Fashion

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="764" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] NOSTALGIA | WINTER '18 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] AN ATYPICAL FIGURE [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] STORY by PICASSO MOORE PHOTOGRAPHY by LAQUANN DAWSON [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Before I begin, I’d like to state that this profile will be atypical. It will contain no lazily strung together quotes, or stats about the subject’s following on social media. Nor will it bare mention of his place at the center of an intersectional identity. At no point will it delve into his work in activism, his position as a fixture of the New York performance art scene, his skill as a lyricist and producer, or his propensity to eat a stage. I will not compliment him, compare him to other artists, urge you to buy his record, or otherwise blow smoke. This profile will be atypical. Now that I’ve given those givens, let’s begin.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="758" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]“I think more than anything it’s an artist’s burning desire to ‘make’, you know? Like, if you’re not creating and producing something, it feels like the world’s going to end. That’s what I had to reconcile for myself… I don’t want to do anything else other than make visual works and preformative works,” says DonChristian. It’s this passion he speaks of which has garnished the quickly rising rapper’s career with a cherry on top of Bushwick street cred, and a Betty Crocker bevy of international stans… New York gallery gurls, millennial debutants, and 9,000 hyperreal followers on IG who have found something delicious, light, airy, and chocolatey, about the rapper’s unapologetically black, and rainbow-sprinkled, queer musical works. It’s the way he lives; the things he puts his energy into: from lecturing Rhode Scholars at Oxford on American criminal justice reform to teaching at the The Hetrick-Martin Institute (an LGBTQIA+ high school in Midtown Manhattan), he brings it all to his performances and gives the music, no matter how heightened and dramatized—community roots, and a worldly perspective and message. His connection to the granular gives texture to his lyrics and allows the soundscapes he creates to become the soundtracks to our black queer lives. He’s excellent—something his straight white counterparts sometimes are but don’t have to be. If you haven’t already, you have to plug into the black queer matrix that is “Where There’s Smoke.” Take the red pill and see how deep, how honest, and how beautiful DonChristian’s world is. Okay before you say it, shhhh! Remember when you were young and your parents told you to bite your tongue when grown folks were talking? Same here. When a writer is contradicting themself… shhh! In my defense. It wasn't a lie. Not really. I set out to write a profile different from any other and I’m aware I did all the things I just said I wasn't going to do, but it’s not my fault. All of it turned out to be true. In an age where a publicist would have bribed a journalist with a Kim K “vampire” facial and a steak dinner at Pennsylvania 6 to write such hyperbole, DonChristian actually earns the accolades. No strings, publicists, or steak dinners attached. Talent granted, Don stands out because he is real. A feat seemingly insurmountable by the bulk of today’s social creatives.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="765" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Case and point: The Name. To be stylized as DonChristian. A month after our conversation on the set of his photo shoot for The Tenth, I posted a screenshot of the corner of an early draft of this piece to my Instagram story and he hit my DMs. “...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column][vc_single_image image="772" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] NOSTALGIA | WINTER '18 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] TOY STORY [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] STORY by STEVEN LOWE ILLUSTRATIONS by MELISSA ROBLES [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]She’s burned OUT, and that’s not unusual for queer folk around the holidays; memories alone can spark post-yuletide stress syndrome. But Christmas mornings were the BEST— the woes of being bullied or secretly heartbroken by some boy in middle school drowned out by the sound of tearing wrapping paper almost louder than Mariah Carey Christmas in the background were forgotten. I've been thinking about holidays past and my favorite gifts—and one stands out among the rest: a remote-controlled Super Turbo Train. No, it wasn’t a game console (SMH); it was a gateway drug leading to the tech and game floozy I am today. Part of the track was made to run up the wall and back down again in a sort of super-speed half circle, jumping a gap in the track. Mind BLOWN. Today, I might wish for an Amber Rose African toy goddess who screams “you betta” when you pull a cord, but I wanted to know what made the other bois and gals cry out for joy. Here’s what they found on their favorite mornings of Christmas past.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="782" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Johnalynn Holland Illustrator + Painter @johnalynn When I was eight years old, I wanted a robot. Not just any robot, the Omnibot 2000 found between the pages of the Sears Christmas catalogue that retailed for $500. My father, who worked 14 hours days to provide for our family, laughed when I showed it to him. My plan was to make this robot my best friend because according to the commercials, it would wow all my peers and transform me from geek to cool kid. I’d make it carry my books at school (even though I was in elementary school and didn’t change classes or have a locker). I woke up Christmas morning to find a robot under the tree that was not the Omni 2000. I don’t remember the exact model number of this bootleg robot. No moving head. Arms slightly tilted. It was short and fat. It looked more like R2D2 than Johnny Five, and this was a problem. Looking back, the robot debacle taught me a valuable lesson about expectations and gratitude. Over the next month, I took a liking to the inferior robot and a month after that, my mother found it hidden in a corner of my closet, dismantled and stripped of its vital parts like a stolen car on cinder blocks. Not only did I not turnout to be a selfish, entitled monster, had I actually received and dismantled a $500 robot, I’d still be grounded to this day.