2021 In Review…

2021 was such a wild year for me. In the spirit of transparency, it was one of the toughest years of my life. From occupational troubles (that led to my impromptu but voluntary leave. in other words – I quit w/o a clear backup plan), to break ups, to severe mental health struggles. But in all of that, I was able to do some amazing things in 2021. Let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to this year.

January

In late December 2020, I was looking for a podcast or YouTube channel that engaged the politics of RuPaul’s Drag Race. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to start my own with my creative partner, Alex Frazier, and Drag From The Left was born with the first episode dropping on January 4th.

We started on the Stereo App, and in just a few months transitioned to recording in an actual studio. The reception from our communities has been amazing, and it’s only the beginning.

Photo by Dr. Lady J at Studio West 117’s podcast studio

February

February is Black History Month and my birthday month – it was definitely one to remember.

February 3rd: 30 Interesting Queer Black People (Sage & Maven)

February 10th: Drag From the Left: Avery Ware and Juanita Bind’em on the Importance of Knowing Your History (Culture Jock) – Read here!

February 25th: Queering The Movement – panelist (Sage & Maven) – Watch here!

March

March 25th: Discussing Desirability Politcs w/ OHIV Hotline – Watch here!

April

April 6th: Black Mental Health Matters: Addressing Suicide in African American Communities w/ Hegria Health (panelist) – Watch here!

May

May 8th:Announced Mx. Juneteenth: A Black & Queer Liberation Celebration! Mx. Juneteenth is my brain-child. I had the idea to throw a Juneteenth event that centered Blackness AND Queerness because living at that (with that) intersection is routinely unacknowledged and I wanted to show my communities that this holiday is just as much as ours as any other Black person.

I quickly put together a team and we got to work!

May 27th: Published an essay with INTO about the legacy of Tom of Finland – Read here!

This is also the month I accepted I was obsessed with hoop earrings.

June

With it being Pride month & the month of Mx. Juneteenth, June was busy!

June 1st: Suicide Risk & Prevention for LGBTQ+ folks w/ Hegria Health (panelist) TRIGGER WARNING: In depth discussion on suicide ideation, attempts, and death by suicide – Watch here!

June 10th: The Next 400: The Intersection of Black & LGBTQ+ Identities w/ Cleveland Public Library and 19 News – Watch here!

June 17th: Lecture on Black Queerness & Civil Rights w/ Cleveland Stonewall Democrats (guest speaker) – Watch here!

June 19th: Mx. Juneteenth took place & it was unbelievably LIT

July

In terms of events, July was pretty chill. Which I’m grateful for, after June I definitely needed a break. Unfortunately, that break came with a break-up so I decided to write about it here.

August

In August I was offered and accepted to be honored by Equality Ohio as one of their Advocates of the Year. Something I’ve still trying to wrap my mind around!

September

September 1st: Whose Pride Is It Anyway w/ The University of Akron (guest speaker)

Unfortunately, there is no recording of this talk. But the reception was amazing! It was an honor to speak at my alma mater.

September 6th: I started my Pateron! It was a huge leap of faith, but I wanted to move what I did in the classroom to a virtual setting where it is more accessible and engaging. Subscribe to The History You Won’t Learn in School today for as little as $1!

September 29th: Equality Ohio’s Allies and Advocates ceremony takes place in Columbus, Ohio!

October

October 6th: It was officially announced that I will be facilitating the new OPOC Adult Group at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

November

November 8th: Published an essay with INTO on Drag & Citation – Read here!

That’s a wrap for 2021! I am very grateful for the experiences I’ve had this year – the good and the bad. Here’s to a productive, fruitful, abundant 2022. I have some wonderful things on the horizon for the new year. If you or your organization would like to work together, I’d love that! Visit my ‘booking‘ page for more information. Cheers!

Who you won’t try is me…

There have been some things that have recently transpired in my person life that I have A LOT of feelings about, and I feel compelled to get them out. And since I’m not in therapy anymore … here we go

More recently, I have found myself in contentious situations that have resulted in curse words, elevated tones, neck rollin’, and the like. I am no stranger to confrontation, but as I’ve grown older I try to find myself in those situations less often.

There is this thing that people who specialize in manipulation, abuse, and lying do. They start mess, then play the victim when their mess is responded to. They cause disruption in your life and cry when you try to put it back in order. They do something wrong, and instead of owning their wrongdoing, they’ll attempt to create a situation that transfers the blame onto you (and in some twisted way, relieve their guilt of what they’ve done to you).

These are some of the matters I have found myself in recently. And after some reflection, I realize this is something that has been happening to me my entire life. I’m quite a target for it.

I am a Black, queer, undesirable person that is super emotional and often empathetic to the people around me. I move with a humanity and intergrity so it’s hard for me to purposely harm folk in my communities (this is generally speaking. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I do and say that wrong things – which we’ll get to).

That puts a wide target on me that welcomes unfavorable people and situations. And on top of all of that, I have a tendency to turn up. My “0 to 100” can take off at lighting speed if I’m not careful and chaos and destruction are sure to follow. So when I’m responding to unfavorable scheming behavior, it’s mad easy for the opposing party to aptly take the victim role. It’s equally as easy for onlookers to think the same thing – that I’m acting out or cause conflict.

