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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Being Exclusive is NOT African...

Being Exclusive is NOT The African Way…

By Brother Tracy Gibson

Africans have a long tradition of welcoming other people into their homes, villages, temples and even political struggles. Being exclusive and not forming alliances is a sure fire way of losing a battle. I’m not saying we should trust everyone and be foolish or too trusting. However, when we pull together with other groups and organizations that have similar goals and objectives, we are able to puff up our numbers and really clobber the enemy. When we only struggle within and among ourselves we remain Brother and Sister Outsider…While we have to be careful to collaborate with others who have similar interests and who have similar goals, working in coalition can bring needed fruit to the table and make more bounty for everyone. Working only with Black people can also be fruitful, but it doesn’t always get us the numbers and the victories we want and need…. Being inclusive is African…

In the December, 2009 issue of Leon Williams Journal ``The Voice No One Controls’’, (Brother Williams is a long-time Philadelphia progressive activist who has been friendly over the years), Sister Shahrzad Ali wrote that she was perturbed about the School Reform Commission (SRC) of Philadelphia stripping Black History Month from its’ roster because October was not accepted as Gay & Lesbian History month by many African American groups including the African American Freedom & Reconstruction League of which Sister Ali is a leading member.

I have to agree with Sister Ali that certainly Black History Month should NOT have been dropped by Philadelphia’s SRC. Not with over 70 % of all public school students being from the African American community. This is certainly an injustice considering that most European centered history taught in our Nation is revisionist and often racist in nature. It does not tell the truth. All or most of the accomplishments of other people—people other than Europeans (Usually old funky White men)--has been stripped from the history books including the great achievements in world history of Latino, Asian, Native American, African & Arab people. I want to go on record as officially petitioning our School Board and the SRC to reinstate Black History Month—February—in the official roster & calendar for the school year. They will be getting a letter from me expressing this demand resolutely and within a few weeks!!

At the same time, I have to drastically disagree with Sister Ali in her thought that Same Gender Loving (SGL) (or gay) history is somehow wrong or perverted. I can’t disagree with her more.

I feel that the history of people such as Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin & Bayard Rustin are part & parcel to the American saga and should be studied by our children and the rest of us. We need to know about people other than just straight Black men and women. A good, fair and just compromise would be for upper classmen to study such people. There is no reason why students in public High School can’t study such great American heroes. Students in High School have a better understanding of what sexual orientation is and have probably already had their own personal sexual identity set. I don’t think they are as impressionable as younger children. I don’t think studying such people & the events that surround them in history should be thought of as perverse or threatening to the Black family or any other family for that matter. Come on people, this is 2009. There are Same Gender Loving families in the school system, in society at large and throughout the world. SGL people are even protected under the Constitution in South Africa. (Our country has not seen fit to give such protections at this point because the Republicans and the so-called Blue Dog Democrats would have a pig fit).

Just for your consideration, here are brief histories of each of the historical figures mentioned here:
Historical Gay or SGL Figures:


Harvey Milk (1930-1978) was the first openly (SGL) member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (Their City Council). He was tragically murdered as he championed SGL rights & advocated for the underserved, left out and poor in that California city. A recent movie ``Milk’’ (2008) Directed by Gus Van Sant met with much critical and public support... The drama is based on facts and stars Sean Penn depicting Harvey Milk...

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was an outstanding New York City poet, activist, feminist and human rights advocate. She advocated for Black lesbians and SGL Black men and others who she felt were left on the outside of history as well as for poor people... She won many awards and accolades and there is a community center named after her in New York City. There is a documentary film about her called: ``A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde.’’ (1995). Directed by Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson. Some of Ms. Lorde’s works included ``Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches’’ and ``The Black Unicorn.’’


James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) was one of the most important and renowned American authors through out history. He was also a human rights advocate, a civil rights leader & a social critic who won many prizes for his literary accomplishments. He penned: ``The Fire Next Time,’’ ``Go Tellin’ on the Mountain,’’ ``Nobody Knows My Name,’’ ``If Beale Street Could Talk,’’ and ``Just Above My Head’’ to name only a few. His social criticism was read, lauded and reviewed by some of the top thinkers and policy makers especially during his hay day in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was outspoken against the war in Viet Nam and the ensuing poverty at home as well as racial injustice, discrimination and the economic disparity among the races. Later in life he repatriated to France. Even Malcolm X adored his outspokenness and his early writings…


Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a fiery orator, an expert political organizer & one of Martin Luther King Jr.s’ right hand men. While he was largely a behind- the-scenes player, he was instrumental in organizing the original and now famous March on Washington in August of 1963. That demonstration helped turn the tide towards the passing of major Civil Rights legislation including the Voting Rights act of 1965. A documentary called: ``Brother Outsider’’ (2003) Directed by Nancy D. Kates & Bennett Singer, depicts his life and times and was the winner of many distinguished film awards including a Sun Dance Award.


I personally don’t want to forget any of these American Heroes. The fact that they were homosexuals does NOT make me turn my back on them. You shouldn’t either. Remember exclusivity is NOT the African way!!


(To read more articles by this author, [Brother Tracy Gibson] go to www.btganda.com . . . & look for his upcoming BLOCKBUSTER book entitled ``The Re-Awakening of the African Diaspora, 2009, Volume II, Moving from Abuse, Anger & Frustration to Hope, Activism and Accomplishment,’’ by Brother Tracy Gibson, due out in March, 2010. )

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