Oprah is NOT gay folks…

December 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Oprah is known everywhere around the world, and has touched nearly everyone.

Her media stardom and public ministry make her omnipresent as well as omnipotent. Her converts would argue she is also omniscient, especially with her monthly oracle — O, The Oprah Magazine— pontificating the principles of self-help, self-love, and self-giving.

Oprah’s principles empower women the world over and derive from her own personal narrative.

And because she has been so public about her life it appears that no topic is off-limits with the queen of daytime talk. But when it comes talking about her private sexual life, the public feels, Oprah is neither honest nor open.

The public no longer queries Oprah about her longtime boyfriend, Stedman Graham, of twenty-plus years: they meet in 1986, were engaged in 1992, and now no wedding is in sight.

And it’s rumored the relationship soured, and that Oprah and Stedman no longer reside together — albeit she denies it — but rather he ceremonially shows up as Oprah’s escort for important photo-op moments, like the Dec. 5 Kennedy Center honors. And according to the recent Star Magazine article titled “O, Please!: Oprah & Stedman Put on a Show,” the “distance between the two isn’t just geographical.”

But the distance, as the public has witnessed, both geographically as well as emotionally between Oprah and her gal pal, Gayle King, editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine, isn’t. And for over two decades now Oprah has denied the rumors that she and Gayle are more than just two sistah-girls being sister-friends.

After 30 years of four-times-a-day phone calls, and frequent sightings of where you see Oprah you also see Gayle, the public continues to question Oprah about their relationship.

“No, I’m not a lesbian, I’m not even kind of a lesbian,” Oprah stated on “A Barbara Walters Special: Oprah, The Next Chapter.”

“The reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying. That’s number one,” Winfrey told Walters. “Number two…why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”

In a culture that constantly sexualizes the coupling of same-gender and opposite-gender consenting age adults, we ignore our own friendships with our “best friends forever” (BFF).

In all human relationships — sexual or platonic — we long for a relational connectedness to spend as much time as possible with, at least, one person in our lifetime who shares our common interests and highest ideals.

The words “friend” and “freedom” derive from the same Indo-European and Sanskrit etymological roots, meaning “to be fond of” or “to hold dear.” When it comes to a having a friendship with someone, the relationship should never be predicated on gender, age, race, or sexual orientation, but rather it should be built on the deep heart-to-heart sharing, accountability, and sustainability that only a good friend can give you.

Feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt states, “Friendship is a relatively rare topic in patriarchal Christian theology, having long taken a backseat to marriage as the normative adult human relationship. This led to the hegemony of heterosexual marriage as the standard. …Friendship is the most inclusive way to describe a variety of voluntary relationships, including women with women, men with men, women with men, adults with children, humans with animals, persons with the Divine, and humans with the earth.”

Oprah explained to Walters her relationship with BFF Gayle:

“She is…the mother I never had. She is…the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person. I don’t know a better person.”

In our culture of constantly labeling same-gender relationships as gay, it diminishes and distorts the romantic relationships we lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have with our significant others. As a matter of fact, constantly labeling same-gender relationships as gay not only wrongly assumes that the only reason for two people of the same gender getting together is for sex, but it also keeps in place the myth of the hypersexual and predatory homosexual.

In the Hebrew Bible, the Ruth and Naomi narrative is an iconic text used in civil unions and weddings of LGBTQ couples.

It reads:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me,” Ruth uttered to her mother-in-law Naomi.

The narrative holds high esteem in my community not because the women are lesbians, but rather because the narrative depicts an unconventional relationship about loyalty and love that crosses the boundaries of age, nationality and religion; thus, by extension embracing a variety of voluntary same-gender coupling — straight or gay.

Oprah is not gay, folks!

And she’s not a closeted dyke either, but rather the world’s beloved daytime talk show diva.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Why Slavery is Still Alive and Kicking…

December 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I’m not thoroughly familiar with all of Louis C.K.’s comedy but from the bits and pieces I’ve gathered, he’s been described as edgy, smart, and fearless.  His remarks during his appearance on the Jay Leno show are all of the above, especially given the venue (could Leno look any more uncomfortable?).

Louis C.K. on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC (12/03/2010)

I get the sense that he wasn’t trying to be in-your-face as much as he was just trying to be clear about where he was coming from (and I love the response from the band!).  In three and a half minutes he very cogently, clearly, and hilariously makes the case for why the legacy of slavery should still matter… to everyone.  (h/t to Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Valerie Linson
Series Producer, Basic Black

AIDS Still Thought of As A Gay Disease In Black America

December 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

To date, more than 230, 000 African Americans have died of AIDS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 22 African Americans will be diagnosed HIV-positive in their lifetime. And, it’s the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25-34 and African American men between the ages of 35-44.

