusses his experience of living at the intersections of Blackness, bisexuality and manhood. For the first time in its history, the oldest and largest LGBT pride celebration, NYC Pride, in June of this year 2015 had its first bisexual grand marshal, J Christopher Neal, a Black bisexual man. Neal is the founder of FluidBiDesign, an organization that provides programming and support for bisexual and sexually fluid people of African descent.

The fall of 2014, New York Times columnist Charles Blow publishes his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones and publicly declares himself to be bisexual and launches a nationwide book tour in which he discusses his experience of living at the intersections of Blackness, bisexuality and manhood. For the first time in its history, the oldest and largest LGBT pride celebration, NYC Pride, in June of this year 2015 had its first bisexual grand marshal, J Christopher Neal, a Black bisexual man. Neal is the founder of FluidBiDesign, an organization that provides programming and support for bisexual and sexually fluid people of African descent.

Miles Brock aka Siir Brock and Yusaf Mack aka Philly

On October 19th, 2015, VH1 aired episode twenty-one titled “Truth” in season two of their reality TV show Love and Hip Hop Hollywood and a companion special Out in Hip Hop immediately following the episode. The central drama of “Truth” as it related to cast member Miles Brock aka Siir Brock, a rapper/songwriter, was sharing the knowledge of his same-sex desires with his family and a woman he has had a complex emotional and sexual relationship. This was Brock’s story although the woman in his life, Amber Laura, and his boyfriend, Milan Christopher, are also cast members. The show was taped months ago and at this moment Brock and Christopher are not in a relationship but in fact feuding. But again, the storyline was produced with Brock as the protagonist.

The companion special was promoted as a vehicle to have a very important and provocative conversation about being LGBT in Hip Hop by, in part, unpacking for viewers the themes that emerged during the episode and Brock’s storyline overall. In Brock’s initial comments, he identifies himself as bisexual. This identification should provide a framework for the discussion of what being out in Hip Hop looks like but instead with the exception of one other panelist no one, including the moderator TJ Holmes, a man many would suspect to be familiar with the word, discusses bisexuality. The producers of the show booked heterosexual, gay/lesbian and transgender/gender non-conforming guests and panelists. Not one bisexual advocate, community leader, religious leader, etc.

The conversation centered on being gay in Hip Hop despite the fact that Brock’s story is about coming to a sense of personal understanding and wellbeing being Black, bisexual and male in a world that renders sexuality as a binary between straight and gay, Blackness as a homogeneity that requires conformity and maleness as a fragility constantly under scrutiny, challenge and threat. On VH1’s website and in social media, Brock is continuously subjected to a one-drop rule to sexuality by people who wish to make him gay because in their worldview any same-sex experience by a man makes him gay no matter what he says he is.

As if Black bisexual ancestors were conspiring to give social media another opportunity to get it right, ten days later, news broke of a story of Philadelphia-based former professional boxer, Yusaf Mack, who alleged he had been drugged on what he thought was an adult film set to shoot heterosexual sex but later found out was a homosexual sex-themed film in which he took part—engaging in oral and anal sex as a receptive partner. His narrative included blacking out after taking an unidentified pill and vodka, walking up hours later on a train back to Philly with $4,500 and being notified by friends some months later that he, under the performer name Philly, was in a guy-on-guy adult film by the company DawgPoundUSA.

Social media went hard classifying Mack as a liar, poor fabricator and, in a painfully predictable manner, gay. This last characterization was made despite Mack being identified as the father of ten children, engaged to a woman, and being quoted problematically identifying himself as a “whoremonger”—a slut-shaming word I haven’t heard anyone under the age of 70 use unless they were a devote Christian. Seriously, who’s using whoremonger these days outside of church? But that’s another discussion.

After the film company threatened to sue and a week of the firestorm blazing, Mack issued a combined recantation of his earlier allegation, apology for lying and declaration of his bisexuality. Despite the fact that Mack is seen using a condom when he’s being anally penetrated on the video and there is no evidence of him having any sexually transmittable infections or diseases, some folks on social media are not only characterizing him as a liar-scoundrel but also a sexual terrorist who has been putting women—the mothers of his ten children—at risk for STIs.

When people wonder why more Black bisexual men don’t publicly identify as such, they need look no further than the public responses to Frank Ocean, Mister Cee, Siir Brock and Yusaf Mack. Fed on coming-out narratives that were processed and homogenized by white gay elites for public consumption in a society that is imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and heteropatriarchal, the public expects straight, linear stories of emergence from chrysalis to big bright rainbow-colored gay butterflies. It does not expect stories of funky complexities, murky admissions, and dirty deeds behind closed doors (or in front of open cameras).

Bisexuality, Black bisexuality in particular, is not neat, tidy or blemish-free. How could it be in monosexist, binary societies that requires conformity to rigid sexual and gender roles? Black bisexuality has stretch marks from all the growing and contorting one has to do to fit in, around, over, or through the boundaries set for us by others. Living as a Black bisexual person means you’re making the road by walking it because everyone around you tells you that all the LGBTs are gay, all the gays are white and all the whites are enviable.

Because of the multiple layers of erasure and invisibilization, to be Black and bisexual is to live in a dark continent of no history, legacy, ancestors, and elders to be your compass or roadmap. For people who have been waiting for Will Smith, Floyd Mayweather Jr., 50 Cent, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Magic Johnson or any other Black man of means and/or position to publicly identify as something other than heterosexual, it would be useful to consider the social costs for doing so as well as the existential trauma of already living at the intersection of Blackness, bisexuality and maleness even if one is not publicly identifiable as bisexual. There in the kill zone of our national and community discussions of sexuality, gender and race lie the bloody, tortured bodies of many Black bisexual men, some famous and others nameless.

But We’re in a Moment

Despite those realities, I am hopeful because I believe we are in a moment—a Black bisexual men’s moment—in the public discourse. The moment doesn’t take away from our commitment to creating a world in which all Black lives matter. It doesn’t diminish the importance of addressing the conditions that make it possible for Black cisgender and transgender women to be murdered and brutalized. It doesn’t render the lives of Black bisexual women any less important and worthy of critical engagement and understanding.

The Black bisexual men’s moment makes it possible for Black bisexual men to recognize their ancestors, elders and brothers; understand that they are not alone; learn from the mistakes, missteps and lessons of others in coming to embody their complexities, fluidities and intersectional identities; and step into the power of what they can contribute to the ongoing project of making the society more just and inclusive.

It’s a moment for Black bisexual men rather than about Black bisexual men. A moment to gather the tribes and draw upon collective wisdom. A moment to heal from the multiple ways we are traumatized. A moment to bring forth missing and necessary truths forged in the crucible of living, loving and learning beyond the binaries.

November 2, 2015
Clinical Considerations for Clinicians Who Are Working With Black Women Who Are Newly Diagnosed with HIV.
Dr. TaMara GriffinDecember 1st is World AIDS Day. It is an opportunity for the world to take a look at the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Given the demographics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country, this is a very important day to reflect on how HIV/AIDS impacts the Black community.

HIV in America has become a black disease, in particular a Black woman’s disease. Whether viewed through the lens of gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, education, or region of the country, black people, in particular Black women, bear the brunt of this epidemic.

The face of AIDS has changed.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at the end of 2011, 23% of all people living with HIV in the United States were women. Black and Latina women continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV, compared with women of other races/ethnicities. Approximately 84% of the new HIV infections in women are from heterosexual sexual intercourse. These alarming statistics definitely indicate the need to develop culturally relevant, gender specific treatment programs and clinical considerations when working with Black women who are living with HIV.

Assessment & Diagnosis of HIV

Assessment

The rates of diagnosis among black women is 20 times higher than the rate for White women. While Black women are no more likely than other women to engage in behaviors that put them at risk, social determinants play a huge factor in increasing Black women’s risk for HIV. In order to effectively assess risk, the following direct and indirect risk factors must be taken into consideration. Direct risk factors include: anal, oral or vagina sex with an infected individual, sharing needles; of any kind, and vertical transmission; mother to child. Indirect risk factors include but are not limited too: poverty, gender, mental health, biological factors, stigma, internalized racism, institutionalized barriers, mistrust of medical system, intimate partner violence, current and past partner behaviors (i.e. substance use, MSM, incarceration, etc.) current or past substance use, lack of access to health care, cultural barriers, lack of knowledge, denial, oppressive laws and policies. The main question to ask when a client presents for HIV testing is: what specific behaviors (i.e. sharing needled, unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with someone who is infected with HIV) have you engaged in that may have put you at risk for transmission of HIV? Remember a person can have HIV and still look and feel perfectly healthy. The only way to know for sure whether they are infected is to have them tested.

Diagnosis

HIV infection is diagnosed by a blood test. There are three main tests that are commonly used: (1) HIV antibody tests, (2) RNA tests, and (3) a combination test that detects both antibodies and a piece of the virus called the p24 protein. In addition, a blood test known as a Western blot is used to confirm the diagnosis. Once a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is confirmed, there are several types of tests that can help the doctor determine the stage of HIV. These tests include:

CD4 count. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that is specifically targeted and destroyed by HIV.

Viral load. This test measures the amount of virus in your blood.

Drug resistance. This blood test determines whether the strain of HIV you have will be resistant to certain anti-HIV medications.

Treating HIV and AIDS

Medical Treatment and Care

Individuals infected with HIV are encouraged to immediately get into medical treatment and care with an infectious disease physician to monitor viral load and disease progression. The physician must take into account an individual’s past medical history, the length of time they have been infected with HIV, current CD4 T cell count, and current health. The individual’s viral load should be tested at the start of treatment and then every three to four months during therapy, and CD4 counts should be checked every three to six months. CD4 counts should be checked every three to six months. Most insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare cover services such as: office visits, medical tests, hospitalization, drug assistance, mental health, and some in-home services. In addition, The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (Ryan White CARE Act), the largest federally funded program in the United States for people living with HIV/AIDS provides funds for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources for coping with HIV disease. Ryan White fills gaps in care not covered by these other sources such as housing, transportation and oral health care.

Medications

Once a thorough physical has been conducted, the physician will prescribe a combination regime of HIV medication called high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This combination of medicine, referred to as a “cocktail,” has proven to be beneficial in treating HIV as long as medical adherence is maintained by the client. There are five types of drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS. They are called antiretrovirals because they act against the retrovirus HIV, and are grouped by how they interfere with steps in HIV replication. The goal of HAART is to reduce the viral load to the point that it is undetectable. Although antiretroviral therapies have renewed hope for individual’s living with HIV, they can cause many unpleasant side effects and other prescription drug interactions that clients should be informed about. For these and other reasons, many individuals have turned to integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is the use of conventional medical treatments and complementary therapies, such as yoga Reiki or acupuncture. Prior to prescribing medication the physician and patient should carefully consider all treatment options to ensure that the patient is receiving the best medical care available.

Counseling and Therapy

When working with Black women who are living with HIV/AIDS a biopsychosocial holistic approach to treatment is the most effective approach. Clinicians and providers must take into account the client’s mental health status, support systems, cultural and ethnic beliefs and attitudes, client’s living environment and client’s self-efficacy. Special consideration must also be given to secondary prevention and safer sex behavioral options. Treatment must include psychoeducation and individualized counseling and therapy. In addition treatment must be client-center and address the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and financial dimensions of wellness.

Finally, when making the decision to work with Black women who are living with HIV, an integrated multi-level, multidisciplinary team approach is proven to be the most efficacious. A treatment plan must be a combination of HAART and intensive personal counseling and therapy. The treatment plan must be theoretically sound, evidence-based, culturally proficient, gender specific, addressing social determinants, and focusing on how to navigate structural and systematic barriers. HIV counselors must take into account the impact of cultural, gender, sexual orientation, economic and social inequality; which will require providing women and their families with the knowledge skills and tools to be able to: build self-efficacy, enhance cultural and ethnic pride, minimize gender inequalities, reduce gender related violence, secure stable housing, and access health care. Integrating a framework of cultural, gender, social and economic justice for women living with HIV is essential to increasing wellness and overall quality of life.

October 7, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey
The Black Man..It is axiomatic that the black man is trying to survive whilst his life is under threat.There are three issues that cause the dynamic.The problem is not only the white supremacist infrastructure that he exists in, but it is also the family unit that the man has come from. The lack of belonging, and family is evident by the black man’s behavior. This is in turn affects the black man’s interpersonal dynamics with the black woman, his children, his sexuality, his emotional and psychological interpretation of life and also how he engages his every day environment from work to the religious setting that he worships in, to the friends he chooses and the organizations that he patronizes, from street gang, to military to fraternity to masonic brotherhood. The crux of a black man’s personality is defined by the relationship that he has with his mother. The interpersonal skills or lack of civil etiquette that a black man displays is the majority of the time, that of his mother’s making. If a black man’s mother does not teach him to be humane and compassionate there is huge deficit. This deficit manifests itself into personalities that cannot or will not exhibit understanding or sensitivity towards others. Also if there’s no father figure present, or noman there is no one teaching the black boy how to become the black man. So to blame the white supremacy system is one thing, but to not address the problems that we have faced over generations is another.

There is no school where a black man can learn to become a responsible, loving protector. There are only agencies of influence, such as social media or misguided codes of conduct that stem from that young boys or teenagers can misinterpret what it is to be a man. The self esteem of the black man is at an all time low, that life standards that we have committed ourselves to as black people project no sense of culture or progression toward a future where the black family will be empowered or our lives will be enriched.

Conversely if there is no black woman imparting generational knowledge, customs or cultural skills then there is no one showing or educating the black boy to be a loving black man. So the development of A black man that is incapable of loving another black human being and herein the problem lies. The way in which some black men engage in relationships with black women causes very real trauma not only to the black women they denigrate but to the black race as a whole. The reaction of black women has been complicit in shaping this phenomenon. It’s a perpetual cycle of abuse.

There is a lack of education on both gender’s sides. When both people do not know how to relate to each other you have two dysfunctional people trying to mate and co exist with rules that don’t coincide with harmony or symbiosis. Just relationships based on pseudo intimacy. The reality of the black man is that a black woman teaches him how to be a man. How to relate to women. When a woman is in a single parent family and care taking of her son is delegated to someone who may not have her sons best interests at heart then the boy’s persona is at risk. The very thing she is trying to protect and care for us left vulnerable not only to predators but also due to the lack of teaching he will receive from someone who is not vested in him because they are not close relatives or they are not his flesh and blood.

As the pool of black men has shrunk considerably due to sudden deaths, imprisonment and health inequities, the responsibility of teaching a man how to be a father or a husband has divested in to the role of the day woman. Women and men do operate very differently and to exclude a man from raising his son, whether it’s by choice or by circumstance is to digress the growth of the boy leaving him vulnerable and exposed as an adult. Young boys need teaching moments from men. Some of their rudimentary experiences are sexual and they have no one to actually disclose and gain feedback from. So in essence the black man feels unsafe from an early age and this is perpetuated into adulthood. The nurturing process is lacking if there is no father figure.

Yet many men do not wish to take the burden of responsibility of a fully fledged relationship due to legal and soci-economic consequences. Another major flaw that corrupts the development of the black body is erroneous socialization . The socialization of the black boys is incorrect in that it portrays the mother figure of a black women as angry and sexually deviant black women instead of goddesses that they are. The resolution of the three converging features is to be discussed in a later essay.

September 24, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed. aka Dr. Herukhuti
BiWeek and Being BlackThis week, September 20-26, is Bisexual Awareness Week (#BiWeek). For your edification, please enjoy the following interviews on Black male bisexuality and revolutionary sex magic:

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/highlight/play-explores-bisexuality-among-black-men/55e8a5d778c90aa0f800033c

https://soundcloud.com/gabrillaballard/episode-8-dr-herukhuti-williams

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]gmail.com

September 14, 2015
Tabias Wilson
Why Black Men Loving Black Men Is Still A Revolutionary, Suicidal Act.

“‘Black Men Loving Black Men Is the Revolutionary Act of the 1980s”
-Joseph Beam

The first time I happened upon that quotation by the great Joseph Beam, it did a work on my spirit. I was just shy of 16 and almost delivered from the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), yet still an occasional, holy rollin’ backslider; the oil was too strong. To my young soul, it illuminated the possibility of a self and communal love that didn’t lead to the burning or gnashing of flesh, but instead to a fire that melted oppression, causing black men to spring forth clean and powerful as onyx Phoenix. Just shy of 16, I was already grown, but Joey B gave me a new lease on life, I moving from closeted to confident. That was 2005. It’s now 2016.

In the decades since, something in me has changed. I won’t say I’m grown, quite yet, but I have grown into a deeper understanding of self, sex and the practice of love. I have come to understand that to revolt, or to inspire revolution, means to act, live, love, think, fuck and die in opposition to an entrenched system while midwifing one of a liberatory nature–with the power to undo all that you think you are–all remaining true and whole to self, eschewing the notion of an “other.” Revolution will undo you. If it does not, you have not yet revolted within or, put simply, unbecome what hegemonic, white supremacist, capitalistic, heteropatriarchal society has branded upon your flesh and psyche. The iron is hot and it’s markings are not easily removed. Therefore, internal revolution is nothing short of psychosocial laser removal treatment–from thought to flesh. For black men, this requires a role-reversal and an expertise in survival jujitsu and imaginative reconstruction.

Black Men Loving Black Men…

This quotation is recited at every black gay/sgl/bi/dl/_______ conference and is generally followed by snaps, smiles and a high/low chorus of YASSSSSS! But what is often heard, understood and practiced is fucking, not loving, or even lusting. If we look closely we can understand the complex relationship between black men as a collective practice of fucking; a rough, quick, thorough, sweaty and primal intercourse that offers short-term relief for a long term desire, repeated over time, in almost any space we enter. The relationship between our sociopolitical bodies, our selves, brother-to-brother become a practice of orientation. More often than not, we measure our masculinities, wealth, worth, humanity and desirability in opposition to those around us. We do so, acting as if the beauty and bounds of blackness are limited, and our preferred place in the imaginary spectrum of humanities can only be secured by the expulsion or demotion of another black brother. The thinking then goes, that there can only be so many “good” and “worthy” or “real” black men. To think otherwise strikes at intermingled notions of the children of capitalism–the exceptional negro/talented tenth mythology (ex: Barack/Oprah)–and white supremacy–the inherent/imputed deficiency of blackness (ex: controlling images: laziness, violence, hypersexuality).

Anti-Blackness is a convenient, socially constructed covering of white supremacy, white anxiety and white violence.

Black men, like all men, are given situational power and privilege in relation to women of their racial location. It must be clearly noted that black men–across space, time, class and sexuality–have used this privilege and access to power, to both uplift and more often than not, decimate black women. This has been completed and articulated by the masses as black men accessing and appropriating (white) patriarchy. This is true. However, I posit that it is directly linked to the concept of racial inferiority–a child of white supremacy, a sibling of anti-blackness–that implicitly notes that in order for black men to access “humanity,” we must first differentiate ourselves from other black people (read: women, womyn, queers, trans* folk, ect). Differentiating and othering in the United States is marked by power and power is understood through the demonstration of a marked inability to be oppressed and owned; while simultaneously, ruthlessly portraying that power, through the ability, desire and provision of oppression, ownership and propertying of the othered. Through this violent quest for power, and perhaps the illusion of freedom, black men as a group are marked as violent, hypersexual, immoral, criminal and in need of state-control/lashing. The prophecy, markings, and controlling images of white supremacy and anti-blackness become proven by the actions of black men, performing these lip synced lyrics and scripts from the master’s tongue.

Violence upon, and violations of/through, the black male body are the preferred redemptive practice of 21st century.

Aside from black women, black men are the primary target of black male patriarchy and power-lust. Sexism is well embedded in society, therefore, the greatest actual threat to a black man’s access to (white supremacist) power in the black community is another black man. This conversation and theory is well fleshed out in bell hook’s “We Be Real Cool” and Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson’s “Cool Pose : The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America.” Both speak to the ways in which black men across age protect themselves–through violence, silence and other performances–against the indignities of white supremacy, anti-blackness, poverty, masculine anxiety and discrimination in their communities. We are taught to prove our worth through the devaluation and violation of other black men. In these practices of violence, distancing and differentiation we are positioned as distinct, if not circumcised, from the collective “bad” black body. We are the strong, the smart, the responsible, the tolerant, the feminist, the queer, the anti-racist, the well-read, the masculine, the christian…the last buffer against the highly contagious other. We are given purpose, we are given worth, we are given pseudo-whiteness, through our performance, perfection and articulation of anti-blackness and internalized white supremacies. To do otherwise–articulating or demonstrating a “soft” pose, or denunciation of this parasitic cycle–can leave a brother isolated, ostracized, bloodied and/or dead.

…Is The Revolutionary..

Flipping the script is both revolutionary and radical. It is a revolt against all that has been designated as “blackness” and radical–or grasping at the root–of the tenants of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Transgressing this ideology and ethic, with a practice of love is not only unheard of, but an unnatural practice in a white supremacist state. This is certainly true if we begin to use my dynamic conception of a critical love ethic: “a practice of universal liberation from cyclical and systemic violence and oppression…we must look deeply and examine the oppressor within, dare to love those who we see as threats or “other” and question whether the threat is real, imagined or internal. This is a call for a human solidarity across and beyond racialized differences and an ethic of love that first acknowledges our shared humanity and endeavors to reify that shared notion.” As I stated in earlier piece on love among black men, we must begin to reconstruct our notions of self, our relationship to others, brothers and sisters.

“The reactionary suicide is ‘wise,’ and the revolutionary suicide is a ‘fool,’ a fool for the revolution in the way Paul meant when he spoke of being a ‘fool for Christ,’ That foolishness can move mountains of oppression; it is our great leap and our commitment to the dead and the unborn.”

– Huey P. Newton, I Am We, or Revolutionary Suicide

We must engage in communal euthanasia of blackness as we’ve accepted it and come to practice and believe that:

“The tea is, blackness is the essence of creation, a potpourri of the creative ingredients of existence. Blackness, unbought, unbossed and unrestrained is the building block of color and from its presence, our presence, your presence, derives all things. …

….Flesh deep, varied and enduring as that of the earth on which we stand. Arms strong and versatile enough to hold masculinities, femininities and the journey of ancestors close. You are rhythmic, moving through the compounded obstacles of society step-by-step, death-dropping over stigma, tossing shade to the bright lights of white supremacy and sashaying truths of our over-comings through your very existences…

You are a soul ballad; stitching together the complex realities of our fraught existences with an in-articulable presence that commands and requires respect, resolve and r/evolution. You are a Cosmos; within you exists a constellation of brilliant expressions of perfect imperfections.

You are queer,str8, trans, gay, bi, same-gender-loving, undefined: simply you. You are father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, and homie. You are truth-seeker, griot, artist, scholar, activist, organizer, writer, singer, designer, athlete, lawyer, educator, trend-setter, and him. You are him. He who is sensitive yet indestructible, authentic yet ever-evolving, sexually breathtaking and intellectually stupefying.

Simultaneously existing within and outside imputed markers and communities of race, gender, and sexuality, we trek on the path of our forefathers. We are called to speak with the urgency of Malcolm, the insight of Baldwin and the truth Essex. We must live with the fearlessness, strategic, acuity of Joseph Beam and Bayard Rustin; navigating the world with our eyes on holistic, comprehensive justice. We must create and we must love, with the fire and passion of Ru, Langston and Rotimi Fani-Kayode. From their shoulders and their pathways we are called and empowered to be all that we are; realizing and releasing the divine nature of our Blackness, Queerness & Flows of Survivance in honor of the crowns of our lineage, the proof of the present and the hope of our progeny. From transmisogyny to police violence, from femme-phobia to HIV criminalization, from poverty to sex-shaming, from heterosexisms to anti-black capitalism.. we are all we need to thrive. Indeed, we are all we’ve ever had.”

Our ancestors have done their work, gifting us with a bloody and loving legacy of overcoming and carrying-on, together. It is now our duty to continue to expand these notions of “love”, “Blackness” and “together

August 4, 2015
Dr. Herukhuti aka H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed.
The Collective Responsibility of SexAmong the Bantu speaking people’s of Southern Africa, there is a concept ubuntu that we translate into interdependence—in the transliteration we say, “I am because we are.” Ubuntu conveys an African philosophical concept of communalism i.e., the belief in our interdependence and the utility in recognizing that interdependence in our decision-making and actions. Healthy, productive, sustainable systems are ones in which we recognize, honor and build upon the interconnected nature of our personhoods.In creating the African-American cultural holiday Kwanzaa, the members of the US Organization borrowed the East African concept of ujima to highlight the importance of the principle of collective work and responsibility, which they determined meant “to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.” Ujima in this context is another articulation of communalist ideals in Black cultural life.When we apply these ideas to sex, sexuality and sexual pleasure, profound possibilities for the organization of sex in our communities emerge:

  • We create systems of cooperative sensuality that are accountable to the community and support equitable forms of access to sexual pleasure and fulfillment. The community clinics and breakfast programs developed by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) could be used as models.
  • We advocate for ending all laws that criminalize consensual sex including but not limited to laws prohibiting sex work; sex in semi-private places and outdoor venues such as beaches, parks, and restrooms; and sex between HIV serodiscordant people in which the person diagnosed HIV positive does not disclose their HIV status unprompted.
  • We encourage women to own their sexual power, be comfortable with their sexual desires and embrace their bodies’ capacity to experience and share pleasure regardless of its size, shape or difference.
  • We hold men accountable for understanding, recognizing and actively challenging street harassment, sexual assault and rape including when perpetuated by our friends, family members or celebrity heroes.
  • We establish systems of comprehensive sex education and health care for all members of our communities that are independent of the public education and health care systems because of the historical role each of those systems have played in the advancing imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy
  • We protect and defend the ability of all members of our communities to experience love, sensual fulfillment and pleasure regardless of their gender or the gender of their relational partners and we affirm that those experiences can, but don’t necessarily have to be, separate and apart from the duties people have to family planning and development.

For additional reading:

The African Philosophy Reader, Second Edition edited by P. H. Coetzee and A. P. J. Roux

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture written by Maulana Karenga

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]gmail.com

July 27, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD Among WomenThere is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the U.S. military which has resulted in a series of scandals that have received extensive media coverage. According to a 2011 Newsweek report, women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs about 1 in 5 women have reported experiencing Military Sexual Trauma (MST).It is widely believed that the rates of sexual trauma are highly underreported in both the military and the Veterans Administration (VA). Several reasons that MST goes un-reported and underreported include concerns regarding personal safety, job security and fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, because of the structure and regulations that govern the military female soldiers are not automatically protected by many of the laws and social protections that civilian women in the larger society are afforded. Outside the military, a woman can report a crime to police without fear that colleagues at work will find out or retaliate. Additionally, outside civilian investigators and prosecutors are required to investigate the alleged crime without bias, and to file charges as appropriate. However in the military, commanders make those decisions by weighing evidence involving personnel under their supervision, which could place the female soldier at great disadvantage, especially if the alleged perpetrator is her superior officer.What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to both the sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurs in military settings. MST can occur on or off base, and while a Service member is on or off duty. Sexual harassment is unwelcomed verbal and/or physical conduct of a sexual nature that occurs in the workplace, or an academic or training setting. MST may include any sexual activity performed against one’s will, either through physical force, threats of negative consequences, sexual coercion (i.e. implied promotion, promises of favored treatment), or sex without consent due to intoxication, gender harassment (e.g., put down because of gender), unwanted sexual attention, and offensive remarks about sexual activities or body parts) etc.

Unique aspects of sexual trauma associated with military service?

When working with MST there are unique aspects to consider.
Sexual trauma that is associated with military service women occurs in a setting where the victim lives and works. In most cases, this means that victims must continue to live and work closely with their perpetrators, which often leads to increased feelings of helpless, powerlessness, and also places them at risk for additional victimization.

This paradigm creates a variety of concerns for female soldiers. Perpetrators are frequently other service members, peers, or superior officers that are responsible for making decisions about work-related assignments and promotions. As a result, victims are often forced to choose between their military careers during which time they are forced to have frequent contact with their perpetrators, or sacrificing their career goals in order to protect themselves from future victimization. Additionally, service members rely on the military for medical care and mental health treatment which creates opportunities for the victimization to continue because the perpetrators or the associates of the perpetrator may be providing the services. Also because organizational cohesion and loyalty among military services members is so highly valued, divulging any negative information about a fellow soldier is considered taboo and frowned upon, which could lead to further isolation or additional physical retribution.

Consequently if a female soldier reports incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault they may not be taken seriously, have their report dismissed, encouraged to keep silent, or even blamed for the experience. This type of invalidating experience following a sexual trauma is likely to have significant negative impairment on post-trauma regulation, acclimation and healing.

Women in the military are at high risk for MST during times of deployment to high combat areas. According to Cynthia LeardMann, a researcher with the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, rates of sexual harassment and assault vary by branch of service. The Air Force and Navy service members reported the lowest rates of sexual harassment and assault, and the Army and Marines service members reported the highest (LeardMann, 2013).

The authors argue that “women who experience combat while deployed are not only in more stressful and dangerous circumstances but they may also find themselves in more traditionally male-dominated environments compared with other deployed women,” “Furthermore, in these high-stress and often life-threatening environments, prioritizing the identification and prevention of sexual stressors may be more challenging, perpetrators may be less concerned with consequences of committing assault, and perpetrators may be less likely to be held accountable for their actions” (LeardMann, 2013).

Although more studies are needed to better understand the effects of women’s exposure to both combat and sexual assault, the authors suggests that “because the findings indicate that risk factors are related to the type of environment — such as combat experience and branch of service — and to “resiliency factors” such as changes in marital status, etc. the study concludes that it would be wise to develop programs and interventions that target treatment and prevention efforts in these areas” (LeardMann, 2013).

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder related to MST

Women who experience MST are very likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other medical and health conditions such as major depressive disorder, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexual dysfunctions.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after experiencing a life-threatening or traumatic event. An individual that is suffering from PTSD will usually start to develop symptoms soon after the traumatic event. .(such as?) Although some individuals will show symptoms immediately, others may not develop symptoms until months or years after the traumatic event. In addition, the symptoms may come and go over many years. PTSD symptoms can cause distress and significantly interfere with work and/or home life.

Women service members are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. There are a few reasons women might get PTSD more than men: 1) women are more likely to experience sexual assault, especially during combat, 2) sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than many other events, 3) continued victimization as a result of living near and/or working with their perpetrator on the military installation, 4) lack of emotional support, and 5) fear of retaliation if reported.

Although both men and women experience PTSD, and report the same symptoms of PTSD (hyperarousal, reexperiencing, avoidance, and numbing), some symptoms are more common for women. When working with women who have PTSD, it is extremely important that therapists understands that symptoms of PTSD manifest differently in women. Women are more likely to have hyperarousal, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of the trauma than men. Women with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or drugs. Both women and men who experience PTSD may develop physical health problems. Women may be more likely than men to seek help after a traumatic event.

Assessment

There are a variety of PTSD screening tools that can be used to measure. PTSD. The measures include:

(United States Department of Veterans Affairs)

A positive response to the screen does not necessarily indicate that a patient has Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. However, a positive response does indicate that a patient may have PTSD or trauma-related problems, and further investigation of trauma symptoms by a mental health professional may be warranted. If an individual receives a positive response to PTSD screening tools, additional assessments by a mental health therapist must be conducted to further investigate the trauma symptoms.

One of the most widely used tools to measure sexual assault is the Sexual Experiences Survey by Mary Koss. This self-report measure includes a series of behaviorally specific questions that ask about a variety of unwanted sexual experiences. The Sexual Experience Survey assessment measures the types of trauma a person has been exposed to, or the degree of severity of the traumatic event someone experienced.

When conducting and assessment and screening for MST, the therapist must approach the subject with care and sensitivity due to the nature of the subject. The therapist must also establish a confidential and trusting rapport with the client so that she will feel comfortable disclosing the details of the assault and any previous history of sexual assault. Additionally, the therapist must be non-judgmental and especially careful to avoid using terms that will further victimize or stigmatize the client.

Treatment

Effective treatment for MST involves addressing immediate health and safety concerns of the survivor, normalizing post-trauma reactions, providing psychoeducation about trauma and psychological reactions to traumatic events, providing validation, supporting existing adaptive coping strategies, cognitive restructuring and facilitating the development of new coping skills.

It is very common to have PTSD at that same time as another mental health problem. Depression, alcohol or drug abuse problems, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders often occur along with PTSD. In many cases, the PTSD treatments described above will also help with the other disorders. The best treatment results occur when both PTSD and the other problems are treated together rather than one after the other.

Treatment for PTSD can last anywhere from six months to a few years depending on co-occurring disorders and on the type of treatment modality.

Treatment modalities for MST include 1) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 2) Prolonged Exposure Therapy (EP), 3) Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, and 4) Group Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy is brief and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. CBT helps individuals learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior (Wells, M., 2011).

Prolong Exposure Therapy (PE)

Prolong exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps the client decrease distress about the trauma, repeated exposure to these thoughts, feelings, and situations helps reduce the power they have to cause distress. PE has four main parts: 1) Psychoeducation. provides the client with information about treatment, symptoms and goals for treatment 2) Breathing teaches client to learn how to relax and mange short term distress. 3) Real world practice helps client regain control over their life by exposing them to trauma related experiences in a safe control manner. 4) Talking through trauma helps the client learn to talk through the trauma to lessen the experience and regain control over thoughts and feelings related to the trauma (Allard, C.B. and Platt, M., 2011).

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy helps the client understand the connection between the past and the present. Additionally, the client identifies ways of dealing with the emotional conflicts caused by the trauma (Wells, M., 2011).

Group therapy

Group therapy provides the client the opportunity to share stories with other individuals who have similar experience. In addition, group therapy provides support, encouragement and a safe space for processing and healing (Wells, M., 2011).

Complementary alternative therapy can be beneficial to treating MST and PTSD. Two additional resources that are beneficial to mental health therapist treating MST and PTSD include the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire, Inc. (NVW&HC) and Restore Warriors.

The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire is providing week long retreats for Veterans and their significant others who have been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Their retreats offer equine therapy, massage, yoga, acupuncture, art therapy, and reiki, along with individual couples and group counseling.

Restore Warriors is a website that offers resources and self-help strategies for warriors living with the invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat and operational stress, or depression. The website offers tools and self-help strategies, including videos of other warriors sharing their personal experiences with combat and operational stress-related problems, along with the useful coping strategies they used to overcome these issues.

MEDICATIONS

Medications have also been shown to be effective. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which are also used for depression, are effective for PTSD. SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine, paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Other medications may be necessary including medication to regulate sleep, a necessary treatment component of all treatment for trauma (Allard & Platt, 2011).

In conclusion, treating a woman who has experienced MST and PSTD can be very challenging. In order to provide the most effective and comprehensive treatment, a mental health clinician must offer services in a safe, non-judgmental environment. In addition, the therapist must have thorough knowledge of the unique considerations that military service members face when dealing with MST. By providing the client with multilevel treatment that incorporates traditional treatment modalities, alternative therapies and SSRIs, if needed, will help to increase the clients chances of healing.

Reference

Allard, C.B. and Platt, M. (2011). Military Sexual Trauma: Current Knowledge and

Future Directions. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Koss, M. P. and Oros, . J. (1992) Sexual Experiences Survey: A research instrument investigating sexual aggression and victimization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50(3) 455-57.

LeardMann, C.A., Smith, T. C., Smith, B., Wells, T. S. & Ryan, M. A. (2009) Baseline self reported functional health and vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder after combat deployment: prospective US military cohort study. BMJ; 338 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1273.

LeardMann, C.M., Pietrucha, A., Magruder, K.M., Smith, B., Murdoch, M., Jacobson, I. G., Ryan, M. K., Gackstetter, G., Smith, T. C. (2013) Combat deployment is associated with sexual harassment or sexual assault in a large, female military cohort. Women’s Health Issues: 23(4) 215-223.

Sadler, A. et al. (2003). “Factors associated with women’s risk of rape in the military environment.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine: 43(3) 262-273. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10202.

Wells, M. (2011). Military Sexual Trauma. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace

Independent Publishing.

June 22, 2015
Tabias Wilson
“Why “Letting” Trans* Folk Serve In The Military Isn’t Progressive or RadicalAccording to a “Breaking News” article on HuffPost the military is considering plans to permit Trans* people to serve in the military. In many ways, this can and should be framed as a victory for human dignity. Trans* folk, like many other citizens, love the United States and have shed blood, sweat, tears and coin for this nation. Trans* people of all political persuasions have a history a putting their nation first, in ways many agree and disagree with. One of the most visible ways this has transpired was during the Stonewall Riots when the Queer community, led by Trans* folk and Drag Queens/Kings, waged a battle for human dignity that doubled as a redemptive fight for the soul of America. They not only demanded to be seen as human, sexually autonomous and worthy of the state’s respect and protection (for all queer folks); they also presented the country with an opportunity to regain to it’s own sense of humanity, freedom and equality. Therefore, in many ways, state recognition of the inherent equality and humanity of Trans* folk is long overdue.It is not that Trans* people have recently become a part of the fabric of America, it is instead that America is finally acting as if Trans* lives matter. Emphasis on the “acting.” Much like recent celebrations over same-sex marriage, or so-called, formal “marriage equality,” the state has given a modicum of recognition to sexual minorities in order to further entrench it’s systems as valid, relevant and the grand officiators of normalcy. By continually beckoning racial and sexual minorities closer to the systems and institutions that have historically ostracized them, these institutions are positioning themselves as evolutionary and modern; “evolving” (as politicians do) with the arch of time, toward a greater justice. However, in practice, the system is simply doing what it must do to survive and remain beyond reproach, review or r/evolution.This has been true throughout the history of the neo-liberal, colonialist, American project. From sociolegal power and the right to vote for landless white men, to the ending of slavery, to rights of women to vote and work, racial integration of the military, to the repeal of DADT, marriage equality, modicums of immigration reform (DREAM Acts) and (Half-ass) rights to healthcare…the state has responded to threats to it’s omnipotence and de-facto necessity by first offering controlling images of the dehumanized as terroristic, violent, undeserving and non-human and–when that fails–offering access to the government largess on the condition of assimilation. This offer to the oppressed–the offer of (situational) state bestowing of humanity–is hard, if not impossible to reject. Therefore, the state offers itself as a parasite in a messiah’s clothing–depending on the (coerced) consent of the marginalized, in order to retain power to further divide, mark, maim and marginalize and other.

While allowing Trans* folk to openly serve in the military undoubtedly does a good work, by recognizing the ability of Trans* folk to participate like everyone else; we must remember what we (trans* and queer folk) are being called to participate in. Why, and for whom and what, are we being summoned to kill and die for? Do our lives only matter when positioned as a fleshy blockade between colonial thirst and the violence that quenches it? What honor is there, in participating in colonialism, genocides and unknown, state-sanctioned terrorism? We cannot simply be satisfied with recognition, if that recognition is the noting of our ability to participate and direct the repetition of the violence supporting the master’s house.

