Friday, June 29, 2012

Anonymous Responses and Blogging: Stop the Shade

So, today I received a very vehement anonymous response to my recent blog posting Sex, Shirtless Pics, Desire, HIV and Leadership. It was an anonymous response, which I always find amusing, but I have a strict ethic around my blog that unless I find something to be overtly intentionally hurtful, I will post any response to my blog that is not spam. I have, even, in the past offered to allow folks that have had a significant reaction to my blogs to provide space for them, right here, where I would post any thoughtful response to something that I've written.

Now let me be clear about one thing. I always read and take to heart what folks say when offering friendly critique or offering up reflections on what they perceive about my work, myself, etc. My beloved Kamal Fizazi as often as necessary gives me hard and tight love when he observes I am walking down a road that will eventually lead to my own destructive behaviors.

Having said that, just because you offer me your opinion does not mean that I have to accept it or change my own.  Period.

My best friend RJ Thompson is a brilliant and caring man. He is also passionate about veganism for all kinds of good reasons. I have made an intentional choice about eating meat that is connected to celebrating my history, particularly as a person of African descent. My intentionality means that while I love and respect RJ's passion for veganism and his desire to see the world go more that way, I do not agree with his choice for my life and though he's shared his opinion, I continue to eat hamburgers.

I was accused of a simplistic and knee-jerk response in writing my blog. I quite beg to differ, I have developed, over a year, with ample evidence here on this blog, my ethic and ethos around why I am doing what I am doing with regards to my body and its public transformation. I gave a workshop at Creating Change in January called Sexy Positive Bodies, and I have been asked to re-create that workshop again this year, and I will be joined by an amazing comrade when doing that.

My response was not knee jerk. It just didn't give a real damn about altering why I do what I do when I have intentionally crafted my views around body, HIV, leadership, and desire.

No shade. No shame. But if I don't agree with you, it doesn't mean that your opinion is validated, it simply means that I do not agree with you. I support you, your opinion, thoughts and feelings. But I am living this life, and you aren't. It's that simple.

But the one thing that I don't do and have never done is make my remarks anonymously. It's cowardly, actually, and I feel that way distinctly. You don't have to agree. There is a reason why there is an anonymous option. I will always engage in forthright dialogue, and I have stood by statements that were hard and unpopular. But I do not have respect for those that attack from behind closed doors and do so with a level of laughable self-righteousness. This is a queer blog. Please come out.

Nigel Singer, an organizer in England and the father of the sweet Maya Singer Hobbs wrote in his comment on that same blog:
Brandon, I love this writing. In amongst other stuff I do work on leadership and a book that influences me is called A Failure of Nerve. The writer talks about 'self differentiated leaders', peope who know what they stand for and who are prepared to hold the line. He recognises that some people may be hurt by this clarity and he sees hurt as an inevitable consequence of living our lives. He is clear about not intentionally damaging others but that hurt happens.
He also says that a leader who holds to their truth and stands for it has huge impact and creates change - and some of this impact will be negative reaction - which goes with the territory.
I want to appreciate and enjoy you for your clarity around your expression of your identity.
I stand by who I am, and if, somehow, my doing so has caused hurt to someone else or triggered something from their lives, then I apologize for the hurt but not for my clarity. My intention is mine and it works for what I do and how I do it. Live your life the way you would. Its your freedom to do so. I take mine and do so with integrity. That's all I expect from others. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Everyday Heroes: David Berube

When I tell folks that a year after we ended our relationship, I still live with my ex-boyfriend, almost to a person their mouths fall open and they ask, "Ummm how does THAT work."

I explain that our relationship didn't end because we didn't love each other or because there was some giant meltdown, it ended because it had changed into a deep and meaningful kinship that was no longer best suited by being boyfriends. We made a choice to continue living together and to be family to one another, and while, in the first few months, things were sometimes rocky, it is a loving home that we share, with Mimzy, and it works for us.

I done told y'all before I am a quarter lesbian on my Mom's side.

The fact is that David is permanently and forever a part of my life. He has seen and supported and loved me through some intensely hard times in my life, some created by me, others that the Universe brought along. And while it hasn't always been pretty, it has always been loving, and I have been able, I think, to give back that love and support in equal measure.

