From: Chuck Tarver
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 20:56:57 -0500 (EST) Subject: Essex Hemphill Writer Essex Hemphill died this evening at around 5pm of complications due to AIDS in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It is my understanding that his family was with him. Hemphill had been in and out of the hospital for the past few months. A friend of mine was one of his caregivers. I had an opportunity to see him last Saturday when my friend and I went by to cut his hair and trim his beard. We also had a chance to see him in good spirits and see how folks in his West Philadelphia responded to him when we wheeled him around the neighborhood. His condition deterioted at the beginning of the week. He was rehospitalized on Wednesday. By Thursday my friend told me he was fading fast. His mom and other family members arrived yesterday. I'll pass along more information as I have it. Essex Hemphill will be missed. Chuck ----------------------------- From: Rcmc@aol.com Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 21:51:55 -0500 Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill I'm feeling very sad to hear of Essex's passing. Since it's hard for me to cry out loud, I cryied inside fiercely.. I loved him very much..I met Essex for the first time in Manchester, England, while he was doing a reading tour of his literary works. I'd read a few of his poems, once given to me by a friend, a couple of months earlier. They were great! I cann't remember which ones I had read(he had many), but I remember that I was moved by them. So, when I read that he was going to do a readin in Manchester, I was very anxious to have the opportunity to visit him in person. I was near by in Liverpool. He was reading in a small Black community center, somewhat removed from a lot of visibility. The turn out was about 40 people. Most everyone were in high anticiapation to hear and feel his perspective on life--life for black gay men and the sexual minority communities. He was absolutely brilliant! He touch me--he touched me deep inside. Later, after his appearance on stage, I had to introduce myself to him. He was kind; he was tentive to my curious nature of questions about his life and profession as a writer. He really allowed me to feel free to probe and discover who he was--at least that's what it felt to me. It didn't seem as if he left out much--he was together. Just before we parted, realizing that I was heading to London the next morning, he invites me to accompany him to London. I was gleeming. Little did he know at the time, I'd become one of his biggest fans. I had a hard time sleeping the night before, just thinking about what our conversation would generate. Essex was so revealing, I thought, considering that, neither one of us new much of the other. I felt I could quickly trust. I'd had enough time to make that decision. That helped alot to have the great converstion we had. Essex could speak on any subject. And the thoughts he had always had a good point to consider. He could leave you with questions and answers that sparked new ways of thinking about life's many angles. The train trip from Manchester to London was one of my most memorable moment of my life--he helped influence, in a positive way, my acceptance as a dignified Black gay man. He had such beautiful insights on IN THE LIFE that I actually made many positive life changes due to his knowledge on Black Gay Life in America--in the abstract. We parted ways in London, after we exchanged addresses and phone numbers. YES, we hugged and hugged hard. I knew, at least for me, I was going to miss him very much. And I must say this--I was very attracted to him phsyically and emotionally. I had only wished that we lived closer. To Essex Hemphill's family and friends--this is one Black Gay man who will miss him very , very , much. Essex, you will be in my heart FOREVER. ----------------------------- From: firstname.lastname@example.org (bershi) Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 19:38:22 -0800 Subject: Essex Hemphill I am very saddened by the news of Essex Hemphill's death. I didn't know Essex personally, but rather through friends and, of course, his many intuitive essays. I shall greatly miss his ability to put into the written word the joy, pain, anger, frustration and sometimes elation that we all as people of color, and Black gay men in particular, experience daily. Essex, I am re-reading some of your essays this evening, thinking of you and the strength and dignity you possessed. You will never be forgotten. ----------------------------- From: BT11360@aol.com Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 23:49:12 -0500 Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill WHEN MY BROTHER FELL (For Joseph Beam) When my brother fell I picked up his weapons and never once questioned whether I could carry the weight and grief, the