As a general rule, I try not to post a whole lot of negative stuff on this blog, unless it’s directly related to Pop culture. There has been a lot of racist fuckery, just this month, that we’ve been dealing with. I am, at this point in my life, inured to (i.e. tired of) the abject stupidity of the American public when it comes to the subject of race, and hey! it is Black History Month! What I’m not gonna do is turn this blog into a space that chronicles White wtf*ery towards Black people. There are plenty of places on the internet that already do that. Let’s celebrate some positive/happy stuff. Like I said before, “Don’t bring me no bad news!”
I’m going to focus on the positive, like the first, recorded, Black, onscreen kiss. They are so cute!
GERTIE BROWN & SAINT SUTTLE
“Something Good-Negro Kiss,” the newly discovered William Selig silent film from 1898 is believed to be the earliest cinematic depiction of African-American affection. Thanks to scholars at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California, the footage is prompting a rethinking of early film history. The performance by cakewalk partners Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown is a reinterpretation of Thomas Edison’s “The Kiss,” featuring May Irwin and John Rice. The film was announced December 12, 2018 as a new addition to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry—one of 25 selected for their enduring importance to American culture. The 29-second clip is free of stereotypes and racist caricatures, a stark contrast from the majority of black performances at the turn of the century.
Bayard Rustin has been largely erased from the Civil Rights struggle. I wonder why.
Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who was Martin Luther King’s right hand man. He planned the Million Man March and was subject to scrutiny for his sexuality and deemed a “deviant” and “pervert”.
Bayard Rustin can be found in nearly every picture of MLK yet he has undoubtedly been erased from history. We have to fix that.
Well then, let’s bring that name back.
Bayard Rustin, openly gay, human rights activist, proud black man.
(the guy on the left in case you wondered)
Yeah he was literally the guy who was the head of planning the March on Washington.
If you want to learn more about him, there’s a great documentary on him called Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
I did a research project on him, Ella Baker, Claudette Colvin and Stokely Carmichael comparing their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement to the lack of recognition and misrepresentation they received in commonly used high school American History textbooks. All of these people played major roles in the Civil Rights Movement—almost on par with MLK—yet they go largely unnoticed or unfairly pushed aside not only during their time, but even now in classes on American History. These men and women deserve to be remembered.
There has always been a thriving Black film industry, especially for comedies and romances. Movies like Black Panther are not new, and it is mostly an outlier because of its sheer scale. But there a lots of beloved films about everyday Black life and romance that have little to do with the stereotypes of mainstream Hollywood.
I couldn’t wind this up without a shoutout to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Black LGBTQ+ Resources
It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month! Similar to how I made an LGBTQ+ resource post for Native American Heritage Month in November, here are some resources for Black LGBTQ+ people (as always, feel free to contribute if you have more resources!)
- An article about supporting Black LGBTQ+ students (also links to the pages below and more)
- PDF with information about Black LGBTQ+ Heroes
- An article talking about a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) about the experiences of Black and Latinx transgender people in K-12 schools
Historical information from the US National Park Service:
- Full study
- (Chapter 7) A Note about Intersectionality
- (Chapter 8) Making Bisexuals Visible
- (Chapter 10) Transgender History in the US and the Places that Matter
- (Chapter 13) “Where We Could Be Ourselves”: African American LGBTQ Historic Places and Why They Matter
- (Chapter 14) LGBTQ Spaces and Places
- (Chapter 18) LGBTQ Civil Rights in America
- (Chapter 21) Struggles in Body and Spirit: Religion and LGBTQ People in US History
Some Black LGBTQ+ Creators:
- Angelica Ross (African American, trans woman, entrepreneur/actress)
- Mickalene Thomas (African American, lesbian, contemporary artist)
- Isaac Julien (Saint Lucian, gay, installation artist/filmmaker)
- J Mase III (Black queer/trans, poet/educator)
- Zanele Muholi (South African, lesbian, photographer/visual activist)
- Oluwarotimi (Rotimi) Fani-Kayode (Nigerian, gay, photographer)
- GLAAD article about 8 famous Black LGBTQ+ writers
Other Helpful/Informational Links: