Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dr. Cornel "Obama's a House Nigger" West

Let's just be clear...Dr. West needs to be slapped upside the head for basically calling President Obama a house nigger in front of the entire world.

Don't believe me? Pray, tell me exactly how else one would translate this statement about President Obama on MSNBC's The Ed Show:

I think he does have a predilection much more toward upper-class white brothers and Jewish brothers and a certain distance from free black men who will tell him the truth about himself as well as what’s going on in black communities, brown communities, red communities and poor white and working-class communities.

Translation: Obama is a house nigger that is afraid of all of us field niggers that gonna remind him that he ain't white.

Let me go on ahead and channel my inner mixed child and respond on behalf of President Obama. Dr. West...just because you have a gap in your teeth and refuse to pick out that Don King fro of yours does not make you any more black or down or...wait for it...less privileged than our President. In fact, Mr. Denial, you have degrees from Princeton and Yale and you have occupied posts at Princeton and Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris, and Haverford College. If Obama was up in the Big House serving in the Dining Room, your ass would have been just the other side of the kitchen door.

And I couldn't give a fuck that you are a Democratic Socialist, you, sir participate in the elitist and most privileged institutions in the United States. That statement you made on MSNBC was one of the biggest rocks ever thrown inside of a glass house. I swear to God.

But beyond the personal hypocrisy of you sitting on a perch funded by white men, propped up by white men, created by white men, and until very recently, open exclusively only to white men, the damage you have done by not only buying into but also parroting the very same race exclusion/division rhetoric championed during slavery and Jim Crow is just plain shameful and irresponsible.

As I said today on Facebook, I could care less if the Dove of Christ came down and sat on Dr. West's nappy ass fro and he blew the Trumpet of the Resurrection out of his asshole, until he apologizes for the WAY in which he made his critique, I no longer give a damn what that self-hating, internalized racist has to say.

Please let me know if my position is not clear.

And I wish Dr. West would come for my ass. I am as radical as he. I share his politics and analysis of the United States, the power structures that prop it up and its hegemonic post-colonial imperial world policies. But as a human being that has often been targetted, with or without justification, on the end of insider quasi-anti-intellectual white washing rhetoric of the type used by Dr. West, I refuse to allow that sort of stupidity into my critiques of the problematic positions of black elites.

And let's be clear. Dr. West was rightfully critiquing the fact that President Obama has continued the neo-liberal policies of the United States, and he has most certainly not held Wall Street accountable for the shit mess they have put the working folks of this country in.

But guess what, Dr. West? The WAY you say your message is as important as the message itself. And the "blacker than thou," manner in which you delivered your critique makes you into a tool of the Master, so let me remind you of what our sweet sister Audre Lorde had to say:

"The Master's tools will never dismantle the Master's house."

Since you are now the arbiter of all things Negro and the self-appointed guardian of the Gates of Righteous Blackness, you might want to remember that.

I respect Dr. West's research and contributions to the academy as well as to Black American's understanding of themselves, but if the good doctor is going to show his black ass then I am more than happen to cut a switch and remind him of exactly how we do things in the black community.

Have at it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Love Letter to Minnesota

Dear Minnesota:

You have been going through it lately, haven't you? You, my beloved homeland, have been having a Hell of a few months (after eight years of being abused by your former governor, that asshole, Tim "Satan's Bitch" Pawlenty). I thought maybe when my old boss, Mark Dayton, was elected governor, perhaps you would get some TLC, maybe a little therapy, and perhaps, with Betty Tisel's community sings bringing people together, some good old fashioned healing time.

But a peculiar thing happened on the way to the polls. There was a mass outbreak of schizoid behavior in Minnesota (I blame solar flares and rampant Tea Bagging), and even though Emmer had his ass handed to him and Dayton was handed the keys to the governor's mansion, the same folks across the state, for the first time in modern memory, gave majorities to the Republicans in both houses of Minnesota's state legislature.

(I am still not convinced that this irregular behavior wasn't the direct result of a massive bad batch of lutefisk served up to the good Lutherans just before Election Day. In fact, I suspect GOP foul play and will be asking the FDA to formally investigate).

And true to form, once the GOP took over in the state capitol, despite a massive budget crisis in Minnesota, disregarding ridiculous unemployment, and turning their back on a Minnesota tradition of justice (imagine what this country would be like if Hubert Humphrey had never been born), the GOP have decided that their top priority is to spend all their energy and resources getting an amendment proposal on the 2012 ballot to ban same gender marriage in Minnesota.

Pardon my French, L'Etoile du Nord, but WHAT THE FUCK?

Ignoring a poll a couple of weeks ago stating that a strong majority of Minnesotans favor gay marriage and oppose the amendment, despite allowing a hatemonger minister INVITED by the GOP to give the opening prayer at the state capitol, despite Prop 8 being smacked down, despite the 14th amendment and Artcile 4 section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, despite the Navy, for a brief moment--though it has since been rescinded, ordering its chaplains to perform gay marriages in states where it is legal, despite ALL THE REAL WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, your wayward and fucked up children have decided that fighting the love of two individuals and their fundamental right to enoy the privileges of marriage (don't take my word for it....read the 1967 Loving v. Virginia UNANIMOUS Supreme Court opinion establishing marriage as a fundamental right that can not be abridged based on an arbitrary classification such as race) takes priority over the economic and general well being of the people of Minnesota.

And now, social justice organizations that should be spending their sparse resources on truly fundamental issues are going to be forced to spend their time fighting a hateful amendment that, in the end, will either fail or be struck down by the courts, will create rifts and divisions in a time when we need unity, and will mean that broader and more impactful issues such as health care, immigration reform, democracy reform, and other broader peace and justice issues will be neglected. And, seeing as how Minnesotans are the best educated people in the country with the best public schools, I know, Minnesota, that you know that this is EXACTLY what the Republicans want. If we are too busy dumping millions of dollars and all of our energy and focus in fighting this ballot measure, we won't have the time, energy, or attention span to watch them closely as they try to really fuck the people.

And if that weren't enough my sweet Mother. Last weekend a tornado tore through one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest sections of Minneapolis, killing at least one person, wounding many others, and leaving thousands with damaged or unoccupiable homes, including the parents of several of my good friends. The community has pulled together and folks from all of the city are doing what the GOP in the State Legislature doesn't conceptually get....they are pitching in to help and support strangers, folks they don't know, and people that they would otherwise never have met...BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Or, should I say..the Left thing to do.

