I had the honor of seeing two queer Black men get married and it changed my life. September 30th outside of Memphis, TN I was present during a wedding that was unlike most of the weddings I was forced to go to when I was a child. I’m not the biggest fan of dressing up but dealing with two men who would give any TLC Bridezilla a run for their money, I had no choice.
This couple is no ordinary couple. Over the years I’ve become close with them as they have shared so much wisdom with me on what it is being a Black queer man and in a committed relationship. I’ve often talked about the lack of representation on TV and in real life when it comes to seeing Black gay men in love. I didn’t think it was possible because of this. I thought to myself several times “I don’t see Black men together so it must not be meant to be.” Seeing the two share their vows sparked something in me that I was sure was there.
I think about 14 or 16-year-old Justin and what the effect would’ve been on him if he saw Black Gay love in real life. Shows like “Noah’s Arc” gave some glimpse but was still TV. Even ‘Noah’s Arc’ wasn’t enough to combat the homophobic content that young me saw. I always asked myself was it something wrong with me and was it truly an abomination to attracted towards the same sex. Was I sick and twisted as my pastor told me almost every Sunday? No, I wasn’t. This Sunday would be different. This Sunday 31-year-old Justin would see two of his friends who are in love celebrate with friends and family and won’t be judged. A Sunday that I would always remember.
This is no ordinary love, and this is no ordinary couple. I met Erik at a time in my life when I was unsure about what I wanted to do, and I felt I had no choice because capitalism was on my neck. Erik reached out to me to express that he enjoyed my YouTube recaps of Real Housewives of Atlanta, and a friendship was born. He offered me a job opportunity when I really needed one, and he was a part of the catalyst that lead to the creation of KingofReads.com. He supported me (in more ways than I can share) with my move to Atlanta, and I will forever be grateful. Over the years I’ve become close with them, and they have shared so much wisdom with me about being Black queer men, choosing to be in a committed relationship. I am happy to have them in my life, and I am especially happy to have been able to share their special day with them. Seeing this couple share their vows in front of family and friends sparked something in me – Black queer love is possible. How revolutionary.
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I’ve often complained about the fact that I rarely encounter Black gay men in love on my television or in my day-to-day life. Where are the Black gay men who love other Black gay men? It seems they don’t exist. They certainly aren’t on Shondaland shows, and they certainly aren’t on Netflix. They aren’t on any shows on Logo. The last time I saw two Black queer men show the love that I was about to was during Pray Tell’s kiss after disclosing his status.
So seeing these two Black men come together wasn’t just important to me because of the ceremony but it was love they shared with each other that I have been fortunate to witness and it changed me. On September 30th, outside of Memphis, Tennessee, right in the heart of the Bible belt, their wedding ceremony began promptly at 5 pm. I’ve always seen photos from same-sex ceremonies but never attended or thought it was possible to even think I would have a chance at one. This wedding celebrated the love of two men who looked like me and loved like me. Although I’m not the biggest fan of dressing up, I put on my Sunday’s best – honestly, I had no interest in catching the wrath of two men who would rival any WE TV Bridezilla. Days before the ceremony I played dress up from head to toe. Terrell insisted and even went as far to purchase more shoes because the ones I had just wouldn’t do. You gotta love them. I walked in right as the ceremony began and I felt an instant rush in my blood that this was real. Not a viral video on social media but I was actually there.
I cried. Tears of joy. I was moved. As someone who made a decision earlier this year to leave monogamy alone and just have “fun” and focus on my career this told me that sometimes love truly does happen when you least expect it. At that moment I realized that I loved and appreciated my friends for inviting me to experience an important moment in their lives. I also came to realize that I, in fact, am deserving a love and for someone to make me loved. Love takes work no doubt it isn’t what we some might want us to see on Instagram or Facebook. There are moments when things might seem too much to get out of and those are the moments that show you rather the person in your life is truly the one for you or not.
I didn’t attend this wedding alone. I went with someone who I am in love with. If I hadn’t been for seeing the love between Erik & Terrell over the years I would’ve given up on love in general, but I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to truly open myself up to be prepared for whatever my heart deserves.
Check out some of the amazing photos taken by Uche Onyeyiri of Erik & Terrell and follow their Instagram.
High School Students Stage Sit-In Protest Against Racism
In response to how school faculty have handled a racist video, students of Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx have staged an overnight-sit-in protest. Dissatisfied with faculty’s response to demands to address racism on the school’s campus, students have rallied and locked staff out of the administration building until they reached an agreement.
Outrage Lead to Action
More than 200 high school students of the K-12 academy occupied the building to demand action. They were outraged by the response to a video which featured White students counting down before blurting racist, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs. The video gained attention after circulating Twitter and eventually being reported on by The New York Times. However, school administrative officials did the bare minimum by only condemning the video without stating a plan for disciplinary action. Knowing only one of the students involved had withdrawn from the exclusive academy, students developed a plan to hold staff accountable. Thus, Students of Color Matter was born.
The standoff between students and staff lasted for 72 hours before an agreement was met. Each day the students, who developed a Twitter, Instagram, and petition, posted demands to their accounts. March 11th, the students began with a statement on Instagram:
“We are here today in light of recent events imploring those who desire to see out institution more forward to stand in solidarity with the students of color and white allies of the Ethical Culture Fieldston Community. Today a lockout will take place in the administration building (the 200s) as a means to force our administration to acknowledge the concerns we’ve been bringing to their attention over the past several years”
After outlining the reason for their cause, Students of Color Matter organizers detailed updates as well as their demands.
All or Nothing
The administration was sent an email by students which resulted in the head of the school, Jessica Bagby, alerting parents and students that “Fieldston campus will operate on a normal schedule.” The students also integrated a hashtag, which added pressure due to its discovery by major media sources. Despite the non-violent protest, there were two physical altercations which involved a history teacher and a parent attempting to enter the closed facility. Jessica Bagby’s inadequate response to the students’ demands and inability to commit to change is what ultimately caused the 72-hour standoff.
As of March13th, the students had roughly 3,000 signatures on their petition. Housed on their Students of Color Matter website, the organization calls for the following:
The use of racist and bigoted language are symptoms of systemic and institutional racism that plague educational institutions across the country. For this reason, we command the implementation of structural reform, such as long term curriculum changes, the admittance of more students and faculty of color, and racial sensitivity training for all community members.”
Jaden Smith Brings Mobile Water Filtration System to Flint
Flint, Michigan has been ravaged by a bad city-wide deal that resulted in tainted water for nearly five years. Now, Jaden Smith’s startup may provide a solution to the city’s needs water needs.
Called “The Water Box”, Jaden’s mobile water filtration device was unveiled in Flint at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. Able to produce 10 gallons of clean drinking water per minute, the actor-rapper turned philanthropist hopes the invention will help the community. Housed within the church, which previously distributed over 5 million bottles of water to the community, residents will be able to fill any container of their choice with clean water. However, they are required to do so during distribution times.
After Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ended the free bottled water program initiated by the state, Jaden and crew stepped up through JUST Water. JUST Water is a company that Jaden Smith became a partner of at just 12 years old. The company, which “combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives,” began from a desire to develop a filtration system to benefit poorer areas and nations. Making clean water more accessible, the company first launched in August 2018 in the UK.
Speaking about his community effort, Jaded remarked, “This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally. He added,” Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and designing something to help them has been a journey I will never forget.” Jaden Smith plans to continue deploying more filtration systems across the city to benefit those in need and looks forward to aiding more places experiencing similar issues.
Jussie Smollett | In The Middle
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