The inception of World AIDS Day began, many would say, when the world was in need of prayer. But that was all we had at the time.

In 1988, the World Health Organization designated Dec. 1 as the day to pause and reflect on the magnitude of the devastating effect this disease was having on domestic and global communities.

Because there is still neither a vaccine nor a cure, a prayer is sometimes all a person thinks he or she has in the face of an epidemic that shows no sign of abating.

But in 2010 we can do more than just pray now. We can act!

“ If we don’t work together to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our community, then who will? Let’s take matters into our own hands and stop the spread of the epidemic. It is a new day,” Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman, NAACP National Board of Directors, wrote in an open letter in November to the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research two-day symposium “The Forgotten Epidemic: HIV/AIDS Crisis in Black America.”

The symposium examined the increasingly critical HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black America. This symposium was the first in what will be a series of meetings, exploring how and why HIV/AIDS has become an overwhelmingly Black disease in the United States.

According to the Black AIDS Institute’s August 2008 report titled “Left Behind” the number of people living with HIV in Black America exceeds the HIV population in seven of the fifteen focus countries in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, an initiative helping to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world in countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, to name a few.

In other words, if black America were its own country, standing on its own like Haiti or Nigeria, black Americans would rate 16th with the epidemic in the world. And the epidemic is heavily concentrated in urban enclaves like Detroit, New York, Newark, Washington, D.C and the Deep South.

There are many persistent social and economic factors contributing to the high rates of the epidemic in the African American community- racism, poverty, health care disparity, violence, to name just a few – but the biggest attitudinal factor still contributing to the epidemic and showing no sign of abating is homophobia.

While we know that the epidemic moves along the fault lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, and that HIV transmission is tied to specific high-risk behaviors that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation, homophobia still continues to be one of the major barriers to ending the AIDS epidemic.

And although famous HIV-positive heterosexual African Americans, like tennis great Arthur Ashe, news anchorman Max Robinson, and rapper Eazy all died of AIDS, and basketball giant Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is still living with the virus, highlight the fact that anyone can contract the virus, many still see the epidemic as a “white gay disease,” suggesting being gay or having sex with someone of the same gender puts you immediately at high risk.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, is how data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is read and reported on the epidemic that perpetuates the confusion.

For example, “MSM,” is the CDC clinical control-coined acronym for “men who have sex with men,” but it should not be used to depict openly gay or bisexual men individually or collectively. And the controversial term “Down Low” (DL) wrongly accusing black MSMs for spreading the virus throughout the African American heterosexual community should not be used to depict openly gay or bisexual men individually or collectively.

But many conflate the subgroups to be a synonym for “MSMs.” So when the CDC puts out the data that MSM of all races remain the group most severely affected by HIV, and white MSMs account for the largest number of annual new HIV infections of any group in the U.S., followed by MSMs of African descent, many in the African American community still think of the epidemic as a “white gay disease.” And with more than 18,000 people with AIDS still dying each year in the U.S. where gay, bisexual and MSM represent the majority of persons who have died, the homophobia stays in place.

While the data may be accurate about this subgroup of men in the African American community, the story is, at best, incomplete, and, at worse, intentionally skewed.

Although awareness of HIV/AIDS in anemic throughout communities of the African diaspora, it is gay, bisexual and MSM who are more easily identified with having the virus because they have been and are continually tracked in CDC studies; thus, there is more data on these groups.

But the truth is this: while nearly 600,000 African Americans are living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals.

As long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, we’ll not protect ourselves from this epidemic.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Boston City Council Expels Chuck Turner

December 2, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yesterday, in a move unprecedented in its 100-year history, the Boston City Council voted to expel one of its own. The decision to oust Councilor Chuck Turner, who was recently convicted on federal corruption charges, was almost unanimous; the lone dissenter was Councilor Charles Yancey.

Chuck Turner in the Boston City Council chamber during the vote to oust him from office. (Click on the image to view)

Turner, who had been a city councilor since 1999, insisted that he was “set up” and did not in fact take a $1,000 bribe to help a businessman obtain a liquor license and then lie about it to authorities. He said that the FBI admitted in court that they were going after now-convicted former Senator Dianne Wilkerson and they decided that while they were at it, they might as well investigate him. He contended that the investigation was motivated by racism (“The purpose was to take us down because they saw the power of communities of color rising just like the Irish power rose’’) and class (“In a city where the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider and wider, I’m a dangerous threat”). Councilors Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley, who had long supported Turner (Arroyo used to work for him), had tears in their eyes as they revealed that they felt compelled to vote to eject him. In response, some of the many Turner supporters in attendance shouted “Traitor!” After the vote Turner vowed to campaign against his former colleagues in the next city council elections.  Turner will be sentenced on January 25th and could face prison time.

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