Provincetown’s Not Safe For Black Lesbians

June 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

At the tip of Cape Cod is the LGBTQ-friendly haven Provincetown, fondly called P-town, and known as the best LGBTQ summer resort on the East Coast.

Of late, more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of color (POC) have not only begun vacationing in P-town, but we have also begun holding POC events.

For the past several years now, the “Women of Color Weekend” brings hundreds of us LBT sisters of color to P-town from all across the country.

And it is the one time of the year many of us make the journey to P-town, anticipating that we will feel safe enough, for a few days, to let down our guard.

But the sexual and homophobic harassment many of us LBT sisters endure from many of our heterosexual brothers of African descent back home in our communities, or imported from one of the Caribbean Islands has, too, become an inescapably reality at P-town.

“A few years back I sent a letter about this very subject…and I received an email from the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, instructing me to get in touch with them and the police if this happens again…well, it has happened again and again,” Ife Franklin of Roxbury, MA wrote me.

Franklin and her wife were at “Women of Color Weekend 2011,” and she and several sisters of color were continually harassed.

“Now I will take ownership…I have not called the police or contacted the town Chamber.Why? Well, here is where this gets a little sticky for me…So, if I call and say ’there are some Black men harassing me’ will they round up ALL of the Black men? Even the ones that have done nothing wrong?”

Issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger a particular type of violence against people of color that cannot afford to go unreported. Not reporting what is going on with LGBTQ people of color not only subjects us to constant violence that goes unchecked, but it also puts the larger queer culture at risk.

In the now defunct Boston LGBTQ newspaper In Newsweekly Will Coons in 2007 expressed in his “Letter to the Editor” his distress with the harassment. “I’m well aware of the white man’s burden and the need to be open and sensitive to historical injustices, but the flip side works as well: are these Jamaican men sensitive to, aware of, and respectful of the gay men who vacation here? My impression over the past ten years is that most of them are not and I distinctly feel uncomfortable in their presence.”

The lack of reporting about these types of harassment and assaults from LGBTQ people of color is for two reasons — both dealing with race.

The first reason is the “politics of silence” in LGBTQ communities of color to openly report these kinds of attacks unless it results in death. With being openly queer and often estranged if not alienated from our communities of color, reporting attacks against us by other people of color can make victims viewed as “race traitors.” And because of the “politics of silence” that run rampantly in our LGBTQ communities of color, we end up colluding in the violence against us.

The second reason has a lot to do with law enforcers, newspaper reporters, and doctors who view the topic of violence and people of color as synonymous.

Franklin wrote, “As my friends were waking back to the car Saturday night a car of 4 men slowed down and started hissing and asked my friend to come over to the car. She replied in a strong voice ‘I’m GAY,’ let it rest!!!I feel that this harassment is a time bomb about to explode. At some point some man is going to take it to the next phase…my fear is that the ’cat calling’ will turn into groping…grabbing…rape, and/or death…Why? Because in their hearts we are just some ’batty gurls’ [Jamaican slang for homosexual].”

While Franklin’s fears are not unfounded, Jamaicans, however, are not the only ones harassing us.

Case in point is the murder of Shakia Gun of Newark, N.J.

On the morning of May 11, 2003, Shakia Gun, 15, was stabbed to death when she and her girlfriends rebuffed the sexual overtures of two African-American men by disclosing to them that their disinterest was simply because they were all lesbians.

Incensed that they had been rebuffed — and by lesbians no less — the two assailants reportedly jumped out of their car and got into a scuffle with the girls.

Stabbed by one of the men, Gun dropped to the ground and died shortly after arriving at University Hospital in Newark.

A groundbreaking study released in July 2010 titled “Black Lesbians Matter” examined the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the Black LBT community.

This report reveals that LBT women of African descent are among the most vulnerable in our society and need advocacy in the areas of financial security, healthcare, access to education, marriage equality, and physical safety.

“Has there been ANY training or introduction for these ’workers’ educating them that they are in a mostly Gay culture? That the women…Black women or otherwise…are off limits,” Franklin asked.

In using cheap and oftentimes exploited laborers, the shops that line P-town’s main drag, Commercial Street, care little, if at all, about their workers’ cultural competency or our safety.

I have to agree with Coons when he wrote on 2007, “I can’t tell any local businesses how to run their operations. I can express my concerns, and I haven’t seen or heard of any overwhelming efforts to mitigate Jamaican male distain, distrust and disgust towards gays and lesbians.”

Sadly, it’s now 2011, and nothing has changed. The issue here is our safety — physically and mentally — and that of ALL LGBTQ tourists.

Provincetown’s Chamber of Commerce has a year before “Women of Color Weekend 2012.”

And the problem can be easily remedied: Either by educating these men or not hiring them at all. Or, we can take our gay dollars and go elsewhere.

Rev. 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.)

Quiet Storm: Lowering The Signal On Black Radio In Boston

June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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A Guest Editorial By Kelley C. Chunn

As an African American who specializes in multicultural marketing and whose last name is Chunn, how can I be upset that Boston’s only noted black AM station, WILD 1090, now carries Chinese programming?