I love you, Minnesota. Even though I am now living over a thousand miles away in another city and another state with its own set of troubles and worries, my heart and soul belong to Minnesota. I'll be back one day, but until then I am going to encourage folks to send thoughts, prayers, and money to you to help rebuild North Minneapolis and to help defeat this Hate Amendment that will be on the ballot in 2012.

And, listen to your gay prophet, Minnesota. In 2012, Michelle Bachmann will lose her seat in Congress, Barack Obama will carry Minnesota, the DFL will retake both houses of the legislature, the marriage amendment will be defeated and you, Minnesota, will finally get a chance to heal from a decade of abuse and neglect by the very people elected to love you and care for you best.

Miss you tons.

Love always,

PS If you see Betty, Sarah, Susan, Rocki, Luca, Cathy, Dawn, my Mom, Pete, Deb, Jesus, Xtina, Pookie, Wifey, or any of my other loved ones...please give them a big old Land O' Lakes hug from me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Body Beautiful...

"And where is the body..."

I love Salt-n-Pepa....a black, feminist, sexually empowered hip hop group from the early 90s? Clutch the pearls and call Tupac back from the dead.

One of my favorite songs by this hallmark group was featured in the opening credits of Too Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar: "Body Beautiful." It's a song about loving your body and who you are without taking on the body image baggage of the world. With queer men suffering from body dysmorphism and eating disorders at the same rates experienced by women, I have more than a passing familiarity with the need to love ones body. Though I have never struggled with eating disorders (other than the disorder of loving to eat all the damn time), I have always struggled with body image.

As an adult, I have weighed anywhere from 150 pounds (when I was living in Puerto Rico, eating beans and rice every day, swimming a half mile every afternoon and running a mile every morning) to climbing up to 210 pounds (of pure anti-muscle)in 2003 when I was unemployed, depressed, and sat in my house lamenting my recent HIV diagnosis. I have been more and less muscular, more and less skinny, and throughout all of it, even though the numbers on the scale changed radically, even when I was at my skinniest and/or most toned, my eyes zeroed in on any available flaw: a scar here, stretch marks there and the greatest of all sins....the ever present...BACK FAT!

At one point I could wear my friend Karly's board shorts. Karly is all of 5'4" and a marathon runner...and even then.....I STILL saw myself as overweight or out of proportion or whatever message of the moment was running through my brain. As if!

Over the last couple of months, as I have been looking for work, I have been spending a lot of quality time at the Gold's Gym. In fact, for the last six or seven weeks, I have been going to the gym twice a day for about an hour or so at a time for probably six days a week. And thanks to some nutrient support garnered from Eva's Natural Foods in the West Village, I, for the first time, have pecs that I can move independent of one another and my ass has started to bend space/time and defy gravity.

And guess what...even though dudes at the gym that once never glanced in my direction now I catch boldly staring at me and/or make sure to say hello to me when I am in their general area, my eyes still zero in on that touch of back fat or the stretch marks by my arm pits or the fact that my butt doesn't have those hot side dimples quite yet.

Ummmm what the fuck, Batman.

And then, of course, there is the anger at the boys that never gave me the time of day now that are offering me their watches, mixed with the straight up love of the attention, and then peppered with the anger at myself for finding more worth in the stares of this or that muscle queen than in my own eyeballs when I look in the mirror. (And don't even get me started about what it means to have HIV living behind these pecs and underneath this skin...and what that may or may not mean and/or how it may or may not affect the appreciative glances I now am receiving...that is another blog entry).

But, I figure if I am doing all this personal growth work on myself, trying to stay away from old behaviors that didn't serve me well, and trying to become a better, healthier blah blah blah person...I should probably have a good chat with the man in the mirror (MISS YOU MICHAEL!).

So, each week (I started last week) around Friday or so...I am going to take a shirtless picture and post it on Facebook. I am going to love my body come Hell or high water, stretch marks, back fat, stares, no stares and all. WERQ (out)!

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize: Marisol Valles Garcia

Fifteen minutes ago, I had never heard of Marisol Valles Garcia. Now, with complete honesty, true hope, and with an open and loving heart I sincerely hope this 21 year old mother of an infant is nominated for and wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let me tell you why.

Seven months ago, this 21 year old young woman, accepted the job as chief of police in a small border town ripped apart by drug violence. Her predecessor was beheaded by an assasin in the employ of the local cartel. For the last six months, this brave woman had received death threats, and yet she continued to do her work. And the work is what is truly amazing. In a town of extreme poverty, where many women had been widowed by the drug wars between the cartels, Marisol Valles Garcia envisioned a new kind of policing. Instead of guns, she hired 13 women that carried hope. Instead of law enforcement, she focused on the most effective type of prevention work: supporting and encouraging young people to stay in school and further their education. She refused to take sides or to take bribes. She made clear to the cartels that she had no interest in attacking them; she only wanted to bring some hope and peace back to the town where she was born and raised.

The international media called her the bravest woman in Mexico. Others are calling her Mexico's Rosa Parks. I am calling her a peace warrior, a justice soldier, a life changing force of nature that put her own life on the line in the face of extreme adversity in order to try and make a difference.

Her reward: she was forced to flee mexico with her husband, siblings, parents, and child. A few days later, her mother's home in Praxedis G. Guerrero was ransacked. (What an apt name for a town that bred such a powerful warrior...guerrero, in Spanish, means warrior).

She is currently seeking asylum in the U.S. and living in an undisclosed location in Texas. I pray that she remains safe and out of the reach of those that would do her harm. She has lost everything that she had, and she can never return to Mexico. It is clear that if she does, she and her loved ones will be killed.

According to the will of Alfred Nobel, the peace prize should be awarded to:

...one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

In practice the award has been given to individuals ranging from environmental activists to those that have fought for democracy and freedom, from the founder of the International Red Cross to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

It is my firm belief that if Dr. Nobel were still alive, he would hand this amazing woman the $1.5 million dollar award himself and call it a day.

This woman's story brought tears to my eyes. Que viva Mexico...que viva esta mujer con tanto couraje. When the people rise up and reclaim their lives and communities...oppressors know true fear. They do not fear bullets; they fear when the people remember their self-worth. A single bullet may end a life, but a single individual that remembers her worth can end tyrrany.

I hope next December, Marisol receives that call in the middle of the night letting her know that the world knows, understands, and values her sacrifice and what she tried to do for her people. Much love to you amor...the people of the world that know what justice looks like...see it clearly in you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One Liner of the Week Award: Myriam Fizazi-Hawkins

A little over a week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my good friend Kamal's sister, Myriam, when she made her way up to the city from the suburbs of Washington, DC. I fell in love with her pretty much right away; she is my kind of woman. Myriam is smart, hilarious, beautiful, and politically savvy in a very broad and nuanced way. If she weren't married and a woman, I would have proposed to her right there during coffee.