responsibility he shouldered. I never questioned whether I could aim or be as precise as he. He had fallen, and the passing ceremonies marking his death did not stop the war. Standing at the front lines flanked by able brothers who miss his eloquent courage, his insistent voice urging us to rebel, urging us to not fear embracing for more than sex, for more than kisses and notches in our belts. Our loss is greater than all the space we fill with prayers and praise. He burned out his pure life force to bring us a chance to love ourselves with commitment. He knew the simple spilling of seed would not be enough to bind us. It is difficult to stop marching, Joseph, impossible to stop our assault. The tributes and testimonies in your honor flare up like torches. Every night a light blazes for you in one of our hearts. There was no one lonelier than you, Joseph. Perhaps you wanted love so desperately and pleaded with God for the only mercy that could be spared. Perhaps God knew you couldn't be given more than public love in this lifetime. When I stand on the front lines, now cussing the lack of truth, the absence of willful change and strategic coalitions, I realize sewing quilts will not bring you back nor save us. It's too soon to make monuments for all we are losing, for the lack of truth as to why we are dying, who wants us dead, what purpose does it serve? When my brother fell I picked up his weapons. I didn't question whether I could aim or be as precise as he. A needle and thread were not among his things I found. - -- Essex Hemphill (from "Ceremonies" a book of prose and poetry) ----------------------------- From: Sigma01@aol.com Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 01:55:19 -0500 Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill I too am saddened by the transition of Essex hemphill. He left us great words and blue prints to continue the work. FOR MY OWN PROTECTION Essex Hemphill, "Ceremonies" I want to start an organization to save my life. If Whales, snails, dogs, cats, Chrysler, and Nixon can be saved, the lives of Black men are priceless and can be saved. We should be able to save each other. I don't want to wait for the Heritage Foundation to release a study stating Black men are almost extinct. i don't want to be the living dead pacified with drugs and sex. If a human chain can be formed around missile sites, then surley Black men can form human chains around Anacostia, Harlem, South Africa, Wall Street, Hollywood, each other. If we have to take tomorrow with our blood are we ready? Do our S curls, dreadlocks, and Phillies make us any more ready than a bush or conkaline? I'm not concerned about the attire of a soldier. All I want to know for my own peotection is are we capable of whatever, whenever? ********************************************************* Let's work together. PEACE ------------------------------ From: email@example.com (Reginald Harris 396-0295 PNN) Date: Sun, 5 Nov 95 02:36:52 -0500 Subject: [none] Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill Status: ON 32768 Mailed To: firstname.lastname@example.org I find it very difficult to put into words what Essex's work meant (means) to me. I first saw him read -- perform, actually, with Wayson Jones -- at a small Black Gay coffeehouse almost exactly 10 years ago in DC. Before that night the only Black Gay writer I knew of was James Baldwin. The entire evening was a revelation. I had no idea there were other Black men out there attempting to put our particular experience on paper. And Essex was by far the most memorable. His work was accomplished, funny, heartbreakingly honest. I immediately fell in love with it. And with him -- he was a damned attractive man, whose warm personality and kindness made him completly irristable. I had the great pleasure to hear him read a number of times after that, and of course enjoyed his work in _Tongues Untied_. I am always struck by the clarity of his work, the vision of it, and its beauty. He set a very high standard for those of us who try to write, and who try to live honestly as Black Gay men. The last time I saw him was on the El in Philly a couple of years ago. I was on the train with my Other Half and a friend of our who lived there, on our way to the Museum. We were moving toward the door to get off at the upcoming stop when I spotted him, and I went over and (I'll confess!) I proceeded to gush like a starstruck teenager. I think _Ceremonies_ his collection of poetry and prose had been out for a while, but, typically, I had just gotten to it not long before I saw him. So I was ready to tell him how wonderful I thought his work was, and how much I enjoyed his completion of Joe Beam's work on _Brother to Brother_. He thanked me, asked me if I wrote as well, and encouraged me to keep at it when I mumbled yes. My friends had to practically drag me off the train, I'm afraid, and I really