Most recently, though, when starting my HIV medications, David was, in fact, amazing....supporting me through some really rough patches when I was angry and sad and hurting. He supported me through the side effects and gentle and caring on the mornings when I just couldn't sleep because of my medication.

We bicker like little old ladies in a nursing home. His trumpet farts in the morning work my last nerve, and I think his recipe for cooking salmon is just plain wrong, but he is one of my Everyday Heroes. I love him. I value him. And I thank him for being a part of my life for the last four years and letting me be a part of his.

Love you, Fool.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sex, Shirtless Pictures, Desire, HIV, and Leadership

Today, I changed my profile picture on Facebook. Like most of my pictures, it is one of me throwing a little bit of attitude at the camera, unlike several recent pictures, I happen to have my shirt on. Shortly after changing my profile picture, I received a very respectful email from someone that is not one of my FB friends but must follow me in some way, and he wrote:
Thank god your new profile photo finally has a shirt on. The ED of an amazing nonprofilt should not be shirtless.

I say this not because I am not sex positive (I am, and I am glad QEJ is too), but because shirtless photos look narcassistic. Which is fine for an individual, but not when that individual is suddenly the public face of the greatest queer organization around. ( I mean, there's lots of narcissism to be found on my profile, but i am not representing an organization ...)

Good luck in the newish position, sexy.
I wrote back to him this:
Thank you, [name deleted] for your note. I will take that into consideration in the context of my work.

Chances are though the pictures will continue to pop up. In the context of living loud and proud, reclaiming sex and sensuality for HIV positive bodies, challenging assumptions of leadership, redefining desire in the work and resexualizing the movement...with intention, integrity and joy, I will, without a doubt continue to do my work in the framework in which I presented my bid for leadership. Yes, narcissism exists but do not mistake me, my choices, especially when it comes to social networking sites are always and very intentional.

And ps I investigated your pictures, and I share back the sexy . Best to you.
That was the sum of the conversation, but, as many conversations do, it inspired me to write out my thoughts a little bit further, since if one person has had this thought, others must have as well. Let me begin by saying I am dedicated wholly to my job. From the time I get up until the time I go to bed, chances are I am spending at least part of every waking hour dealing with something related to QEJ, that's how you roll in a small radical nonprofit. Yes, I work on the weekends. Yes, I will be working this weekend. But, as much time as I spend working at QEJ, QEJ is my job it is not my work.

(In's 7pm, and I just got off a conference to me about office hours...shoot).

Let me explain. I do my work at my job but my job is not my work and not all of my work is done at my job. My work, in this world, is to be writer. It is to talk about the things that others sometimes can't. It is to bring desire and sex and joy back into movement building. It is to celebrate bodies in all their shapes and sizes and encourage folks to love themselves where they are and move themselves to where they want to be and be PROUD and share that work as they move along. It's why I stated my Sexy Positive Bodies photo project, to document the intentional change in my body

My work is also to hurt, love, fuck, cry, ask for help, give strength, accept strength given, sing, dance, and love some more. Because as a man I've been taught not to do those things, and if I do, not to do them I fuck up sexism by being an openly butch bodied femme boy that is afraid to be vulnerable and powerful and does it any damn way.

But most of all lately is that I have found my work falling in two places: desiring, sexualizing, and making folks hot as fuck for an HIV positive body, and bringing to light, space, and center other poz folks that are also fly as fuck (in all their shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities).  And opening space through my own process and being PUBLIC about being POSITIVE and through an clear, intentional sensualization and sometimes sexualization of my work and leadership (not lewdness but an intentional desiring of work and community and leadership). And the other space, that goes hand in hand with that, is intentionally putting sex BACK into sexual orientation and our movement for SEXUAL LIBERATION. Get in it folks.

I know how to play the game. I have been engaged in politics longer than folks twice my age from straight up electoral politics (and being recruited to be staff on campaigns) to at 28 being named a Young Wonk to Watch by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, I know my work. As my beloved Amber Hollibaugh, the woman who literally wrote the book on desire (My Dangerous Desires) once said, "Brandon has been groomed to be an executive director." And that shit is true. But groomed and guided as I have been, and loved and supported in this trajectory, I made my own decision that if I were going to do this work and do this work well, I was going to do it as me. Could I, if I put my shirt on and learned how to tie a tie position myself to be Executive Director of the Task Force and follow in the footsteps of friends and mentors Russell Roybal and Rea Carey...absolutely. But their work is different than mine. My work isn't at the Task Force. It's not at GLSEN. It's not at the helm of GLAAD. Where I go next after QEJ is anyone's guess, but I do know that when I move forward, it will be with a clear identity as a movement "leader," that expresses a particular politic that includes a sexual politic and ethic.