A couple of days ago, as I was preparing myself for the Rapture (T-Minus 38 minutes and counting)...and after carefully selecting a chic ensemble that I think is perfect for meeting my maker....I posted a status update on Facebook saying that I was going to be quite upset if Jesus decides not to show up today.

Myriam responded:

"I wouldn't be surprised if Jesus decides not to show, especially with the way immigrants are treated in this country."

See what I mean? That's marriage proposal material right there.

And that, my Left Behind readers, is the One Liner of the Week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Interview with a Song Bird: Jamila Anderson aka Calliope Muse

If all you beautiful readers out there haven't yet noticed, I have some of the most amazing friends in the world. Comedians, actors, drag artists, poets, writers of all genres, organizers, lovers (a couple of haters...but I love them too), and musicians. The interview that I am publishing today is with another Minnesota ex-pat living in New York City (we have our own social group in NYC called Minne-Apple in the Big Apple...kookers!). Jamila Andersono aka Calliope Muse is a fierce actor, musician, and friend. Check out her new single, Kryptonite on iTunes! And thank you Jamila for this awesome interview. WERQ!!!!!

1. I met your gorgeous self probably seven or eight years ago in Minneapolis. At the time, you had the Minneapolis Theater scene by the throat. Now adays, you seem to be focusing more on music than theater. Why the change?

YOU'RE GORGEOUS! Thanks for the props! I have to say I was pretty happy with my acting career and didn't really plan to change. I've always been a “singer” but I certainly had no aspirations to be in the music biz at the time. Then an opportunity was presented to me that seemed like a real shot so I switched gears. I ain't no dummy – even though I thought I had my plans the Universe gave me the chance to do something on another level so I knew I had to go for it. I happened to catch the eye of a producer while waiting for a Minneapolis city bus one day and eventually he and I had crossed paths again and he revealed that he was a producer with his own label and studio and had earned a Grammy as a musician, etc... I don't want to go to far into this because it turned out to be kind of sour for me in the end. But I managed to have a short career as a Rock singer with my own band and did some minor touring, local gigs, oddly to NASCAR races and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Eventually my single charted Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 21 consecutive weeks and peaked at #15. So despite the fact that the whole thing crashed and burned, I still have that. I fearfully went back to acting and was really touched by how well received I was upon my return. Rohan Preston even wrote a cool article about it in the Star Tribune. After the drama with the music, I was happy to try and forget about it and really wanted to move on and get back to my acting roots. But ha ha, once again, when we think we know the grand plan for our lives... Much to my surprise, music fell in my lap again about 2 years later when I got a wild hair up my ass and moved to New York. I hope I don't sound arrogant saying that it just fell into my lap – it's just that it was truly not on my radar in either situation. I came to New York with little planned just looking to live in a place I always wanted to be and possibly up my acting game but I met an amazing person who, after swapping stories days after we met, turned out to be a Grammy-nominated producer and former Hip Hop star. NICE. Yes, I sang rock music but that was the more unfamiliar lane... I grew up on Soul, R&B and Hip Hop so I was excited at the shot of sing over his tracks. Eventually, he let me hear some of his stuff and I was more than SOLD. I wanted in!! But I knew it wasn't going to be just that easy. So I made a bootleg demo on my laptop with one of his beats and emailed it to him. After waiting for an excruciating week and creating various ways to ask if he'd listened to it yet, he finally responded “I couldn't stop playing it. I played it over and over.” We knew we had made some dope shit together. I demoed another and another... but the first demo lit the fire. That was how my current single came about. He also named me 'Muse' because he felt inspired by what I was creating with his beats and wanted to create even more, which he would, when I was around. And I feel equally as inspired by him so it is a match made in heaven. Now, don't get me wrong, just because I didn't actively seek this career, I still love it. I'm hungry for it and equally as dedicated to it as I am my acting. I think it was something I ran from for a long time, being the daughter of a singer/musician. Sometimes the Universe has to show you who you are supposed to be; sometimes we get in our own way thinking we know what we are supposed to do but as an artist you must be open to using your gifts wherever and wherever they are called upon. That being said, I used my gift to write a song about my hoo-ha. Let's discuss a bit later.

2. You just dropped a new single, Kryptonite, under the name of Calliope Muse featuring Chedda Bang. Tell me about how you decide to use the stage name Calliope Muse.

About the name, I touched on it a little bit in that previous question/answer... I was named Muse because of the effect I have on my producer, artistically. I like to be creative, share ideas and collaborate and think outside of the box so I think that can get people's creative juices flowing too. I had heard something like that before and just laughed it off and took it as harmless flirtation but this time I saw I really did have a positive effect on other musicians/artists whenever I was in the studio (not to toot my own horn, this is what I was TOLD – and I'm not sure that is the case with acting, ha ha). But we all know there is a huge band named Muse so I had to find a twist to the name so I could keep the name that meant something to me and not get sued. I did some reading about the Greek Muses and learned about Calliope, who is the wisest and eldest of the Muses and carried a writing tablet and whatnot. I knew that was me. So hence, Calliope Muse. I also changed my name when I had the Rock band to “J”- no one called me by my name. The reason I change my name is because I feel that when I'm on stage as a singer I am another person in a way. Calliope Muse has a character of her own and taking on that personality is important to me and allows me to see the full vision for my music. Calliope is a side of me, not a made up character... In other words, Calliope says and does things the regular me wouldn't get away with.... Calliope is my more confident, street smart side. She has stories of her own to tell.

3. The song Kryptonite is the SHIT (and available via iTunes for $.99). In the song, you own the power of your sexuality (and let me tell you I know more than one woman back home that has been hoping and praying that you will take a dip into the coochie pool)....talk to me about working as a female hip-hop artist, that is a fierce feminist, in a musical genre where the commercial side of the genre (versus some of the independent and amazing political hip hop artists) that is not known for its feminist politics or its valuation of women.