wanted to yell to the other passengers in the car, "Don't you people realize you've got one of this country's finest writers riding in here with you?!" His work and example stands as a breathtaking example for us all. Now that our brother has fallen, it is up to us to pick up his weapons and continue the fight. Essex --I love you and miss you. Reginald Harris Enoch Pratt Free Library Baltimore, MD rharris @epfl1.epflbalto.org ------------------------------ From: Ron Buckmire Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 00:13:08 -0800 Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill Oh, f***! I'm REALLY struck by the fact that Essex Hemphill has died. He was the most powerful part of TONGUES UNTIED and the book "In The Life" to me. I once spent 90 minutes interviewing for my local radio program HomoRadio in Troy, NY at Williams College *after* he had given a 2 hour reading of his work for their LGB Awareness Week. He was SO down to earth and knew how to *work* a microphone. Only about 7 minutes of the interview made it onto the air [on HomoRadio, and the syndicated show ThisWayOut (heard in 8 countries on'nealy 100 stations around the world). Whenever I would see him I would beg him to start recording him reading his work. I don't know how much of it was actually done, but it's too late now... *sigh* - ---ron ------------------------------ From: Charles Clifton Date: Sun, 5 Nov 95 9:19:29 EST Subject: essex hemphill I never met Esssex Hemphill, but through his writings he has become an important component of my life. Three months ago when my partner and I parted ways, I again picked up "Brother to Brother." Re-reading Essex's work and those of my other brothers - those who have made the transition and those who are still among us - has provided me with many hours of comfort in these trying times. Through James Baldwin I discovered that my life and my experiences had a history. Through Essex, Joseph Beam and Marlon Riggs I discovered I was not alone. I miss them all dearly and will forever love them for expressing "love." be safe my brothers. peace & love. always. charles. ------------------------------ From: MsThang2@aol.com Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 14:40:36 -0500 Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill Sunday, November 5,1995; 2:03 pm Reggie writes: >I first saw him read--perform actually, with Wayson Jones-- at a small Black Gay coffeehouse almost exactly 10 years ago in D.C.< That Black Gay coffeehouse was D.C. Black Space,[Southwest corner of 7th and E Sts, downtown(look, Colin, I wrote it down.)] then the (new?) owner(s) dropped "Black"(I don't know why). I also used to see Essex and Wayson perform there. Along with BETTY. And Kwelismith. If I recall, "Dark Diva Darling"(correct title? I'm tired of looking low and high for my Essex book. Will resume the search later.) usually brought the house down wherever he/they performed it. Sigh..... Audrey'95 ------------------------------ From: "John R. Keene" Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 15:37:38 -0500 (EST) Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill He will be missed tremendously, but not forgetten! John ------------------------------ From: "John R. Keene" Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 16:04:50 -0500 (EST) Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill: A Reminiscence and a Poem I just was thinking of how important Essex Hemphill has been, and will always be to me, as a person and as a writer, and how excited I was the first time I ever heard him read. It was in 1989, at the Dark Room House in Cambridge. I had read some of his work in "IN THE LIFE," and had bought his collection "EARTH LIFE" at the Glad Day Bookstore: what I found in his work was a beauty and a courage that I hoped then, and still hope now, to be able to approach in my own life and work. I can remember the palpable excitement I felt in getting the chance to hear and meet him. He read that afternoon to a crowd of perhaps 45 people, and turned the place out. Other writers, like Philip Robinson and Thomas Grimes, were present, and they can probably attest to how marvelous he was then, and was every other time that he read. Before the reading, I had conducted an interview with him for the Dark Room Archives, and had just been blown away by how much he knew, how funny he could be off the cuff, and how much he had lived and loved in what was then (and is now) such a brief period of time. I have not ever listened to that little interview, but I think I will try to get ahold of it, just to listen again to what he had to say. I can also say that he was a generous person, and one of the most patient and understanding editors I have ever come across. He was responsible for publishing my first story, and was always encouraging of me as a writer. He could be fierce when he was angry, but I felt that his