Don't get me wrong, I slap on a suit and tie and look really pretty when I need to do so. I am, mostly, clothed in the office (sometimes I do go barefooted), and my colleagues, interns, and community respect me....shirtless pictures and all. I am intentional in how I am building my leadership. I fully understand that there are those that may not agree with it. But I came to my position transparently and with plenty-o-shirtless pictures (along with a narrative of why they exist) to my interviews and right up to my hiring. Do I love this fabulous new body of mine, yes, but I love my work more, and I will do anything for my work and for QEJ...but the gift of leadership is that you get to define what that means and have a platform to uplift other ways of being, living, and loving that have just as much integrity as a corporate, suit and tie aesthetic...which I will not and have never desired to have.

And it's all about desire.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Shades of Grey

I am a type A Virgo control freak. Now this may surprise most people that only know me on the surface. Most folks that know me think that I am the fun/funny/over-the-top/outrageous/asshole/insert your own invective here human being but few would rarely assume that I, despite the appearance of my bedroom, value and thrive on order and systems. My brain requires systems....the more rules the better....the rules should be based on specific criteria, but there ARE rules...there ARE truths....there ARE wrongs...there ARE absolutes....

Thank God...I am also a Gemini rising and understand that there are also important grey areas....but don't get it twisted...even those are in ummmm...shades of grey....

So though I recognize there are shady areas and queens that love to throw shade, I don't do well with grey. I grew up in a home of survived or you didn't. You ate or you didn't.  Yet logic would tell you that in that environment love couldn't exist....strength couldn't exist...the basis for truth and happiness couldn't exist.

Enter the shades of grey.

Disclaimer: I have never read 50 Shades of Grey, and I am shamelessly using the title/popular culture reference for my own advantage.

My life has been many shades of grey. When I swore I couldn't be loved. Loved showed up. When I swore HE didn't want me. HE showed up. When I swore that I wouldn't get the job. The job showed up. What I believed versus what became true ARE the shades of grey.

I am happy, now to give up some of that control and live in the grey. Tonight....proved, once again, that what I BELIEVED sometimes has less to do with what's real and possible and more to do than what's internal and fucked up...than I am sometimes willing to admit. Control is black and white. LIFE and living is grey.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breaking Down and Lifting Up

The last week has been no damn joke.  Last weekend, I started my HIV medication, Complera. I was surrounded all weekend by some really amazing human beings, old friends and new possibilities (thanks Pete), and all week long I have received texts, emails, real life, and telephonic love from, literally, all over the world. My blog about starting meds was reposted on, and I have literally received notes from North Carolina to rural Africa. How much amazing love is that?

Part of my legacy of how I grew up is that you deal with the crisis by smacking it down and then you bully ahead. I had a calendar full of things that had to be done this week. I have remarked to some friends that being an executive director, even a co-executive director, is like ascending to the throne. Your body now belongs to the state, or in my case, Queers for Economic Justice. It's pride and there is just a lot of must do shit that...welll.....I must do. And the fact that this medicine makes my body vibrate and bounce like I've had a Tigger shoved up my ass, well, as I said....bully through and have at it.

Yesterday though, I just couldn't do it. I needed to break the fuck down and feel some shit and let it out. I was supposed to meet my girl Tasha and my boy Von for drinks. Walking to the bar, I realized exactly how exhausted I was. Two of the side effects of my medication are....get this...fatigue AND insomnia. What kind of shit is that? Imma make you reallllly tired but then make it so you can't sleep.  This is some Abu Ghraib shit. Anyway, I got to the bar, and Von walked in (I so apologize Von), but I realized I could not do it. He'd hauled his ass up from Chelsea, and I sent him right on back out the door.  I went home and Tasha came and met me.

And this is why I love Tasha, and I love Tasha for many and plentiful reasons, but at one point, I just laid my head down on the bed and said Tasha, I am so tired. And she looked at me and said....then boo, go to sleep.

