Over the past six weeks, I have gotten so many reactions to the nature of my book, When The Lights Go Out: The TRUTH About Black Male Prison Sexuality from people on so many levels. Fascination, interest, excitement, energy, confusion, scorn, and judgment have all been par for my course thus far on this journey. I will be honest when I tell you that I wrote this book for the entire black community, both same gender loving and heterosexual, that this topic might draw us into a deeper and more profound conversation about human sexuality....particularly among black men.
Why are such conversations important, you ask?
No group in America, in my opinion, has a bigger unspoken crisis in what I refer to as "sexual identity politics" than black men. I am referring to our understanding of ourselves as men, both heterosexual and same gender loving, and how the last several generations of young black men have had to redefine, for themselves, what masculinity, manhood, and sexuality mean in relation to each other. In no other place does this crisis manifest itself more clearly than in the Correctional Centers, Detention Centers, jails, and prisons in the United States. The intense silence that still lingers among us as black men, is not only deafening, but can be potentially lethal if not halted.
It is this silence that has manifested itself in so many other areas of our lives as young black men. 25 years ago, being articulate was considered by some brothers in the 'hood as "acting white". Now, not only does this crazy assertion still remain, but it is now considered "acting gay" if you speak with a mastery of the English language, and do not manifest any of the hyper masculine "thug swag" of your contemporaries! This tells me that education has been recast by our young men as something they see and view as "negative"( acting white/gay). If such cultural aversions to higher learning persist, where will the black community be 30 years from now?
We have to get to the root of those perceptions, and begin tackling them in a straight-forward manner. My book examines the role of education on black young mens perception of their own sexuality and masculinity, and how we can begin to "change the culture" that exists surrounding this issue.
32 years or so into the HIV pandemic, that silence has manifested itself in the form of the fastest HIV infection rates in the United States, among us as black people. This silence brought on by the notion that to be anything other than heterosexual, makes you less of a man. Men are hiding themselves while still attempting to live a life that our society has deemed acceptable for them. This inner turmoil is destructive, if a climate is not made through dialogue to open minds up and make coming out slowly but surely more acceptable.
Let us not forget, that every Sunday, as we struggle to make sense of the life God gave us, that many a black preacher can be found in the pulpit, railing off against homosexuality as an "abomination", while he wears his synthetic fabric robes(condemned in Leviticus), prepares for his fried shrimp dinners after the service(condemned in the Bible), and on more than a few occasions, can be found guilty of adultery himself with women in the Church(clearly an offense worthy of death in the Old Testament). My book explores the impact of Religion, both Christianity, and to a lesser extent, Islam, have on black men's views on anything non-heterosexual.
More black men are under the control of the Criminal Justice System in 2012, than black people were slaves in the year 1850, 10 years before the Civil War.
Marinate on that, please.
I am happy to have the debate on the War On Drugs being a smokescreen for systematic targeting of Black and Latino young men to warehouse them in privatized prisons for profit and to create a racial caste system of control.
I get it.
The unspoken question though, as we organize to stop this madness....the 800 lb. elephant in the room....is, "what are these men doing while up in there???" My book answers those questions, and the answers are not necessarily what you think. Let us reason together, and open our minds, to find out what really goes down, When The Lights Go Out.
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