Revolutionary Thoughts

“[My message is to] own your imperfections and all the things that make you interesting, because I refuse to allow someone to put me in anybody’s box.” –Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

We are always learning in this world. Whether that means you’re a student in a classroom, a professional navigating your career, or a child who has had to grow up at a young age because of circumstances you are unable to control, we are always learning. Learning equals growth, and regardless of the way you have learned what you know, it’s important to own your experience in new conversations with others.

Storytelling is a form of education that goes deeper to our core than any textbook.

This past year has been a journey for me of liberating myself. What started out as reconnecting with the energy of Nelson Mandela through his autobiography shortly after his passing has led me to authors whom, I have always known to be great, but never had the chance to read their work myself. Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Chimamanda Adichie, Janet Mock—the list goes on. I can easily say that this year has been the first of many more to come that reading became one of my favourite things to do.

Words have power, and though I never needed to read any of the books I have read over the year to know this, it’s important that I speak this into the universe. Whether it is written or spoken, words invoke meaning, emotion, and most importantly, force us to think about situations we may never have thought of before. It is from this understanding of the power of words that brought me to start this blog.

Recently, I have entered a state of transitional employment, and while I stay positive that my calling will reveal itself to me soon, I have had to fight with sources of negative energy in my mind that try to steer me off course. As a gay Black male who is conscious of the white, patriarchal, and heteronormative society I live in, it seems like there is so much out there that is trying to silence me.

For my entire life, I have been used to being one of few people of colour in rooms, but as I have been liberating myself this year, I find that I am always second-guessing whether I want to be that minority or not. Why? Because I am tired of white faces pretending to care when I advocate for my marginalised communities only to forget it five minutes later and follow their own personal agenda. I know this is not the case for every white person I speak with, but from my experiences over the past year, this is my truth.

When applying to jobs, I find myself debating whether I should water down my mission of being a voice for the Black community and Black LGBTQ community. My fear is that my prospective employer may write me off as another angry Black person who will only bring “unwanted drama” in the workspace. And as hard as many of you would like to think that this doesn’t happen, it does. But what’s important for me to remember—and sometimes I forget this—is that employers who might think this of me just aren’t for me. My words are my truth, and I refuse to lie about it in order to get a job.

My thoughts are revolutionary, and I speak truth into this world so that others can hear about the world I want to live in.

If people can’t handle it, that’s fine, because I’m going to keep being me. I’m grateful for the strong support system of friends in the movement for racial and social justice I’ve created. Even without a conversation between us, seeing the revolutionary work they have dedicated themselves to reminds me of the power that lies in being truthful to yourself.

I recently was at an event at the Centre for Social Innovation where they asked all of us to write down one thing that can make New York a better place. My answer was conversation. So much of who I am and what I love in life has come from conversations with others. When we talk to one another, we are sharing our stories, and whether we support these stories or not, it’s important that we keep an open mind to listening to others so that we can better understand ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone new. You never know just what kind of connection the universe has in store for you.

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Their Deaths Didn’t Have To Happen: My Story With HIV/AIDS

The following post was written by guest writer, Pamgrace Gachenge, founder and executive director of PAUSE Project.

I was in my room watching TV when I heard my mother scream from the kitchen. I ran downstairs to find her on the floor crunched in a fetal position with the phone to her ear. “Mommy, Mommy, are you ok?” I yelled. With barely enough breath her crackled voice uttered, “He is dead!”

Wrapping my mother in my teenage arms, I couldn’t find the words to comfort the strongest person I knew. For hours she sobbed, “Why, why, why Peter?”

That day I lost an uncle, but my mother lost her best friend and beloved brother.

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Raven-Symoné: “I’m An American, Not An African-American”

I love Raven-Symoné. I always have. As Olivia, she was my favourite character on The Cosby Show (until the adult me realized the legendary-ness of Mrs. Claire Huxtable), I shared middle and high school years with her as Raven Baxter on That’s So Raven, and I even have some of her discography on my iTunes. But all of those things aside, I have loved Raven-Symoné as an individual who has always held a strong head on her shoulders despite whatever madness may be going on around her in celebrity culture.

So when I found out she sat down with Oprah for a “Where Are They Now?” segment, I knew I’d be all about it.

In this recently aired special, Raven stirred the waters when she said, “I’m an American, not an African-American.” Now before I dive into this loaded statement, I want to make sure you all understand the context in which she says it. In this case, Raven was answering a question Oprah was posing to her in regards to her sexual identity—since August 2013 when she made a tweet saying she could marry whomever she loves with the support of the government, Raven’s sexuality has been a question people have been dying to have an answer to.

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We Are One Beloved Community

Last week I was in Washington, DC to attend/volunteer for the National Black Justice Coalition’s OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit, a four-day long summit that convened key stakeholders in the Black LGBT community, including elected officials, policy advocates, activists, and emerging leaders. To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement—it was beautiful, uplifting, and most of all, empowering.

For the first time in my life, I was around people who both looked like me and identified in the same community, who I could reach out and talk to with open arms.

From the moment I walked in on the first day, I was embraced with a “hello” and a “Yasss honey, WERKK!” (in reference to my Beyoncé pin I adorned all week). From that moment on, I felt around family. Continue reading