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column][vc_single_image image="772" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Marko Cotton-Critelli Co-Host of Relationsh!t Podcast @mdotcot Like every other red-blooded American in the 90s, my family and I were die-hard fans of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. We had so much memorabilia: tapes, cologne, trading cards, and don’t forget about the shoes. At the same time, another basketball player was dominating the courts, and he was much more my speed. At seven feet one inch, and 325 pounds, Shaquille O’Neal was the center for the Orlando Magic and was the coolest person on the court. When my brother and I woke up on Christmas morning in 1995, not only did I get an oversized Orlando Magic winter coat with the team’s logo sprawled across the back, but inside of a leather accessories box was a watch with an Orlando Magic face and black leather band. My gasp must have shocked everyone, because Dad said between laughs, “You’re reacting to this watch like you’re acting in a commercial!” I was stunned trying to separate myself from the “norm” and wanted my parents to see me as an adult. I have them to thank for that memory. [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="781" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Thaddeus Coates Graphic Designer @hippypotter Ahh, so one of the best gifts I've ever received on Christmas was definitely my VideoNow. Now for all those born after 2000, VideoNow was the hottest portable digital viewing device ever that played your favorite TV Shows. And because my mom didn't have cable at the time, it was my way of bringing the cable TV to my world. I was obsessed with “Drake & Josh.” Me and my little brother would often re-tell their jokes to one another and pretend we were them—well, the black version which is actually "Kenan and Kel" sips tea but anyways...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column width="1/3"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"][vc_single_image image="753" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] ORDER | VOL 6 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] PEN PALS [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] DELAYED: ISSUE RELEASES SEPTEMBER 2020 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Across two volumes, The Tenth offers photography, art, and storytelling of the black queer perspective to the conversation around the crisis of mass incarceration in America. We explore the disparity in punishments for crimes that stain white collars vs. black ones; the unique cultural adaptations of gay inmates and their view of what reform looks like from the inside; and the effects of poverty on the pipeline to incarceration and the unfettered potential for technology to breach it. We also look at the much-needed social contract forcing those of us privileged enough to aid others with high-quality legal aid and interventionism, and the effects of the prison system on our family dynamics and culture’s relationship with authority. We’ll explore participation in community policing as a form of demonstrated consciousness, the glory days of the “stunt queen” as a study in ideological reorganization around economics, and the ethics of outlaw activities from hacking to card counting and how engaging with may be the only way for us to make up ground in the game of power. We’ll look at the racial imbalance of HIV criminalization, the rising rate of domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, and other issues aimed at getting to the bottom of questions like: Who defines what crime is? Who gets to name the damage? Who doles out justice in a society where those who make the rules, ordinarily bend and ignore them, while those at the bottom are guaranteed punishment when not in line with them?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="751" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column width="1/4"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/2"][ult_buttons btn_title="Order Now" btn_link="url:https%3A%2F%2Fthetenthmagazine.com%2Fproduct%2Fthe-tenth-6%2F|||" btn_align="ubtn-center" btn_size="ubtn-custom" btn_width="96" btn_height="38" btn_title_color="#221e1f" btn_bg_color="" btn_bg_color_hover="#221e1f" btn_title_color_hover="#ffffff" icon_size="32" btn_icon_pos="ubtn-sep-icon-at-left" btn_border_style="solid" btn_color_border="#221e1f" btn_color_border_hover="#221e1f" btn_border_size="1" btn_radius="4" css_adv_btn=".vc_custom_1580248668389{margin-top: 2px !important;margin-right: 2px !important;margin-bottom: 2px !important;margin-left: 2px !important;padding-right: 23px !important;padding-left: 23px !important;}"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/4"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="50px"][vc_single_image image="675" img_size="full" alignment="center" onclick="custom_link" qode_css_animation="" link="https://thetenthmagazine.com/"][vc_empty_space height="10px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row]...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="941" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] VOL 4 | FEATURE [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] ARLAN HAMILTON [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] THE VENTURE CAPITALIST TEXT by PINK ROOSTER [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text] A popular theory among my Black friends who watch the hit television show Shark Tank where a firing squad of famous investors dole out NBC’s coins to “the chosen” of America’s wannabe entrepreneurial class, is that if you walk in Black, you walk out with no deal, no matter how innovative you, or your product is. In Silicon Valley, they’re pretty upfront about letting you know that investing in “the team” (assumed to mean the leadership and technical ability of the white boys working on any given tech product) is the preferred approach, because should whatever it is be a dud (which, over 98% of them are sure to be), then at least they can put them to work building, scaling, and operating the next big idea. On Shark Tank, America’s favorite “spray and pray” till you drop Friday night extravaganza, the method is no different. They go for what they know; and they pass on the Black. As a person of color, you can’t stop comparing. In one episode, a Black guy name Michael Elliot—the Hollywood screenwriter behind films like Brown Sugar and Like Mike, turned successful entrepreneur—is turned down on a deal to invest in his super fucking cool, super fucking hipster (complete with a shot of Whiskey) nail salons for men: Hammer & Nails. Within his first seven months in business, he made $150,000 in sales, and it was projected at $2 million in sales for 2016. This is when he made the decision to franchise his business so it could grow even more, which was why he was in the tank, and it was a no. In another, a sister named Lydia Evans, owner of SWAG Essentials, is passed on when she pitches her popular SWAG Bar—a loofah soap used to exfoliate and eliminate razor bumps (mainly for men of color)—in hopes of landing the deal that would take her business to the next level. But with only $54,000 in sales at the time and little market visibility, the sharks didn't bite. There were two young Black women with a colored lipstick line (a wildly successful trend when the episode aired in 2015), and there’s always Black folk with finger-licking-good food products, and then there was even Famous Amos himself, who’d sold millions of his cookies, and eventually the rights to his name under financial pressure and was looking for a comeback by way of $50,000 (“chump change to you guys,” said Amos) and a 20 percent share of his new Cookie Kahuna brand. All the sharks spoke highly of his achievements