Gay Black History Month hits SoFla.

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SoFla organizations celebrate sexual and racial identities He’s already seen the traditional celebrations of Gay Black History Month (GBHM): Town hall meetings, cookouts, movie screenings, interfaith meetings, and varieties thereof. So this year, Bishop Makalani-MaHee and his crew decided to dance to the tune of a different rhythm.

From poetry readings to a block party, the weekend of Feb. 24 should supply the kind of artsy expression and entertainment that may have been lacking in past GBHMs, Makalani-MaHee said. He’s the founder of Black Gay Pride South Florida, which together with BrothasSpeak will be hosting and organizing the festivities.

“The community’s art is a reflection of its culture. You really want to know a culture, you look at its art,” he said. He added that this weekend will showcase “what queer and same-gender-loving people of African descent bring to the art here in South Florida.” That’s why it’s been decided to move toward a more artistic side. But art is not the only motivation behind the events, particularly the first one.

Award-winning poets Marvin White and Sheree Greer will be reading their material during Rising to the Love we Need — A Pride Reading. The event’s namesake is the work of Assotto Saint, a “Black gay literary pioneer and social activist,” according to a press release. From playwright to visual artist, White is currently a fellow for Cave Canem, a national poetry organization and is a board member of Fire and Ink, a national LGBT community of writers. Greer is a published author — an excerpt from her upcoming novel will appear in the Best Lesbian Romance 2012.

“There has been over the past few month a string of young people committing suicide and being bullied because of their sexual orientation,” said Roger Williams, a co-moderator and planner for the weekend events. “Some people take for granted that we’ve come so far — a lot of times we forget that there are many who are still struggling with coming out.”

The reading, he said, will speaking to those issues, “getting us to realize that we shouldn’t forget those who’re still fighting those battles everyday.”

Williams said that one of the issues facing the LGBT community of color is partly a natural human phenomenon.

“I think it’s a little bit different — in the black community it’s not homophobia. It’s an issue of manhood. We’ve had through slavery, through Jim Crow, to seize our manhood,” he said. “The oppressed tends to oppress others — it’s part of our psychology as human beings. Black men are marginalized — so they turn around and marginalize other black men in the LGBT community.”

The reading opens up the weekend for two other events: Rhythm and the Word showcasing spoken word performances by Greer, White and Makalani-MaHee, and Old School Family Reunion Block Party featuring historical “old school jams.” These events, Williams said, are atypical and will provide the community a new venue of expression.

There are so many club events with music and alcohol, he said.



“We wanted to basically display black, gay talent — not just because it’s black gay history month — we wanted to display that talent in a different environment,” he said. These events will be “a little more cerebral, a little more intellectual.”

People won’t have to worry about the clothes they wear or about the club environment. People can come relax and ask questions, Williams said, emphasizing that the event is open for everyone.

“You don’t have to be African-American,” he said. “It’s something to do outside of the typical South Florida gay scene.”

New York-trained poet and short fiction writer G. Winston James is part of BrothasSpeak, a major force in shaping the weekend events. An author of many books and editor of anthologies, James’s work will be published in the upcoming anthologies For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough and Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of Gay New York.

“The best of writers are, in a way, keeping a record of what‘s happening in our community — both politically and spirituality,” James said. “It’s important for us to support our artists — supporting the creation of living testimonies of people in our community.”

These events, James said, allows BrothasSpeak to stand up in the South Florida LGBT community.

“We wanted to be a part of the planning this year — to show that we’re not only just sitting around and talking,” he said, hoping that the poems, like his own, will create conversation among people they wouldn’t normally have. “I tend to write a lot about desire and its complications — I’m telling the truth in ways that people don’t necessarily want to hear.”

Follow the Voices

What:Rising to the Love we Need — A Pride Reading
When: Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: The Pride Center
2040 N. Dixie Hwy
Wilton Manors, FL 33306
How much: Free

What:Rhythm and the Word
When: Saturday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Miami-Dade LGBT Visitors Center
1130 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
How much: Suggested $10 donation

What: Old School Family Reunion Block Party
When: Sunday, Feb. 26, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: The Pride Center
2040 N. Dixie Hwy
Wilton Manors, FL 33306
How much: Free

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