criticisms were guided by truth, and that he was committed to the cause of Black gay people and our literature. I wrote a poem this August for him, and sent it, as part of a passel of awful poems, to him shortly before I moved to New York. I thought I'd share it with the list. It is personal, but I think it expresses how I, and perhaps many other people, felt about Essex as a brother and a writer. As I wrote in another post to this list, I will never forget him. EARTH LIFE for Essex Hemphill Shuttered light, just us. An audiocasette whirring at half-speed, you leaning forward to tell me for posterity how you got from there to here, the attic of this half-house on Inman. Washington, the world, I hardly knew then, or much about the men between your lines, loves, lives, that language-kitty of diamonds I laid my hands upon had as if I had been there, which you so freely offered. So much said and heard that day, though Adrian Stanford's Black and Queer I recall as clearly as if you were whispering it to me now--"Count your blessings"--how the room's penumbra framed you in tribute as others rumbled below that sanctuary, unaware of our informal ceremony, in which the flame left your lips to fill my apprentice's eyes and ears and veins. O my vigil against grooving too hard to your words, swooning, embracing you; such are the moments nothing prepares us for, to love and learn under those conditions. (c) John Keene, 1995. ----------------------------- From: "Terrance Heath" Date: Sun, 05 Nov 95 16:18:23 EST Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill I am deeply saddened. Hemphill's was one of the voices that reached me, strengthened me and nurtured me through coming to terms with much about my life as a black gay men. His words were often a mirror in which I could see a whole, loving and lovable reflection of myself. It is all I can do not to sit here and cry at my computer. T. ----------------------------- From: "DA BRotha from another WAMlab." Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 07:30:21 -0500 (EST) Subject: Re: essex hemphill I've never met the brotha either but I felt like he was a part of my family. I've read everything has ever written and it hurts me to the center of my heart that he has passed away. Mr. Hemphill was not only a fellow poet but a key figure in "our" healing process. But even though he is gone his words will always bring him back to us. Brotha in Mourning!!!! ------------------------------ From: email@example.com (Reginald Harris 396-0295 PNN) Date: Mon, 6 Nov 95 09:03:19 -0500 Subject: [none] Subject: Re: DC Space or the Coffeehouse, "Brass Rail" & painful memories Status: ON 32768 Mailed To: Soucouyant@aol.com Courtesy Copy: firstname.lastname@example.org > > In response to Reggie's musings about a coffeehouse, Audrey wrote: > > >> That Black Gay coffeehouse was D.C. Black Space,[Southwest corner > >> of 7th and E Sts, downtown(look, Colin, I wrote it down.)] then > >> the (new?) owner(s) dropped "Black"(I don't know why). > >> I also used to see Essex and Wayson perform there. Along with > >> BETTY. And Kwelismith. If I recall, "Dark Diva Darling"(correct title? > >> I'm tired of looking low and high for my Essex book. > > > Funny how Essex Hemphill books seem to disappear. I've had not one but two > personally autographed copies of Conditions journey from my house > mysteriously. Now yesterday, Brother to Brother is missing. It is odd. I can't find my copy of "Conditions" either. > > Was it DC Space; or was it the Enikalley Coffeehouse in the back alley of > 8th & 9th I and K. I spent six months dating a guy in DC who was Wayson's > roommate, and I too heard Essex and Wayson perform at both the coffeehouse > and DC Space back in the day. An incredible generation of Black Gay and > Lesbian writers and performers cut their teeth at the coffeehouse. That was > my introduction to Black Gay community and arts and there's so much history > and memory that Reggie's post kicked up for me too. For me it was the Coffeehouse, not DC Space. DC Space was (?) great, too, but I fist saw them in that alley. The place just glowed, was electric with talent and love. It's difficult for me not to weep remembering being there. > > I don't think Essex ever published the poem from which those lines "Dear ... > diva ... darling" come. It's this inverted poem that he and Wayson and he and > Larry Duckette performed together called "Brass Rail," the quintessentially > seedy DC institution that just closed. Both performers had the same lines, > going in opposite directions. The poem was written, I believe, after a series > of men had been picked up at the Rail and killed. What I remember of it is > just fragments and doesn't do it justice, but it goes something like: > > I saw you last night > in the Brass Rail > your eyes a green light > you were there in the lights > the mirrors > I want to be naked with you > Dear