as an entrepreneur, but then expressed doubts about his latest endeavor, finally sending him packing. Those same episodes, white girls locked deals for everything from doggie protein bars to folding luggage. Daymond—the Blackest and least likable of the sharks—decides he can part with 50K if Mark is “in” to sweeten the deal with his whiteness for a company called Rock Bands that allows you to wear healing stones around your waist and make a fashion statement. He tells one Black woman to give up on her dreams “while she’s ahead,” but in the next segment drops 50K for a 15% percent stake in a company that makes Christmas tree toppers in the form of a Star of David for interfaith families to fuse their holidays to celebrate together. It could all just be coincidence—there is nothing factual here. Within the subjectivity of whether or not an investment opportunity fits an investor there is adequate room for doubt, but yeah, No. To use another game show’s vernacular: “Survey says” : the likelihood walking out of the tank “Black and with a deal” is the same as walking into a courtroom anywhere across this country and believing you’re “innocent until proven guilty.” But it does makes sense—art does imitate life, and the numbers don’t lie: According to a 2010 report by CB Insights, in Silicon Valley 83% of teams getting seed and Series A money are all white, and a mere 1% of seed and Series A funding nationally went to Black founders. According to Digital Undivided’s 2016, “The Real Unicorns of Tech,” venture capital firms lend white men $1.3 million on average (even if their startup fails), compared to $36,000 for Black women. It analyzed more than 60,000 start-ups and found that less than 1 percent—0.2 percent, to be exact—of the tech start-ups funded by venture capitalists between 2012 and 2014 were created by Black women. Why would “the tank” be any different? Just where does Hollywood’s entertainment machine end and Silicon Valley begin? And who’s gonna invest in the dude who looks like the dude who’s been cast over and over again as the dealer selling drugs on the streets corners of Any-Ghettotown, USA? Even though, in reality, he’s just a struggling Black actor with a degree from Yale Drama, who lives with his boyfriend in North Hollywood and has a really dope idea for a new facial-recognition software because he did a few years in a graduate program at Stanford? For ARLAN HAMILTON, one of the country's (maybe world’s) few Black gay female VCs, “Silicon Valley” is on the edge of a revolution. In a physical sense, as I pull up to her Backstage Capital office in WeHo for our interview, we’re in Hollywood, but when asked what “the Valley” means to her as a Black lesbian, she explains that despite all the bullshit, she finds it fascinating: “I’m talking about a state of being mostly. It's just the tech world, and for me, that was where the awe was. Silicon Valley is awe… I didn't know what venture capital was 4 years ago, but I just started seeing.” Barely weeks away from her deadline to raise a fund, there’s a certainly a level of stress in the room. “We haven't raised it all, and we need to do it quicker than we're doing it,” she says—and being an entrepreneur myself, I know that these stresses become normalized; they are part of the deal. But seeing and hearing the buzz words and the jargon (the “seed rounds” and the “angels”), and how truly excited Arlan is to be making a difference—let’s just say it’s infectious what can happen out here. “I started seeing Troy Carter and Ashton Kutcher (both Shark Tank alum), and was like, ‘Why are these guys going out there and investing $50,000 in a team of 2 or 3 people for some app with a silly name. Why is Ellen going to this place in San Francisco called Silicon Valley?’ I just thought about chips,” she says with a laugh. “I also noticed that many of the artists and music executives I admired were investing their music money in tech.” Arlan is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, “a seed investment fund that backs high-potential, underrepresented startup founders.” It counts tech veteran Susan Kimberlin, who made a name for herself at Salesforce and PayPal, as well as Valley rockstars Marc Andreessen and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield as investors. With those types of names behind you—in any way, big or small—the Internet is sure to take notice, and much has been written in the press about Arlan’s rather phenomenal story. An Inc. August 2016 headline reads, “How This Woman Went From Homelessness to Running a Multimillion-Dollar Venture Fund,”; another one on Forbes.com speaks to her “pioneering” efforts and praises her for diversifying the playing field. For Arlan, all this has a purpose. “The attention, the press, is really just serving a purpose, and that's enabling a group portfolio of 50 or so companies —eventually, to have a chance.” Arlan is generous with the time she’s taken out of her hectic day to teach a quick class to Tenth readers on the world of venture capital. It is immediately clear that she possesses the best possible attribute for an interview of any depth: openhearted intelligence. She brims with a quiet charisma; she doesn’t hesitate to cut an otherwise serious moment with a joke; today she’s dressed like a slacker—jeans and a tee; full disclosure: so am I. She’s family. Immediately, we’re off to the races to find out how a girl was once enjoying a career as a production coordinator and road manager for acts like CeeLo Green and Kirk Franklin, with no tech background, winds up conjuring circumstances from homelessness to get to the Valley. During this down period, when most of us would have been plotting our next lease, or our first lavish meal with girlfriends once that bounce-back check clears, Arlan, “sitting on the floor in a room that didn’t have a bed without so much as a penny,” had her sights set on something else: her first investment in an artificial intelligence B2B startup out of Miami named Kairos which does facial and voice recognition, and its founder Brian Brackeen, or in her words, her “teacher’s pet.” “I saw a video that Brain did in the summer of 2013. He hadn't raised any outside funding, or he hadn’t raised much, and I said, ‘Man, that guy is going to do something. As soon as I get funds I'm going to invest in him.’ He was technically the second investment I ever made, but he was actually the first on my list. The important part is what they do and how amazing their founder is and his ability to build a team… That’s huge. It takes a leader, it takes vision, it takes the understanding of what works, on top of being a technical genius.” That was four years ago, and while solving the problem of how to get to Silicon Valley (once she did arrive in San Francisco for Y Combinator's Female Founders Conference in 2015 she says, "It wasn't, ‘Oh, my god, this is Disneyland.’ It was like, ‘This feels right. I feel confident here. I feel like I belong.,’”), Arlan feverishly took up an information hunt, not just to learn, but to imagine herself as part of that community, because once you’ve been bitten by an insect drone and watched a few seasons of Shark Tank, there’s nowhere to hide, and it should be noted, there’s an unprecedented amount of information to be gained on the web—I do spend enough time getting stoned on on my couch to know. It’s downright shocking how some of the most amazing video interviews with tech entrepreneurs get so few views on YouTube. Guess everyone is too busy gulping ignorance by the gigabyte on Facebook to system update themselves. “I watched hundreds of hours of video, listened to podcasts, read books, read blogs… I just did that anytime I had any time off. It was like going to school—homeschooling,” says Arlan as she recalls of her tech learning curve. “The more I learned about it, the more I realized that I felt a kinship with people who wanted to start something on their own, and, not necessarily work for themselves, but start something for themselves and create teams.” Thank THE ORACLE I found Arlan, because what a horrible waste—all these Black dreams and technological innovations on ice due to “reliability issues.” There’s a lot to admire about a girl who recognizes the scent of a winner, not it’s color, and has made her life’s work trying to create more opportunities for them. She points me to a freshly painted purple wall where a grid of small framed photographs of her first 8 founders hangs, and lest I assume the merits of the group are based on color and gender only, or even first, she shares, “It wasn't like I woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, let me go and do something for charity.’ There's not one product up there that requires you to be a certain type of person to use it, but if you look the founders themselves, they don't...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] THE ACADEMY | WINTER '17 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] BALLROOM: TRANS SOUNDS OF FREEDOM [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] ESSAY by MICHAEL ROBERSON PHOTOS by STEVEN LIANG [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning—getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system. —Ella Baker[1] Early 20th century African-American Harlem Renaissance writer and poet Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “Black women are the mules of the world”[2] politically, theologically, and historically. If Hurston’s statement is grounded in an analysis of truth, then Black trans women are situated somewhere between the late great African-American theologian and civil rights icon Howard Thurman’s notion of “the disinherited” and the radical Black French philosopher Frantz Fanon’s notion of “the wretched of the earth.” Persistent marginalization over centuries—not only of trans and cis women, but also of Black gay, lesbian and bisexual people—has led to entrenched stigmatization, violence, and instability. Yet, in the face of complex challenges, such as housing insecurity and some of the highest HIV infection rates in the United States, Black/Latino LGBT people have formed powerfully robust, self-sustaining social networks and cultural groups. One such network is the House | Ballroom community, a Black/Latino LGBT artistic collective and intentional kinship system that has its roots in 1920s Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance. Emerging from the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North to escape the American white supremacist racist and xenophobic terror of Jim and Jane Crow racism, lynching, and the Ku Klux Klan, it became a formidable social movement for LGBT persons of color. This essay explores the history of the House | Ballroom community (HBC) as a freedom movement, a radical pedagogy, and a spiritual formation in response to race, class, sexuality, and gender oppression. Using the lens of Black Trans-Womanist theological discourse, developed in large part by scholars at Union Theological Seminary, my understanding of the House | Ballroom community carries with it an analysis of the Black church, race, sexuality, gender, and class from scholars and practitioners who engage with interdisciplinary frameworks and who work at the intersections of critical race theory, queer theory, Black liberation theology, queer theology, and feminist thought. This analysis will consider the community’s ability to use the art of performance as a hermeneutics of the body, a homiletics of community organizing, and an intentional philosophical framework of liberation within the Black radical aesthetic tradition, while placing its history of mobilization as resistance to oppressions and positioning it in relation to other historical and global struggles. Throughout this narrative, I will refer to: -The Vogue’ology collective’s pedagogical approach, which puts the performative aspects of HBC in relation to the politics and attainment of emancipation; - House Lives Matter, which establishes a narrative of resilience and wellness within the HBC community; and - The Arbert Santana Ballroom Freedom and Free School, which is shaping a curriculum to enable members of the HBC community to consider how collectives are organized and sustained, and how they can teach, learn, and work in solidarity with others in struggle. The origins of the HBC are in the early 20th century “faerie balls” and cross­dressing pageants made popular during the Harlem Renaissance. The modern HBC was established in 1968 in response to racism within New York’s LGBT community. In that year Crystal LaBeija, a star of the city’s cross­dressing competitions and pageants, broke publicly with the white gay male dominated scene and established a separate ballroom circuit for Black and Latino gay men, lesbians, and transgendered persons. A year later Crystal formed the House of LaBeija, a team of Black and Latino performers who competed in cross­dressing events. The rival House of Ebony, made up predominantly of Black members, was formed shortly thereafter. While the reference was to the conventions of haute couture, the class conditions that actually defined the scene were those of poverty, racism, homophobia and transphobia. To survive, the Ballroom “houses” had to become a source of support and protection. Thus, the house of fashion became a home and the members constituted new families. The leaders of these houses became known as “mothers” and “fathers” and members referred to as “children.” This is the Ballroom scene that exists today.