by Anthony R. Green
It is June 30th, which means it is the end of Pride month AND Black Music Month. This Pride was especially important as it marked the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. As identity and recognition conversations increase in passion and quantity, this particular anniversary has also brought a surge in comments about and celebrations of Marsha P. Johnson, and other trans women of color who were instrumental in starting the riots AS WELL AS fighting for LGBTQI+ rights, despite many cis white gay men rejecting their presence in the 70s. To my eyes, this Pride has also seemed to transcend issues of sexuality and gender expression, perhaps because of the correlation between the 2016 presidential elections and the exponential increase in hate crimes across the US, coupled with the increase of otherism across the world as right wing populism strengthens. Many people during this Pride Month have expressed pride in their differences, whether it be skin color, ability, physical size, cultural background, and more. There have also been overwhelming expressions of support from straight allies, encouraging the world to accept differences for the sake of the concept of the human family. As recent economic situations are polarizing the rich and the poor, similar social changes are polarizing the left and the right. But this has not stopped a small bit of justice from coming to play this year.
Above find a picture of the late Sam Cooke and his wife Barbara. This year, Cooke's famous song A Change Is Gonna Come was sang during Castle of our Skins's Negra Sum Sed Formosa project, and taught in one of the community sing events of I AM A MAN 2019. This year, Sam Cooke received an apology for the racist events that inspired that song, which ended up becoming popular during the civil rights movement. This apology comes 56 years after the incident happened, and it was delivered by the Black mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, Mayor Adrian Perkins, who also posthumously awarded Cooke a key to the city. The ceremony and apology occured at an event where Cooke's daughter Carla was performing, and she was moved by the belated gesture.
Both the Negra Sum ... and the I AM A MAN 2019 projects which featured Cooke's anthem involved in their own unique ways the concept of pride - pride in being Black, pride in fighting for what is right, and pride in being beautiful in spite of the popular definitions of beauty. While this was not a conscious decision on COOS's behalf, I am glad that COOS contributed to the transcending Pride celebrations this June, this year, and throughout its existence, all while celebrating Black Music Month not just in June, but all year round.
Happy Pride and Happy Black Music Month, all!
by Anthony R. Green
On June 2, I AM A MAN 2019 officially began! As Ashe and I headed to Hibernian Hall to prepare for the first set of rehearsals and the first two events, I tried to prepare myself for the week ahead. This project will engage with children in a way that is fun, but also shows them positive Black male and female role models; it will engage with youth and have hopefully life-changing and/or life-affirming conversations about contemporary masculinity, especially in the Black and POC communities; it will expose the community to civil rights and freedom songs, while providing information about their background; it will present a FREE screening of one of today's most important films, I Am Not Your Negro; and it will present two concerts with music by Black composers, mostly male. Such a project, as far as I am aware, is a rather unique undertaking, and hopefully will inspire other organizations to produce similar projects.
I AM A MAN, as a phrase, has its roots in the 18th century abolitionist slogan, Am I not a man and brother? The contemporary I AM A MAN was used heavily by Black sanitation workers when they conducted a strike for their rights in 1968. As more people started to sympathize with these workers, men of all races carried I AM A MAN signs in solidarity. Since 1968, the visibility of different expressions of masculinity has greatly expanded, but not always elegantly. The keepers of masculinity are sensitive and live up to the violence stereotype that unnecessarily, yet so often pervades definitions of manliness. Consequently, as the visibility of queer men, trans men, non-binary people, and more gender-binary-breaking people increases, so do the hate crimes.
This project aims to achieve three goals:
1) increase the conversation about Black masculinity, as well as masculinity on the whole
2) tie in these conversations with the expansion of human dignity
3) continue the conversation about the historical background of I AM A MAN for the upcoming generation of youth and children, and for the community.
The project aims to do all this through community discussions, reflections, workshops, film, dance, spoken word, multimedia, and music. COME JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION!
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