My identity also plays a major role in this, too. It’s easy to paint a big dark-skinned Black person, who is read as male, as “aggressive” or an “abuser”. It fits neatly within racialized stereotypes of people who look like me and it is quickly weaponized against me – this has happened to me by other Black folks, too.

This has also been a theme in my life. As early as I can remember, I was routinely punished for responding to harm instead of the harm being addressed. As a result, I am deemed “crazy”, my person is promptly criminalized, and I am regulated to the shadows as someone unworthy of care or attention (wow, that sounds mad dramatic, but it’s also my experience).

And, on a very different scale, we have seen this happen in popular culture recently. People like Simone Biles, Lil Nas X, Naomi Osaka are being scrutinized and demonized for responding to harm done to them, as opposed to addressing the harm that resulted in them doing what’s best for them.

Additionally, this is the basis for the social construction of what is “crime” and who is deemed “criminals”. The responsibility falls on the individual(s) and not harmful, inequitable systems.

This is not to magnify my interpersonal problems or put them on the same scale as macro-level issues, but to draw the connections that the way to cultivate and maintain interpersonal relationships are directly related to systems of power and influence. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Anyway, back to me.

In the spirit and politic of accountability, every instance of disrespect or wrongdoing does not require an immediate cussing out. I fully acknowledge that my temper can use some work and everything I’m called to doesn’t need or deserve a response. I am actively working on protecting my peace and controlling the urge to choose violence posthaste. I have faith in a good therapist, the Lord, and I will get there soon. But in the meantime, who you won’t try is me. And if you do, be ready for the response.

I felt compelled to share this for two reasons. 1) Selfishly, to get this out of my head and onto the page in hopes of feeling better (I mean, I am a writer. That’s kinda what we do). 2) To speak to folk who might find themselves in similar situations.

You are not crazy. You’re not difficult to deal with. You’re not hard to love. You’re likely a sensitive soul that people take advantage of. People are drawn to you for the same reasons they feel like they can disrespect you without consequence. You are likely responding to the harm that is done to you in whichever way you deem necessary.

For people like us, it’s our responsibility to respond “appropriately” – I use that word very loosely because it easily falls within the bounds of respectability politics and American politeness culture that I detest. But it is our responsibility, and within our authority, to draw boundaries and protect ourselves from harm.

Sometimes the appropriate acknowledgment to disrespect is an altercation (part of protecting your peace is letting folk know how they won’t treat you). And, sometimes it’s knowing what’s not worth it and removing yourself. What’s always needed is being gracious with yourself and knowing that you deserve to be in community with folk who won’t cause you harm. And if they do, because we are all human, active accountability is centered in the wake.

This goal of this post was not a give a ‘woe-as-me’ realness or a poly to victimize myself. It is rather an attempt to speak truth to my experiences and make adjustments of how I handle myself with care moving foward.

The Reconciliation of Radical Black Ideology and Religion (Audio)

Part 1
Part 2

Over the past few weeks, probably months at this point, I’ve really been wrestling with what I believe spiritually/religiously (mainly Christian views, e.g. The Holy Trinity) and what I stand for politically (e.g. Black queer feminism & liberation). In the process, I’ve been digging into the work of James Cone, a Black liberation theologian, and some Deloris Williams, a womanist theologian, as their work kind of wrestles with the same questions.

Cone and Williams really rebel against what we’re taught in terms of questioning God and the Bible. Their work, in large part, is all about posing major questions and outright disagreeing with Biblical text and the way they’re taught. In my readings, I’ve been reminded of the common phrase disseminated by the church of not questioning God. Usually refers to the scripture that “God is not the author of confusion”. But if we’re keeping it a buck, life is hella confusing. Especially when you’re trying to apply classical texts to contemporary issues – such as white supremacist violence – it is very confusing and I have questions!

I think the “God is not the author of confusion” text has been weaponized. For me, I don’t think that scripture should be used to dissuade people from asking questions of God and the people that claim to represent Them. I think what is trying to be communicated, or what should be communicated, is that if we have questions, we should ask them to get clarity. It shouldn’t be “don’t question God”, it should be “ask the questions to get some clarity/perspective.”

Also, any time we’re talking about the Christian faith and the interpretation of the text, there must be an interrogation of white supremacist ideology & teaching. The Bible has been used to justify white supremacist violence for centuries. So when you tell people not to question God, it sounds a lot like a justification for oppression, marginalization, and violence. And for the people experiencing it not be question or fight against it.

The reconciliation between religion, Black [radical] thought, and white supremacy is tough and layered. Fellow Cleveland creative and friend Robin Blake (@hyperiusblake), who is also a Buddhist, thought we would benefit from having this conversation publicly. We originally recorded the videos on August 2, 2020. Because of high demand, the videos have been converted to audio and posted to this site to be shared widely.

Our Facebook live “public chats” take place every Monday at 6:00 p.m. Hope you pop in sometimes!

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