July 19, 2015
James C. Wadley, Ph.D
PTSD, ‘Survivor Guilt’ & Trauma In Black Lives: Self Care After CharlestonWhen I first learned about the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I was stunned and heartbroken. I struggled to make sense out of killing innocent people in a place of worship and tried to come to some sort of understanding about how hateful and angry someone could be to plan to execute anyone. This spineless act of taking lives is despicable and hopefully the culprit(s) will be quickly apprehended so that justice can be served. What’s unfortunate about this situation is that there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent, prepare, or deter this level of hate. Nine people’s lives were lost as a result and millions of lives across our country will be forever changed.But what about those people who were in the church during the time of the shooting who were not killed? How might they be able to emotionally recover from this horrific experience? What resources might be available to those who have family members who were in the church?Members and families of the congregants should seek immediate counseling in order to process their feelings about what happened as well as the meanings that are derived from what happened. A counselor (e.g., clinical or pastoral) can help families grieve in a healthy manner and try to help them try to put their lives back together. Counseling can also help families think through their anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, sense of powerlessness, anxiety, guilt, and sadness and get them to make constructive decisions during this time of confusion and chaos.

Violence of this proportion was never intended to be understood or even accepted by the perpetrator(s). There is no rationale for anything that happened but counseling can help the families of all involved deal with the trauma and painful memories of the events. Those in attendance at the church as well as other church members should remain cognizant that they are also susceptible to “survivor’s guilt” for remaining alive while other’s died. Please know and accept that there wasn’t anything that anyone could have done to prevent this catastrophic event.

Sometimes when people are involved in profound emotional and psychological circumstances as in the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, they may be vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The hyperstress experienced from witnessing the event or even hearing about the event from a family member who was present may produce an unprecedented hyperarousal that may be too overwhelming to emotionally handle.

Preliminary news reports have shared that there were other people in the church who were able to not be harmed physically but there is/maybe an emotional reaction to being a part of the event that warrants psychological and possibly spiritual guidance and support.

As a parent, I would also like to encourage that families seek counseling for their children as well. Oftentimes, our children our left to figure out complex/sensitive issues and they need an opportunity to process events as much as adults do. Counseling can also help parents speak strategically and constructively with their children about how to make sense out of violence and possibly help them process loss, anger, and healthy conflict resolution.

The counselors that families seek should be skilled and have experience in crisis, disaster, response, and trauma work in order to help effective emotional and behavioral navigation. Counselors should also be adept at how this circumstance impacts people at different ages as well as have an understanding of how spirituality may intersect with this tragic narrative.

Counselors should also have a grasp of the overlap of violence, race relations, bereavement, social politics, and trauma. Without this professional conceptualization of the events that have transpired, it may be difficult for the counselor to effectively meet the needs of the affected families.

Our country will mourn this day for a long time and I hope that families are able to get the emotional and mental health support needed. Families should check local listings for a counselor who can help them through this tragedy.

Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He’s a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also the Founder and Editor of the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. Follow him on Twitter @phdjamesw

June 23, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey
My thoughts about the the AME Massacre….As my thoughts resonate with the AME massacre on June 17, 2015, I pray for the nine victims who died in that tragedy, their families and the State of South Carolina.http://mic.com/articles/120967/the-9-people-you-should-be-talking-about-instead-of-dylann-roofAs I contemplate that horrific situation, I think of the damaging and dehumanizing effect of systemic racism. So let me “Black Tweet” for a moment. If no one else wants to say it, I will. No, I don’t forgive Dylan Storm Roof. In actuality, #Idont’giveadamnboutDylan. I don’t dislike white people. I dislike criminals. The crime he committed was unforgiveable and part of his punishment should be that he is isolated and forgotten. So whilst I understand the general consensus in Christianity about forgiveness and permitting God to be the judge. Seventy times seven= 490 (Matthew 18 -21-22NIV) and that is more than enough forgiveness. I recognize that forgiveness in a situation where black people are repeatedly the victims is not beneficial to me or to anyone. It just reinforces the fact that my life as a black person am considered to be of less value than a white person and that I as a black person will actually thank you for committing such an atrocity against me. So the question would be, what deterrent does any white person have to not do that? Absolutely none! That to me feels very much like a slavery mindset. If a person harms someone who is close to me I will not forgive the perpetrator for what they have done. I do not forgive evil. It is not acceptable or necessary for me. My compassion lies with the victims. White people feel the same. Ask the people in Boston if they forgive Tsaernev?

#Blacklivesmatter should never exist. Why ? Because if we lived in a society of equity, this would be an absolute given. Instead white privilege has blinded so many to the many injustices, discriminations that black people and people of color face that they are more apt to blame transgressions on the black person instead of looking at the facts. #Ican’tbreathe is a tragic illustration of that. So stating the obvious has to be emphasized. But look at how many black lives have been taken from us in order for white people to understand that the life of a black person is important!!
Roof is a mass murderer. I understand that the due to the US society’s macabre preoccupation with mass murderers, Roof will actually gain criminal culture celebrity status and the general public will be fascinated by him. The media is actually humanizing him. What’s even more insulting is that the system will reward him. The media and the general public will continue to maintain interest in him.

Bonn (2014 ) in his book actually lists five reasons as to why this is the case:.

  • Rare, exotic and brutal
  • Random killings
  • Prolific and insatiable
  • Inexplicable behavior without a current motive
  • Conduit for the public’s most primal feelings such as fear, lust and anger.

This is what apparently motivates people to become obsessed with the actions of a mass murderer. I want to see justice. I want to see true justice for the wrongful deaths of the beautiful people in South Carolina. I am not consumed with hatred. I just have no forgiveness in my soul or heart for a person that callous and who would commit such an atrocity. He is someone that is adding to the damage of the black psyche. Many members of the diaspora have major psychological trauma due to the present global and societal infrastructures which I believe expose them to Current Traumatic Stress Syndrome (CTSS) and Anticipated Traumatic Stress Syndrome (ATSS) caused by the repeated killings of our people and the media continually displaying these acts of extreme violence against members of our race. Both titles are self-explanatory. So no, forgiveness is not the answer. Equitable and fair treatment is. Treat me like how you (a white person) would like to be treated. Offer me the same opportunities that are afforded to you. Value my life the same way that you value yours. Afford me the same respect that you afford yourself. Dismantle the seat of privilege and let’s remove the race card. That is I put my blackness on the table, you should be placing your whiteness on the table and we would see human. That is the basis for all interactions. Identify and remove symbols of racial subjugation and hatred towards black people such as the Confederate flag. #BreeNewsome. Minimize all information about this mass murderer by the media.

So no I don’t want to hear about Roof’s troubled childhood, his drug addiction, or mental health problems, his alleged remorse. . I don’t want to hear anything about a cowardly white man that had the nerve to wear an apartheid flag on a jacket, walk into a prayer meeting, sit down with a group of people and then shoot them one hour later. Roof felt that he was entitled to kill black people because his skin color is supposed to be superior to that of a black human being and he understands that the system that suppresses black people will honor his acts. That entitlement of white privilege is what destroys black people today. That entitlement is how Roof’s behavior will be rationalized. That entitlement is what motivated two police officers in North Carolina to feed Roof after he was captured. That entitlement is what made a South Carolina Magistrate James Gosnell Jr urged us to not view Roof as the monster that he is and I quote “We have victims — nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side,” he said. “We must find it in our heart at some point in time not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well.” No sir, I do not forgive him nor do I have any room in my heart for an undeserving remorseless sociopath.

I think that when we unpack white privilege, we also disassemble the righteous entitlement that many people have regarding who is human and who is not. I am a full-time human. Being black does not take away from that fact. My lack of forgiveness of a murderer is my choice. My resistance indicates a resilience that has not been crushed by white privilege. Like I said, “Roof who? “

http://bcove.me/5n6ij6t9

Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) Daniel Simmons (74)

Susie Jackson (87) Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)

Ethel Lee Lance (70) Myra Thompson (59)

Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)

Clementa C. Pinckney (41)

Tywanza Sanders (26)

May their souls soar with their ancestors. Gone but not forgotten.

Bibliography
Bonn, S. (2014.). Why we love serial killers: The curious appeal of the world’s most savage murderers.

June 15, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D. M.Ed. aka Dr. Herukhuti
Chattel No More: The Journey to Be Good to Ourselves
On Sunday, I toured the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship The Breakaway. In October, I am organizing a group and workshop series on love, intimacy, and relationships during the ship’s New York to The Bahamas voyage (see: http://sacredsexualities.org/2015/06/06/erotic-sun-group-caribbean-cruise-nyc-to-the-bahamas/). The tour provided an opportunity for group leaders to see the ship that will play host to our guests and events.Although I have taken boat rides, this will be my first cruise and the time to tour the ship was an important introduction to the experience. The Breakaway is an amazing vessel with so much to do and experience that I am really excited to combine its attractions with my events.During the tour, we had an interesting conversation about the reasons why so few Black people partake in cruises. Of course, we started with the common joke that the first cruises our ancestors took over here to the Americas didn’t work out too well so many of us are averse to return to another ship. After the laughter and follow-up jokes, we began to talk about the role of privilege and entitlement.Privilege and entitlement have become hot topics of discussion in mainstream and social media lately. The case of Rachel Dolezal, the recently former head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, has provoked important conversation about privilege and entitlement. The degree and quality of media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s debut as a transgender woman has done the same.Within social science, privilege is the stream of social benefits one receives because of their membership in one or more social identity groups that hold higher power positions in structurally inequitable societies. These benefits are like meta rights given to people who possess the right memberships.

Entitlement is the expectations that a person develops as a result of the privileges they receive. They expect, often unconsciously, to receive the benefits. That’s entitlement. People with entitlements move in the world based upon the expectation that they will receive privileges they have received all their lives. If you have worn shoes all of your life to walk outside, you will walk more confidently and assuredly than someone who has had to walk on their bare feet outside for all of their lives. It’s not just because at the moment you have shoes and they do not but it is also what life with and without shoes has taught you about what you can expect from the experience of walking outside on concrete, hot surfaces, glass covered areas, etc.

Assuming that Dolezal had access to white privilege for most of her life, she would have developed entitlements associated with that form of privilege that continued into her life as a woman who was perceived as Black. And as a woman with light skin who was perceived as Black, she would have access to light skin privilege that would also contribute to certain senses of entitlement. For someone who was apparently deeply involved in racial justice activism, countering, disrupting and challenging these entitlements would have to be a daily struggle if she were deeply committed to challenging white supremacy.

Caitlyn Jenner, perceived as male, has lived for most of her life with male privilege. Access to such privilege for sixty plus years contributes to male entitlements that are not as easily transformed as physical appearance. Caitlyn’s expectations for how the world will treat her as a white, wealth transgender woman will, we can reasonably expect, be different than the poor and working class transgender women of color whose lives are threatened on a daily basis in the United States—at risk for street violence, intimate partner violence, HIV, and economic exploitation.

Privilege and entitlement are more real, i.e., have tangible, material dimensions, than the social constructs of race and gender. It is a privilege to be able to do all the things related to taking a cruise, e.g., learning about the cruise experience, scheduling a vacation from work, paying the expenses associated with travel, etc. Perhaps, even before we take any of those actions, we have to expect to have experiences that are soothing, nurturing and restorative. We have to feel we are entitled to a vacation. Entitled to a retreat. Entitled to lounge in the sun, relaxing on the deck of a beautiful ship or beach and look at the picturesque view. Entitled to spend the day in a spa soaking in a heated pool, getting a massage or facial treatment.

As descendants of people who were physically, psychically and spiritually abused during slavery and colonization, we, Black people, have learned not to expect to have our bodies nurtured, soothed and pampered. We have learned that abuse, trauma, and daily grinding down of our bodies are more realistic expectations. To choose pleasure is to be silly, frivolous, and counter-revolutionary. But what can be more revolutionary in a society that abuses and attacks our bodies than to honor, love and comfort them?

Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies in the undergraduate programs at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]gmail.com

June 8, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Clinical considerations when working with survivors of sexual trauma?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an incident of sexual abuse, resulting in sexual trauma, happens every 2.5 minutes in the United States. Over 200,000 Americans are victims of sexual abuse every year. This statistic may be less than the actual number of cases, due to the fact that often times victims not to report their abuse to authorities, especially if they know or have a personal relationship with their offenders. Additional studies and surveys show that about 20-30 percent of women and about ten percent of men have been sexually abused by the age of 18.Sexual abuse is an umbrella term that includes a wide range of sexual trauma and victimizations. It occurs when a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity. Sexual abuse is part of a range of behaviors that offenders use to take power from their victims. It can begin with words, gestures, jokes and intimidation. It can progress to coercion, threats and actions that involve sexual touching or intercourse, and may involve other forms of violence. It can include completed or attempted attacks, may or may not involve force and threats.Sexual trauma is a profound violation of a person’s body, emotional stability, sexuality, sense of self and safety. The effects of sexual trauma can be extremely debilitating resulting in a lifetime of issues that ripple down to family members, school and work, communities and down through generations. Survivors of sexual trauma may never forget their victimization, but they can heal with support from family, friends, communities and therapy.“The journey to sexual healing is best undertaken only after a survivor is in a stable and safe lifestyle” (Maltz, 2012). Healing from a sexual trauma is a process that occurs overtime. It can take several months to several years for an individual to acknowledge the trauma, come to terms with it, and begin the process of healing. The process of healing often includes: gaining a deeper understanding of what happened and how it influenced your sexuality, increasing your body and self-awareness, developing a positive sense of your sexuality, and learning new skills for experiencing touch and sexual sharing in safe, life-affirming ways.There are different levels of sexual healing work that a survivor can pursue; from simply reading about recovery to engaging intense psychotherapy. While some survivors are able to progress in sexual healing on their own, others find it essential to enlist the guidance and support of a trained mental health clinician. Professional care is recommended because it is very likely that the healing process will stir up traumatic emotions and memories.

Clinical Considerations

There are clinical considerations that must be taken into account when working with survivors of sexual trauma. According to Wendy Malts, a leader in the field of sex therapy and an advanced practitioner in the treatment of sexual abuse survivors, “traditional sex therapy approaches often fall short” { because we live in a society that is over sexualized and undereducated} which may present “unique challenges when treating survivors of the various form of sexual trauma” (Maltz, 2012).

One major consideration in the treatment of sexual trauma is to understand the nature, consequences and impact that trauma has on the individual; especially if the incident(s) took place during childhood. Sexualized behavior that is early in onset, especially during adolescence, is extremely dangerous in nature and is likely to plague the trauma victims in his or her desperate search for love, acceptance, and safety throughout adolescence and into adulthood. An increased tendency toward substance and alcohol abuse is also a burden for survivors, in addition to propensity towards delinquency, antisocial behavior, and promiscuity.

When working with survivors of sexual trauma, the clinician must also take into consideration the biopsychosocial ramifications of the trauma and the significant impact it has on the to the life of the survivor. Social problems include: alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, smoking, unintended pregnancy, criminal behavior, and prostitution. Psychological problems include: anxiety, depression, bulimia, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, sleep disturbances, and suicide. Biological conditions associated with sexual trauma include: cancer, heart disease, obesity, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal distress, chronic pain, diabetes, arthritis, migraines/headaches, and skin disturbances.

Every community has different perspectives and responses to sexual violence and it is important to take into consideration when working with survivors. The effects of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation must be incorporated into treatment. Each communities perspectives and responses are fundamentally different and vary from survivor to survivor. Additionally, understanding the multiple levels of oppression that women face can also significantly impact the healing process and treatment.

Involving parents, caregivers, partner, spouse, or family members if the survivor consents can be very beneficial to the healing process. The survivor support system will need basic information about sexual abuse and trauma, information about what to expect, and how to help the individual with healing. Family support therapy may also be helpful with the healing process, not only for the individual but for the family members and other caregivers as well.

Finally other significant elements to consider when working with survivors include: reframing thoughts and ideas about sexuality, identifying triggers, teaching appropriate touch, addressing sexual fantasy, and practicing self care.

Treating Sexual Trauma

The goal of sex therapy treatment with survivors aims higher than sexual functioning or performing. Sex therapy enables survivors to experience sex as life affirming, nurturing, and mutually pleasurable. The focus involves helping survivors change their sexual thoughts, attitudes and behaviors while learning a new approach to experiencing intimacy, touch and sexual stimulation. Effective therapy with survivors of sexual trauma is a combination of trauma work with modified versions of sex therapy. In treatment, it is extremely critical that clients deal with the secrecy, shame, guilt and emotional isolation, sense of self and sexual identity, and betrayal.

Because of the complexity in the nature of treating survivors, doing sex therapy work with survivors of sexual abuse requires therapist to think and work creatively” (Maltz, 2012). It definitely requires a sophisticated level of knowledge and experience of a veteran clinician. Special sensitivity is required of counselors to provide a safe environment in which survivors can examine the pervasive impact of the abuse on their lives, explore and ventilate their feelings, and resolve the trauma so it ceases to block their development.

Mental health clinicians must incorporate a wide array of psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioral therapies to integrate more effective treatment. Cognitive-behavioral, trauma- focused, and present-focused based models are essential in treating survivors of sexual trauma. Efforts to promote and develop existential well-being, hardiness, and resilience should be universally implemented beginning at the time of disclosure of trauma and continued throughout treatment.

Trauma-informed treatment should also address the needs of survivors who have symptoms of mental illness, substance abuse issues, etc. Effective and meaningful treatment responses often maximize personal and shared power, focus on crisis de-escalation, and include an exploration of the survivor’s strengths. Additional treatment focuses on: developing coping strategies, encouraging the development of critical thinking skills, developing appropriate boundaries and limits, treating emotional dysregulation, and reducing anxiety and depression.

In conclusion, despite the heighten attention around sexual abuse via the media, there still seems to be a lack of discussion and available resources for those who have suffered and are suffering. In addition, sex therapist still seems to be missing the mark when it comes to treatment. These factors combined help to desensitize the issue and create more complex issues in treatment of survivors. This desensitization also makes it even more difficult for survivors to report the abuse, seek out support and/or treatment. Because sexuality affects how people think, act and even how they relate to other people, it is very important that individuals heal. Successful treatment models for survivors of sexual trauma must account for the specific impact of the various forms of abuse, the individual’s unique psychological response to the world, the impact of traditional socialization of women and men, and therapeutic relationship. These considerations can be applied in the course of a therapeutic setting that seeks to re-empower abused individuals by helping them to regain their self-esteem, reestablish healthy relationships, and reclaim a sense of control and choice in their lives.

References

Corcoran, J. (1998). In defense of mothers of sexual abuse victims. Families in Society, 79(4), 358-369.

Hepworth, D., Rooney, R. H., & Larsen, J. (1997). Direct social work practise theory and skills. 5th Edition. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole Publishing.

Maltz, W. (2012). The Sexual Healing Journey. William Morrow/HaperCollins Publishing: NewYork, NY.

Osmond, M., Durham, D., Leggett, A., & Keating, J. (1998). Treating the aftermath of sexual abuse: A handbook for working with children in care. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America.

