Here's an incident that recently happened between a Brother from the Nation of Islam and myself. Life gives me so many stories to tell. Check it out!
On my way to a local coffee shop I came upon a Brother from the Nation of Islam, the sect led by Farrakhan. He appeared to be in his mid twenties, light brown complexion, tall, clean shaven, nicely proportioned frame, most would say he was goodlooking. He asked me if I wanted to buy one of his bean pies. "There the best, made with honey, and other natural ingredients. Brother you know you gotta have one." I told him, "Brother I've tasted those pies and I love them, but don't got no money today." "Can you afford the latest Final Call? It's important that a Brother stays informed, you know what I'm sayin'," he exclaimed smiling wide eyed anticipating my reply. I replied, "Ok Brother, I'll take one."
I gave him a buck. He handed me the newspaper saying, "Thanks Brother, you have a good day, A Salaam Alaikum." I responded with, "Alaikum Salaam, I hope your day is good as well. Be cool" We were at the corners of Valencia and 16th street on the outskirts of the Mission district of San Francisco. The Mission is a mostly Latino and Asian community located less than a mile East of The Castro (the white gay mecca). I headed away from the the Brother from the Nation, in the direction of The Castro. As I walked up the block the Brother exclaimed, "You don't want to go in that direction, my Brother. If you do you'll see what the white man's ways has made of our Brothers. They got Brothers sleeping with men, Brothers sleeping with white men, sleeping with the........ Well, you know what I mean."
"I'm not sure I do. What *do* you mean?," I asked.
I walked toward him as he exclaimed, "Brotherman you must know that there's no history of us doin' that stuff in Africa. That's genocide, that's the white man's doin'."
"Could you break that down for me please? I'm interested in your point of view."
"What else needs to be said. It's a result of living under the white man's thumb, under his insidious rule."
"Ok. But I'm trying to learn from you Brother, I would appreciate it if you could break down this theory or point of view to its basic elements. I'm trying to understand what you are saying."
"Man, do you really want me to go into it? Why are *you* so concerned? It's obvious what's up. What's up wit *you*? Are you headin' that way for a reason?"
"If you want to know where I'm headin, that's cool, it ain't no thang, but you're getting off the subject. A subject you brought up. You said that there's no history of homosexuality in Africa, that it was genocide and the white man's doin'. Intrigued by your views, views you volunteered, I want to understand what you're talking about. It's that simple."
At a loss, he appeared as if he was thinking of something to say, but couldn't find the words. I was standing about two feet from him, engaging him eye to eye. Finally he said;
"The Holy Qur'an speaks against homosexuality!!"
"Brother, I joined the Nation when I was fourteen, I've looked for passages on the subject and never found them. In the land where the Qur'an was written homosexuality is prevalent."
Frustrated he said, "Man what are you talkin' about?"
"I said, that the Qur'an doesn't mention homosexuality. Muslims who choose to be anti-homosexual are speaking independently of the Qur'an, they are not reading from the Qur'an itself."
"It's a sin against nature to waste the seed of life, and that's what homosexuals do!."
"What do you mean? Could you break *that* down?"
"Homosexuals can't have children -- right?"
"Well, what I mean is they don't. Right?"
"Man, you seem to know a lot about what homosexual do and don't do."
"Look Brother, you're the one claiming to know what homosexuals do, that their wasting the seeds of life, and that it's the result of the white man. You, my Brother, brought up the subject. Not me."
Speechless, he looked at me saying nothing. I went on to ask:
"I'm going to ask you a personal question. You don't have to answer it if you don't want to. Here it is. Are you currently in a relationship that involves sex?
"Allah say's that sex before marriage is wrong."
"Ok Brother, but I'm not talking to Allah, I'm talking to you. Well?
"What's your point?"
"Are you avoiding my question? It's just you and me talking Brother. You seem to be interested in spreading knowledge, so let's rap."
"Man, I'm not used to rapping about *this!*"
"Well, earlier you came off as an expert on the subject. Now you're admitting to knowing little about it. What you said about homosexuals was very oppressive. I would like to think that that's not your intention. But whether it's your intention or not, don't you think you should know what you're talking about before making sweeping judgemental statements about folks?"
"You gotta point Brother, but I never expected my comments to start a long conversation."
"Hopefully this teaches you a few things; number one, don't preach stuff you don't really understand, and number two, my Brother, you never know who you might be talking to when you say such things. Since you didn't answer my question earlier about being in a relationship that involves sex, I'll just say this: Most people on the planet generally don't have sex with reproduction as the goal. Mostly, sex is simply a part of people relating to each other physically. If *you* are having sex, I bet that ninety percent of it is not to make a baby. My point is, what's the difference between what happens with your seed, when reproduction is not the goal of sex and what happens in love making between folks of the same gender?"
"Well at least we could make a baby if we wanted to."
"So can any fertile man or woman, if they chose to." If homosexuals decide to have babies they are no less equipped than you to do so. By the way, folks who really don't want a baby have them every day. Often the baby suffers in the process."
"You've gotta point there."
"Have you been to Africa?"
"I haven't been yet, but I'm going one day."
"Maybe you should wait until you go before you tell folks that they don't have homosexuality over there."
"Well that's what I was told!"
"Was this person a homosexualogist, did they visit Africa specifically to find homosexuals?!"
"I don't know! My -- you sure seem to know a lot. Are you gay or something?"
"What difference does that make. Whether I was a virgin or whatever is not the point. The point is *you* were saying things, and repeating ideas that you know little about. You need to stop that, especially being that you are out here in suit and tie, claiming to be a voice of integrity. Again, you need to stop that, that's the point! Not my sexuality or yours. Anyway I got to go now. A Salaam Alaikum.
"It was good talking to you Brother, Alaikum Salaam."
Looking perplexed, he packed up his stuff and walked away. As I said earlier, I was on my way to a local cafe, not the Castro. I don't particularly like the Castro.
Manago, Cleo* Activist, Writer, Instructor, Social Architect. Founder of the Black Men's Xchange (BMX), an Africentric national communications clearinghouse and support system for the empowerment of Black men of diverse sexual expression. Members of BMX have been featured on Oprah and Geraldo with chapters or contacts in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Orange County in the State of California; Detroit, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Philadelphia. Cleo is also the founder of the African-American AIDS, Support-Services & Survival Institutes, Inc. (AMASSI) in Oakland and Los Angeles. AMASSI is a full service non-profit agency providing emotional support, counseling and health educational services to couples, individuals and families diverse in sexuality and expression. Services emphasize the health and wellness of Black people and people of color. Cleo Manago is also known for popularizing the terms for Black-men-who-Love-men and same-gender-loving people of African descent. He has ongoing columns in several publications including SBC and Alternatives magazines and is a Change In Human Systems doctoral student.