We were waiting for food (and Tasha had the bad luck to be on a wine run when the food arrived....and I ate every damn piece of calamari before she got back.....ooopsy!), but my girl said....just go to sleep.

I didn't. I stayed awake, because Tasha is good medicine. Complera is the medicine keeping my body alive, but it's been Tasha, JT, Peter, Amber, Lily, Hallie, Jay, David, Brad, Sohail and so many others that have been the medicine keeping my spirit alive. 

Sometimes it is good and necessary to break down, fall apart, and feel what needs to be felt. Then you can let it go, get back up, and build yourself into something more powerful.  That's what good medicine does.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Systems of Oppression Manifested through Public Education

I am happy to share with you this guest blog by an amazing man that I recently met, and who impresses me deeply in so many ways. He is an educator that puts his love of teaching and his critical eye of the impact of systems of oppression both within the school system and without out as a framework for reaching his students. Which he does. Thank you for this. And thank you for breaking down the systems that were meant to keep us from becoming more than cogs in a machine. Teachers like you are the ones that really make the world shift on its axis.

Systems of Oppression Manifested through Public Education
by P. Scari 

I'm not sure how much I can actually discuss, and I won't name names -- and it will be a matter of public record anyway since brilliant (said with a high degree of sarcasm) Mayor Bloomberg releases teacher data reports (i.e. the names of teachers tied to scores) which is extremely problematic for a number of reasons, so I wanted to discuss a few thoughts I had.

Today I was told I essentially did better than last year in terms of my kids' tests. It's only an initial score (I won't even get into how problematic that whole entire thing is), in other words, it's not the full score of the test, and it largely (that's an unfortunate understatement) determines students' going to summer school, but despite its only being initial, it looks much improved compared to last year.

At first, and to some degree still, I am happy about this. Who wouldn't be? Who wouldn't be thrilled that his kids made (as it stands to appear now) gains as measured by a biased state exam? But now -- I have to wonder... how authentic is this? Did they become better readers? Did they actually become better writers? Do I have other forms of evidence to support this? Or, did they just become better, savvier test-takers (which, I suppose, is an important skill in our test-drenched society)?

I was surprised by certain kids. Saddened by others. I had tears in my eyes for both kids who made gains, the work and effort I felt I put in, and kids who didn't. You want to "save" all of them, after all.

Was it me? It takes a village, so wasn't it also the help of everyone? My colleagues? Other teachers? Saturday programs? How could I determine what is actually attributed to my doing? Would I ever be able to? Isn't that one of the fundamental problems about releasing scores-- that you'll never truly know if a teacher made the difference or not? And does any of it even really matter?

Was it the class size? After all, I did have smaller numbers this year than last. I am convinced that, when it comes to English and literacy instruction, small numbers are critical. They allow for the fostering of deeper relationships; they allow for those reluctant readers and writers to read, write, share, and explore out loud. Maybe, instead, I am just one of those teachers whose style isn't conducive to big class instruction?

Not only this, but especially when it comes to English (although I think any subject): testing takes the love and joy out of learning that subject. Reading is aesthetic. In the real world, we pick up things we want to read. Hopefully, we work at jobs we want and choose to work at because of our passion for it, and therefore, anything we read within that job is something we want and choose to read. I think of my Montessori training, her empirical research with kids living below the poverty line in situations where the poverty looked like more of what many of us picture "poverty" to resemble, and not where, say, my kids live (which also happens to be the poorest Congressional district in the United States). Her research showed us so much about how kids really learn tied to a working philosophy and a deep understanding of human development. I don't want to go into it because I am not mentally prepared today to open the debate about this subject (Montessori's research specifically), which I feel a zeal and passion for on a visceral level, but my point in this is: how do you honestly test English? How do you honestly test any subject? I can see the perspective of love and passion and desire to learn a subject, any subject? I can see hands-on approaches for most subjects. I question the point. What's the ultimate point of testing?

So I think: what about the kids who became (or didn't became) actual focused, critical thinkers? Does this test reflect that (and to what extent)? What about the kids who didn't become this? (Why is that? How much time was spent preparing and teaching kids to take a test as opposed to think, and are the two diametrically opposed, or can one, and did I, teach critical thinking skills through test sophistication?)