Ratican, K.L. (2011). Sexual Abuse Survivors: Identifying Symptoms and Special Treatment Considerations. Journal of Counseling & Development: 71(1) 33-38. DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1992.tb02167.x

May 18, 2015
Dr. Cynthia Chestnut
Dealing with Difficult TeensDo you feel your teenager is too aggressive or angry? Do you worry about how are they going to survive? Sometimes we are holding on to parental strategies that are not working anymore because we were taught them and we believe they have helped us. I won’t deny it has been helpful because only you know your own experience. However, for those who see that the strategies they practice, aren’t working for them, I would challenge you to consider that you might still be using the same strategies when your teens were school aged and younger. You haven’t really thought about how to transition to thinking developmentally about your teenager’s needs and that teen life is a real “Rite of Passage” developmental experience. A rite of passage is usually a ceremony and marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It is often used to describe the turbulent transition from adolescence to adulthood. It also refers to any of life’s transitions. Parents are also transitioning, which may sometimes contribute to the conflict in the parent – teen relationship.Developmentally, your teen’s intention may be appropriate as it relates to what they might be trying to accomplish such as:

  • Independent thinking
  • Problem solving by testing everything you taught them about survival in this world to see if your teachings were correct
  • More autonomy to see what they can handle
  • Establishing a successful peer network

The problem is they are not going about this the right or safe way; therefore, they CONTINUE to need direction, discipline and support. The bottom line is they are trying to be adults and they are not fully prepared or ready! As a parent, you have to accept that fact, transition to how you relate to them because you cannot continue to restrain their life, and treat them the same way you did when they were not teens. Parents, you have to transition with them to help them be prepared and successfully transition well into young adulthood.

If you can relate to any of the following symptoms regarding your troubled teen, please consider the strategies below. Remember, you MUST be consistent!

  • Your teen complains and are in constant arguments with parents and/or siblings;
  • You restrict your teen’s freedom and physical activity and they rebel against this and do what they want to do anyway;
  • Your teens complain about the excessive guilt trips they feel you put on them;
  • You threaten to abandon your teen and put them out the house because he/she is too difficult to handle;
  • They don’t come home on time and stay out all night and you don’t know where they are;
  • Your teen appears to be intense and on-edge frequently;
  1. Consistently remind them that your job is to teach them how to keep themselves safe above all and they must follow your example to do that for themselves. Tell them you need to see if they can demonstrate COMPETENCE with these skills to show you they can survive without your direction. Then, you will be able to give them more responsibility and leverage.
  2. Help your teen to develop and practice coping skills (i.e. deep breathing, exercise, family walks, etc.). Practice these skills with them.
  3. Take some time and talk to your teen about his or her behavior. This demonstrates how you respect how they feel, think and behave! Teens will challenge you because they are challenging HOW YOU RAISED THEM and they need to figure out for themselves the right and wrong in that. They need and want to make up their own minds about what they believe, what works for them and if your methods really work. That’s why IT IS SSSSOOO IMPORTANT TO TAKE QUALITY TIME AND LISTEN TO THEM TELL YOU WHAT THEY THINK THEY KNOW, WHAT THEY LEARNED AND HOW THEY ARE APPLYING THE KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM YOU DID OR DID NOT GIVE THEM.
  4. Ask them how their behavior helps them to accomplish or solve the presenting problem. Validate them in the ways they appropriately share their problem solving strategies and also let them know where and when it is not working. Clarify any distorted ideas or messages they present in their understanding.
  5. Ask them what they think they can substitute or replace other problem solving strategies that might get the positive attention or response they are looking for. Let them know what you are willing to negotiate to help them accomplish the positive outcome they are hoping to gain.
  6. Model appropriate behavior and look for teachable moments to educate them by your example, as well as set limits and boundaries. Have them practice the solutions and reward their accomplishments to reinforce position attention for appropriate behavior so you can get more of the same.
  7. You need to figure out ways to keep them busy doing responsible things. Yes, we know there’s a limit to school and community resources that are affordable like recreation and carpentry, etc.; however, WHAT ABOUT VOLUNTEER SERVICES like mural arts program, working in community gardens, helping seniors at day centers, at hospitals like the old candy strip volunteers, assisting at youth programs, at your community religious institution, etc. You can expose them to areas of interest so they can decide what they want to be when they become adults. Make it a chant or ritual to say to them as frequent as possible, “As your parent, my job is to prepare you to be a responsible citizen so you can contribute to the development of self, family and community.” Pay attention to what they do well, praise and encourage it so they can know they please you. THAT BUILDS SELF ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE KNOWING THEY HAVE GOOD SOCIAL SKILLS, LIKABILITY AND GOOD MORALS!
  8. I would be remiss if I didn’t say seek counseling; such as, family counseling, individual counseling for your teen and for you! Coaching, mentorship and support groups are a plus too!
  9. You MUST create, set up and use your village, your team, your blood and/or fictional family to participate in guiding them and being a safe support that your teen can turn to when they don’t turn to you! You cannot raise a troubled teen alone! You need support! Your troubled teen needs support! This strategy is not an option, it is necessary!

All of these strategies will demonstrate to your troubled teen that you care and they are worth the time as well as the effort you put in them. Don’t get discouraged when you try something that doesn’t work right away or at all. You have to stick with a plan, be consistent and use your supports to encourage you! You are not an island! You are not alone! Model to your troubled teen how you use your supports. You are teaching them how to problem solve when you do this. Especially when the going gets rough, your example will stick with them and they won’t be able to say they weren’t exposed to problem solving skills. They pay more attention to what you do than what you say, so don’t give up on yourself and your teen!

Cynthia Chestnut is an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She has Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy, Post graduate MFT specializing in Couple and Sex Therapy, and over 20 years of leadership responsibility in human relations, personal growth and professional development. Contact Dr. Chestnut at drcynthiachestnut.com or twitter @DrCChestnut.

May 12, 2015
Shane’a Thomas
Giving Permission to Make Mistakes: Teaching Sexuality in Learning SpacesSummer is a time where educators or presenters are either gearing up for the summer school semesters (particularly in institutes of higher learning) or revamping workshop ideas to prepare for the Fall, each to where both are learning how to make lessons more comprehensive, informative and enjoyable. Sexuality and gender continue to be intriguing and tantalizing topics in educational settings, and interestingly enough, subjects everyone has some sort of personal experience (and opinion). The good news is any experience is a place for building new knowledge! Students or other learners feel as if they are coming into a classroom or educational setting under the premise they automatically know less, or that the knowledge they have isn’t valuable to the space. Here are a few tips below to help encourage sharing and exchange of information within a space of safety, and without shame of what we don’t know, to make room to build on what we do know!We all had to start somewhere: I had a student exclaim in class, “The first time I ever saw a gay person was on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Though in her continuing to speak about her familiarity, she connected homosexuality, drag queens and the trans*experience to one idea around sexual orientation. Yes, some of the information was incorrect, it gave a great platform to speak about what people knew, and what they did not. The ideas around gender and sex are ingrained into most of us before we are even born (and some could argue moreso these days with the emergence of “coming out” or gender reveal parties), and it’s an experience we, learners and educators, haven’t figured out how to escape from. A part of educating around sexuality may include helping the audience to understand that we all started in a very similar place and understanding around who we are supposed to be, especially in terms of sexual orientation and gender roles. Educators are always put on a pedestal when it comes to knowledge, and with that comes continuous apologies from students for getting information “wrong”. Ease anxieties by reminding your audience that we all had to start somewhere, and using the new information acquired within the setting now gives us the ability see the world in a different perspective.Create a “No Shaming Zone”: In continuing with the previous idea, within a classroom space, people are constantly apologizing for the things they do not know, as opposed to owning the things that they do. This can seem a little backwards because that’s what a learning space is for. Not only do I assure my students or workshop participants that it is ok to not know, but showing the vulnerability that at one point in time, I did not know either. Sex, gender and sexuality are concepts that we all started off learning as very black and white, dichotomous ideas. They were reinforced by our family members, friends, school systems, childhood environments, cultures and societies. The worth of some identities are revered, others hidden. To the individual learner, that is no fault of their own. As I say to my audience, especially to other social workers and service providers who work with various age groups, “make your mistakes here, so you won’t make them out in the field”. Mistakes are a part of learning; shaming one’s lack of incorrect knowledge deters them from trying again. Build confidence through encouragement.Safety is Non-negotiable: Make sure you as the educator in any space is vigilant enough to protect, correct and discipline with corrective action if need be. Just as much as “you are only as strong as your weakest link”, your word to keep a learning space safe is only as true as your actions again homophobic comments, rude and disruptive behavior, or persistent heckling, “trolling” or just people being inappropriate. If the learner sees that you aren’t willing to call out inappropriate behavior, they aren’t going to feel safe asking questions, or even sharing their own personal experiences within the setting in the presence of that person. In turn, our behavior or the way we present ourselves within a space speaks to safety as well. Yes, the student’s stories about their first interaction with a gay person maybe amusing, but to who’s detriment are you laughing? Learn for yourself how to gently correct behavior without deterring others from sharing, but also making it clear that everyone, even if a particular member of a population is not (openly) present, deserves respect. Calling out all behavior and making a safe space for everyone to exist are ingredients for being a good ally in sexuality education.This is also a reminder that as educators, we have to be heedful to keep the learning space safe for ourselves as well. Knowledge doesn’t keep us from not being human, we deserve safety as well. Educators have a right to keep personal information about their sexual history and gender personal, and those who choose to share have a right to be respected within that space. Again, creating safe boundaries is key to the safety of yourself, and to others, so learning, growing and healing can continue to expand within the learning space.

May 4, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey, B.Sc., FN-CSA, CSN
Nutritionally incompetent?
https://youtu.be/VWVmtB9zVcoThis essay was inspired by the sheer sadness and futility of this video. If anyone was to say that black people are nutritionally incompetent, we all would dismiss that person without any hesitation. However there is a kernel of truth in that remark. The relationship with food and blacks has not been a healthy one and the nutritional deficits continue from generation to generation. The endearing term “Soul food” describes a method of food preparation that was enforced upon blacks during the period of slavery. Slaves were given the cheaper and less desirable cuts of meat, (internal entrails, or limbs or organ meats) or salted meat or fish which could sustain being perishable; some fruits, and little to no vegetables and a large intake of carbohydrates, such as yams, sweet potatoes, bread and rice. Due to the brutal and prolonged activities of work for slavery; these diets supported this cruel and enforced lifestyle.Although today there is now racism instead of pure unadulterated slavery, the black race continues to destroy their bodies with salt, sugar and fat. To be offended by the simple truth is pathetic. To take the fact that blacks do not eat well and complain is not to take accountability for the lifestyle that we currently lead. A large proportion of blacks do not manage their diet and intake accordingly. Nor do they deem exercise as essential for their survival. The driving factor behind this matter is the lower socio economic status, lack of finances, our lack of education, our loyalty to the culture and taste of our cuisine and our attitude of reluctance to make “Soul food” into “Life Food” by changing the methods in how we prepare our foods. Members of the diaspora need nourishing food that nurtures and supports the homeostasis of the body instead of shortening its lifespan. In 2015, an increased resistance to exercise and an adherence to a sedentary lifestyle which is enhanced by the fact that technology and social media is now distracting us from movement. If we are not moving, then we are stagnant.As a nurse working in an emergency department, I consistently meet people who have very limited concept as to how their eating habits are contributing to their illnesses. So drinking two liters of soda daily and never drinking water because “water don’t have no taste!” I have nursed more heart attacks, strokes, hypertensive crises, renal failures and diabetic emergencies than I can care to mention in the past 21 years. If we know better, then we can at least try to do better. Why not bake, stew or boil instead of frying? Why not season or marinade instead of copious salting? Why not drink water instead of soda or juice?A person cannot state that he/she is conscious if he/she continues to eat like a slave. Why? Because this lower standard of eating is supplementing the ideology of white privilege. Freedom incorporates choice. Not having the finances to buy more expensive cuts of meat, does not mean that a person cannot choose to boil, bake or stew their food, instead of frying it. Making the appropriate time constraints to serve self instead of supporting the racist infrastructure that enslaves us is imperative. Choose very wisely and carefully. There is a specific reason why pharmaceutical companies trial new medications in empoverished areas; why major teaching hospitals are built in lower socio economic areas; that is hospitals where residents, medical students can learn their profession of medicine through trial and error people who are less likely to question the quality of care being given to them. This reason is because blacks are predisposing themselves to illness through the styles of the food and the consumption of the less advantageous types of food. The even sadder part of this essay is the nutritional deserts that are imposed upon our communities which limit the quality of food that is affordable and available to us. The cheaper supermarkets that are promoting the sugars, salts, and fattier foods are often found in our neighborhoods. What better way to allow health insurance companies to profit from us. Cheaper foods or genetically modified foods also shorten our lives and adversely impact the growth and development of our children, causing obesity and other health issues. Eating well is living well.http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/soul-food-brief-history

Kim S. Ramsey, B.Sc., FN-CSA, CSN
Registered Nurse

April 19, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed.,(Dr. Herukhuti)
Creating Spaces for Black Sexual Empowerment

Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? I like to caution folks, that’s all. No sense us wasting each other’s time, sweetheart. A lot of weight when you’re well.” – Minnie Ransom in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters“The Erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.” – AudreLorde of “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”If we are to create a future of Black sexual empowerment, Black people need time and space to develop the awareness, skills, and vision necessary to that work. That premise is the basis of my work as a sex educator, author and workshop leader.In the fields of sexology and sex education, there are few people of color, fewer Black people and fewer Black men. On websites, in the media and across the covers of most books on sexology and sex education, people of European descent dominate the landscape as sex gurus, sacred sexuality teachers, and sexperts. White supremacy is alive and well in sexology and sex education. No surprise there since those fields exist within larger societies in which imperialist white supremacy capitalist heteropatriarchy is an operating principle.Black people, whether the descendants of African people who were held in bondage in the Americas or colonized on the continent, have a tremendous amount of sexual healing to do to fully realize sexual empowerment. Many of us have experienced intergenerational sexual assault, commodification of our bodies for capitalist, sexist and racist agendas, or repression of the authentic expression of our capacities for pleasure. We have endured ongoing attacks on our abilities to own our desires, bodies, and erotic power.That is why Black sexual empowerment is inextricably tied to the struggle for Black liberation and social justice. For those reasons, creating space for Black folks to work through and on the dynamics that make radical Black sex possible is dangerously transgressive and potentially revolutionary. Not only does such work threaten interests of people outside of the Black community but also the conservative politics of respectability that operates in various quarters of Black communities including certain religious, nationalist, and bourgeois interests.Among those parties, there are a few specific ways to engage Black sex. Study Black sexuality as a public health topic. Focus on the elimination of teenage pregnancy. Affirm monogamous heterosexual marriage as an ideal. Teach people how to respect each other as kings and queens in their relationships. Some would have us believe that these are the most acceptable and appropriate ways to engage Black sex.

While I believe that some of that work is quite important to our sexual healing, I also believe that it lacks something that I believe is an essential aspect of Black sexuality—funk. Funk, a term used to describe a genre of Black music developed in the late 1960s through 1970s in the United States, can be articulated as an aesthetic or quality inherent in certain Black cultural activity, including sex. Funk is the nitty-gritty. It is what I like to call the good-good found in the bottom of any soul food pot, bellies of dancers pressed against each other in the dim lights of a club, breath used to push the sound of orgasm out of the pit of the soul into the open air, and aroma of love’s work done well.

My pursuit of the funk in Black sexuality has been a journey exploring those aspects of our sex that we don’t acknowledge in mixed or polite company. We tend to avoid public treatment of them unless it’s fodder for daytime talk shows or primetime reality TV—genres that allow white folks to make money off of selling representations of Black pathology that reinforce stereotypes of Black cultural life to a public starving for outlets for its own sexual and racial anxieties. But funk is not a manifestation of our pathology. It’s a unique expression of our humanity.

Dark rooms where Black men congregate to taste of one another’s flesh under the cloak of darkness protecting them from the judgment of a sex-negative and homophobic world. Beds filled with nude Black people of different genders exchanging bundles of pleasure across interlaced limbs of various hues. Moonlight rituals in which one or more bodily fluids were the baptismal waters that Black folks used to cleanse each other. Polyamorous families open to multiple lovers who bringing gifts of erotic nourishment and engagement. Pleasure circles that created space for tired feet craving touch to be rubbed, stroked, massaged and licked back to life after a week of labor on modern-day plantations. Sex workers who provide sensual respite for members of their communities seeking the healing power of orgasmic ecstasy.

Many of us who do this form of community organizing are just as vulnerable to attack as any other Black revolutionaries and activists. Contemporary public health departments and the network of laws restricting the sexual conduct of consenting adults are forms of repression that mimic the former Counter Intelligence Program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (COINTEL). Public nudity, sex in semi-public environments like parks and beaches (even under circumstances that avoid disturbing uninterested others such as at night or in restricted areas), and commercial sex are prohibited by law and policed by the State.

But if you love Black people and are committed to their liberation, then, as Huey P. Newton argued, you engage in revolutionary suicide, i.e., sacrificing your personal safety for community development. My next endeavor as a revolutionary sex educator is a sexual empowerment cruise from New York City to the Bahamas in October of this year. I am excited to continue to create space for developing the awareness, skills and vision necessary in forging a world that is more socially just and ecologically well.

Who’s with me?

Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies in the undergraduate programs at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]gmail.com

April 12, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
It’s Time to Get Real About SEX!

The mere utterance of the word SEX can spark all sorts of debates among parents, politicians, educators, advocates, religious leaders, friends etc., nevertheless it is a conversation that we must have! We talk about war, politics, religion, fashion, music, reality TV shows, celebrities, the latest gossip and so much more, but yet we do not want to talk about sex. If by chance we do, the conversation is limited to “don’t do it” and/or abstain. But even that message still fails our children because we do not teach them how to be abstinent.In a day and age where HIV is still deadly, gonorrhea has resistant strains, celebrity sex tapes are the norm, sex sells everything, and casual sex is glamorized, we cannot afford to not have the conversations about sex. We live in a time where technology makes everything accessible. With the click of a button, children can find out any and everything about sex and unfortunately oftentimes the information is inaccurate, misleading and confusing. However, the quandary here is that if we do not provide them with accurate information about sex, they will continue to get it from wherever they can. It is time to come down off our ethical high horse, and stop burying our heads in the sand and pretending that children do not have sex. Because the fact of the matter is that many of them are and according to statistics many are doing it under the influence of a sub-stance like alcohol which puts them at even greater risk. It’s time to get real about sex…..comprehensive sex education that is!We must provide our children with comprehensive sex education! Failure to do so is like placing them behind the wheel of a car and allowing them to drive without any instruction on how to maneuver the vehicle; there is sure to be an accident! Providing children with the knowledge and skills needed regarding sexuality is not giving them a license to freely engage in having sex but rather it is providing them with some essential tools that just might save their life, and definitely protect their health should they for whatever reason decide to have sex. In addition, they are less likely to get into an “accident.”We must get beyond the belief that comprehensive sex education equates to teaching children how to have intercourse, get into different sexual positions, take birth control, or have abortions, etc. While some of those things are certainly a part of it, that is not the focal point it. True com-prehensive sex education includes conversations about the mental, emotional, spiritual, biochem-ical, social, legal, cultural and economical unintended consequences of sex – protected and/or unprotected. It also addresses how media messages impact sexuality and so much more.We also must educate our children on personal responsibility and what it means to be accounta-ble! We are in charge of our sexual health! We cannot rely on anyone else to make decisions re-garding our sexual health. Failure to advocate and protect ourselves is like allowing ourselves to walk blindly into harm’s way. Every time we have unprotected sex with someone whose HIV or sexually transmitted infection (STI) status we do not know, we are saying to them that I love you enough to let you kill me!In addition to increasing knowledge, we must also increase skills! For example, it is not enough to teach that condoms prevent pregnancy and/or STIs, we must teach our children how to use a condom, the steps to putting on a condom, how to negotiate condom usage with a partner, how to communicate safer sex options and even where to purchase and how to store condoms. Skills are essential! We can have all the knowledge and wherewithal in the world but if we do not have the skills then it is still an epic failure.Understanding how our self-esteem, self-efficacy, triggers, social determinants (i.e., income, lack of insurance, poverty, lack of access to medical care, culture, religious beliefs, race, etc.) risk factors, strength factors and protective factors impact sexuality is important as well. Gaining an understanding of this may help to determine and/or shape the impact of our choices, beliefs, be-haviors and attitudes on sexuality. In addition, it may help to reduce engaging in behaviors that puts oneself at risk for engaging in sexual behaviors that contribute, directly and indirectly, to the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

Comprehensive sex education teaches the facts, dispels myths, removes the stigma and addresses taboos. Technology makes it possible for children to learn about sex from a variety of sources, many of which are not credible and do not offer information from an accurate educational stand-point. It’s so important to provide the facts from a credible source like a credentialed sex educa-tor and not the internet or media. It is also important to teach the appropriate terminology, the body parts and functions. Knowing this information helps to inform when something is wrong with their body, reduce language barriers between patients and providers, increases treatment options and teaches them to value their body.