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="1986" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]This essay narrates the HBC as a strategy for freedom, as an epistemology of humanity, and as an effective “intra-vention”—a term coined by scholar Marlon Bailey that denotes homegrown strategies arising out of a community to address issues confronting said community. Despite its historical outsider position within the American democratic project, HBC is a collective re-imagining of democracy by and for itself. Reflective of this are the two most recent dialogical intra-ventions: the House Lives Matter leadership movement and the Arbert Santana Ballroom Freedom and Free School, which will be highlighted here not to recruit folk to become members of the HBC, nor to serve as an object of the white and/or heteronormative gaze. Instead, the goal here is to engage in a conversation with the HBC arising out of a historical crisis of annihilation that started during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. The onslaught against Black LGBT folk continued through strategies created by the most prominent Black church in America at that time, responding to the politics of recognition and respectability that was shaped by the white heteronormative gaze. From the ethos of Black trans-women, through what was then called “Drag Balls,” and over the last century, it has developed into what I term “the trans sounds of Black freedom.” Ongoing conversations on sexuality, queer subjectivities, racism and xenophobia, capitalism, art and politics, theology, and philosophy on a macro level are closely related to the HBC, particularly when looking at historical, systematic strategies to create socio-political economies of marginalized, racialized, and gendered communities. Marginalized communities, such as the HBC, have created both resistant and subversive strategies to confront oppression and deploy the social imagination as the necessary precursor to long-term liberation work and justice-making. HBC has something to teach the world about what it means philosophically to be human, what it means politically to struggle for freedom, and what it means theologically to do so in the face of catastrophe and even death. [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="1985" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]CRISIS This text arises out of crisis—both historical and contemporary, political and theological—as a philosophical critique of the past and a present shift in collective consciousness, as the mandate to create a future, to paraphrase the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., in “The Beloved Community.” Crisis can catalyze new and expansive paradigms by rejecting antiquated epistemologies that serve to maintain the status quo, and engaging methodologies of radical listening that surpass the faculty of the ear and respond to ancestral cries for freedom. It is grounded in this kind of philosophical, theological, political “Trinitarian” framework that aligns with the progressive pedagogy of Paulo Freire. As a result, crisis serves as a Foucauldian epistemological rupture, radically going against the hegemonic grain, allowing the crisis to remain unnamed, reacting neither to the neoliberal impulse for silence (e.g., Ronald Reagan during the first seven years of the AIDS crisis, 1981-1988) nor the liberal use of what sound-art collective Ultra-red terms “value form” (e.g., Bill Clinton’s crime bill of 1994 and his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy of 1993). In 1992 Black feminist Patricia Hill Collins offered a pivotal analysis that lends credence to why the unnamed crisis is still vital at this moment: In an increasingly poststructuralist world, however, positivist sociological interpretations of social reality have been challenged forcefully by people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and other historically marginalized groups. From their perspectives, the claims of sociology to be a value-neutral, objective science ring false. To them, sociological traditions produced by a homogeneous circle of insiders represent a partial perspective on social relations. Race, class, gender, and heterosexism now present major challenges to the field as a whole. Yet despite these significant changes, the inner circle of sociological theory—its membership, epistemology, and theoretical frameworks—remains strangely untouched by the changes buffeting the remainder of the discipline.[3] True to Collins’ assertion and to the history of global progressive politics emerging from this crisis, a collective called Vogue’ology was formed. Vogue’ology is part of a multi-phase, long-term curriculum created in collaboration with Ultra-red and members of New York City’s HBC. This collaboration rests on a common commitment to struggle for individual and collective freedom in the face of poverty, racism, gender, and sexual oppression. The curriculum provides an opportunity to be in conversation about how various creative practices in the HBC might reflect on or function as strategies of freedom. Vogue’ology is a pedagogy that privileges the simultaneous use of teaching and learning as a protocol necessary for deep learning, and listening as the precursory condition for justice-making. This allows suffering to speak as fundamental to liberation work, to what the Black church calls a “life-calling,” and to the ethical and moral imperative of a full human rights agenda. As a collective grounded in the ethos of community, Vogue’ology has been in dialogue with long traditions of collaborative, creative work concerned with emancipation or liberation. Teaching and learning are as central to these traditions as they are to the many art practices wrestling with the dialectics of oppression and liberation, resistance and resilience. For this reason, pedagogy has been a constant and consistent reference point of Vogue’ology’s work as reflected in the etymology of its name. It derives, with intention, from the HBC’s most emblematic art expression and practice—Voguing—and from cultural-political-theological formation. What Vogue as an art form has done for the HBC illustrates Angela Davis’ thesis, that “progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.”[4][/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_row_inner row_type="row" type="grid" text_align="left" css_animation=""][vc_column_inner width="1/6"][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="2/3"][vc_column_text] ❝…a wedge is driven between Blackness and sexuality and gender identities that makes even the collective struggle for freedom an occasion for deep and painful fragmentation.❞ [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/6"][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Due to its demographic composition, which includes gay men, lesbians, gender non-conforming, and transgender people, the HBC has long borne the burdens of a theological assessment of homosexuality as an abomination. The Leviticus code, in particular, defines LGBT bodies and practices as a priori the negation of all that is good in the flesh. Given the central role of the Black Church in the long struggle for freedom from white supremacy, this theological violence is also a historical violence in that a wedge is driven between Blackness and sexuality and gender identities that makes even the collective struggle for freedom an occasion for deep and painful fragmentation. Consequently, the HBC has been situated historically and theologically outside the image of God—the Imago Dei. Historically, one of the most effective ways to discredit a community has been to put its members on trial, accuse them of transgressions, particularly sexual transgressions, and dehumanize them either by condemning them to death or by allowing them to die. Theorists, historians, and theologians have described and examined how this discrediting and dehumanizing of a people, often with references to sexual depravity, was used against African slaves in America (Kelly Brown Douglas). This was the strategy at the heart of the post-1865 emancipation of slaves...