diva darling > ..... > Many canoes are overturned > Many occupants are never found > > Does anyone else remember it? > My lord, I haven't heard that in years! I remember hearing it, but not anymore lines. It's not in "Earth Life", hence my search yesterday for "Condtitions" > > PPS I just read Chuck's post in which he says: > > >> I've know of his [Essex's] condition for quite some time and even had the > >> chance to see him recently on two ocassions. I was asked to keep > >> quiet about the situation. > > I don't think Essex or anyone else was doing a good job of hiding his > illness. Everyone knew he had AIDS. Essex himself had been talking publicly > about his illness since his emergency hospitalization and near death in > Chicago a year or two ago; and had gone public about being HIV+ before that. > > Is it how sick (near death) he was that folks were trying to cover up? I know > folks trying to reach him over the last few months have had difficulties. Was > the concern that there'd be a pilgrimage of folks come to pay last respects? > I know some folks in the coffeehouse circle in DC were advised in recent > weeks to do just that. I know Essex was always a private person, but I'd hate > to think that he or folks caring for him would try to hush up the fact that > he had AIDS. > I think it might be more a case of keeping people from disturbing him, rather than hiding his HIV status. As "out of the loop" as I am, my friends and I all knew he was Positive. We didn't know how ill he was. Reginald Harris Enoch Pratt Free Library Baltimore, MD rharris @epfl1.epflbalto.org ------------------------------ From: Lee Patrick Jones Date: Mon, 06 Nov 1995 07:58:04 -0800 (PST) Subject: Re: Essex Hemphill Although i only started reading Hemphill's work about 2 years ago, he was very influential to me. I enjoyed mainly his biting social critiques, and his personal experiences. I really enjoyed, and still read, CEREMONIES. I feel a sense of loss. But his words will live on. Lee ------------------------------ From: "J. Alan Kendrick" Date: Mon, 6 Nov 95 12:02:08 EST I was saddened to hear about the recent passing of Essex Hemphill. His faith expressed in his writings and interviews let me know that his passing is cause for celebration rather than sorrow. --Alan ----------------------------- From: Jerome Offord Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 17:02:25 -0500 (EST) Subject: Essex Hemphill Well, As I sat in front of my computer to think about the impact of Essex's departure, I was both joyful and sad. You see, I came out in Colorado. Not many Black people in CO and I sought out books to deal with my coming out process. Shocked, I found a copy of Brother to Brother in our school library. I LOVED the book. It thought me more about being Black and Gay, than my counselor. Then, I got a hold of Tongues Untied. Well, let's say I have gathered several of Hemphill's books. So, for a younger person (in gay life), Essex is a role model. A Trail Blazer. A Brother that Understands. I am sadden that he left us and that I have never had the opportunity to personally met him. I am joyed that his suffering and pain is over. His spirit will live in the hearts and souls of many more Brother and Sisters. His books will sooth the ache for knowlegde, it will calm the anger, it wil reveal some of unknowns. That's what Essex Hemphill means to me! ------------------------------ From: WRicketts@aol.com Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 11:09:02 -0500 Subject: Essex Hemphill Hey folks: I've been taking a break from email for the last couple of weeks (other assignments ...) and just got back into it this morning. I was -- and am -- feeling pretty devastated to hear about Essex's passing. For what it's worth, I wanted to add some words on the issue of "outing" Essex. In mid-1993, I co-organized a symposium, "AIDS: Images and Analysis in the Arts and Media" at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. Essex was on the "Arts" panel, along with Bill T. Jones, John Greyson, and Robert Atkins. He spoke eloquently about being a person with AIDS, about being a gay man, and about being a "working-class nigger," as he put it in his remarks. I don't think he had any compunction about being "out" about any of his several identities. As for whether he wanted to keep his last illness out of the public light, you can hardly blame him. Seems like dying is hard enough without an audience. And we know Mr. Thing could be vain about his appearance! But, like all of us, I've also had a lot of experience with people in their last days, weeks, or months. It not infrequently happens that, whatever the dying person's wishes, those around him/her start getting into the court intrigue of who gets to visit and who doesn't, keeping the ill person from taking phone calls, etc. It seems to be worse if the person has some notoriety, and it can get all very *Dynasty* at times. Maybe that was partly the case with Essex's people. I didn't know Essex well enough to say he was a friend, but he's always gonna be one of my heroes -- and a model of how to be true to all of your "selves" without lying about or cheating any of them. These days, news of someone's death should hardly be shocking, but this morning I'm having a hard time believing that Essex is gone. I knew he was out here (in SF) when Marlon died, and I've kind of just been waiting for him to turn up again .... Wendell Ricketts PS Essex's service will be held in DC either Wednesday or Thursday, I hear. Folks in Philly and New York are already also talking about local memorials as well. I'm trying to see who going to Creating Change wants to organize something out there during the conference. PPS I just read Chuck's post in which he says: >> I've know of his [Essex's] condition for quite some time and even had the >> chance to see him recently on two ocassions. I was asked to keep >> quiet about the situation. I don't think Essex or anyone else was doing a good job of hiding his illness. Everyone knew he had AIDS. Essex himself had been talking publicly about his illness since his emergency hospitalization and near death in Chicago a year or two ago; and had gone public about being HIV+ before that. Is it how sick (near death) he was that folks were trying to cover up? I know folks trying to reach him over the last few months have had difficulties. Was the concern that there'd be a pilgrimage of folks come to pay last respects? I know some folks in the coffeehouse circle in DC were advised in recent weeks to do just that. I know Essex was always a private person, but I'd hate to think that he or folks caring for him would try to hush up the fact that he had AIDS. This whole question about the ethics of HIV silence/disclosure is so very complicated and difficult, even more so than the outing issue. ------------------------------ From: JCLEMONS%MITVAPS.email@example.com Date: Tue, 07 Nov 1995 11:56:33 -0400 (EDT) Subject: A poem Essex, I know your not gone, just in the other room. **************************************************** Strong and Silent Soldier You were lunged into a life you didn't choose. Given a gun and a word of advice: Stay alive. You begin to survey the battle field, and had the courage to look ahead to see the enemy. On this mission, you know deep within your soul it's going to be impossible to win. You reflect on the casualties behind you, and with utter horror, as far as the eye can see, they're are many. Yes, some have names, and some are just faces. You see Black, White, Red and Yellow faces. You see Women, Childre and Men, Fathers and Mothers, Daughters and Sons, Lovers and Friends, Rich and Poor, Gay and Straight, Actors and Dancers, Lawyers and Doctors, Preachers and Politicians. The fallen are many. Some have smiles on their faces. You turn away to go forward, to begin your tour of duty. Ahead, you see others like yourself, not sure weather to go forward or give up. Some of them look weak, as though they could fall at any moment. Some look angry and confused, not knowing exactly what they should do. There are soldiers that are fighting with all they have. They move with the force of a charging bull. Ready to combat the enemy with every breath. You stop to observe them, to see how the fight to stay alive, for this war required no training. You notice the fight is sometimes long and hard, yet at other times, it short, but far from sweet. You kneel to the ground, and you say "The Lord's Prayer", one more time, you even add, "I'm your child lord, my very breath belongs to you, take me , keep me, lead me and guide me, save, heal, and forgive me, oh lord, oh lord, amen". You rise from your genuflection, and move onward, knowing and believing, God, The spirit, The higher Power, Yahwey, Jehovah, Allah, The Supreme Being, is with you. As you walk forward with frustration, pain, anxiety and demensia, you come face to face with the enemy. It's evident the enemy's fighting power is much greater than yours, your vulnerable to it's attack. You know within you soul, you will soon fall. But, you fight with the persistency of a true warrior. Your peace comes in knowing you had a good life. A life filled with Family and Friends, and a life overflowing like a cornucopia with the fruits of Love. You tell yourself not to cry, scream, shout or holler. You want to be a *Strong and Silent Soldier* in this battle, this war against AIDS. You exhale the last breath of this battle and inhale the first breath of the spirit, and you begin to smile. ************************ In the middle of typing this, my SO called and said another friend had made the transition to the next room. He was indeed a "Strong and Silent Soldier" ************************ Peace with much Love, JONathaN ------------------------------ From: Randolph Webb Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 10:33:34 -0800 (PST) Subject: Hemphill & P.Q. "XI I don't want to hear you beg. I'm sick of beggers. If you a man take what you want from me or what you can. Even if you have me like some woman across town you think you love."