Finally, true comprehensive sex education approaches the entire person with a focus on healthy sexuality, not intercourse! It makes the connection on how sexuality impacts every area of our lives. It teaches the knowledge and skills needed to make safer, healthier and informed choices. Comprehensive sex education is a layer of protection that helps to empower children with infor-mation that can protect their health and save their lives!

I leave you with this thought, no education, abstinence only or comprehensive sex educa-tion….what chance are you willing to take with your child’s life? Don’t allow your child, loved one or even yourself to become a statistic!

April 7, 2015
Tabias Wilson
Black Gay Privilege…
There has been much ado about the newfound notion of “Black gay privilege.” In numerous tweets, blogs and a certain HuffPost article, it has been articulated as a special benefit enjoyed by black gay men. This ‘privilege’ supposedly enables us to evade the traditional economic struggles experienced by (straight) black men and produced by white anxiety and white supremacy. The crux of the argument is such: white people are less intimidated by black gay men, because they are seen as less of a threat. Therefore, black gay men enjoy greater employment options and benefits than black straight men. Said ‘privilege’ is situated on the assertion that black gay men are less masculine and therefore less intimidating to white men and women and more likely to be hired and promoted. There are many problems with this assertion, but let us first begin with the obvious. Neither Queerness nor same-sex attraction inherently require or guarantee a particular performance of masculinities or femininities. This is equally true for heterosexual black men. Racial-sexual discriminatory hiring (and firing) practices are not a function of the sexual practices or gender performances of black men, but instead a display of white (masculine) anxieties and insecurities. These insecurities and anxieties are rooted in racial-sexual tropes imputed on black bodies during slavery. Black male and female bodies–across sex, sexuality and gender performance–were routinely violated in circus-like displays of racial-sexual terrors. These (white) family events included lynchings, penectomies, breast augmentation and genital mutilations. These events occurred for myriad, sadistic reasons, but most often functioned as violent lessons of racial-sexual comportment. They official word, that black men and women were hypersexual and needed to be punished, eliminated and made examples of, was held as gospel in the white community–and widely disputed amongst black survivors. The activist and scholar Ida B. Wells noted that most were terrorized not for their sexual proclivities but for their refusal to be used for the sexual pleasure of slaveholders, male and female, gay and straight. In short, black people were killed not for acts of sexual violence, but sexual resistance, interpreted as violence to the system of white (sexual) power and domination. In layman’s terms, they wanted to teach (read: force) black people how to (sexually) act (read: submit). The phenomena of some black gay men accessing professional longevity is not about privilege. Privilege is an unearned benefit, bestowed without merit. This is different. This is survival jujitsu. This–the forced circumcision of blackness from queerness, and queerness from masculinities in order to remain employed is violence. Gay, bisexual, queer and same-gender loving black men already exist in a space socially and politically apart from black men–we are the other brothers. Daily we are forced to choose and navigate how we perform maleness, in order to affirm our identity and preserve our safety from (many) patriarchal violences. We are also called and required to police our blackness in a way that allows us to remain close to home and family, while also allowing proximity to whiteness (as sociocultural capital/property), to avert or lessen white supremacist violences. Finally we must navigate, customize and reform our queerness, second by second, to avert heterosexist violences, obscure our seemingly dangerous blackness and assert our power as men–that is, the power to avert systemic (cis) male-domination, visited on the bodies of women. Put simply, BlaQueerness is the practice of the survival of racial-sexual circumcisions, a two-step of terror-evasion.

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
-James Baldwin

When we are coerced to perform, mask and other our personal performances of black “maleness”–in order to evade a layer of white supremacist violences and anxieties–we enable ourselves to climb socioeconomic ladders, however frail, to financial sociopolitical wealth. However in doing so we commit to, reify and endorse the work and will of white supremacy and heterosexism/patriarchy through our assent. Thereby compromising our selves and our right and abilities to simply be, us, alive: regardless of masc/femme performances or nature. This isn’t privilege. It’s survival. It’s exhausting. It’s genocide. We are placed in the impossible position of negotiating between survival under white supremacy, and hunger within personal black (queer) authenticity. The notion of black gay privilege–aside from erasing the realities of right of masculine men, trans men and womyn–positions the BlaQueer man as a buffer between white supremacists hiring practices and their black critics. Because we hired these black men, white supremacists note, we cannot be racist. Lost in translation is requirement of BlaQueer men to mortgage defacto control of their bodies and performances of self to their employer as a condition of employment. Also lost is the implicit messages that either these (blaqueer) men are ideal and preferable and/or that other black men are deficient by choice or nature. This enables race, and by extension power, to be evaded as the focal point and instead posits responsibility on the deficiency of black, straight, masculine presenting men. “The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.”

James Baldwin

There is no black gay privilege. There are white supremacist, heterosexist, patriarchal, capitalistic anxieties engraved upon black, gay bodies through violent hiring, firing and retention practices. There is violence–psychological and psychosocial terrorisms–in forced, perverted performances of ourselves, in order to find a sweet spot between masculinities and femininities that do not arouse white fear, white guilt or white notions of equity. We are to be propertied–seen, heard and felt as accessible and owned00by employers for their pleasure and fulfillment. Our given role then, in this system, is to do what white supremacy believes “straight” or “masculine” black men, will not–take micro-aggressions, violences and inequity with a smile and a hair-flip. Unfortunately for the aforementioned system, BlaQueer men and womyn are the kings and queens of subversive existences, politics and liberatory practices.

“If a human chain
can be formed
around missiles sites
then surely black men
can form human chains
around Anacostia, Harlem
South Africa, Wall Street
Hollywood, each other.
If we have to take tomorrow with our own blood,
are we ready?….
All I want to know for my own protection is,
are we ready for whatever,
whenever?”
Essex Hemphill

Yes, yes we are. We must use the insights and lessons, of the scars of oppression, to draw and map our home to collective freedom and liberations. There is no cure, no panacea, no treatment to rage and resolve within the bones of BlaQueer peoples, outside of black and BlaQueer liberations. We are not the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the ones we have been loving for, dying for, and living for. We do this in remembrance of our ancestors, in humanization of ourselves and the hope of those coming next. We are ready, we are willing and we will win.

March 30, 2015
Jeanine Staples, Ed.D
Pretty Little Liars (in Love)
Recent studies show that, on average, a typical person tells two or three lies in a ten-minute conversation (http://liespotting.com/2010/06/10-research-findings-about-deception-that-will-blow-your-mind/).Most of us are lied to about 200 times a day and are only accurate in detecting lies about 54% of the time. Makes ya wonder, right? Well, my questions in relation to these stats are not about how we can protect ourselves from lies. My questions in relation to these stats prompt me to think about how to not lie. One of the biggest findings from my inquiry into heterosexual Black women’s talk and writing about terrors in romantic love has to do with lies (for more on this, see The Revelations of Asher: An Endarkened, Feminist New Literacies Event, Peter Lang, forthcoming, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7LMZh6dh0Q).In the inquiry, many of the women involved in my project revisited lies they’d been told in their relationships. They recounted being told lies about their partner’s whereabouts, past and current attachments, fidelity, depth of affection, sexual histories, family background, financial aptitude…the list goes on and on. These data were not difficult to obtain. Black women are unfortunately described as notoriously rejected, abused and inept in romantic love. As such, we are frequently positioned as the butt of all manner of jokes, pity and criticism (http://newsone.com/3069873/single-black-women/). So, as you can imagine, there was plenty of “woe is me” lamenting to go around in each whole group conversation and men were at the center, as objects of our “why lie?” queries.I contributed to these stories and questions with the women as someone who had also been subject to lies in romantic love. Yet, later, upon analyzing the data, I started to feel curious about turning the tables. Instead of commiserating, I wondered about repositioning. I started to ask different questions, such as: “What would happen if women stopped lying in love?” After removing the finger-pointing-spotlight from partners and redirecting flood-light-inquiry into self, an unexpected sense of power and control emerged. Considering ourselves as involved in (and even perpetrators of) the aforementioned statistics helped us to consider ourselves as liars. With this reposition came new, incredibly helpful and pointed questions:Why do we (women who want to love and be loved) lie?
How do lies pretend to serve our best interests in love?
When are we (women who want to love and be loved) most prone to telling a lie? What are our lies really about?These questions made introspection quite trippy. No longer afforded the mantle of unknowing victim, we had to think
of ourselves as vindictive, duplicitous, cunning and flip. Having been wronged by the lies of oppressive partners on so many occasions, this shift in perspective was undoubtedly some of the toughest and most challenging work of the inquiry. Yet, when we began to respond to these questions, we were able to learn more about our innerworkings. The undercurrent of dark defense that we cultivated as women in love and experiencing terror, was exposed. The untapped rationale we operated from was revealed. We found more power and got real answers:Why do we (women who want to love and be loved) lie?
We lie because we inordinately and wrongly focus on self-preservation and self-protection in relationship. We lie because we think we need to hide ourselves to be safe from partner scrutiny, condemnation, rejection and disregard.How do lies pretend to serve our best interests in love?
Lies act like our best defense because they pretend to offer us alibi, invisibility, innocence, or absolved responsibility in any number of highly consequential experiences and relations.When are we (women who want to love and be loved) most prone to telling a lie?
Women are most prone to lying when we are not adequately attuned to and in governance over our inner workings, are in unsafe, abusive, caustic dynamics with others, or are committed to maintaining a publicly affirming and desirable image at any cost.What are our lies really about?
Lies are really about an unchecked fear of abandonment and unworthiness, self-doubt and insecurity.These hard questions and real answers came just in the nick of time. They pointed us to a space of internal, personal power that had not been imagined as even remotely possible. We learned we could actually practice emotional honesty, mental earnestness and exposure. We could be naked with our clothes on, as a precedent to taking them off. When understanding why, how, when and what we lie about in romantic love, we were much better positioned to snuff out the patterns of cloaking that, without monitoring, can become remote and normalized. To concretize this work, I developed literacy methods (ways of reading, writing, speaking and listening) that foster revelations of deep truth in simple, uncomplicated ways.Enacting these practices prompts unveiling, unlayering and undoing of deceptions, from the inside out, in day-to-day
life. How? They facilitate the process of identifying and naming actual (not make believe) desires, needs, thoughts and feelings. They also enable subsequent processes of communicating those desires, needs, thoughts and feelings in ways that soften, make visible, and champion who we really are while informing our partners and removing illusionary boundaries between us. What comes next is a culture shift. These practices pave ways to environments for truth that can remain stable no matter what type of encounters or dynamics occur in relating.

Like the women in my study, I’ve told my fair share of lies in love. As I gain experience reading the roots of my lies (and calling them mine), writing the history and trajectory of my lies (and calling them finite), I am more able to strengthen my commitment to vulnerability and transparency. I learn more about who I am in multiple realms of my self (e.g. liar and truth-teller). And, I am better able to minimize, slow, maybe even eliminate the former and maximize, quicken and prosper the latter iteration of myself. I believe in advocating for this stance for all women in love or in want of it. With this stance and these practices come not only more straight-forward, trustworthy communication. They also breed deeper intimacies in romance, power in sex and clarity in daily communion.

These advances are not only good for individuals and couples. They are good for whole communities and lend, in my opinion, added power to the work of social justice. This happens by engendering movements that depend on voices and stories that can tell truth, fuel empathy, and provoke altruism where there is violence, inequity and toxicities. This is possible with people who really embody such empowered voices and stories and are practiced in giving rise to them with self and others. To that end, I invite you to ask yourself, are you a “pretty little liar”? And if so, how will you change that name, today so you can get and give the love you really need and deserve…for yourself, your partner and your community?