First, THANK YOU. I have to side with the gay men on the topic of coochie, so my apologies ladies, it's not going to happen but I am very flattered nonetheless (and am rather curious about who is on this list!) I should probably leave some mystique for PR purposes but I'm not really about bullshitting. Much love and respect though, always. Moving on. Yes, Kryptonite is my retort to all of those ego-maniacal men who feel that their penis is so amazing it should be wearing a cape - I playfully call him “Captain Save-a-Hoe”. You know, the guy who thinks he's gonna whip you into submission with his awesome cock? Yeah. This is to that guy. “You think you're Superman? Not tonight. You heard 'em right, they call me Kryptonite.” The truth is, after some noteworthy feedback, it turns out I have some “skills” of my own and I got sick of hearing all that talk when I was the one coming out on top – pun intended. I know that isn't exactly “meaningful” in the literal sense but I believe that a lot of women are taught to be submissive, to “take it” in many areas of life. Sex is very related to power. For obviously sexual reasons, but also for self-esteem, self-empowerment reasons I believe it is important for a woman to feel sensually and sexually powerful. She may CHOOSE to play the submissive roll but she owns her body and her choices and her libido. Does that make me a feminist? I don't know. I am the kind of woman who enjoys chivalry but I ain't no punk, no what I mean? I love a gentleman but I am very capable. You'll learn a lot about how I feel as a woman when my full album is released. I go in on some subjects that will have you testifyin'... Which maybe is a good segue into the next part of your question. I don't know if I can define myself as a Hip-Hop artist by way of my part because I don't consider myself a rapper by any means. That shit is hard. But I do kind of blur the line a little (when you hear Kryptonite you'll get it) and I have authentic Hip-Hop tracks so my music will be played on Hip-Hop stations. But I really do care that people know I don't call myself a rapper. The whole point of who Calliope Muse is is to speak for a woman that I feel isn't really being represented in main stream Hip-Hop. I do not see myself in any of these women whose records get played 1000 times a day on every station. I buy my purse from the same place I buy my floor cleaner and I really do not care for wearing high heels, even though I can and will rock those bitches. But like, where is the regular but still super fly chick? She's down-to-earth but not “neo-soul”. She's strong and sexy but not raunchy. She is feminine but looks amazing in jeans, a t-shirt and some Chucks. Everyone is so over-the-top and caricatured right now - who can keep up with that? How is that real and how does anyone really relate? So my music and style is about that chick who is your trusted friend, the cool big sister – she is real, the girl in your hood but she still shines like a star and holds her own in the world whether she's got a dollar in her pocket or not.

4. You are beloved by queer men and you have spoken proudly, to me, of the acceptance you have seen from your producers towards queer folks...talk to me a bit about your work with the queer community...and a bit about why you are writing a song, as you told me, for your gays.

I work with men who are grown-ups, nawmean? They have gay associates/friends/family members. They are mature ethical men and respect that people are who they are and don't really give a shit who you're sleeping with. I won't say we have a rainbow flag hanging in the studio, per se, but if you are respectful of them, they are respectful of you, no matter who you are or what your background is. We do the music because we love it and if you come to us with a positive attitude and on good terms then that's all that matters - it's all about the music and nothing else. I, however, do love me some gays! I worked a lot with a theatre in Minneapolis (Pillsbury House Theatre) that addressed GLBT concerns and lifestyles in an awesome way and I began to not only become educated but formed some real friendships that allowed me to have some meaningful insight about the queer community. My love comes from recognizing the strength and courage it takes to be Out in this shitty world that does nothing but judge and persecute you if you are an “other”. I am an other - a Black woman, more specifically bi-racial so I can relate to that “we're not sure what you are but you're not like us” dynamic. I have Lupus so I have that stigma to work around as well. And you know, my mama just raised me right. Equal rights. So at any given time you may find me going off on someone in defense of the gay community. Sense of humor aside, I will check someone using hate speech in a hot minute. I take up for my friends. And let's face it, some of the most colorful, audacious humans in the world are the gays so how can you not love them! Hence my song. It's too sassy for hetero pants, if you know what I mean, so I must write it for my sassy gays – specifically the sassy gays since all gays are not the same, lesson number one. I don't wanna spill the beans but one of the lines is “Bitch, you're fierce. She ain't as cute as you.” It's going to be too fun.

5. First theater, now music, what's next in the life of Jamila Anderson aka Calliope Muse?

I am really just getting started with my career as Calliope Muse. The single is out on iTunes but we are getting a lot together as we speak so we can officially drop it. We will be shooting my music video in the next month or so, I am really excited about that. And I am collaborating in the studio with some major Hip Hop talents, like ChipFu of the Fu Schnikens who has been a blast to work with. (Some other names I can't leak yet but we will let you know if you stay plugged in to me...) So I have my work cut out for me for sure. We are releasing “Kryptonite” first on the FantoMusic Audiodrome album, which is a showcase of my producer Fantom's producing skills and the artists in our crew. This album is bananas, you'll love every track. Then we will later release my full album – total crack rock. But that is just the beginning... I am still an actor so that is always in my bag of tricks. You just never know where I'll pop up!

6. Thank you for spending some time with me! Where can folks find more information about you and your work/performances/releases?

I am on the usual social networking sites – facebook.com/calliopemusemusic and Twitter @TheRealCMuse. For a free listen to Kryptonite you can go to reverbnation.com/calliopemuse or buy it for $.99 on iTunes. Just stay tuned in with me and FantoMusic Audiodrome and we will announce important dates as they come. We really need that underground support right now because we believe this music is about the people and for the people and not the red-taped and industry bullshit. So check it out, let me know what you think.

Brandon, most patient friend of mine. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND SPACE ON YOUR DOPE BLOG!!! Love.

Calliope Muse is a real woman’s storyteller – telling tales of her life’s passions in the form of love and sexuality, frustration and anger. She fills the gap between the polished, glam R&B crooner and the over-the-top, ultra-raunchy rapstress by way of her identifiable “every-woman” style of lyrics and honest, lusty, heart-felt vocals. With Grammy-nominated, Staten Island Hip-Hop legend, FANTOM producing and supplying the dopest authentic hip-hop tracks, her music goes beyond thinking; it is about feeling and is a much-needed remedy to the redundant over-played and over-used themes and sounds of Hip-Hop and R&B of the current market. Calliope Muse is a true artist and a triple threat: Singer, Writer and Actress. She is awarded, versatile and experienced in the business of music – all while being fresh, innovative and relevant. Her latest single, “Kryptonite” (featured on the “Takers” Official Motion Picture Mixtape) will be officially releasing in the Spring of 2011 on the FANTOMUSIC AUDIODROME Album, with a self-titled debut solo album releasing soon after.

Calliope Muse – “You want this. You need this.”