* Soucouyant.at.aol.com ..11/4/95..you said.. "Advocate men is in the Brnes & Noble superstore near my job. Not the sort of place one FEELS most comfortable buying PORN. I glanced at Basic Black because of..and put it back." Exxex Hemphill.at.interview ..12/1990..said.. "When it comes to the whole notion of WHO WE ARE AND HOW WE'RE PRESENTED as black men in this country, regardless of sexuality, there's a lot of reworking, there's a lot of RECLAIMING of our IDENTITIES that has to go on. EACH AND EVERYONE OF OUS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT." Soucouyant.at.aol.com I asked the "problematic query" because I (too) attribute the invisibility of MOST black gay men to "largely silence.." which leads to misrepresentation on a massive commercial distribution..through-out the national/international consumer world..bearing in mind that Advocate Men is not PORN>which is why Barnes & Noble superstore carry it in their general magazines..Why cann't we FEEL comfortable seeking and/or admiring images that should(?)/could(?)/would(?) represent OURSELVES..Why be SILENT> unless we don't agree with the images..then again why be silent in this misrepresentation(?) and finally, again is this representation of "out" as dictated by white (gay?) males inclusive of US ALL or limited to their sterotype(?) that WE allow in our silence of identification? "We sneak all over town like two damn thieves, whiskey on our breath, no street lights on the backroads, just the stars above us as ordinary as they SHOULD be. We always have to work it out, walk it through, talk it over, drink and smoke our way into sodomy."* Ron Buckmire.at. ..11/4/95..you said.. "Soucouyant..why not (feel comfortable buying..Advocate men..) we SHOULD be out wherever we are.." Essex Hemphil.at.interview ..12/1990..said.. "African-American community by and large, the literary and academic community is ver homophobic. After a point, I got tired of trying to deal with getting work in their publications or even getting them to take an interest.." Ron what Advocate Men triggered for me was the question of sales of black male images that hardly continued or captured the rich and varied texture of our sexuality, homo/or straight..Black male images capitalized on by white males as well typecasting or placative(?) to white gay males typecasting of our black homosexuality..or why didn't Advocate Men work with surviving/struggling black male journals to promote "real," i.e., money where mouth is>no pun intended< commercial/art cohesion and/or representation of black queer males..or since money is the only motive..behind the ACCESSIBLE publications like Advocate Men..How do we or When do we break (i.e., define in or out side silence, reclaim,) from the bondage of white gay male exploitive corporate culture sterotypes..When is enough, enough..(before the letter writing..the editors know better?) I could care less about the Advocates potential to do better and if I cared about their sales its re: how much of those monies go into black gay male concerns..directly? Also the question remains.."what is out?" in the context of Advocate's Men..are we to "answer to.." the questions of type these images cast if we are not silent in our same sex, sex..if we do not answer to these images, why then are we not represented by ourselves to ourselves, even within a commercial market..or Why doesn't Millennium survive as readily as Advocate..because we don't buy the images? Why..because we are not "out" enough(?) to go beyond Barnes & Nobel to purchase images by and of us..? because "real" black men don't look at images of black men..? The problematic query remains.. As I too miss Essex, a black gay man, I never met but who--out--represented me and I was glad to be associated to him. *Conditions, Poems by Essex Hemphill; Be Bop Books. Washington, D.C. 1986. ------------------------------ From: "James Miles" Date: Mon, 13 Nov 95 18:06:25 Subject: Essex Hemphill National Day of Rememberance The writer, poet, and activist Essex Hemphill made his transition from this life on Saturday, November 5, 1995. To recognize his accomplishments, console one another and celebrate his life, members of the Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), Other Countries, Black Nations/Queer Nations? and the community at large are declaring December 10, 1995 as a National Day of Rememberance. We are asking all those around the country that knew, loved or were inspired by Essex and his work to join us by staging memorials in your city on that day also. To best exemplify his life and commitment to co-gender organizing and the diversity of the