March 23, 2015
Shane’a Thomas
Who am I going to be today?: Reflections on being an “out” professional
“I identify as a black, queer cisgender female. I tell you this because the information I am going to share with youin this workshop is not me reading a book and passing knowledge onto you, but this is a lived experience. Most of my visuals, information and case examples comes from people who are black or of color and queer. It would be easy for me to give you all the other [“other” here reading white, gay, and male] visuals and information about LGBTQI people that you expect, but that’s not fair to you. Or to the growing number of black or clients of color looking for services.”I recently started giving very personal introduction at conferences, trainings and workshops I give out of my belief of two aspects that the very purpose of introductions fulfill; giving the audience a glimpse of who I am, and also, giving them information to make the choice about whether or not they are willing to commit to the information given. I believe the choice I constantly make is a risky one; we are progressive in our thoughts around the presence of LGBQTI people, but when we start expanding the thought that they are living, breathing, human beings with the ability to survive (and thrive!) in academic spaces, people get nervous.No, because I have shared with you about my identity, I am not here to speak about my sex life. I am here to educate you around who to expand your toolbox and further your mind and practice around people who are constantly marginalized. Because, to me, information such as seven transwomen of color being murdered in the United States since the start of 2015 reflects a much larger issue than a clinician’s comfortability.Is coming out queer or an ally a good idea for you and your professional practice? Of course! Is it possible for everyone.Unfortunately, not at all. To help process if this a right decision for you, here are three concepts that would be beneficial to think about when creating safer queer/LGBTQI spaces within your places of practice, regardless of your sexual orientation, for yourself:1. Safety: Not all environments are safe enough to be out, or even, express solidarity to queer folks in professional and academic spaces. First and foremost, we have to weigh the pros and cons of what such action would bring, and also, how much do these actions (or consequences) weigh to you? I know after speaking to the group about the black queer community, ball culture, and being introduced to various terms about sex in my presentation, there will be many uncomfortable folks who walk out of the room. Because I am not just a reflection of my job, my academic institutions, but also myself, I may be held responsible and held accountable for the views I hold (you see how people go down quickly with a wrong tweet or Facebook post). Is this view or image of myself one I am willing to uphold for the sake of educating (see “Commitment to the narrative”)?
Never do anything that would further the danger of you or those you love and care about. Lead no threat to your work, weight the consequences, make sound judgements and decisions based on how this will greatly affect you now, a year from now, and five years from now.No one teaches you that in certain settings being who you are can honestly inflict change, just by showing up. But it can also inflict anger, hatred, frustration, judgmental dispositions, and fear in what people don’t know.2. Commitment to the Narrative: Once you are out, it’s something people use to “color” you in a certain perspective that changes how they see you. Fair? Not at all, but something to accept about the realization of one’s sexual orientation or allyship. Once I told that audience that was I identified as queer, that gave a hue to their whole experience of who I was and what I was presenting. For me, that’s ok, because I want give a more positive face to a community so forgotten and left to fend for themselves. My choice to be out is a choice I make because others can’t do it for themselves.
Another aspect of committing to the narrative is how everyone feels as if they want to be “right” the first time. This is whether it’s about getting the pronouns correctly for transgender or gender non-conforming folks who are changing their identity, or to not to be too imposing on ones sexuality or sexual practices or new names for sexual orientations. Becoming an ally to the community is understanding that a part of learning is making mistakes. Sticking the narrative also includes being able to say “oops”, and correcting the behavior. As a person who is a part of the black, queer, female community where I live and have done therapeutic work in the area for a long time, this does not mean I get everything right the first time either. “Can you explain that to me one more time?” is a popular phrase I speak frequently. I want to learn to respect my clients and students the same way they respect their own identity. In the effort to be competent and follow my Social Work Code of Ethics, I need to do the work of understanding. This process is not at all about myself. This is the process of taking ownership of your mistakes, being humble that even as a professional we don’t get it right all the time, and being vulnerable as a human being.
This also includes showing support through your actions. Maybe placing quotes in your office by famous LGBTQI people up in your office. Putting up a small rainbow flag or a Human Right Campaign stick up in your window. Standing up for LGBTQI rights by being more inclusive through your written and vocal work. People within the queer community are always looking for visual clues in who is able to side with them, or not. It’s safer than asking, though it does lead to assumptions about the other people. Being able to walk by an office with an rainbow sticker may not give full confirmation that someone is an ally, but it does show that the person may be willing to engage in conversation around the topic. Sometimes it’s just about what I would call “the affirmation of presence”.3. Setting healthy boundaries for ourselves: As much as sharing parts of myself with my audience gives the wonderful opportunity for visibility for those who think black, queer women in the field don’t exist, I also have to continue to remember and hold the fact that I am essentially mines. We make the decisions around who we want toexude to other people. As with number one, if you are not in a comfortable place to be out in the open about certain aspects of yourself, don’t. When the smoke clears away, all you have is yourself, so make sure any decisions you make, are reflective of the ones you can live with.That also includes the information you choose to share with other people. Just because I tell you about my sexual orientation in the context sharing information for one purpose (giving background to who I am as reflective to the information shared), gives you a right or demand to know more in another (who I have sex with, where, and how). I had a male audience member, another social work professional, ask me did I like penetration during the break. It was very direct, and in the mask of asking in another context, but also for selfish content. I had every right to correct the information by de-personalizing it. “Oh, do you mean do people who identify as queer? That actually depends on the person’s sexual preferences.” I kept my answer in the same realm and context I shared the information: for professional information, not a glimpse into my personal life. Opening ourselves to other people does make it seem as if we are allowing people to share all of us, but we also makes the choice of how much is ours.
March 17, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey
Include all of me: a black woman is more than the value of her vagina
I think it is virtually impossible to be a whole sexual being as a black woman when being viewed through a heterosexual lens. We have so many stereotypes, so many archetypes and so many roles that we do not have a comfortable or safe role that we can adhere to. Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989 coined the term of “Intersectionality.” She discussed the variety of obstacles facing black women from oppressing their gender, to sexism and racism. White people are often demonized as the enemy. However I think we are own worst enemy As a race of people who are deplorable and are continuing on the practices of their forefathers with oppression and abject cruelty. Whilst this may be the case my concern is the treatment of black women by black men.I ask for clemency in this situation. I think its time that we opened our dialogue about why we are often so cruel to each other. I think that any black woman who is honest with her primal sexual instinct is vilified so she is cautious in displaying her sexual side as men who are insecure, or misguided or totally comfortable with destroying a woman’s reputation, will label her a “slut”, or “whore”, or “thot”, or what ever the most popular name is for slut-shaming a woman these days. With the present societal trend of women not being able to discuss or ask for their sexual desire. Black women appear to be wrong when they are not having sex, they are deemed as frigid or cold. Or as women who were so much of a slut, that they needed to stop having sex, and when they are having sex, then they are wrong, they are loose or slack . Its a selfish and unfair way to interpret a black woman. Its a perverted and distorted way of viewing them. Its about the emotional, psychological and spiritual value which was systematically removed from the black vagina. Its value was never replaced.Stigma and has alway been attached to the black vagina. I often hear of black men grading pussy. Yes, imagine that. I have a polygynist friend who grades the vagina in the following way. In the Macdonald typing, he categorizes vagina intot into tight, loose, wet and dry. There are eight different combinations that men can find when pursuing a woman. The combination of tight and wet appears to be of high ranking value. Women with insight know this and often use yoni eggs or vaginal muscle strengtheners to secure this pperception of a prize vagina. However to grade a vagina is to place a condition on something that is not supposed to carry a value. On the contrary it is just as demeaning as a white master raping a female slave in the cotton fields. In the mind of some black men, a woman who has had more sex than he thinks is feminine or appropriate is automatically devalued. The perceived stigma is indelible and the woman, whether she is a professional or unemployed is depreciated and devalued. The problem is that the depreciation is permanent. Her value is never redeemed or recouped. This makes us commodities to the opposite sex. Particular black males.Now here’s the rub. Even though the woman is devalued as being cheap. We need to question and examine what then is rich vagina? Is this vagina that has not been touched? So do men really desire vagina that has no experience? Probably not. Its just easier to run with the crowd and decry well seasoned vagina in favor of virgin or “virtuous” vagina.Men who claim that they desire virtuous or “rich” vagina that is not tainted by a certain number of partners or experiences have a tendency to return to well experienced vagina. This is not naivete. Its pure lust. Its not because they respect the woman, but it is because they have an increased desire for the genitals that can give them intense pleasure. The woman who the genitals belong to is no longer in the equation as the man seeks out his need. She becomes just a part of her body, but not the whole of her body. So this reinforces the fact that we are not viewed as holistic sexual beings, just reduced to our main body part.The view that black women are low quality commodities is an ill-conceived and intransigent notion shared by both white and black men. But the view that black women are not good enough is one perpetuated by black women when we copy the women of other races to affirm our own worth. In order to advance the sexual development of black women, this needs to change.ReferencesCrenshaw, Kimberle (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black
Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140:139-167.
March 10, 2015
Kenneth Peeples, MPH, MSW (Temple University)
Black on Black Violence: the Ultimate Red-Herring when White Cops Kill Unarmed Black MenWith the release of Department of Justice’s scathing report on systemic civil rights violations in Ferguson, MO on March 4, 2015(along with the expected exoneration of Darren Wilson of any civil rights violations of Michael Brown), I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the circumstances surrounding Black oppression and the complicity of the media in doing so.In the wake of the police involved deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, several media outlets have featured guests who – in between the rampant victim blaming – choose to shift the focus from police brutality to Black-on-Black violence. There are several problems with this deflection.A red-herring is essentially changing the subject; or creating a smoke screen. To break it down further:1. Topic A is under discussion (police brutality)
2. Topic B (Black-on-Black crime) is slyly introduced as if it is relevant to Topic A (police brutality)
3. Topic A (police brutality) is abandoned and the conversation is changedMany people have written about the FBI statistics found here which show that intra-racial homicide is very high for both Blacks (90%) and whites (83%).So it is puzzling when someone suchas Rudy Giuliani brings up Black-on-Black homicide as if it is a result of some pathology exclusively endemic to Black people. Nevermind that when a white suspect opens fireat a movie theater, shootschildren at an elementary school, orshoots a Congress woman, white-on-white homicide is hardly ever mentioned and almost never discussed.Creating the Black-on-Black violence red-herring is very arrogant and paternalistic. It is someone telling Black people what they should concern themselves with – in this case, Black-on-Black violence as opposed to white police violence perpetrated toward unarmed Black men. It patently dismisses legitimate grievances African Americans have in regards to the public safety and policing of their community. There is a long history in the United States of racist law enforcement practices and police mistreatment of minorities, specifically African Americans. Police brutality is a conversation everyone should have, especially after the events in Ferguson brought mainstream attention to militarized policing.What is also clear of those who would rather discuss Black-on-Black violence as opposed to the real tragedy of cops murdering unarmed persons is that they have most likely never visited any Black communities across the country. For if they did, they would know that Blacks are very concerned about the high rates of gun violence and homicides that occur in their communities; as well as the socioeconomic conditions that exist which see Black youth disproportionately at risk for committing and experiencing violent trauma. In many communities across the country, there are several neighborhood organizations working to reducegang and gun violence. Cities such asPhiladelphia, Baltimore,Oakland, Chicago, etc – havehospital-based or hospital-affiliated violence intervention programs thathelp reduce recidivism among those who have experienced violent trauma usingbiopsychosocial framework to mitigate associated risk. These organizations and programs exist. Those who wish to deflect attention away from unarmed Black men being murdered by police certainly don’t seem to know that these programs and organizations exist. Just because the media doesn’t show protests against Black-on-Black violence doesn’t mean these protests are not occurring. Perhaps they just find it convenient to believe that Black communities are doing nothing to curb violence.The core issue here is the epidemic of young Black men being gunned down by white police officers with impunity. During the first weeks of December, the general public showed that they do not seem interested in conservative voices trying to muddy the issue with victim-blaming tactics and red-herrings. Many of the people participating in the numerous protests and die-ins express their outrage in regards to police officers not being held accountable. While President Obama seems to think requesting hundreds of millions of dollars to outfit officers with body cameras will prevent these violent encounters, many will recall that the murders of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Oscar Grant in Oakland were both caught on camera. Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted for the death of Garner while BART police officer Johannes Mehserle spent only 11 months in prison for the murder of Grant. The justice system continues to exhibit that Blacks lives do not matter. It will take a sustained movement to end violent, racist, and militarized police practices across the country. The Black community is working hard to address the serious issue of Black-on-Black violence. It doesnot need right-wing conservatives hijacking the narrative and changing the subject when the topic at hand is a very racist and oppressive police state.There are several things we can take from the DOJ’s Ferguson civil rights report – but the simultaneous release of this report and the report proclaiming that there was no evidence that Darren Wilson violated any civil rights statues in the shooting death of Michael Brown creates a very real irony. That is: the federal government seems to have no issue probing and exposingracially motivated abuses of a community by entire police departments but will seemingly stop well short of holding individuals accountable.
March 2, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed., (Dr. Herukhuti)
Freedom at the Intersections: Between Black History and Bisexual Health
Awareness MonthsThe close of Black History Month. The start of Bisexual Health Awareness Month. The space between blackness and bisexuality ceremoniously folds onto itself. This time of year, intersectionality wedges Black bisexual people into that shrinking gap—at least for the second time in as many years since the latter has existed.But everyday racialized experiences of bisexual erasure, marginalization and biphobia breach any supposed discord between those two realities—blackness and bisexuality. As many Black gay and lesbian people endeavor to become indistinguishable from European-American gay and lesbian people and other Black gay and lesbian people work at appearing to be just like Black heterosexual people—many of whom are feverishly attempting to assimilate into middle-class, European-American, heterosexual culture, to be Black and bisexual continues to have the politicizing significance that June Jordan ascribed to bisexual affirmation—to be free, unpredictable and uncontrollable in insisting upon complexity and its validity (Jordan, 2002, p.136).Biphobia is, in part, the result of hostility to certain kinds of complexities. The complexity of bisexuality disturbs and disrupts simplistic thinking and superficial approaches to life. Farajajé (2014) noted, “In cultures that prioritize either/or thinking, either/or monolithic/oppositional definitions of sexualities/genders, in an either/or world, anything that occupies a liminal, an intersectional, or an interstitial location is seen as a threat” (p. 147).
Phobia Infographic
Many heterosexual people may not realize how rampant biphobia is among gays and lesbians. Biphobia is a regrettable but logical outcome of the Gay Liberation Movement. Like many liberatory struggles, many radicals and progressive reformers initiated what became known as the Gay Liberation Movement. And just like others, at some point, the Gay Liberation Movement was co-opted by assimilationist, conformist and opportunist agendas. Those forces veered away from the queer politics of difference and transgression—reveling and flaunting sexual and gender complexities—to embrace normativity and homogeneity.The agents of this agenda argued for homosexuality as a circumstance of birth rather than argue that all sexuality is chosen, informed by social context and embedded in culture, which would have challenge the a priori nature of bourgeois heterosexuality in contemporary Western societies. They spent considerable more time and resources advocating for unrestricted military service and the right to marry someone of the same assigned sex compared to what they spent working to ending workplace discrimination, street violence, homelessness and poverty—issues that disproportionately affect Black bisexual and transgender people.Because of the hegemony of imperialist, white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, the adoption of homonormativityhas extended beyond the domain of European/European-American gay spaces and encroached upon spaces in Africa and her Diaspora.
Sexual Imperialism InfographicMainstream European/European-American ideas about sexuality and gender have ravaged Black communities in Africa and her Diaspora. Black gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are now hypervisible in our communities in ways that we were not pre-Gay Liberation Movement—making us more vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Within oppressed communities over-policed and surveillance-heavy, rage is often turned inward on its most vulnerable members.Transgender women of color have been murdered at alarming rates. In the last several years, the rates have reached epidemic dimensions. In a recent Human Rights Campaign report, only 1 in 10 bisexual youth (21% of whom were Black) reported feeling that they definitely fit in within their communities (Andre, Brown, Kahn, & Sherouse, 2014).We can build nurturing and supportive systems for Black people of all sexualities and genders within our communities. But to do so, we will have to move beyond the low expectations of the tolerance paradigm and social media campaigns that offer simplistic approaches to systemic realities. Such efforts are more indicative of the woundedness and sexual and gender trauma we seek to address.Instead, the project of building a world that can hold all Black people without regard to their sexuality or gender demands a more rigorous approach—the ongoing work of liberatory struggle for the decolonization of our bodies, desires, families and communities. It calls us to honor and value the liberatory potential in our historical and indigenous understandings of sexuality and gender. It requires us to divest ourselves from dominating sexual and gender paradigms. It asks us to take often referenced African concepts such as ubuntu and nguzosaba and deploy them to reconciling our feelings about the messiness of sexualityThe details of such work will necessarily be as clandestine as any successful revolutionary movement. Intimacy and proximity will be the hallmarks. Those who take on the challenge of this covert work will rightly get their hands dirtied by the messiness. They will be marked by their efforts, as those who benefit from them will be transformed. But freedom is not free.ReferencesAndre, A., Brown, J., Delpercio, A., Kahn, E., Nicoll, A., Sherouse, B. (2014). Supporting and caring for our bisexual youth. D.C.: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation.Farajajé, I. A. (2014).Fictions of purity. In R. Ochs and H. S. Williams (Eds.), Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men (pp. 146-151). Boston: Bisexual Resource Center.Jordan, J. (2002). Some of us did not die: new and selected essays of June Jordan. New York: Basic Books.Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]gmail.com
February 23, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Black Women: We Are Greater Than HIV
1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.March 10th marks the 10th annual observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It is the time when national, state and local, organizations, service providers, and community members come together to empower women and girls with information about HIV prevention, care and treatment. It is also a time to honor and celebrate women who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Although National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness day is in its 10th year and we have made significant advancements in HIV prevention, care and treatment, as a Black women, I can not help but to believe that we are still missing the mark when it comes to efforts among Black women. The numbers tell the real story.Black women account for over 60% of new AIDS cases among women although black women constitute only 14 percent of the US female population.The rates of diagnosis among black women are 20 times higher than White women and almost 5 times that of Latino women. While Black women are no more likely than other women to engage in behaviors that put them at risk, social determinants like poverty, lack of access to health care/insurance, distribution of wealth, food security, housing, unemployment, etc. play a huge factor in increasing Black women’s risk for HIV.With these alarming statistics and increasing rates of infection, apparently the current prevention messages, programs and interventions, etc. are not working! We know how to protect ourselves yet more and more Black women continue to become infected. Why?We must do a better job of integrating holistic, comprehensive and culturally relevant program and interventions that addresses not only the entire woman but her environment but her lifestyle and promote gender and ethic pride as well. The programs/interventions must incorporate know-ledge, skills and tools in all the Dimensions of Wellness: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social & financial. Such programs and interventions should also address institutional, political, social/cultural and economic barriers that women must face in order to access proper health care.Finally, these programs and intervention must also empower women with the self-esteem and self-efficacy to take control of their sexual! Teach them the skills to be more selective with whom they decide to have sex with! Incorporate skills on how to ask the “right”questions of sex partner i.e. asking partners if they’ve been tested and know their status or if they have “sex”with multiple partners versus are they “sleeping”with multiple partners etc. Incorporate safer sex edu-cation and tools. And as for women who may be in an unhealthy and potentially threatening rela-tionship and/or environment, teach them the skills to reduce their risk within the context of their situation. Encourage, offer and increase accessibility to HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing.And lastly, reducing stigma, normalizing conversations about sexuality and creating safe and non-judgmental spaces for women to receive care and treatment will help to reduce the transmis-sion of HIV. We must begin to see HIV as NOT only an issue of morality but rather as a public health disparity that is killing off our communities. And while we may think that HIV is just an individual issue, it’s NOT. Although the individual is infected, the family, the community and society at large is affected. We have to begin to address the medical, political, spiritual, econom-ical and social implications of HIV. If not, people will continue to suffer in silence, families will be torn apart, communities will be ravished and the lasting economical impact on the society will be profound.CDC. Fact Sheet: HIV among African Americans; February 2014.Dr. TaMara loves nothing more than talking about sex! Her passion is deeply rooted in spreading messages about healthy sexuality. Dr. TaMara is a sexologist, sex therapist, educator and motiva-tional speaker with more than 20 years of experience speaking, writing and teaching about sex-uality. She travels the country helping individuals embrace and honor their sexuality. Dr. TaMa-ra has published numerous books and articles. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Our Sexuality! The premiere magazine for women’s sexuality and sexual health. Follow her on Twitter, Face-book , www.drtamaragriffin.com
February 16, 2015
Tabias Wilson
Cosmic Reconciliations: BlaQueerness, Masculinities and Community
BlaQueer community members, scholars, artists, lovers and griots have long discussed the effects of normative masculinities on our livelihoods and our struggles with and against the hegemonic portrayal of maleness. While (white) maleness is often defined and recognized as the paragon of human existence–economically, physically, intellectually–black maleness has been imprisoned in controlling images as a type of mutated maleness. Black masculinity is similar to white masculinity insofar that neither tolerate femininities and both are situated in the sociopolitical domination and dominion over the female body and the effeminate male. However, while white masculinities are envisioned, situated and maintained as benevolent, sexually desirable and measured patriarchs, black masculinities are marked as dangerous, hyper-sexual, erratic and animalistic in our white supremacist, heterosexist, patriarchal, capitalist society. This demarcation of the black male as an uncontrollable, yet attractive, nuisance births the socio-legal logic necessary for state-control of black bodies through various social, political, legal and extrajudicial apparatus and phenomenon, creating a collective indifference and communal shrug when black boys and men are routinely killed, discarded and swooped up by the state in jails, prisons and community supervision. Because black men are seen as a natural nuisance, it inevitably becomes the job of the (white supremacist) state to provide a sense of order, calm and control and it does so through its indiscriminate policing and slaying of black boys, men, bois, girls and gurls.In Black (heterosexist) spaces black masculinities are often constructed similarly to white masculinities. They are the desirable patriarchs. Where the white supremacist gaze posits black male sexual virility and general power as dangerous mutations, the black gaze notes them as points of pride, if not necessary characteristics for survival where one is constantly battling white supremacist, capitalistic machinery for humanization and access to sociopolitical resources, goods and services. This reverence (and longing) for the omnipotent, omniscient black patriarch–situated and proved by his masculinity–often obscures or erases the role of the left of masculine, and/or BlaQueer male, and completely obliterates the central role and power of black womyn. Access to, and performance of, these romanticized, deified notions of black masculinity function as a method of gatekeeping. Those who fail, or decide not to, display the pre-authorized script are marked as in-authentic, insufficiently black-male and, often, a threat to real black maleness, the black family and blackness writ large. This reality births the liminal space that BlaQueer men must navigate. We are neither white nor the traditional black patriarch yet our safety, sanity and success is measured and threatened by (in)access to both. This necessitates the creation of a space for other brothers, brothers like us.The importance, emergence and longevity of BlaQueer, male spaces has been documented in works such as “Paris is Burning” and the artistry, poetry and essays of historic and modern griots such as: Essex Hemphill, Joseph Beam, James Baldwin, Kenyon Farrow, Dr. Jafari Allen, Rotemi Fani-Kayode and many others. From slave-ships and auction blocks to ballrooms and barber shops, BlaQueer men have long-established and maintained spaces of relative safety, affirmation and fuller existences. Masculine anxiety, homo-antagonism, white supremacy have necessitated the creation of alternative communities and spaces, lest we forfeit portions of our selves and circumcise the components of our realities. These spaces provide a home to a diaspora of diasporas. They allow for safe(r) exploration of sexualities, (non)genders and notions of queerness and blackness, allowing for those pushed to the margins to exist and thrive at the center of their own world. While these spaces provide an undeniable layer of protection for its residents, to understand them as a simple reaction to violence would be both misguided and incomplete.BlaQueer communities are a fertile birthing place r/evolutionary existences and creativity; complete with new languages, phrases and ideologies that connect, unpack and dissect seemingly disparate realities, circumstances and politics. BlaQueer folk are griots, translators, pedagogues, artists, healers, lovers, activists and truth-seekers. They are fashionistas, writers, speakers, bloggers and creators. They work with their hearts, hands, minds and bodies. Their bodies are central locations of conversation, meaning-making and perfect imperfections. In short, BlaQueer men are a cosmos, affected but not contained by the bounds neither blackness or queerness. In the words of Whitman, we are vast and contain multitudes. We are masters and queens of the in-between. We have perfected liminal existences, particularly those between masculinity and femininity, into an art. We have coined positive terms for, and promoted acceptance of, left of masc and femme men while also noting and promoting them as the ambassadors of our people. While much work remains in the full acceptance and celebration of femme (and trans) men, due to our continued internalized (sexual) masculine-anxiety, our community spaces are arguably one of the few places where femme and (especially) left of masculine men can and do flourish, thrive. But can masculinity be counted among the welcomed multitudes of our cosmic existences?How do we contend with the hegemonic role of masculinity in society writ large, while also noting how access to femininity, or social, physical and verbal performance of the so-called “feminine” (see: tea, beat-faces, shade, walks, style,”girl”, “sis”) might function as entry points to authenticity in BlaQueer spaces? Those of us who identity as Femme, Queen, ButchQueen and Trans have our identity branded onto our flesh. For better and for worse, we are not called to assert or prove our queerness. Our identities have long-standing histories and communities within the BlaQueer spaces. However, the same cannot be said for masculine men. Their type of other is often seen as too normative to be queer, and to privileged to need community. While we cannot deny the power and privilege of masculine performance in society, we must analyze whether and how this changes in our spaces. The overtly masculine gay or bisexual male is often read as a temporary or probationary community-member at best and marked as Trade, Downlow or confused. These markers have the effect of erasing their queer existences, obscuring access to a queer identity and resurrecting antiquated tropes about black, male sexualities rooted in historical, racial-sexual terrors. This type of authenticity-checking relegates the performance of normative masculinity, and proximity to it, as both desirable (sexually), alien (due to in-access to aforementioned community/cultural markers) and threatening (sociopolitically).Taken in context, an aversion to, and skepticism of, masculinity is understandable: it has been purposed again and again as a bludgeon against queer men of color. In order to perfect our community, we must answer a few questions. Do we wish to be a discursive, radical culture that creates a safe(r) space for all BlaQueer men? Can one be both masculine and queer? Can masculinity be queer? Or is it simply a reflection of patriarchal power and desire structures? Alternatively, is the “femme-ish”, dominant portrayal of queer, men of color culture(s), identities and spaces simply an inversion of masculine privilege; where incidental access to femininity or the ability to gender/code-switch or perform is a requisite, privilege or passport required for queer-authenticity, marking fluidity as a form of (sub)cultural power? We must question and note how power is moving, where it resides, whether its present function is problematic and if so, should we care? Finally, we must question the effects of power, through the role of femininities and masculinities, in the birthing, perversion, strangling and maintenance of restorative, healing and liberatory BlaQueer communities.There is no question in my mind that BlaQueerness is expansive enough to include both masculinities and femininities without inspiring or permitting friction or a continuation the masculine privilege exerted in the American, heterosexist, patriarchal society. I posit that it is not only the role, but the nature of BlaQueerness to mark, encourage, celebrate and translate the flow between and among our masculinities, femininities, ethnicities and non-genders. We are a diaspora that is fine-tuned for imaginative reconstruction, hopeful reconciliation and complex and compounded existences. In our blood, one will find a chorus of contradictory narratives, truths, performances and existences that map and center the margins of our his/herstories. Just as our bodies have made peace with warring pieces of our selves, our community is called to continually become whole, reclaiming our cosmic existence as an inarticulable juggernaut of perfect, imperfections. In order to create and maintain true liberation, we must discard the master, the tools and his houses.
February 9, 2015
That Time When Sexuality and Spirituality Met (But Not the Way You Think)
Jeanine Staples, Ed.D
It can be argued that many women evolve their consciousness of sexual performance and spiritual experience as separate phenomenological entities. Whereas, the former is often thought to be bound primarily to the physical body and cognitive, emotive soul and the latter differently bound to a higher, inexplicable, ethereal realm. For example, some women’s consciousnesses affirm sexual performances as relatively concrete, acknowledging that they often induce feelings, and can promote physical or emotional attachments or, as it were, revulsions.In turn, some women’s consciousnesses count spiritual experiences as more abstract and mysterious, affecting deeper inexplicable awareness, and subsequent change within one’s person. Two different events: one a performance (sexual acts) and the other an experience (spiritual conduction). However, narrative accounts of the everyday meetings of sexual performance and spiritual experience pervade my data and I am wondering about the socioemotional and sociocultural meanings and implications of these meetings.I wonder seriously about them (and other relational issues pertaining to the intersections of Black girls’ and women’s spirit, soul, and body consciousnesses) because I am a Black woman and also because I am a sociocultural literacist. As a sociocultural literacist, I engage deeply with personal and public stories to solve personal and public problems. Socioemotional bondage and neglect, physical battery, sexual repressions and spiritual crises affecting Black women in romantic relationships, are personal problems with serious public repercussions.
I call such individuated instances of bondage, repressions, and other intra- and interpersonal phenomena terrors in romantic love. I argue that such terrors can, with pressure and over time, evolve to Terror–a move from personal, socioemotional crises to public, sociocultural crises (for more on this, see Nancy Leong’s Domestic Violence is Violence:
http://tinyurl.com/kdm5sp5
or Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillett’s To Stop Violence, Start at Home:
http://tinyurl.com/nyjn587).I write about these things in my forthcoming book, entitled, The Revelations of Asher: An Endarkened, Feminist New Literacies Event (Peter Lang). In it, I feature heterosexual Black women’s talk and writing about terrors in romantic love. Relying on a post 9/11 media landscape as a defining sociocultural backdrop, ten college educated, post adolescent/young adult Black women led me, for two years, on a riveting critical and creative literate journey into their love lives.In a quest to form solidarities with Black and Brown women living out what some might argue are romantically, sexually, physically, and socially restricted lives within intensely patriarchal, fundamentalist regimes, members of the inquiry storied and named their own terroristic experiences in love, sex, and social engagements with men. The women evolved their literacies in relation to very sensitive reflections on the terrors they experienced in their romantic relationships in efforts to gain personal, intimate insights into human dynamics. We believed such insights might more deeply and personally inform both our local and global social justice work. We believed that outing our own experiences with terror in love and relationships could inform our work with a deeply personal awareness, thereby fueling it with a distinct and impressing power having impact and longevity. So, these socioeconomically and academically advantaged young Black women told their stories of rape, molestation, physical assault, and engagements with narcissistic, emotionally and mentally abusive lovers. Our contributions enabled a particular understanding of the significance of terror in romantic love – a love that is believed, in the sociocultural imagination, to bless, empower, protect, and enrich. We began to see how much negating, adversarial performances and experiences in the context of this type of love informed the development of knowledge and being and (in)decisive movements in the world. Members’ voices and stories were stunning. And, they unexpectedly revealed some surprising intersections of sexual performance and spiritual experience, again and again.For example, one member of the inquiry, “Kayla” shared stories of various abrupt awakenings to intersections of her sexual and spiritual consciousnesses. Here is the gist of one particularly provocative story: Kayla shared with the group that, for about a year in her late twenties, she was involved with a man, “Shawn” whom she suspected suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder(http://www.psychalive.org/narcissistic-relationships/).By the time she connected the dots and realized the level of Shawn’s problem she was entangled in relationship with him and her self-esteem was crumbling. She explained, “the sickness in me was attached to the sickness in him and I could not rid myself of a need for his approval.” She shared with me, and other members of the inquiry, that Shawn would come to her house, in the middle of the day, for sex. He insisted on oral sex prior to vaginal intercourse. In her description of the last time she performed oral sex on Shawn, Kayla describes a remarkable intersection of her sexual and spiritual consciousnesses:So, he was naked. He was sitting on my brand new couch. He was leaning way back, with his eyes closed. His head was back too, resting on the head cushion. His legs were spread wide and his arms were outstretched across the top of the couch. I was kneeled on the hardwood floor, between his legs. I was half naked, you know? Like, a bra and panties. It was one of my favorite sets. It was white lace. I remember that. I got ready for him, as usual. So, anyway, I was between his legs, just like I had been a bunch of times before. On my knees, with his dick in my mouth. And my eyes were closed. I was trying to get into it and I just couldn’t. I never really could because when I would go down on him, I would keep thinking about us, like, what we were.He was so subtly verbally abusive, you know what I mean? So emotionally confusing…I never felt clear or confident around him but I kept wanting it to work, to get his approval even though I knew I was nothing to him. Nothing. A toy. A pawn. The whole situation was a mess. I was a mess. And, I kept thinking about all that stuff and still trying to get into the blow job…but this time it was even harder [nervous laughter in the background]. Not his dick! I mean the performance was more difficult to pull off! [Laughing… sighing…long pause] I was just stalled and I had all these jumbled thoughts and conflicting feelings. So, I opened my eyes and looked up with his dick still in my mouth. And that’s when it happened. Everything cleared out. I finally could see him. You know? Like for the first time, ever. Crystal clear. I could really, really see. He had opened his eyes too and was looking down at me, probably to see why the rhythm was off. Our eyes met and my eyes swept over him. He looked so smug and then…annoyed.Maybe even angry. Then, in the next second, he
looked huge to me. He was just superimposed in my eyes…like he was sitting on a mountain or a throne or something. And he was looking down at me. And then my consciousness shifted again. And I could feel my body, like my crouched legs, my bent back, my arms locked to my sides, my head bowed. I became super, super aware of every part of my body. My posture felt really, really familiar, like inside myself. Then it hit me, all this wisdom hit me all at one time, like this big, fast wave of revelation from above me. I was in the exact same kneeling position, right there, between his legs, with his goddamn dick in my mouth…the exact same position I put myself in when I was kneeling at the altar at church! It was the same! It was the same.
[Soft gasps in the background… long pause]. I had made him a god and his body was my alter. I had made him a god…[Voice trembling…long pause] Oh, my God…and his body was my altar.When Kayla’s sexual performance was met with the described spiritual experience she believed was “bequeathed” to her, she was able to co-construct (with Spiritual force) a sense of clarity, strength, direction and agency to advocate for her own physical and sexual value and socioemotional safety.She continued:I know God gave me that awareness, that understanding, right there, in the middle of that bullshit. Thank God. I got it. And that’s the only reason I had the strength to remove his dick from my mouth, get up, put some clothes on, and put his ass out. Because God gave me that revelation. He
showed me what I was freakin’ doin.
But it took me a long, long time to deal with the spiritual wisdom I received about the physical thing I was doing. To really understand what it meant for who I am and the way I live my life…and how I choose my partners. It took a really long time. I’m saying,
years.
There are three big ideas that I take from Kayla’s story. First: the intersection of sexual performance and spiritual experience was located in physicality. For Kayla, the same physicalities were employed when engaging in both sexual performances and spiritual experiences (see the work of Maha Marouan, an African American Studies, Women’s Studies and Religous Studies scholar at Penn State, for more on this:http://tinyurl.com/prr98sq).When performing oral sex on Shawn, a man whom she called “cyclically and chronically abusive”, Kayla suddenly became aware of her prostate positioning and recognized its significance, noting that it was the same one embodied when she was engaged in worship.Second: the intersection of sexual performance and spiritual experience revealed a propensity and necessity for deification. Kayla conjured a semblance of god-entity in sexual performance; this acted as a precedent to her simultaneous spiritual experience.Before sharing her story, Kayla described the ways she washed herself, perfumed her skin, adorned herself with lingerie, and meditated on Shawn’s face and words. Each physical action sparked emotional attachments, in preparation for Shawn’s presence and expectations.She recalled how she initiated “the same rituals”… “on Sunday mornings”…“before going to church to study God and please Him with [her] presence”. Third, the intersection of sexual performance and spiritual experience illuminated the strongholds of patriarchy.Kayla’s story suggests a framework for understanding, from a sexual and spiritual space, the nature of male-centric dominance. Her story intimates the pervasive nature of heterogendered oppressions by describing the ways she was positioned physically, sexually, emotionally and also spiritually, as subordinate, humiliated and obligated in the performance, experience, and relation with Shawn.So, what does this all mean?Well, I feel hesitant to vouch for an extremist view that says all sexual performances and engagements must or will have spiritual intersections, or that spiritual experiences are unilaterally laced with sexual undertones. However, I do believe that enacting sexual performances devoid of socioemotional intimacies, naked honesty, interpersonal respect, and(/or?) the safety of someone who really likes and perhaps even loves their partner and is liked and loved in return does have real spiritual consequences. Like it or not, believe it or not. I hold that this is true not only for women (as proverbial receivers in multiple ways) but also for men (as proverbial givers in multiple ways).When thinking about relational, sexual, emotional and mental empowerment, and movements toward wholeness among women and girls, it may be very important to consider how consciousness of sexual performance and spiritual experience actually function as cooperative, intersecting phenomenological entities. If we did, what would this mean for the ways we teach girls and encourage and support women in regarding their bodies, choosing their partners, recognizing and naming their performances and experiences, and assuming control over these things in their own best interests and the best interests of others? What would it mean to move girls’ and women’s sexual and spiritual consciousnesses closer to oneness? How might the parameters of relationship and sexuality open up and evolve, affording women and men/girls and boys greater spaces of wisdom, freedom, ecstasy, respect and power? How might the world change, for the better?