Monday, May 9, 2011


Anyone that knows me and/or reads my blog or has been to one of my poetry readings in the last two years or is a Facebook friend knows about my Honey Bun Aunt Sis. Anyone that has stopped by this blog in the last week knows that last Tuesday, Aunt Sis left this world for the next one. She had bone cancer, which is incurable, but she fought it tooth and nail for two years. When the end came, she went in peace in her sleep. My Dad, though technically her nephew, was one of her sons...considered such by Honey Bun as well as her four biological children. He was listed as her son in the funeral program and it was my Daddy that was by her side most often for the last two years and even before that. I knew that when she died, he was going to have a hard time. Daddy tried to keep his game face on, especially with me, but I knew he was hurting, and he let it out in his own time, surrounded by people that loved her as much as he did.

Now she's home with Jesus. She was a woman of faith, and I know that her faith and love was rewarded. I've written before that I believe God sends angels to walk amongst us...unpresupposing folks that come into this sometimes hurtful, harmful, painful, crazy world to remind us that there is always love. That was my Honey Bun.

Last week, I was in rough shape. There was a three day gap between when I received the news and when I would be able to get to my family. I am still unemployed and David was scheduled to work out of town on Wednesday and Thursday. We needed the money, so I had to wait until he came back so that we could pack and leave. The reality of the living is that we need to keep working cuz the dead have no needs. I was soul weary and heart sick on our drive from NYC to Ronceverte, WV. I was anxious to get to my family, and my Daddy, as he always does when we are travelling to get together, was texting me about every 15 minutes to check on our progress. When we finally pulled up to the Holiday Inn Express in Lewisburg, I basically bolted from the car. My Dad came around the corner, and up the road came walking my great-aunt and uncle Lilly and Sherman and my cousin Buddy. Right then I knew what I needed. I needed my family.

Like my Aunt Sis, my family is crazy as Hell. As we walked from the car, I looked in the window of the hotel lobby and saw a room full of black folks. I knew they belonged to me and that I belonged to them. My sisters had arrived from Atlanta about 15 minutes before we got there, and I walked into a room of familiar as well as unknown faces. But even the faces I didn't recognize were clearly people to whom I was related. Aunt Barb, Aunt Bud, Aunt Sister Mary Jerome, my sisters, my cousin Wendell and all the others had the stamp of those hills on their face. And damn if they weren't all beautiful.

Over the course of the weekend I became re-acquainted with family I hadn't seen in years, met family I had never met, and met at least 100 people who weren't biologically related but were people that loved my Aunt Sis. The church was packed, the service was rockin' and even though there were tears and sadness, hearts broken and fences to be mended, at all tims and every step of the way there was someone telling a story to make folks laugh. The Lacy's are a folk built for joy. We are an entire family of story tellers and flame keepers. Eloquence is a family trait as is a wicked sense of humor. And we are beautiful, so so so beautiful from the octogenerians down to the infants, the Lacy's, as my sister says, have good genes. Genes or not...it was the laughter and the love, the soul food and the singing, the praise and the memories, the open doors, open homes and open hearts....the family...that made us so damn beautiful.

I am sad that my Aunty Sis has left us. I am sure there will be tears in my future, but I left those beautiful emerald hills with so much joy, and a committment to knowing those kin more deeply, and that is a gift that I know my Aunty Sis wanted all of us to walk away with.

Family equals love.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Holding Our Own Accountable: Thank You NY State Sen. Diane Savino

This morning, I woke up freezing in my apartment. New York (and seemingly the rest of the northern United States) missed the memo that it is May. I want to fly up into the heliosphere and punch the Sun in the face.

After taking the Mimz for her morning constitutional and walking passed the sink full of dirty dishes that will, at some point, claim the better part of an hour or so this morning, I logged into my Facebook account.

The top entry on my news feed was a post by NY State Sen. Diane Savino. It was a post in response to a statement released by a member of the Oneida Nation regarding the use of the code word Geronimo by the U.S. government as a moniker for the operation against Osama Bin Laden (Dumb Obama. Dumb Sec. Gates. Dumb Leon Panetta. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb). I learned very quickly that the gentleman that wrote the letter, despite the letter's spot on criticism of the use of the name and history of Gerinmo and the impact on First Nation's people, isn't the best character running around Indian country.

Unfortunately, Sen. Savino chose a poor moment to make a statement about this gentleman's shenanigans (and fiscal malfeasance).

Let me NOT be the person to throw stones whilst I live inside a big old glass house surrounded by glass covered in glass in glass pajamas eating glass for breakfast. I, myself, have more than once, in anger or annoyance, popped off at the mouth (and/or fingertips) and posted something to Facebook that I hadn't thought through. Thankfully, I am a part of a broader community that has no qualms about letting me know, almost always firmly yet lovingly, that what I have written or said does not serve justice nor is it reflective of the person they know me to be. Sometimes the things I've written flippantly have stung folks in ways that I never intended nor would ever do intentionally. Though, like most people, I do not, in the moment, love the feeling of being held accountable (usually my cheeks catch fire, my back starts to get up, shame starts to creep in and then anger at the person that summoned the shame---actually me...but better to blame the accountability vessel.) After those emotions run their course, usually just a minute or so, I try make amends around whatever it is that I did or said. I also acknowledge the love and committment to my personal growth that is evidenced by someone taking the moment to hold me accountable to my words and actions with love and respect.

Don't get me wrong...now and again....I let the other person have it or politely honor their feelings without removing the offending item or statement; there are times when I stand by whatever thing it is that may have caused offense (just because someone feels offended doesn't mean that what you've said or written isn't truth).

We all make mistakes. I make them all the damn time.

This morning was one of those moments where Sen. Savino's statement of annoyance was absolutely well founded...but tying it into the place where it appeared was not cool. If Sen. Savino were a Republican or one of those queer hating faux Democrats that seemed to be sprinkled throughout the state, I would have cut and pasted the Facebook conversation verbatim and then tore the good senator a new poop hole.

I actually highly and deeply respect Sen. Savino. She has been an amazing advocate for justice in Albany and for the queer community, and so, instead, I shared with her my feelings. The senator responded respectfully, made the choice to remove the posting and the thread, and sent me private message letting me know she had done so. Thank you, Sen. Savino for your integrity and for making the choice to get your message/point across in a different way. If the rest of your colleagues around the state and in the U.S. Congress were as responsive and open to dialogue as are you, perhaps we would not be facing so many of the partisan bullshit problems that have us stuck on ugly in New York and the U.S. as a whole.

When we take a moment to honestly share our feelings and offer to hold our own accountable, we demonstrate what community and growth is really about. If we are only ever willing to step up and stand up to the "bad guys," or those that are often times far far from us in our beliefs and views, then we aren't making sure our own house is clean. Let those others live in a dirty house (as long as they keep their yard clean and their trash out of streets, I don't care how filthy their living room is...as long as they don't have body parts in the freezer or tongueless ex-lovers in leather gear in a box under the stairs). I value when others hold me accountable (and let's be clear...passive aggressive "teaching" moments are not accountability...accountability is when you bring your questions and concerns DIRECTLY and RESPECTFULLY). My esteem for Sen. Savino has gone up exponentially after this morning's brief exchange. Thank you, senator.