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] STORIES | VOL 3 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] BLAQUEER POWER [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] STORY by @BLAQUEER PHOTOGRAPHY by KAT REYNOLDS [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]I. I am not your shadow. I am too vain for that. In the beginning Gawd reached down into the earth we call Afrika and scooped up some brown crumbly and mixed it with saltwater from the Atlantic and stretched the clay over bone, and called it me. Ze took all of the night sky and poured it into two holes and called them my eyes. And to wake me Ze kissed me. And for me to speak, Ze whispered in my ear, “I have made your tongue sharp." And I cut myself open and stained my lips red. My cries caused stars to fall. Ze picked them up and mixed them with Carolina rice cooked in Io’s milk. Ze promised me Horus’ heart, but I said, “I need Anansi’s and Olókun’s too." Anubis guarded me when I slept, and I slept in a field of corn somewhere by the Mississippi. “I am a wonder; the first son." II. “Maurice has a propensity for white people, which is more than preference—it’s policy. He dismisses potential Black friendships as quickly as he switches off rap music and discredits progressive movements. He consistently votes Republican. At night he dreams of razors cutting away thin slivers of his Black skin,” Joseph Beam, “Brother to Brother” I hate Beam’s Maurice. III. I remember my mother telling me about how my daddy was so phine that his ex-girlfriends showed up at their wedding and cried. My mother also told me about how when she was little, kids would tease her, call her dust, call her midnight, let her know her body was lacking, she spoke of how she always had to fight. She told me about people measuring her by her twin saying, “Why can’t you be like Brendie? She’s so sweet and cute.” I never saw her cry but I heard it in her throat. When I was a little boy everyone said I looked like my father. When I was still a boy but no longer little, everyone said, “You sure do look like your mother.” When I was teenager, giggling girls would approach me and say, “my friend thinks you’re cute.” l never looked because it was never true. In college an Asian boy randomly informed me that Black men weren’t cute and fat people were gross and ugly; he said this right before we talked to a class about LGBT tolerance. Last week a boy said my mouth felt sweet and my hole felt tight and amazing. He said I was beautiful but he could never date me: “Why?” “My friends don’t know about my fetish.” “Are you afraid of what they’d say?” He left without another word. My mother, who I look so much like, has had to clasp my face, more than once, and say: “Don’t you know what you are, what you’re worth? Gold, baby you are worth your weight in gold.” She has told me that I am a beautiful chocolate boy, a handsome boy, a beautiful boy. She should have told me that I am obsidian, a dark bright shining jewel. So black that it reflects back your image. How much is asked of the the dark child to negotiate?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="center" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column][vc_single_image image="965" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]IV. black: Very dark; absence of light; having dark skin; people originally from Africa; dirty or soiled; thoroughly sinister or evil. Black: Linda, Joseph, Winston, Alex: family; Joe, Chico, Jeremy, Bianca, Carl, Justin: friends; James, Marlon, Essex, Whitney: inspiration; descendants of survivors; the first ones. gay: Pink flesh; queer as folk; wedding chapel; Ryan Murphy; Neil Patrick Harris; Andy and Anderson, Express; Thug Hunter; Ellen shucking and jiving on screen. Not me. Queer: Weird; strange; disrespectability; poppers and lube; leather; whips; anonymous; slam poetry; edging; books; divas; fat bodies in motion; fat body sucking a dick; swallowing; bottom, top, verse; bent fat body being pounded, hard; fat mouth saying harder; fucking; art. boy: male; having a penis; masculine; don’t cry. Boi: Femme; in-between; high-pitched voice; sissy; first to be called a faggot; best with a read; smarter than boys. V. Mags on Fridays Brown boys with fitted caps and in billowy white or black tees, stood against walls, smoke obscuring their faces. Gurls with blown-out curls and too high heels, towered over the boys. Ladies with wet lips and short slips held onto cocky studs. Bodies, honey mixed with caramel mingled with brown kissed by the night sky, made an onyx space. I remember thinking: I am home. Music pumped; beads of sweat formed on foreheads and trickled down noses, dangled off lips, and fell onto bent backs where they slid down and provided the first drops of the night’s lubrication. A rapper demanded pussy be handed to him and brown boys’ hands reached for black boys’ backs. A girl moaned that her pussy brought her pearls and a gurl dropped to the floor and fluttered her legs like butterfly wings and all the fellas on the wall noticed. Some girl wailed about how she needed some dick and a lady wrapped her legs around her stud and whispered in her ear. I rested against the wall sipping a vodka and cran. I wanted to dance, to feel breath on my neck while something hard pressed against my back, but I felt nothing. I walked around to see if anyone would reach out to me and say, “Hey baby what’s your name?” He could say it like a lover, or a mother, or father, or a brother, or, better yet, a sister just as long as he asked. No one asked. I felt like Riggs did in San Francisco searching for his reflection in eyes of blue except I was looking for affection in mirrors of brown and black. I was a ghost in this house “unseen and when seen unwanted,” and if wanted, only because of shame. VI. Linda and Joe have a son named Maurice. Linda and Joe’s Maurice watches Marlon Riggs prance naked through the woods. He curls up on his sofa to read Danez Smith. He listens to Essex recite “American Wedding,” while sipping tea with sugar and cream. Linda and Joe’s Maurice’s lips have pressed softly against those of light-skinned trade. Linda and Joe’s Maurice has had his legs spread wide and head bent down low while dark boys and light boys hovered above him and searched in him for something stolen from them long ago. Linda and Joe’s Maurice is dedicated to his reflections. Even if they cannot see it, he knows they are each fragments of the other. He knows that home was stolen and that they can and must recreate it. This takes dedication. This takes love.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="center" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column][vc_single_image image="963" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]VII. “Promise not to tell anyone, but, are these boxer briefs?” Cam released the button, unzipped, and pushed down his pants, exposing the top of a calf, thighs, and blue cotton. I could see the head pressing against the cotton. and, for a moment, I forgot he was a friend. I surveyed the body and found it pleasing; His thighs were thick with promise; his lips could handle mine. He was beautiful, and in my room, and I wanted, for a moment, this beauty to be mine. I laughed and said, “Yes, but still, we should go shopping for you to get a jockstrap or trunks. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it; hell tops will want to thank me.” Cam zipped back-up and suddenly I was Bruce and he Beauty and I knew that I “had never seen a more perfect being…his body was all symmetry and music,” and never would again. And I watched my friend leave—beauty, not mine. VIII. Thoughts and observations at Phillip Williams’ poetry reading in the Central West End on December 9th 2014: 1. Everyone is "thin." 2. Wash U. A lot. 3. Everyone seems to be slightly attractive. 4. I do not fit. 5. All the gay folk know each other. 6. I know almost none of them. 7. These are gay folk I never see out and about. 8. There is a str8 boy here (A.) so many flock to (J.'s friend); he doesn't need to be good at sex—they'll flock to him anyway. 9. He (A.) probably is good at sex. I wish I was a girl so I could find out. 10. Cave Canem is deep. (Do you think you could have got in? Prolly not. You use "prolly.") 11. Don't slouch. It bunches up the fat. 12. Are they aware of their bodies like me? 13. They aren't. I hate them all. 14. Don't breathe. But, if you must, do it slowly and deliberately and rarely. Quiet the fat. 15. I need the poem about faggots. 16. “Apotheosis.” It was called “Apotheosis.” IX. Before I am a Black, queer, or a man, I am this body: Un Corps When I was a young lad in England I was fast and all the boys wanted my body. A white boy down the street begged to get into my shed where I kissed Black boys and bent over for them and told them to put it in deeper. I never let him in. He called me a bitch and said I was fat, but I didn’t care. I was too busy with other boys. Once I kissed this white boy with dirty blonde hair; I kissed him really hard but not too wet after school and he flushed red. It was the best kiss of my life. In the sixth grade suddenly everyone’s bodies and voices changed but mine remained the same while boys found girls. Then came summer of ‘94: A white boy with dark hair saw my black body cut through blue pool water. He wanted my body and I was flattered. He grabbed my ankles underwater and pulled me close in the pool till I hovered above his crotch. Our faces were so close that our noses almost touched and then the whistle blew. We went to the private shower. My lips found his lips, neck, and stomach, and, eventually, my knees bent and I noticed that he was firm and red down there. I was startled, but I proceeded. The preacher’s words boomed in my head, “Man shall not lie with man; it is an abomination,” but I continued, my head bobbed back and forth, my mouth full, my eyes closed. Tom Hank’s torso on the stand flashed in front of me; his pale skin marked, kissed already by death while his body still held air, the birthright of boys whose knees bent for other boys. I stood up and turned around, faced the wall to breathe and calm the blood racing in me. Then I felt him kissing my neck. The water became too hot. “Stop.” He wanted my body. “Please stop.” He wanted… “We gotta stop.” my body… “Stop. No. Stop please…” He took… “I said stop!” my body. I pushed, hard; pushed until I could get him out, but he had already finished. “If you ever come near me again, I will scream.” I walked my body home. I took a shower and scrubbed till… Ventre When I enter a room, the first thing people notice about me is my belly. It has stretched my ribs far to the left and to the right, and it sags in the middle. I have full tits that sag; if they were in a bra, they would be epic. Guys like my nipples. Corn-fed Midwestern straight boys have cornered me in hallways since I was fourteen and have asked, “Do they feel like a girl’s? ‘Lemme touch it; lemme see it; lemme feel it; lemme taste;
 lemme touch it; lemme see it; lemme feel it; lemme taste; 
lemme touch it.’”
 “No.”
 They touched anyway. Welcome to Mascoutah. Welcome to O’Fallon. Welcome to EIU. Welcome to America. Eventually I gave up saying no. I gave up disliking the rough touches from sweaty hands attached to pimply faces. I embraced it as the only touch my body knew. I thought the touch kind. I hoped the grab would become a...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height="90" height_on_tabs="50" height_on_tabs_portrait="50" height_on_mob_landscape="50" height_on_mob="50"][vc_column_text] ESSAYS | VOL 3 [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] SUNSHINE OR NAH? [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][vc_column_text] STORY by KHARY SEPTH PHOTOGRAPHY by TY CHENN   [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="12px"][vc_column_text] Los Angeles. Summer '16 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]Digging through gold-filled canyons of iconic writing about Los Angeles, it seemed to me, its cultural significance to the Black gay man scarce, if not simply impossible to unearth. Millions of them have gone West to chase dreams that weren’t destined for them, Hollywood being the bluntest possible articulation of the ambitions of our culture—its siren song the breathy whisper of Marilyn, or Janet—calling out to the impractical desires of all dreamers who should dare to turn on the TV. The natives, whose folk were lured from places like rural Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi by the California Dream of yesteryear, statistically more likely to be kissing the dirt on Central Ave. than ass cheeks of pale white actresses on the red carpet at the Oscars, still, somehow dedicated to the bitchy, lacquered preoccupations of their beloved L.A.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="728" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]I wanted to see it for myself—this empty vessel known as Hollywood—to see what truth, if any, lies beneath it. Maybe I’d dig up the truth about how many dicks Will downed to get ahead in the game; maybe I’d find out from Lee how big the devil’s itself was. It should be noted, there is no morality in the case of dicks, so as I touched down at LAX and the golden sun kicked up dust and warmed my face, I said a little prayer, and indeed, was rex for my closeup. The Southern California sun promised me that life in L.A. would be wonderful. In an Airbnb in the Hollywood foothills the next morning, as I woke in that twilight state between awareness and dreams, I had an electrical charge contained in things like getting flowers or fighter jets or new followers. After years in Brooklyn living under grey skies, it was the unexpected pleasure of feeling the SoCal sun pull down my undies, and with a shot of testosterone, my eyes focused in the most gorgeous of light, to provoke in me for the first time again, pleasure, which I'd mainly come to associate with a barely remembered past. Los Angeles, a city of supreme fiction where mental geographies go beyond race and class prejudices. Los Angeles, a city where curious, unnatural landscapes dissolve into the distance amidst passive and apathetic contact among its residents. It’s understandable how 20th century reporter Morrow Mayo—the father of an entire school of caustic writing about L.A.