Staples, J. (in review). The meaning of the reading, or, why there is no love in 12 Years a Slave: On behalf of my humanity and that of my sisters. Palimpsest: A
Journal on Women, Gender and the Black International.

Staples, J.M. (2013). “The Joy of the LORD is my strength”: The revelations at the intersection of new literacies, a Black, feminine self, and Christian consciousness. Creative Approaches to Research, 6(3), 10-29. Available: http://aqr.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/CAR6_3_Staples.pdf.

Staples,

J. M. (2012). “There are two truths”: African American women’s critical, creative ruminations on love through new literacies. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 20(3), 451-483.

Staples, J. M. (2011). The revelation(s) of Asher Levi: An iconographic literacy event as a tool for the exploration of fragmented selves in new literacies studies after 9/11.

Qualitative Studies, 2(2), 79–97. Available:
http://ojs.statsbiblioteket.dk/index.php/qual/issue/view/668

 

February 2, 2015
Shane’a Thomas
Creating Safe Spaces for Contemporary Conversations: Educators, Counselors, and the Use of Media
This year at the beginning of the semester of my Social Work for Group and Families class, I tried something different.Typically, I show a clip examining our personal and political views on social work practice, andhow we would like to move forward as far as educating and empowering our clients. We get excited, we build understanding, and we start to learn.This semester? I showed a comedy clip from the Comedy Central Show “Key and Peele” about a Black family who is a captive audience, eagerly trying to learn from a person introduced as an “active member of the homosexual community” (essentially, he was gay man who works with one of the family members). The family wasstruggling to understand what was the proper etiquette to follow at their cousin Delroy’s same sex wedding. In a scene coupled with confusion, innocence, and ignorance, they hilariously stumble and pull out all of the gay stereotypes one could imagine: from the inquiry of what gay songs are going to asked to performed at the church (“YMCA?”“It’s Raining Men?”), to which section do the straight people sit (“Do we just guess who’s gay?”). In the end, the “educator” has had the last straw storms out in frustration, yet, the family strangely, with their handwritten notes in tow, are all mutually satisfied in passing their “Gay Marriage 101” course.Class reactions? I was either met by gasps, serious critical examination of the various elements of homophobia, expressions of uncomfortability, but always choked through the sounds of laughter and stark amazement that we are watching a comedy clip in a graduate course. Yes, all of those painful, stereotypical elements are examined. How there is always one person picked from a particular population to educate everyone else? What about the offensive and problematic belief that if a certain family member made eye contact with the speaker, he would turn gay as well (or at least, be discovered as gay through magical eye contact!)? Why are the themes the family brings up usually birth from the idea that gay and lesbian people only spend their time dancing, singing, entertaining straight people, or being overtly sexual? Are black families really THAT much more homophobic than other cultures?“The only thing I know about gay people are from Rupaul’s Drag Race,” quipped my graduate student, during my social work class’s topic on race, sex and class. As her professor, I cringed. In academic and therapeutic spaces, we should always have to find ways to examine how WE initially feel first. Yet, I attempt to create a safe enough space for people to ask questions and make statements such as these without judgment and persecution. Human beings are not taught, born, or raised in perfect systems.Our words are never perfect, and neither is what we learn. This is evolving material that looks differently to the various people who touch it, colored by the experiences we all have when we were younger. My higher level education and personal experience as a Southern, Black, queer, cisgender woman bumped into her experience as a Midwestern, White, female who grew up on a farm where the only black person she saw worked in her fields, and whose only other information about gay people were based on her father’s lesson that “they were only good dead”. Our family backgrounds, who ran our families, who made the rules, our understanding of who we are as people within our families, what we were told about our bodies and the bodies of others, they all collide. As we are all evolving, so do the lessons we have to teach.As we can say as informed and educated clinicians, academics and service providers can fiercely tear video clips such as Key and Peele apart (maybe through our own silent muffled noises of laughter) or cringe at certain comments made by our students, we also have to realize that, well, there is one point where we did not know either. We continually find ways to critique the information around us, but is there room to incorporate what may be erroneous information into a conversation about the reflections we see on our screens? As educators and leaders in the field, we get caught up in the jargon and complicated ideas that we love and are passionate about. Sexuality, black sexuality is beautifully complex as it is vast in the range of gender and sexual identities that exist and are going continue to expand and grow. We as educators have to get involved and value everything as education. Our cringes of discomfort with certain, provocative and contemporary themes are temporary, but dialogue and giving our clients the confidence in their knowledge as well fosters understanding and validation in humanity. Our ability to have access to information and the privilege to this information makes us even more responsible to the media, for all its worth, as bridges to communication with our clients, patients, students, and mentees.In Brazilian educator’s book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Paulo Freire speaks about this responsibility on our parts are educators to reach our students’ and clients’ various understandings and positions in the world. I have an individual therapy client now who adores every reality show that comes on: From Love and Hip Hop (pick a city, any city), to Bad Girls Club. Not exactly clinical level material, but it gives me a chance to meet the client where they are, and gives space to allow the client to define what they are watching, for themselves. Freire speaks about this as “dialogue” and “naming”, and he explains, who is responsible for this process:”And since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and humanized, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s ‘depositing’ ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be ‘consumer’ by the discussants…Because dialogue is an encounter among women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others.” (Freire, 69-70, 1970).If you were in the same position as this character, what would you do? How would you feel? My client isn’t worried about the misrepresentation of black people. Or the sexist and misogynistic undertones of the show. Even how the producers misconstrue reality for the viewers, which lead false expectations of success, wealth and fame. But as an educator and therapist, what I do learn is through various characters on the shows (from K Michelle to Erica Mena), whom he identifies with, fosters and informs his ability on how to solve problems and interact with others.Yes, not all of these characters are healthy, but neither are the systems we live in everyday life either. Racism, classism, oppression, sexism, homophobia, ableism and many other factors contribute to our everyday deterioration of our mental psyche. Yet, building non-judgmental space to examine these images as they are presented gives our clients and students power. Feminist author and educator, bell hooks, expresses that we must make room to examine these images, and how we cannot “accept these new images, uncritically” (hooks, p.39, 1992). The ability to have someone name what these images mean to them, as opposed to “us” naming them for them, also gives our clients the sense that they have the ability to change these images to reflect who they are. This can be from writing letters, dialoging with other friends about what they see, or just turning off the TV all together. My client enjoys blogging about shows after he watches them. It supports his ability to write, express his feelings in a clear manner, and participate in healthy dialogue with other people within his age range. As much as we want to wrestle with what is right, sometimes, it is right in front of us.What do we need in order to have these conversations with our clients? Freire suggest humility. As the elite in black sexuality studies, we have to avoid “arrogance” in the way we present our material and see others. We cannot allow these conversations to not be examined with people of all genders, socioeconomic status, age and experience. We must be willing to examine these images as is, as filtered through the understanding of other people, and we also have to have the ability to be wrong. Even though the absence of perfection, are we still responsible for these words? Absolutely. Just as much as I hold myself responsible for teaching from a place of honestly and truth, that student was responsible for how that statement might have hurt others. We meet in the middle to make sure everyone is heard, and experiences a learning process that is continuous, and not punitive and shaped through shame.YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtgY1q0J_TQFreire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of the oppressed (20th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum.Hooks, B. (1992). Black looks: Race and representation. Boston, MA: South End Press.Shane’a Thomas is a licensed clinical social worker in the Washingtonmetropolitan area, where her goal is to show all people that they havethe right to love and be loved without pain or persecution. She isproud alumna of Virginia Tech and Howard University, holding aBachelors of Science in Psychology and a Masters of Social Work degreewith a concentration of Direct Services (Families and Children),respectively.