PS On the topic of the use of Geronimo's name as code for Osama Bin Laden is a great, clear, and succint statement from the Ononadaga Nation Council of Chiefs

PPS And here is a great article by Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute on the same subject.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Honey Bun, NYAC, and Osama Bin Laden...and it's only Tuesday

Yesterday morning when I woke up, Osama Bin Laden was dead. This morning when I woke up my Honey Bun was dead. In between those two deaths, the official word came out that National Youth Advocacy Coalition would be closing its doors forever on May 13, 2011.

PS It's only Tuesday.

On the death of Osama Bin Laden...

I have already written plenty on Osama Bin Laden. The implications of his death, the impact on us as individuals and a nation, and the reverberations around the world will play out as they are meant to play out and will become more clear in the days and weeks to come. Oils prices dropped. Stock markets rebounded. College students that were, at best, in middle school when 9/11 happened were dancing in front of the White House evoking scenes of anti-U.S. protests across the world (we really are no different or better than anyone else as a people). And stories abounded that for the first time, almost every person in the U.S. (and probably the developed world) received information about a major news event (global scale) from alternative media, specifically text messages, Facebook and Twitter.

My last thoughts on Osama Bin Laden for now, I will sum up with two quotations that I used as status updates yesterday:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr. (according to an article in the Atlantic...the first line of this quotation may have been made up in response to Osama's death...the rest is verifiably MLK...either way...it's an awesome quotation).

‎Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble. --The Holy Bible, Proverbs 24:1.

I also want to honor my little brother, Julius Lacy, who has served in Afghanistan and my sister Shannon Lacy, who has served in Iraq. May you both be kept from harms way and thank you for your service.

On the closing of NYAC...

My morning yesterday was taken up with the news of Osama Bin Laden. The furor over Bin Laden's death and my own internal conflicts around his execution and its meaning had full control over my brain functions yesterday, so much so that I forgot that the public announcement of NYAC's closing would be happening. Midweek last week, on a very hard board of directors conference call, after six months back on the board after 10 years away, and after an extreme effort by the board and staff to try and salvage NYAC and keep it solvent, the numbers spoke and the recommendation from our lawyers and accountants was that it was time for NYAC to close its doors for good. I stand 100% behind that decision, though by taking the vote that I took in favor of shutting NYAC down, I was clear that my vote, in addition to closing the only national organization committed to queer youth empowerment, I was also closing the door on an amazing part of my life as a young organizer.

It was sometime around 1996 that I first became aware of the work of NYAC. In fact, it was summer 1996. I was a student at Warren Wilson College, and I had been invited to trek to DC from Western North Carolina to give a three minute speech at the first ever Youth Pride, which was a joint project of SMYAL, NYAC, and the HRC. At the time, I had just managed to get then HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch to put WWC as the only college stop on her anti-Jesse Helms re-election tour in NC. This was before the HRC had gone full blown racist and before EliZabeth Birch showed her true colors as a gross power mongering assimilationist. As you can see...I no longer support her or the HRC.

There I go digressing again.

From that point forward NYAC was a part of my life and training as a young queer organizer. I first met founding executive director Rea Carey at a SE Regional NYAC conference, through organizing work in the South, I met and fell in love with Urooj Arshad, Koren Hoard, Andy Garcia, Asha Leong, and so many other NYAC staff and program participants. And, for a brief time, I joined NYAC's board though after a year, I was removed from the board largely because I was constantly in the face of the organizations new executive director over his very problematic race politics. From 2001-2010, I ket in touch with NYAC staff and the ebb and flow of NYAC's work. In late 2010, the fierce and fantastic Amita Swadhin stalked me and convinced me to return to NYAC. Her vision for the rebirth of the organization, after years of mismanagement, stagnation and ineffectiveness in many ways, was compelling. I signed up and poured my energy and efforts into her vision. Her vision was compelling and transformative, so much so that many folks from my NYAC generation came back to offer support and love to the organization. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late and there was too much overburdened and overstuffed baggage that Amita and the rest of us inherited from the previous board(s) and administration of the organization. The end result is that NYAC will shut its doors permanently on May 13, 2011. It is a huge loss to our community and it is a very personal loss for me. The official statement from NYAC released yesterday provides more information on the decision to shut down and the efforts made to revitalize the organization over the last few months.

On the death of Edith Daugherty aka Aunt Sis aka Honey Bun...

This morning, I woke up just as David was about to leave the house for his morning dog park trip with Mimzy. I had just grabbed my phone and saw that I had three text messages and three phone calls from my Dad since I had gone to bed the night before. I was pretty certain what that meant. I shouted for David not to leave yet, and instead of listening to my Dad's voice mail messages, I called him back. He told me that Honey Bun had died peacefully and without pain early this morning.

I've known for two years or so now that this day was going to come. Honey Bun had bone cancer which is incurable, slow, and ultimately fatal. This is the third loved one that I have lost to cancer since September 2008, though with the previous two, my cousin and Mrs. Harris, there was hope that chemo and other treatments would arrest the cancer. I think the difference between hope and knowing that the end is going to come is the difference between being able to say goodbye on your own terms and having hope turn into denial which makes the goodbye harder.

That's how it works theoretically. In reality, I realized this morning that I was (and still am) in denial. Honey Bun isn't gone. It isn't real. It won't be real until I see her for myself. I know academically that she has moved on (and though I love all of you dearly that come to my blog and read this...the first person that tells me that she is in a better place is going to get the shit beat out of them). I know she is in a better place. I will refer you all to a blog I wrote recently....I could give a damn. She is my Aunt Sis. She raised my Dad. She was the first person in my Dad's family to unequivocally love me when I came out. She didn't give a shit. She was like the Honey Badger that way. I was her crazy as Hell nephew and she loved me crazy...just like her. She was smart, sassy, hilarious, elegant, no bullshit, survivor, beautiful, black, woman, mother, grandmother, aunty, sister, healer, soul food provider, gravy maker, powerful, love. She was love. She was what love was meant to be. She was my Honey Bun. My Aunty Sis. My heart. She earned her long rest, and I know that when she decided to head on up to Heaven this morning she took a minute to love us all a little bit more fiercly. I know she knew that when she went on home that she was going to be leaving behind a whole lot of people that love her. I know she went on somewhere that she could keep a closer eye on us cuz even though we are grown, she was pretty sure that we were going to burn the house down or do something dumb...cuz as grown as we get, we would never been more grown than her.