Yet I am upset because Boston is a top 10 media market. So it is unacceptable that black people here have lost a local voice and a major cultural connection to the rest of the country.

A trio of popular national talk meisters are now off the local airwaves. Tom Joyner’s popular and influential morning show is gone. Warren Ballentine, “The Truth Fighter,” is gone, as is the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.
We are left with the very local Touch 106.1 FM, the Fabric of the Black Community, a small station with a big heart and good intentions — but unfortunately, a limited reach. To his credit, Charles Clemons, station co-founder, owner and general manager, has lobbied Congress to allocate more power to community owned and operated radio stations in the United States. Stay tuned to see what happens with that ongoing struggle.

I admit that after Radio One, the media company that claims it’s the “Urban Media Specialist,” sold WILD FM a few years ago, I listened less and less to the AM side of the station. The music sounded like computerized “plug and play.” Only the talk shows stood out in the daily programming.

Joyner, Ballentine and Sharpton always had something provocative to say about issues of the day and connected with listeners. The few local programs on WILD AM, such as the Sunday family talk show hosted by Larry Higgenbotham of the Osiris Group, gave the station some local flavor and showed a commitment to the black community.

That commitment dates back to Sheridan Broadcasting, which bought WILD in the 1970s and extended to local black entrepreneur Kendell Nash who bought the station in the early 1980s. Until his death in the late 1990s, Nash ran WILD as Boston’s premier urban station. It was based in studios on Warren Street in Roxbury.

That era ended in 2000 when Radio One purchased WILD from Nash’s widow, Bernadine. Radio One moved the station from Roxbury to Quincy and in the following years changed the format, branded the station as WILD AM and FM, hired and then downsized local staff when it sold WILD FM in 2006.

In this latest chapter, it’s out with African American voices and in with the voices of the world’s biggest developing country: China. This is not a bad thing. When you listen to the new WILD AM broadcasted in English, you will learn about some of the key challenges facing China in health and human services, business and foreign affairs. There are talk shows and entertainment news. You will hear an eclectic mix of music from Chinese opera to country to pop. You might even learn a few words of Mandarin because one of the segments teaches you phrases to practice. Beyond China, there are station promos promising global news including the latest from Kenya and Ethiopia. If WILD AM delivers on that, we might learn more about some African countries from the Chinese than we did from Radio One programming.

The backstory is that Radio One still owns the WILD AM call letters and the frequency but has apparently sold or leased the rights to the programming. Ever the savvy businesswoman, Cathy Hughes, founder of the media powerhouse Radio One, which expanded into TV One, was recently tapped by the Obama administration to chair the U.S. Small Business Administration’s newly Created Council on Underserved Communities. The mission is to help emerging minority entrepreneurs.

Here’s hoping that the Council’s mandate, under Hughes’ leadership, includes teaching African American entrepreneurs how to purchase and produce programming for radio and TV stations that reflect the particular concerns of African American audiences.

A footnote: One thing hasn’t changed, though. WILD AM 1090 still comes on air at sunrise and signs off at sundown.

This editorial was originally published in The Bay State Banner.

Kelley C. Chunn is a social entrepreneur specializing in multicultural and cause related marketing for the past 20 years. She is based in Roxbury’s historic Hibernian Hall.

“Men Ain’t Boys…”

June 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I came across this film which was produced by the same team (husband and wife) that created the blog, Black and Married with Kids.  Check it out:

From Tyler New Media:

At a time when African American men are often depicted poorly throughout mainstream media Tyler New Media breaks that trend with Men Ain’t Boys. The film offers a thought provoking look at issues such as stereotypes surrounding manhood, the results of effective fatherhood and the requirements for maintaining lasting love, relationships and marriages. Men Ain’t Boys provides a blueprint for men, women and children to learn how real men live and how real men love.

Valerie Linson
Basic Black

“You’re Pretty For A Dark Skinned Girl…”

June 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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No one has ever said this to my face, but I did have a supervisor many years ago (not a person of color and not at my current workplace!) remark to me that I was lucky that my skin tone allowed me to wear so many colors (never mind the fact that I never wore pink or yellow, but anyway…).

Dark Girls is a documentary film scheduled to be released in the fall/winter of 2011.  It’s directed by Bill Duke (who also directed the 1997 film Hoodlum) and D. Channsin Berry.  This trailer has been seen widely across the internet and just as hotly debated as its focus is on the lives, myths, perceptions and experiences of dark-skinned women.

This film seems to be talking to the black community as much as it is the larger community.  If you didn’t hear the terms growing up, they certainly abounded in any black literature course: high yella, red-boned, and blue-black just to name a few.  Colorism is just as persistent and insidious as racism (whether folks want to think so or not) and when you add gender issues and inequities to the mix, it’s as explosive as it is depressing.  But, just as the conversation on race keeps changing, perhaps this film offers an opportunity to have a conversation on colorism.

What say you…?

Valerie Linson

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