 

January 27, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey
Two-Fifths FallacyThere is an urban legend that is continually perpetuated in Western society against people of the Diaspora. It is that of the two-fifths fallacy. This unnamed and uncategorized component is widely considered by many civilizations, of different races to be the subhuman, animalistic, monstrous and negative part of the black person. This axiom although a falsehood is part of the underlying social norms that drive everyday racism moreover it is used as a justification for systematic racism. It is also the falsehood that holds that blacks are grotesquely anomalous to whites. The social resistance by blacks against the injustices caused by this fallacy whether by riot or protest illustrate that there is an increasing resistance by blacks to wholly accept the disadvantages of being unprivileged. The perpetuation of the two-fifths fallacy has been the most violent and fatal of all lies told to the black race.The three-fifths compromise was propagated in 1787 at the Philadelphia convention. It was primarily for vote representation due to conflict between abolitionists and other whites who did not want the blacks (slaves or non-slaves to vote). “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons.” (U.S. Const., Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3.) The deduction is that being considered as only three-fifths of a human being gives the inference that the other two-fifths are subhuman and is illustrated by the absence of any redeemable qualities. It is the fallacy of the unthinkable. To justify white privilege and also ill-treatment of blacks, there is often illustration of the two-fifths notion in the media. This intentional, impermeable and inexcusable error has been the longstanding bane of the Diaspora. It is time for the lie to be challenged and destroyed.The LA Riots 1992
http://youtu.be/omg1dsTWa3o?list=PLMTtCF-B9rMzcBka5YrHguBPVJpBghb3t
Darcus Howe (black activist debating with Edwina Curry, Conservative politician)
http://youtu.be/vcuo-VLrfYEEric Garner Chokehold video
http://youtu.be/Njrs5ns8nbIHerein is where the problem lies. The above constitutional article was misconstrued as black people being three-fifths of a human instead of three-fifths of representation towards the contribution of the voting census. Even their lesser treatment reinforced this and there was no attempt to correct this misconception As such the three-fifths of a person being codified by the American Constitution caused another phenomenon which we see today. The general public’s reticence towards killing blacks. Here is the dilemma of the implicit two-fifths. If a black person is considered to be intrinsically of lesser value than that of his/her white counterpart, then this begs the question of what exactly is the value of the two-fifths. It is understood that the three-fifths humanizes blacks, makes them almost as human as a white person, however the two-fifths is never discussed. Why? The two-fifths is unspoken yet believed because it uses aprioristic reasoning. These dogmas have very little to do with fact. These views bolster White privilege and amplify black disadvantage. Examples of the two-fifths are readily available when the media does choose to represent black individuals. There is no real monetary value in the media deviating from the two-fifths fallacy. In actuality it can cause them less viewers as people are less likely to believe that blacks are capable of positive achievements outside the stereotypes presented to them.This is as evidenced by the recent highlighting of black male shooting deaths by police officers. An example of which is illustrated in the following video. Shooting of New Jersey man Jerame Reid on 12/30/2014.
http://news.yahoo.com/video-shows-man-shot-jersey-police-raising-hands-150049422.html?soc_src=copy
The media will often demonize the black male by giving a “justification” type history so that the general public will process the action taken by police officer as necessary. A common strategy used by the media is to bring up the deceased individual’s criminal history to elicit as sense of justice being served. Yet when Adam Lanza, the murderer of 20 elementary children and six teachers committed one of the most heinous crimes known to the US, the media humanized him. His mental health history and a psychological analysis was created by the media in attempt to soften the general public’s opinion of him.The mental apathy of black people is being perpetuated and reinforced by the negative imagery portrayed in the media. Yet we as black people will not come out of our comfort zone. Even when we are being provoked we often do not retaliate. We, as a race are going through a brain drain to which the media is contributing. It is the intentional and erroneous embalming of a living race. So when we do speak out attempts are made to silence us. Yet some blacks know that this is wrong. With the digital age and social media,the mediums of You Tube, Instagram and Twitter allow blacks to voice their concerns.
Bystander Commentary on riots in Tottenham 2011
http://youtu.be/2-DBrD2TAN4
We are encapsulated in post-slavery post-traumatic type scenario that is continually reinforced and impressed upon us every time we switch on a TV or computer. This morbid obsession that we have with the modern day lynching will be forever a visual display of the lesser value of the black man. The continual onslaught of black men being executed is more than just hatred. It is the implementation and enforcement of the destruction of a race of people who are perceived to be dangerous and subhuman.Therefore the two-fifth value of a black person is perceived by others to be of diminished morally intrinsic worth and therefore the value of their life is deemed to be less.
This is the way of white supremacy. There can be no level playing field. There has to be social injustice, economic inequity, skewed academic fear, chaos and a stable power dynamic. There are so many economic, fiscal and cultural investments that it is too profitable and advantageous to leave such a commitment. The white supremacy system is set up for certain rights and benefits that are not accessible for black people. This white supremacy vehicle aims to preserve its status for future generations of white children. So this paradigm is not possible to change easily as it would mean disrupting a profitable infrastructure, changing a culture, sharing the wealth, Race and racism. Why would the majority be equitable and allow the minority to actually have the same rights as themselves? This means that the white supremacy will not challenge the power structure without rationalization and persuasion.
The two-fifths fallacy has had the most damaging have an impact on the Diaspora globally since the 18th century. It is a false dichotomy to accept the notion that white people are superior and black people are inferior. Being mutually exclusive does not engage or deliberate accuracy. It is now time for the Diaspora to reject and refute this fallacy. Gil Scott Heron had prophesied that the Revolution Will not be televised.” He was wrong. Not only is the revolution being televised, the wrong doings that instigate the problems are also being documented. This revolution is more than civil rights. This revolution is about our human rights. This is about the right to be recognized and acknowledged as contributing members of civilization. The Diaspora has been fragmented due to the dissemination of slavery throughout Europe and the Americas. Part of the solution for the Diaspora is to reject and consistently refute any infrastructure that serves this fallacy and to rebuild relationships collectively amongst members of the Diaspora; to those living in Africa, America, Europe and Latin America. This must be first starting place to repair the psychological damage inflicted upon the black race and to challenge the inequity of the infrastructure that oppresses us.References

Kim Ramsey be reached at kimsamram@hotmail.com

January 21, 2015
Shortage of Eligible Black Men?
Kenneth Peeples, MPH, MSW (Temple University)There is an ongoing conversation among the Black collective regarding particular relationship dynamics – a recurring theme being the shortage of eligible Black men.  While this is an important conversation to have, I feel the narrative is often hijacked.  For example, there have been countless articles over the years in mainstream outlets that focus on Black women’s “inability” to find a mate. Despite the fact that there is truth in that society views Black women as the least favorable for partnership (and does its best to maintain that perception with many of the articles and conversations on the subject), I’m not sure that this is the average Black woman’s experience.  Not to mention that the implied assumption here is that all Black women want to settle down and immediately procreate.  Fortunately, there is data available that can be used to make empirical observations relevant to the discussion.The old adage that “dating is a numbers game” is true.  There has been a good deal of research on society with gender imbalance.  The results show that when women outnumber men, there tend to be a drop in marriage rates, more children born to unwed mothers, and diminished paternal involvement (Mehta, 2012).  This is important to consider when discussing Black relationships.  Black women already greatly outnumber Black men but there are other factors that skew the ratio even further – such as the number of men who are already married, sexual minorities, incarcerated, etc.  Because the numbers are skewed in such a way, it may seem like the odds are stacked against Black women but many outlets that discuss this seem to overly catastrophize the issue.It is unfair to ask a woman to compromise on her personal preferences or her age/height/ weight/health/education/income/credit requirements.  But the way the data has been trending, it might be beneficial to consider rethinking antiquated gender norms; we can use breadwinner status as an example here.  Consider that Black women are performing very well compared to Black men in higher education.  More Black women are enrolling in college, graduating from college, enter graduate school, and earning advanced degrees than Black men (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education).  According to Census Bureau data, more Black women (102,000) have earned professional doctorates (i.e. MD, JD, DrPH, PsyD, etc.) than Black men (77,000) (United States Census Bureau, 2014).  This achievement gap has protracted implications that ultimately affect relationship dynamics.There is a direct correlation between educational attainment and income.  With Black women earning far more degrees at every level compared to Black men, there is an increasingly higher probability that a Black woman will potentially earn more than a chosen mate; this despite persistent (and structural) gender wage gaps.  This is particularly a problem for Black women who want to date and marry men who are at the same level as she in terms of educational attainment and income.  Traditionally, men were considered to be the breadwinners.  Slowly but surely, this role is increasingly being taken on by women in society (Wang, Parker, Taylor, 2013).  The statistics would suggest that this transition is happening much more rapidly in the Black community.  Black men also share a responsibility in accepting this emerging reality.  Being in a relationship with a woman with a higher income can affect a man’s ego and could cause feelings of emasculation; this is something men will have to work on.  But breadwinner status is only one example of gender norms that Black men and women can compromise on in order to build healthy and productive relationships.  In fact, because of the continuing trend, we’ll be forced to.References

January 12, 2015
#BlackLivesMatter and the Role of the Erotic in Black Liberation
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed., (Dr. Herukhuti)In my first article of the 2015 Thought Leaders series, I want to share with readers a contextual frame for understanding my approach to analyzing the challenges faced by people of African ancestry and devising ways we can address them.

  1. Erotics: The Erotic, what Audre Lorde described as “those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passion of love, in its deepest meanings,” is an essential and under-appreciated element of the work of human development and social transformation. As we develop methods of using the Erotic for human development and social transformation, we will be able to address the need for social justice in ways we have not yet been able.
  2. Community: The health and wellness of humanity requires us to develop radical versions of community based upon traditional African wisdom and the new opportunities afforded us through technology. The future depends upon our ability to create intentional communities in which to implement our social justice values to create and maintain our relationships with others. It will be necessary in these communities for us to think about how we share resources like love and the Erotic as much as how we share natural and economic resources.
  3. Ecology: Ecological organizing must move beyond ecological thinking to ecological being, which means how we live and embody a relationship to all of existence. Embodied ecology involves helping people to become conscious to the subtle ways they are interconnected with their environments on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis. To do this, we have to become more in tune with our body-mind-spirit, more sensitive in the literal sense of the word. This requires a radical decolonization of our beings.Revolution: Self-preservation and the ethics of social justice and ecological wellness demand a radical and comprehensive dismantling of the status quo and the creation of a different society. Borrowing from the ideas of bell hooks, we can describe the status quo as imperialist, white supremacist capitalist heteropatriachy. We need an end to that system if Black people are to live full and meaningful lives. Revolution is therefore an imperative.
  4. Bisexuality: The progress of the gay/lesbian liberation movement has obscured the prevalence of bisexuality since the beginning of time among many people around the world, particularly among people of African ancestry. The unintended consequence of this progress is the proliferation of the false idea that sexual orientation is a binary i.e., gay or straight. This false dichotomy has had a disproportionately negative impact among people of color around the world as gay/lesbian advocates and religious conservatives wag war against each other on the battlefields of our bodies.

The emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in response to state violence against Black people in the United States provides us with an important moment to consider the quality of life for people of African ancestry in this country. Dr. Joy DeGruy, mother of the concept post-traumatic slave syndrome (PTSS), has performed an invaluable service to the Black community by posing trauma as a frame for understanding our experience of white supremacy from slavery to the present moment. In my work as a sex educator and relationship coach in our communities, I have observed a result of our experience of PTSS—the difficulty that many of us have being fully embodied, owning our bodies, desires, pleasures and ecstasies.

During slavery, our ancestors right to their bodies, desires, pleasures and ecstasies were compromised by a socioeconomic system that profited from their bodies and the labor and offspring their bodies produced. Today, religious conservatism promotes sex-negative sexual politics whereby our bodies, desires, pleasures and ecstasies are legitimized to the extent that they conform to religious dogma and respectability politics. Stereotype threat undermines our sexual explorations as many of us attempt to avoid confirming racist sexual stereotypes of Black heterosexual people—the buck and Jezebel—and heterosexist stereotypes of Black gay, lesbian, and bisexual people—the penis-hungry queen, vagina-crazy dyke, and confused, greedy fence sitters.

If Black bodies, desires, pleasures and ecstasies are to matter along with Black lives, then we need a movement of urgency, radical imagination and holistic focus that holds space for those priorities. Such a movement will identify the linkages between the dehumanization of Black people in popular media representations, anti-Black fears, state violence including police-driven murders, the surveillance of Black sexualities by public health systems, and the repression of Black sexualities by religious leaders.

We must stand up against attacks, abuse and violence against Black bodies. The work of #BlackLivesMatter is so important and must continue. Preventing trauma to Black bodies is necessary work. Equally important to the health of wellbeing of Black people is the experience of pleasure and therefore a critical component to #BlackLivesMatter could be creating systems that bring pleasure and sensual satisfaction of Black people. We can not settle for merely an end to our experience of trauma; we have to aspire to and achieve our experience of bliss, ecstasy and grace.

Throughout this series dedicated to providing critical notes on contemporary issues from my perspective as a scholar of culture, sex and spirituality among people of African ancestry, I intend to highlight not only what I see as our challenges but also suggest solutions to those challenges, thereby invited readers into the possibility of a shared commitment to using the Erotic as a source of power for Black liberation.
For further contemplation:

  • DeGruy, J. (2015). Post traumatic slave syndrome. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://joydegruy.com/resources-2/post-traumatic-slave-syndrome/
  • Herukhuti. (2014). Dr. Herukhuti on sexual imperialism, homonormativity and bi-erasure. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://www.onepluslove.com/dr-herukhuti-on-sexual-imperialism-homonormativity-bi-erasure/
  • Herukhuti. (2007). Conjuring black funk: notes on culture, sexuality and spirituality, volume 1. New York: Vintage Entity Press.
  • Lorde, A. (1992). Use of the erotic: The erotic as power. In M. Decosta-Willis, R. Martin, & R. P. Bell (Eds.), Erotique noire: Black erotica (pp. 78-83). New York: Anchor Books.
  • Williams, H. (2009). Black mama sauce: Embodied transformative education. In S. Schapiro, K. Geller, & B. Fisher-Yoshida (Eds.), Innovations in Transformative Learning: Space, Culture, and the Arts (pp. 269-286). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti@gmail.com.
January 5, 2015
Videos, Music & Reality TV: The Degradation of Black Women’s Sexuality
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Black women have a complex history of stereotypes when it comes to sexuality which implies that Black women are despicable and inferior. These are ideologies were created during slavery and used to validate the sexual treatment of enslaved women. Many of these ideologies are still present in today’s media. The media uses these stereotypes in music videos, movies, tel-evision shows, and other various forms of entertainment to continue to brainwash society into believing the negative stereotypes of Black women.According to author Hammonds (1997), the world’s preoccupation with Black women’s sexuality began when Europeans’ made contact with the content of Africa. Hammonds presumes that the nineteenth-century image of the African woman was linked to a “freak show attraction” named Hottentot Venus. The Hottentot female was named Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman. Baartman was objectified and placed on exhibit because scientific experts considered her genitalia and pro-truding buttocks sensational and extraordinary. Scholars considered the genitalia of Baartman and other African women as ‘primitive’ and a sign of their sexual appetites. Even upon her death, Baartman’s “preserved genitalia” were placed on public display. These beliefs helped to form the foundation of Western thinking and treatment of the Black female body.Hammonds also states that at the end of the nineteenth century European experts in fields, ranging from anthropology to psychology, ‘scientifically’ concluded that black female body embodied the notion of uncontrolled sexuality. Enslaved Africans were labeled ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’, which justified the idea that they could not control their own bodies, and there-fore validated the need for white ownership and domination (1997). Over the years, several ste-reotypes about the primitive nature of women of African descent have emerged. “Sara Baartman’s sex and race were the main physical and cultural traits that caused her to be engaged in a scientifically racist and sexist study. Her organs, genitalia and buttocks were thought to be evidence of her sexual primitivism and intellectual equality with that of an orangutan.” (Crais & Scully, 2009). Unfortunately many of this beliefs and labels still exist today and are perpetuated by the various forms of media from music videos to reality TV shows.The historical context and hypersexualized stereotypes of Black women perpetuated in the media and in broader society have helped to shape the perception of Black women’s and girls’ sexuality. The prevailing images of Black women and girls in the media are: Jezebel, baby-mama, video vixen, chicken-head, gold digger, angry Black woman, and T.H.O.T. (Them Hoes Over There). The more Black women and girls see images of themselves getting famous for fit-ting into one of these labels, the more they feel inclined to mimic the images they see. Addition-ally, these images, with their highly sexual undertones, may also influence the way in which oth-ers value and interact with them (Stephens & Phillips, 2003).Hip Hop videos play a significant role in shaping the images of Black women and girls in the media. Most videos are filled with hypersexualized women, often referred to as “video hoes” or “video vixens,” who are scantily clad dancing, suggestively and competing for the art-ist’s attention. Additionally, the lyrics of the majority of Hip Hop songs are comprised of pre-dominantly sex, drug and violence and contribute to the misogyny of women. This highly sexual explicit and demeaning portrayal of Black women significantly affects their self-esteem and may have long-term effects on their self-efficacy and sexual decision-making. Stephens et al. (2007) found that girls acceptance of sexual stereotypes in Hip Hop videos more likely to test positive for marijuana use, engage in binge drinking, have multiple sex partners and hold negative body images. Wingood et al. also, found that Black female adolescents viewing media images with high of sexual content were twice as likely to have multiple sex partners, have sex more fre-quently, not use contraception, and are more likely to have STD (2003). “In addition to seeking approval regarding their appearance young Black girls express that being a part of music videos, the images have a lot to do with what they called “status. “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are in videos and on T.V. shows. Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and how else are you going to have that kind of money? Young girls just want to be sexy and want to be known and have stuff” (Wingood, 2003). This comment regarding “status” and “being known” is direct-ly related to class, socioeconomic status and its impact on sexual risk.Although music and videos are influential in impacting the sexuality of Black women and girls, televisions shows also play a significant role. TV programs such as Love and Hip Hop, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Sorority Sisters, and Being Mary Jane are filled with images of angry Black women, unhealthy relationships, lack of sisterhood, a false sense of self-esteem, overt sexual undertones and are famous for promoting “status” and “using what you got to get what you want.” These TV shows and many other help to further contribute to the unhealthy images of Black women and girls. In addition, they help to add to the layers of intergenerational patterns, stigma, shame, guilt and embarrassment surrounding sexuality. Unfortunately, there are not many TV shows that counteract or provide an alternative and more positive image for them to emulate. As a result, many of these “reality TV stars” become the role model. “Being Black and being female is crazy. When you turn on the TV sex sells. Like, everything, like, the music videos. And, [when] you turn on BET and all these Black women are just selling sex and it’s crazy because, I feel, for the – for the young girls that’s growing up – that is the only example of sexuality we see” (Wingood, 2003).Sex is visible in all forms of media from party ads, club fliers, television, music and vid-eos. Unfortunately, Black women have become so desensitized to seeing themselves being por-trayed negatively. While there aren’t any signs that these unhealthy and demeaning images will disappear any time soon, there is definitely a need to counteract them in the media. We are in need of a new sexual revolution, one which restores the dignity of Black women and girls. It is time for Black women to reclaim our sexual images in society. We must ask ourselves several questions: 1) Do we care about the type of women our girls grow up to become, 2) Is their public image worth defending, and 3) Is their sexual integrity worth protecting? No longer can we still in silence or stand idly on the sidelines while the images of Black women continue to be de-stroyed in the media. However, in order to change the trajectory, we need to begin with restoring Black women’s sense of value, worth and sexuality. We need to transform from the “jezebel,” “angry Black woman,” “video vixen,” “gold digger,” “baby mama,” “chicken heads,” and “hoes” to self-respecting women, wives, mothers and leaders in our community. Once we do, we will be to see a shift in our society that will begin to embrace and celebrate Black women’s sexuality.References

  • Clifton C. C., Scully, P. (2009). Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: a ghost story and a
    biography. Princeton University Press. p.131 – 134
  • Hammonds, E. M. (1997). “Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: The Problematic of
    Silence.” Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader, edited by Janet Price and Margaret Shildrick. New York: Routledge, 249-259
  • Sinclair, S., Hardin, C. D., & Lowery, B. S. (2006). Self- stereotyping in the context of multiple social identities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 529– 542.
  • Stephens, D. P., & Few, A. L. (2007). The effects of images of African American women in hip hop on early adolescents’ attitudes toward physical attractiveness and interpersonal tionships. Sex Roles, 56, 251–264.
  • Wingood, G.M., DiClemente, R.J., Bernhardt, J.M., et al. 2003. A prospective study of exposureto rap music videos and African American female adolescents’ health. American Journal of Public Health. 93(3): 437–439.
  • Dr. TaMara Griffin is the owner of Live Inspired Feel Empowered, LLC L.I.F.E. By Dr. TaMara. She is a MSW, sex therapist, author, educator and motivational speaker. She is also the project director Project Create S.A.F.E. Dr. TaMara is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief or Our Sexuality! Magazine. Follower her on Facebook and Twitter @drtamaragriffin