I know when she got to the other side of the River this morning, Jesus was waiting for her with a mason jar of blackberry brandy. He told her it was like that cup of oil from Hannukah and it would just keep on refilling itself. I know that Grandma Drue, and Granny Juanita and Grandaddy Dover, Miss Eva Clay, and all her other old time friends and ancestors (and probably a few lovers...with her fast behind) were waiting for her with their own mason jars of brandy and shine. I hear my great-great-great grandmother made the best roasted ground hog in the county....and Aunt Sis was never one to turn down good meat. I bet she had a hug for our first ancestors that was snatched up from Africa, and I bet whoever that man or woman is couldn't wait to tell Aunty Sis how proud they are of her and how she lived and loved her way through life.

I know she is alright now. She isn't hurting anymore. No more neuropathy. No more tiredness. No more transfusions. No more platelelts. No more physical rehabilitation. No more intensive care unit. No more hospitals. Just love. Just glory. Just celebration and rejoicing.

I am in no rush to get up there with her, but I know she is waiting or me. I bet my Grandpa Carey, the best man who ever lived, is waiting patiently behind all of Honey Bun's friends and relatives to introduce himself to her. I wish I could be there to see my two favorite and most blessed elders meet one another. I wish I were there to hear them tell each other all the stories they both told me. I wish I could watch their eyes open up in wonder that a man from Northern Minnesota and a woman from southern West Virginia could have such similar stories. And I know they both love me, so how could they not get along?

So, I am going to let myself feel what I need to feel. Honey Bun won't tolerate me acting out or stuffing my feelings in and down. But I can't be happy for her just yet. I am selfish. I have to be sad for me first. I am glad that she isn't in pain anymore. I am glad that she has gotten that mansion she has earned. But right now, I want my Honey Bun here with me....teasing me...sassing me...remind me why family is so damn beautiful.

Honey Bun

Sweet like honey
She is
Those hills
Are powerful
Green shoulders
Hunched and laughing
Streams course along her
Telling stories
'bout blackberry brandy
Brewed up out back
'long side the white lightning
Fried chicken and chittlin's
Collards green like those hills
Just out the backdoor
The stone wombs
That sheltered Her
That child of 1709
According to the Bill of Sale
African embryo
Artificially inseminated
Across the Middle Passage
Implanted in those Hills
born from a coal mine
And mountain granite
Gave birth to a black bird
Sweet like fresh honey
We shall overcome
As she built a bonfire
To celebrate Brown v Board of Education
Said, "Don't know who burnt down the Negro school."
Hehehe she laughed
"But I do know they wasn't sending my children back."
Black bird said, "I am old and crazy as hell."
She'll not be with us much longer
Daughter of those hills has bone cancer
It doesn't matter cuz she's been to the mountain top
And took us with her
Honey Bun coating our tongues and spirits
With sweet strength
This Black Bird gon' sing a little bit longer
Stronger than those granite hills
Spill stories like rivers of honey
Sometimes bittersweet memories
Of mill slaves marched off to glory
Sweet like honey
She is all we could dream to be
Strong like those hills
Those Greenbrier hills that gave birth
to a blackbird
sweet like honey
sing us home.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-September 11, 2010

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead: Now What?

"In front of the death of man, a Christian never rejoices but rather reflects on the grave responsibility of each one in front of God and men, and hopes and commits himself so that every moment not be an occasion for hatred to grow but for peace." -Father Federico Lombardi, The Vatican spokesperson on Osama Bin Laden's death.

I woke up last night and saw a text from my Dad. I figured it was an update on the health of my Aunt Sis, who is fighting bone cancer and has been in and out of the hospital over the last couple of months. My Dad sends me daily updates on her progress. Since I thought it was another health update, I chose to not read the message until getting up to go to the bathroom at 6:30am this morning. When I opened it, it was a simple message, "They finally got Bin Laden's ass."

That's my dad, an ex-military man not prone to mincing words.

I quickly clicked open the Huffington Post on my iPhone to confirm my dad's text message. Indeed, I found, Osama Bin Laden was killed last night by the United States. The cryptic news alert I'd gotten from HuffPost just before going to bed announcing that President Obama would be holding a news conference was made clear. Osama Bin Laden is dead. I logged into Facebook next to see what brief reactions I could take in before starting to write the blog entry that I knew was inevitable.'

There was a note from my friend Alyssa saying, "Look at all those New Yorkers celebrating in the streets, are you out there?"

There was a statement in my Facebook from Muslims for Progressive Values:

Press Release
Statement on News of Death of Osama Bin Laden
May 1, 2011

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) expresses great relief at the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden as President Obama announced in a special report. Osama Bin Laden has singularly disgraced Islam and dragged our faith through the mud with his promotion of terrorism throughout the world from Indonesia, the Middle East, Africa and here in the United States

MPV applauds the resolve and dedication of President Obama in pursuing Osama Bin Laden. As Muslims, we hope this will forever quench the flame of terrorism and that with the rise of democracy throughout the Middle East we can all finally begin to heal. Our condolences continue to go out to the families of those who perished on September 11, 2001 as well as all the victims of terrorism committed in the name of Al Qaeda throughout the world.

My first response on the topic, which is echoed by the statement from the Vatican (lord knows I never thought I would be using a statement from the Vatican for anything but blog fodder) is that I do not celebrate the death of any man. Osama Bin Laden earned his death. I do not regret the actions of the U.S. military and covert operations. I do not believe his death was undeserved or unearned by his own terrible and horrific actions, but I do not celebrate his death. His death is too linked to failed U.S. military and political policies of the past. His death is too connected to our own quest for power. Osama Bin Laden made his own terrible, terrible choices, but just like a serial killer whose mind was bent and broken by an abusive father, Osama bin Laden is a part of the U.S.'s shame. The U.S is not responsible for Bin Laden's choice to turn to terrorism and the murder of innocents, but we are responsible for creating the global circumstances, particularly in the Muslim world, where the twisted and hateful ideology espoused by Bin Laden was able to take root and grow tall enough that men and women across the region have been willing to give their own lives, killing innocents, in a quest to lash out against an enemy that is so inimically tied to their own poverty, suffering, and privation: U.S. economic and foreign policy and the global financial and economic machine propping it up.