What about the kids who became better human beings? How is that measured? All of the human moments and 'teachable' moments... how are those measured? What about kids who can't read, nor write, but verbally answer questions? What about kids who'd do better through performance-based assessments? Is it all about this? The numbers? The data? Is that so bad?

The test is biased. I could cite specific examples from even this year's state test, which back up what I am saying. It is biased in favor of a specific demographic. I can say having had multiple experiences that no group of children in any one demographic is "better" than any other group. In fact, I often find that kids from demographics composed of lower socioeconomic statuses are much more savvy, cultured, worldly, and better critical thinkers -- this may not mean they are the best test-takers, readers, or writers. Then again, I suppose it depends on one's definitions of "cultured" or "savvy" etc. etc. What I do know to be true is that there wasn't one, single "urban" piece of text on this year's state test and this, by its very nature is a bias. With more human beings living in urban centers globally than none urban centers, this fact seems unjust and unfair. There wasn't even a balance in terms of the content. There was a text on one of this year's predictive assessments (an assessment used to determine how kids might do on the state test) which was set on a vineyard. Not a single one of our kids knew what a vineyard was. And why should they? That's not a a part of their world. I didn't begin to think outside of my scope until college, and yet, they are asking for our middle school kids to do just that when developmentally, human beings don't begin to do that on average until high school. Why not put a text on the test set on the subway, calling it by the local colloquialism, the train? Or would that be too confusing for their suburban and rural counterparts who more than likely have more opportunity for actual physical exposure to a vineyard given the area in which they reside? I didn't want to give an example, and there are many, many more, but it brings to light a very simple bias taken for granted. I dare anyone to say it's not bias. If you do, you obviously have never taught middle school.

I could go on and on. But, in short, while I am happy and humbled by the initial success of my kids, I am disturbed, too. The system is tied to arbitrary scores in a way it should not be. I am no more successful than last year. Sometimes you have a good year and sometimes you don't. The general public will see a teacher and based on sheer numbers alone determine a teacher's effectiveness. That's the whole point, really, no matter what anyone says: it's an "I gotcha." The kids in puppet fashion do well on a test, and you're an effective teacher. The kids don't, and you're not. Of course, they are coming up with other ways of assessing teachers... but the reality is, this one thing, that may not seem like an issue to most, especially those who aren't in the system, or those who don't think critically, actually highlights quite poignantly many of the systemic and pervasive issues latent, dormant, active and working within the educational system locally and at large. Now, if I say, well why do we even need grades (to which I can cite specific, measurable, successful, and both affluent and poor socioeconomic scenarios), I would be pegged a what? A socialist? A communist? An anarchist? Because how would we, how could we, keep the sheep at bay? How would society function if our kids weren't placed within this sick, fucked up dynamic whereby their worth was measured according to grades based on some arbitrary system? What would the result be? Would it be the end of civilization as we know it (God forbid, we actually, authentically elevate all in a simultaneous, differentiated, understanding and compassionate fashion)?

I'll end with this: what's the point of education? To subdue and train the masses or to actually educate? All are capable of learning-- it's an innate human quality. So, is it a number we are focused on, or, actually, education? And what does that education look like? And please, don't give me that righteous bullshit about, "well, if the kids wanted to learn, they would, and I worked so damn hard, and I walked 10 miles through the snow..." No. Good for you. Save it and save your privilege. Everyone can learn and that's why I became a teacher. To teach. To help human beings better, evolve, and grow. And to help kids who don't realize their potential hopefully begin to realize that yes, they can learn, despite everything in their world that may be telling them they can't, they shouldn't and / or they won't. We live in a complicated world and I pray, as should all of you, this system gets figured out such that we produce authentically critical thinking human beings who want to be and see the value in becoming contributing members of a complex and beautifully diverse society. I dare not think of the consequences and alternative scenarios if this isn't figured out: I would not want to live in a society where anarchy and ignorance reigned nor where everyone was just another brick in the wall. And please, spare the comparisons to other countries, too. Your evidence would be based on, surprisingly enough, test scores. I do not recognize that as substantial for the reasons cited above, therefore your argument is invalid to me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Call My Ass Tigger!

Last night, after spending a couple of hours listening to the local comedian superstar Brad Loekle heckle the Tony's at Therapy Bar in Hell's Kitchen, I said goodbye to JT and his friend Josue and Roger and his friend Jeremy, and I headed home.