arts, we ask that this event encompass both men and women and not be limited to poetry and writings. Although others may deny it, make the world know of his true life as a black gay man and his contributions to black gay life. New York's memorial "Observance in the Life of Essex C. Hemphill" will be held at the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center at 208 W. 13th Street from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Anyone interested in participating, should contact Miles at (212)337-1245. -------------------------------- From: Soucouyant@aol.com Date: Sat, 11 Nov 1995 00:19:44 -0500 Subject: Essex memorials First, the chomping-at-the-bit memorial planners in New York have in mind a national day of remembrance for Essex with events in several cities. We put the idea out in Detroit. Call George Bellinger, Jr. at (718) 260-9541; it's his idea. Jacqui Alexander (BN/QN) (Audre Lorde memorial planner) and Jacquie Bishop (Assoto Saint planner) are both eager to do something. Folks in DC should contact Wayson Jones, Larry Duckette or Ron Simmons (at Us Helping Us). Well, our litlte remembrances here at Creating Change in Detroit went well. Phill Wilson brought the horror stories from the family service. I dunno: I'm unwilling to fight families over their needs to do historical reconstruction of their children in death in order to get them into heaven. Phill said Essex's life was retold without any mention of queerness and with its crowning moment his being saved on September somethingth. Two remembrances took place here at the conference: at the POC institute lunch Barbara Smith talked about her relationship with Essex and her work on Brother to Brother and two Detroiters, Terrance O'Neal & Charles Girvan, read from Ceremonies. Today we did a circle where folks remembered Essex. Elias Farajeje-Jones poured libation to "our newest ancestor" and reminded us to stop sanitizing queer folks as sexual beings, talking about running into Essex at 3 or 4 am while they were both cruising Malcolm X Park. Papaya Mann remembered the Coffeehouse and how she produced work there alongside my ex Ray, and Barbara Smith talked about how that time of Black Gay writing in the mid-eighties was in many ways like a Harlem Renaissance for Black queer folks, Terrance talked about how Essex's visit to Detroit was the most powerful thing that he thought ever happened in Detroit's Black Gay community and about Essex's accessibility and patience with his late night calls for solace; Charles talked about how folks like Essex and Marlon who wrote on the margins of Blackness will become be found by future generations to have been the central figures of Black consciousness of their lifetimes; Keith Boykin talked about leaving off studying for the bar to read and re-read "Ceremonies"; Karen Job-Wills talked about the toll of HIV deaths in our lives and running into someone from DC on the bus to Detroit who was going there as well, not to the conference, but to bury a friend; I talked about Essex's 1984? Say Brother column in Essence where he talked about being a Black Gay man, the relationship with Alexis deVeaux that led to it, the Gay Art Against Apartheid reading he did with Audre Lorde where he had to run from the podium to throw up, and some of the comments on this list; Cathy Cohen and a White woman both talked about being able to rely on Essex as a feminist and Cathy about bringing Essex to Yale and requiring her huge Black politics class to attend, and how Essex's story about his first sexual experience with a White man so worked the Black young men's nerves that they talked about it for six months; a White man talked about working in a bookstore and finding more meaning in "In the Life" and Essex's work thaan other Gay writing, sharing with a friend his glee that Essex was coming to town to read only to have to argue with him that Essex wasn't dead, running into Essex in the club the next night and sharing the story only to have Essex retell it at the end of his reading and announce that they had just been read to by the ghost of Essex Hemphill; and we all remembered Essex's signature goodbye and inscription: "Take care of your blessings." Ron Buckmire has it all on tape. On the subject of family funerals, I will tell the story of Assoto Saint's performance at Donald Woods's service in another post. Reporting for GLBPOC from Detroit, Colin Robinson PS Lance: I thought what Craig said he had in his pocketbook was an opera-size skillet. (< >) And in the grand old tradition of Black Gay men use Audre Lorde quotes to build signature prose pieces around, Craig uses Audre's words from "A Burst of Light" to name and form the closing image in his powerful piece on living with AIDS, "I'm Going to Go Out Like a Fucking Meteor," published in "Sojourner." going out like a meteor." Who said/wrote that?
Last updated: 08 January 1996 by Chuck Tarver