I am sad that the circumstances ever existed to create an Osama Bin Laden. I find some comfort in the fact that, like Hitler, a crazy man that was able to inspire individuals to commit acts of atrocity is no longer in the world. But, the circumstances which created Osama Bin Laden still exist. The poverty, privation, and degradation of the developing world have not been alleviated. The under education and religious extremists willing to exploit ignorance for personal gain (in the name of God) still exist (and, to be clear, that particular issue is not unique to Islam...Christian fundamentalist leaders in this country have and still do use reactionary religious views to marshall the undereducated to act against their own best self interest).

While I understand that many in the world are breathing a sigh of relief today, I find it telling that while Western and developed nations are "celebrating," a Yemeni official stated:

"We welcome the news ... millions of people will sleep in peace tonight," the official said. "Osama bin Laden was more of a symbolic figure, a spiritual leader for al Qaeda."
The official said it is too early to determine how his death will affect the war against terror.
"But this is definitely a strong blow to the organization," said the official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

It is my fear that we have cut the head off of the hydra. It was a head that needed to be removed, but we have left the body intact, wounded, but when it heals it will have two heads instead of one. As Congress continues to balk at providing reconstruction aid to Afghanistan in any amount that is meaningful, as we continue to prosecute wars in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, as we continue to provide the world, through our own internal political processes, with live examples of how to use divisive and ignorance politics to build fanatical power bases, we are lancing Al Qaeda's wound just after we've given it. Our justification for war in Afghanistan was the prosecution of Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is dead. Does this mean we will end the war?

No. We did not end the war in Iraq when we caught and executed (under the guise of the Iraqi judiciary) Saddam Hussein, we will not be pulling out of Afghanistan anytime soon. This means that our soldiers, my brother and sister, will continue to be put in harms way in order to shore up a dying U.S. empire.

If there is a true silver lining in this narrative, it is that this pretty much makes certain that Obama (not Osama) will be elected to a second term. To many of the Tea Bagger and more conservative set (and many Lefties as well), this will make him an instant hero. He took decisive military action which resulted in the death of global enemy number one. Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls let out a collective, "OH FUCK," last night when this story broke. I am sure that they will give out begrudging kudos today (well maybe not Bachmann, she lives so far down the rabbit hole that she will find a way to say something completely inane and stupid instead).

This event doesn't change my opinion of Obama. He is a flawed man in a flawed institution doing his best within the parameters and constraints of the U.S. political and economic system to make sense out of the world, our diminishing role in it, while doing what he can to try and lift up the people of the United States (without stepping too hard on the toes of the corporate oligarchy that runs the country). The fact of the matter is that the limits of the president are defined in direct relationship to the sacrifices the progressive community are willing to make to help him push against the corporate alliance that runs the U.S. Frankly, he's done a bang up job, and I will put him back in office for another four years. He's done more good than harm and much more good in three and a half years than Bush did in eight.

But I digress. Back to the topic du jour.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. The boogeyman has been taken out. God help us all, because we've all seen horror movies, and we all know this plot. The boogeyman that is taken down is never as terrifying as the one that we don't even know exists yet. I am content that Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat. I understand that it will take time for a new Al Qaeda mastermind to appear. Perhaps, in fact, Al Qaeda has received a death blow. The truth remains, though, that from El Shabaab to Hamas there is no lack of organizations willing to use terrorist strategies to achieve their personal ends. And as long as we in the developing world continue to support global economic policies that keep 90% of the world in the poverty and circumstances which make these organizations possible, any future attacks and innocent blood shed is as much on our hands as it is on the hands of the murderers that will make them happen.

I pray to God that Obama realizes this as well and implements healing strategies to change what feels like the course of inevitability. I am a person of faith, and I still have some of that hope that Obama talked about almost four years ago.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Behind the Easter Bonnet: Backstage with the Cast of the Lion King

There are upsides and downsides when one of your best friends is an A-List gay celebrity. Actually, the upsides far outweigh the downsides...let's be real. The only real downside when your bestie is Bebe Zahara Benet is that on occasion, I get lost in the shuffle when we are out together (which is to be expected) and that folks tend to believe that I can make Bebe magically appear when and where I want her to be.

The upsides are that I have an amazing and sweet friend who is supportive and loving. I also get to go to some fantastic shit.

Last week, the 25th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition took place at theater that is home to the Lion King. For those of you that aren't familiar (I sure as hell wasn't), the Easter Bonnet Competition was started in 1987 as a benefit to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

, which is the foundation of the Equity Actors' Union. Since 1987, the foundation has raised and awarded $46 million to organizations that provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Each year, the Easter Bonnet competition raises $3 million to support the foundation.

Basically, a good portion of the shows on Broadway produce some fairly hilarious and amazing skits that they perform to a sold out audience over two days. A List celebrities often make surprise appearances in each of the skits, and the event, this year, was hosted by Robin Williams and Judith Light (she is TINY as Hell).

This year, the cast of the Lion King decided to do a skit of RuPaul's Drag Race, particularly since the season finale of the reality show took place during the Easter Bonnet Competition. As a surprise guest star, they brought Bebe Zahara Benet into the cast for the Tuesday afternoon performance. It was hilarious to be in the audience when Bebe took the stage with the other cast members cum drag queens....as folks were like..."Is that the real Bebe? It sure looks like Bebe. I think that is Bebe. Naw that's not the real Bebe." I almost pissed myself laughing. A little trickle may have escaped. I can neither confirm nor deny that urinary fact.

The skit lasted all of four minutes, but I had spent the previous four hours backstage in the dressing room with the marvelous cast members that were taking part in the skit. Organized by Alvin and Jean Michelle (both Lion King cast members), I had a hoot of a time getting to know some of the folks that make the magic of the Lion King. From the wig master who, on about an hours notice, merged two ratty ass wigs that looked like rejects from a Judd's concert into a high hair Southern girl spectacular to the "pit crew," members that stripped down to bedazzled square cut shorts, oiled up and started doing a work out in the dressing room (in a room full of mirrors, it was impossible not to oogle...and LORD HAVE MERCY was I trying to be respectful and not have a spontaneous orgasm when they started doing push ups)...the prep for the show was more fun than I've had in forever.

And the best part was when the straight pit crew hunk of chocolatey loveliness walked out into the hallway outside of the dressing room in his shorts and ran right into Robin Williams who looked at him and said, "What the fuck!"

Oh yes....there are most definitely benefits to having a gay celebrity as a best friend.

I want to thank the cast of the Lion King for their amazing love and support of Bebe, and I want to send my personal love and thanks to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. They provide support to Camp Heartland (largest camp for children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS...I am a former staff member of the parent organization of the camp: One Heartland). Thank you for an amazing afternoon and for welcoming us into the Lion King family!