I was in bed and asleep by 9:30pm. Praise Jesus.

I was determined to get a full nights sleep, something that has eluded me for more than a week. So, last night I took a couple of over-the-counter sleeping meds, and I slam dunked into the land of Morpheus.

That is until about 1:30am when I woke up, made my way to the bathroom, and regretted all of the thai peppers and fish sauce I'd put on my lunch earlier in the day. Two words for you: Ass Lava. 

Funnily enough, I almost didn't make it to the bathroom because when I stood up the world was doing its own damn dance. Shadows were throwing down a mean samba, and I felt like a motherfucker that had never drank a V-8. I walked crooked all the way to the bathroom.

Welcome to the world of HIV medication.

My entire body, from my spirit to my ankles were vibrating like the Mississippi Mass Choir. I mean, it was what I call double O C (OUT OF CONTROL!).

It was so extra that I ended up taking two more sleeping pills to get back to sleep.

I woke up this morning doing what I call the Tigger...I basically bounced all the way to the bathroom. I was doing the huckabuck in the shower, and I swear I did the Roll Bounce all the way to work. It was too damn much.

Now I've been told this will die down in time, but I sincerely am not a friend of not being able to control my extremities.

Folks have been amazing, and I've received lots of love and advice. But no one's advice could prepare me for the after affects of a nuclear bomb being let off inside your skin. It's no joke people. And not the most fun ride I've had. It's like coming down from a great high without experiencing the actual euphoria. All the drama with none of the pleasure.

I am so happy that ACT-UP kicked ass for years to make sure that meds like these exist. And I am glad that it guarantees me a long ass life unless I do something really dumb or get hit by an alien death beam from planet Tiggerroo.....but there is a cost to these meds...I am happy to pay it...but I ain't so happy to feel it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meds Today

Today is the day. I pick up my prescription for HIV meds. And tonight at dinner, I will take my first pill.

I have a great day planned. Brunch with Sohail, and then the Metro North to Yonkers to hang out with Peter.

With dinner, because Complera requires a meal of at least 400 calories, I will take my first pill.

This week, I received much love and support from folks I know and peeps I don't. I received an email to which I still need to respond from someone named Patrick. Patrick said, truthfully, the gift of a non-progressor is really that sometimes we can go for a week or two and not really think about being positive. For ten years, I got to do that. It was a gift....even if it was, sometimes, a lie. (Thank you, Patrick, for your sweet note.)

Until today, Patrick was right. After today. Each night at dinner time, there will be a tiny reminder of the disease with which I live. A little squatter that keeps ignoring my eviction notices.

I am gonna be alright. Actually, I am alright. Actually my life is pretty damn amazing. But I get to be a little bit sad today.

I'm not going to lie. Even when I lie to myself, I try to never lie to you all, my readers. Today, is a day I will never forget. Some people that live with HIV can tell you the day, time, and location that they received their diagnosis. I know where. I know the year, and I have a vague recollection of the month.

I will never forgot today. June 9, 2012.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Top Ten Blog Posts: May-June

Folks are busy beavers, especially during this time of year, and if you are a gay-for-pay/profo-homo, then June is HELL MONTH!

So, I forgive you if you missed these gems from the last month(ish).

Top Blog Posts (by number of readers...aka YOU) are:

1.  Starting Meds or HIV Sucks
2. Gay Marriage
3. Half Naked Brandon and the Launch of MLNY
4. CeCe McDonald and the Continuing Injustice
5. Why I Will Be Voting for Barack Obama
6. Black Folks, Gays, and an Amazing Black Church
7. Hard
8. POETRY: I Live
9. INJustice for CeCe McDonald: When Tools Rule
10. Colored Girl Hustle: Summer Accessory Line

There you  have them. Thanks everyone for reading.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jomama Jones' "Radiate Live!" in Minnesota!

I am sitting on my bed, stuffing my face after a second go around at the gym and a long ass day at the office. I still have two more phone calls to make tonight before I can turn my brain off.

But let me not pretend like writing this blog is anything like work. In fact, I am sitting here, listening to the amazing new EP, "Six Ways Home," by the phenomenal Jomama Jones. This EP was a gift from Jomama's twin and alter ego, Daniel Alexander Jones, and my only regret about this album is that I was out of the office at a meeting when he dropped it off.

