The cover of this week's Village Voice is arresting. Beautiful red, brown and white hues. They're using a larger, cleaner typeface—hated that Helvetica—and the piece de resistance is an absolutely angelic image of singer Diamanda Galas lensed by Tina Zimmer. But if you can manage to look away from this visual buffet for just one moment, right below her headline is the tease for another essay that you'll probably enjoy much more: Gay Friendly, Kanye West and Louis Farrakhan.
Kanye and Farrakhan are just two of the personalities profiled in A Darker Shade of Pink by Aina Hunter. "New signs of gay friendliness among African Americans" is the central premise, and it's one of the better recent offerings on the subject. Hunter's essay comprehensively evaluates the contemporary yet unilateral gay-friendlier messages being promoted by Kanye West, Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Al Sharpton, with assists from Congressman Charles Rangel and others.
Farrakhan's message of inclusion to gays and the National Black Justice Coalition is the natural springboard here. Keith Boykin announced that historic memo last week; so the writer uses Farrakhan's overture to frame her story. Keith: "This could signal a turning point in our community," We are seeing an unprecedented discussion about sexuality in the black community. I'm confident that 20 to 30 years from now we will look at homophobia in the same light that we now look at racism." More from Keith here, in his review of the Voice essay.
A few days ago, you'll remember that we were somewhat underwhelmed by the AOL/Black Voices article on gays and the black church. Hunter's report in the Voice picks up where that article left off. Rangel suggests that church-sponsored homophobia is weakening because sometimes the gays are the church. "I know of at least one pastor who has died of AIDS—many more deacons. Homosexuals have always been a part of our churches, it just wasn't talked about. Ten, 20 years ago they were in the dark ages, in part because the African American gay community wasn't as aggressive in obtaining their rights as their white counterparts."
Kendal Brown is a Bay Area pastor, counselor and writer, who essays wonderfully at Pondering Negro. It's a weblog about the life, religion, politics and the African diaspora—in other words, much more serious than these pages. His theory: Much of this recent activism has been necessitated by the recent political climate. "Because of the diligent work of the religious right, the lines have been drawn and black clergy have been forced to come out of the closet in either staunch opposition or in support of same-gender relationships."
The Voice report is required reading. It doesn't suggest a fantastic, brave new world for black gays and straights; instead, it notes pockets of change and slow, steady progress. That's fine. It's exactly how wars are won, battle by battle.
A Darker Shade of Pink (Village Voice) Black Gays and Straights Come Together (Keith Boykin) Farrakhan Ends His Silence (Keith Boykin) City of Refuge (Pondering Negro) Kanye on Gay Bashing (Rod2.0) Is Hip Hop Homophobic? (Vibe)