—after arriving there in 1925 wrote of it: “Los Angeles is not a mere city… on the contrary, it is, and has been since 1888, a commodity; something to be advertised and sold to the people of the United States like automobiles, cigarettes and mouthwash.” By the time I’d finished mixing my morning smoothie, I got it, and wondered to myself: Is there any word held so high in the American esteem as “Hollywood?” Like any New Yorker I had my doubts, but it was nothing Google couldn't help me sort out—I was sure of it. I discovered in two clicks that after a trip to California in 1913, W. E. B. Du Bois praised Los Angeles in his paper The Crisis: "Los Angeles is wonderful. Nowhere in the United States is the Negro so well and beautifully housed, nor the average efficiency and intelligence in the colored population so high. Out here in this matchless Southern California there would seem to be no limit to your opportunities, your possibilities." But click, click, click, and one flash—it was becoming clear. A vision of happiness and wonder Los Angeles was not. The L.A. of the oil-and-film crazy ’20s didn’t create boom times at all for the negro; Du Bois’ fantasy was more a Hollywood horror story. He’d squirm at the bottom of a barrel of crabs in a backyard in Compton, waiting to be boiled for his cultural nutrition—and to their delight—for decades to come.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="80px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="733" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]By World War One, what were known as “deed restrictions” in The City of Angels pushed Blacks who’d migrated there since 1915 into the dark shadows of South Central, while the bright lights of Beverly Hills and San Marino flashed “keep out,” making 95 percent of the city's housing stock in the 1920s effectively off limits to Blacks and Asians. Acting as Jim Crow legislation, deed restrictions were also building a “white wall” around the Black community on Central Avenue—the one that dissected L.A.’s most notorious ghettos, the very ones Hollywood would glorify decades later through celluloid scraps of thug idolatry and exaggerated parodies of ghetto life via films like Straight Outta Compton and Friday. In her 1929 study of the “University Addition” neighborhood near the University of Southern California, sociologist Bessie McClenahan described how the arrival of one single Black family east of Budlong Avenue in the summer of 1922 sowed panic that home values would collapse in the wake of an imminent “Negro Invasion.” Whites quickly formed the “Anti-African Housing Association” to campaign for a restrictive agreement to exclude non-whites from the neighborhood. Until the US Supreme Court finally ruled against restrictive covenants in 1948, white homeowner groups in Los Angeles had ample sanction in the law and filed more than 100 suits against non-white potential home buyers (including Hollywood celebrities like Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers), while a compliant Superior Court regularly found Blacks in contempt for occupying homes within restricted subdivisions or blocks. Lest one cling to any illusion about the benevolence of the New Deal, Roosevelt's Federal Housing Authority not only sanctioned restrictions, but developed a recommended formula for inclusion in subdivision contracts. While L.A.’s cultural bohemia of the late ’40s and ’50s was morphing into the “L.A. Look” of the ’60s—think Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Richard Neutra, and Rudolph Rchindler building Hollywood Hills pleasure domes and making modernist art to fill them—Blacks were told to keep their nigger Jello molds; no one wants them, or Poitier, at such a swell party… Hhhhmmmm… Before I went hunting for that prototypically modern house in the Hollywood Hills my first day, I wondered, would I too be forced to drive 22 miles over to Baldwin Hills in bumper-to-bumper traffic to find it? Or nah? When visiting Los Angeles in the Olympic year of 1932, at first sight to a young Langston Hughes whose poems had already been purchased by Vanity Fair in New York by then, “Los Angeles seemed more a miracle than a city, a place where oranges sold for one cent a dozen, ordinary Black folks lived in huge houses with ‘miles of yards,’ and prosperity seemed to reign in spite of the Depression.” Later, in 1939, when Hughes attempted to write within the Hollywood studio system, he discovered that the only role available to the Black writer was furnishing demeaning dialogue for cotton-field parodies of Black life. After a humiliating experience with the film Way Down South, he declared that “so far as Negroes are concerned, [Hollywood] might just as well be controlled by Hitler.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="40px"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_single_image image="732" img_size="full" alignment="center" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="grid" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/6"][/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_empty_space height="80px"][vc_column_text]In the 80 years since, Hughes’ disillusionment with Hollywood has been recapitulated over and over again, each iteration messier than the last, via the careers of Black filmmakers like Gordon Parks and Melvin Van Peebles, and of course, Spike Lee. For it to devour outsiders like New York’s Lee or Chicago’s Peebles is one thing (geographic tribalism really is a thing), but to dine on a native son—namely a promising young Black filmmaker named John Singleton—seems a particularly heinous crime, even by Hollywood’s gruesome standards. With his epic 1991 tale of the tough, inner city Black experience in Southcentral, Boyz N The Hood, Singleton, at 20, was the youngest director to ever be nominated for an Academy Award (one for Best Original Screenplay and one for Best Director) and showed promise of becoming a cinematic channel for a socially conscious form of commercial filmmaking. He was a ray of light for Black filmmakers and audiences alike, and what was impossible he made possible—from getting Hollywood’s whispery pop princess Janet Jackson and preeminent street thug Tupac to fuck onscreen in 1993’s Poetic Justice, to killing Hollywood’s first and last Black supermodel, a then baby-faced Tyra Banks in cold blood at the end of 1995’s Higher Learning. Maybe that scene was foretelling his own demise. Did John know deep down that there’d be no half-a-century of Scorsese’s garish gangster movies for him to make? No Tarantino cult-like following to keep him in demand at the box office long past his expiration date? In fact, by “industry standards” Singleton’s work post-Boyz was all fail, and it seemed as if John had been expelled from the industry and left to spend his later years grazing on a meager diet of lame big-budget action flicks like 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious. Only as of last year, did he have a television cameo directing Lee Daniels’ Empire. Singleton shared in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter in 2014: “They ain't letting the Black people tell the stories… [Studio executives say] ‘We're going to take your stories but, you know what? You're going to starve over here and we're not going to let you get a job’...

0