If you read my blog regularly, then you will know this is the fourth time I have posted about Jomama Jones. I can say with certainty that no other artist has appeared more as the subject of a blog in five years of writing this thing. All you have to do is listen to one of her albums or see one of her live theater/concerts and you will know.

Jomama Jones and the Sweet Peaches (her tremendous back up vocals) will CHANGE you.

The soul, politics, sweetness, truth, beauty, and love from every show and every album is just what this sometimes too black and white (Jomama walks that line too!) and often overly grey world needs. And if you are in Minneapolis this summer from June 13-24 then your life just got a little bit better. Jomama will be bringing her show, "Radiate Live!" (I've seen's MAGNIFICENT) to my favorite theater in the ENTIRE WORLD: Pillsbury House Theater.

For information on tickets, showtimes and prices direct yourself here. 

Jomama (and Daniel!), Bobby Halverson, and the Sweet Peaches are not to be missed.  And pick up her new EP, "Six Ways Home," when you see the show.

Monday, June 4, 2012

INjustice for CeCe McDonald: When Tools Rule

Today the long running farce of justice that has been the CeCe McDonald trial has come to a least a judicial close. Judge Daniel Moreno (dickhead), sentenced CeCe to 41 months in prison, as was expected as these were the terms of her plea bargain. CeCe has already been in custody for 366 days, but today the judge ruled that the time she spent under house arrest will not count towards her time served, and so she will only be credited with 275 days.

My friend Connie Kauppi posted on my Facebook wall:
Freeman and Moreno gives me an idea for children's books: The Hammer That Thought It Was A Lawyer and The Screwdriver That Thought It Was A Judge. They think they are servants of justice and practitioners of law... They are but TOOLS.

But wait, it gets worse.

The state of Minnesota is ALSO going to be housing CeCe as a male. With all of the data, including new Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines regarding sexual violence and safety in prisons, particularly as it relates to transgender individuals, the state making a decision to house CeCe with folks that are NOT of her gender, is a critical injustice and a violation (again) of her human rights.

I am so angry at this level of gross and inhuman justice and power expression that for the first time in my life I am ashamed of being a Minnesotan. I LOVE MY STATE. I have spent a good chunk of my life fighting to keep shit like this from going down in my homeland, my friends still are, and this flagrant injustice, masked in Minnesota nice (Mike Freeman, I would be quite content to never hear from you again, thank you), is just too damn much.

Lemme be clear. This is about racism, transphobia, class, poverty and heterosexism, but its mostly about maintaining hegemonic power. CeCe is being punished because she was never meant to survive. She is being punished because she was never mean to live. She is being punished because she stood up for herself and by doing so left the place designated for her in this world for a moment and took back the power that was snatched from her ancestors. For a moment, she stood in her own skin and said to the universe, I WILL live.

Not too long ago we strung up black men and lit them on fire for whistling at a white woman.  CeCe's trial and sentence are just another type of lynching. Not only did she stand up for herself, but she committed the greatest sin a person of color can make, she killed a white man. In defense of her own life, she killed a white man, and POWER demands that CeCe pay the price. POWER would kill her if it could.  If CeCe had been acquitted it would have meant that the basis of POWER in this country was eroding, shifting, changing hands. They gave us Barack Obama to provide the illusion that race had changed in the U.S. Not a damn thing has changed at the most fundamental levels. I will know real change has come when a woman of color is assaulted, has her cheek sliced completely through, defends her life and JUSTICE comes down on her side.

Mike Freeman and Judge Moreno, no matter how many emails you send or how well you sleep at night changes the fact that you did NOT serve justice today. You served up injustice with a smile and a light apology.

CeCe, I love you, we love you, and we will not abandon you. See you soon. YOUR coming out party is going to be so damn fierce. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Colored Girl Hustle: Summer Accessory Line

I am so so so late on this, but some things have been going on in my life, you know. But I need you all to help me make up for my extremely Negro Time frame on this blog post by buying a whole bunch of the amazing accessories offered up by Taja Lindley and her company: Colored Girsl Hustle.

Let me be real for a minute. I met Taja getting off of the train in Springfield, MA. We were on our way to the CLPP conference, from Abortion Rights to Social Justice. This woman was (and is) stunning. I had an instant girl crush on her. Anyone that is beautiful, political, AND can accessorize is on my short list of awesome.

Over the course of the weekend, I got to see Taja's amazing jewelry. In a testament to her artistry, I didn't notice her accessories because I went to her table, I noticed them ON folks and had to ask where they'd found them...and THEN I hauled my ass with a quickness to take in the beautiful creations of Colored Girls Hustle.

Now Taja asked me to promote her launch party last month, and I just couldn't get it together in time to send out the press release, but I want all y'all to check out her work and buy it. This sister is fierce, political and doing exactly what folks of color need to do:  build our own economies using our blessings and gifts. This is Colored Girls Hustle.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Starting Meds or HIV Sucks

Let's start this way: I have an amazing job with amazing people, especially my co-director Amber Hollibaugh and my Shelter Program Director Jay Toole. I've known them both for years and years before working with them and I love them both dearly.

Though I live with HIV, I am healthy. I am fed. My bills (except my student loans) are paid. I have an awesome roommate and a beautiful dog. My family loves the Hell out of me, and I have seven siblings that hold up their big brother always. I have friends/family/complicated definition folks in my life such as JT Mikulka, Bebe Zahara Benet, RJ Thompson, Roojie, Kamal Fizazi, Sam Matin, Di Sands, Jennifer Molina Balbuena de Hannon, Jason Ruiz, Coya Hope Artichoker, Anh Thu Pham, Betty Tisel and Sarah Farley, Susan Raffo and Rocki Simoes, Rigo and Nubia, my beautiful nieces and nephews, my godson Santiago aka Baby Rufus, Troll Baby and Rebs, Gracie, crazy ass and brilliant Ebony, my brother from another mother and father Carlitos Blanquitos, and so so so many others. I am so blessed and full up on love, and I KNOW that so many folks walking around this earth experience or believe that they have a love deficit. I don't. I NEVER have had. I have ALWAYS in every moment, in my deepest poverty, during the greatest violence, and in my fiercest hurt, and during my most self induced crazy, been held by so many with such compassion that if any one of them walked down to Hudson River park and commanded the River to split open, I wouldn't have been the least surprised. It would be nice though, if they do, if I could at least grab my good chancletas first.

We might be going to Jersey, but we don't have to LOOK like we live in Jersey.

My life changed this week. Only slightly. Only nominally. But it changed.  After ten years of being so very blessed.  After ten years of having my body, and all I've put it through, kick HIV's ass (I am one of those super rare and magical creatures called a nonprogressor......not a super nonprogressor...but a nonprogressor....there is an important distinction that I am about to talk about), my amazing doctor, Steve Dillon at Gotham Medical, recommended that I start HAART treatment.

Nonprogressors go years, in my case a decade, without needing HIV meds. Supernonprogressors never need them. My body just got a little tired. It fought so hard for so so so long. From 25 to 35 it fought a war that it will win but now it needs just a little help. Just a bit. 

PS Dr. Dillon and the practitioners are Gotham Medical, formerly the Chelsea Doctors.

Lets be real. For ten years my body kept my HIV viral loads at or near undetectable ON ITS OWN. My Tcells, are at "normie" levels. Near a thousand (and usually over....most normies aren't even that high).

And, to quote my girl, Lezbehonest....the news that I have to start HAART treatment kicked my motherfuckingass.

I ain't dying. So far from it. I ain't sick. So far from it. I get to start a new state of the art med (Complera) particularly designed for folks like me that have a natural resistance to HIV. The side effects are almost non existent besides some initial fatigue and headaches. I AM SO FUCKING BLESSED.

And today, I broke the fuck down.

My walk with HIV is MY walk. And if I stop to compare it to other folks journey, I have nothing to complain about. But my feelings are real. My experience is real. My sadness and hurt is REAL It's not cute. It's not easy. It's not a tragedy. It's not a crisis. But it is hard. It does hurt. And this transition and its incumbent feelings are all valid.

Thank you everyone who picked up the phone or sent a text today. I needed it. I needed you. I still need you. Thank you. I love you. And anyone else that walks this walk...know that it's gonna be alright but its gonna hurt when you take those first few steps...whether it's a week after your diagnosis or after a decade.

Imma love and live well. So will you.