Col­lec­tive mem­ory is an act of re­sis­tance

GA Voice - - Front Page -

I am a black gay man from the South. I grew up with a vague no­tion of what it meant to be gay, and none of what it meant to be both black and gay.

Years later, this would be­come both the fuel and the fire for my writ­ing and my ac­tivism, es­pe­cially upon learn­ing that so much of our move­ment his­tory as black gay men had been erased or frag­mented. Col­lec­tive mem­ory is not an ex­er­cise in nos­tal­gia, but an ex­er­cise in heal­ing. And in that spirit, I hope to chan­nel the strength of the black gay men that came be­fore me, know­ing they were not silent, they were were not pas­sive by­standers, and they de­manded to be heard.

Child­hood was an end­less win­ter, an emo­tional life frozen un­der the ex­pec­ta­tions of those around me to con­form to ap­pro­pri­ate black male­ness. Then in my mid-teens, as my self-aware­ness around my sex­u­al­ity evolved, and the feel­ings I was hav­ing be­came less whis­per and more shout, the vast in­te­rior of my emo­tional life ex­panded. Through the works of James Bald­win, Es­sex Hem­phill, Joseph Beam and Craig Har­ris, I found a blue­print to nav­i­gate the new ter­rain, and lack­ing a so­cial safety net, I found a cul­tural one.

I was able to align my­self with a po­lit­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual com­mu­nity that I mostly felt sup­ported by. I be­came a sort of go-to on the panel cir­cuit. And yet even in all of my ac­tiv­ity and ef­forts, my al­most com­pul­sive pro-

“As we grap­ple with the im­pact of HIV on our com­mu­ni­ties, not un­like those be­fore us, I hope to ex­tract les­sons and blue­prints from our an­ces­tors to clar­ify, or­der, and in­spire our next steps.”

duc­tiv­ity, I felt like there was some­thing miss­ing. In grap­pling with this, the thing miss­ing, I found my­self dream­ing about what would later be­come the Counter Nar­ra­tive Project.

As the HIV fund­ing land­scape shifted and com­mu­nity-build­ing gave way to our cur­rent ob­ses­sion with find­ing “high-risk neg­a­tives,” the net­work of work­shops, pro­grams and events that were so in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of my po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness as a black gay man dis­ap­peared. Our com­mu­nity work started be­ing starved and our ef­forts suf­fered. Neo-lib­er­al­ism isn’t just about the con­ver­sion of cit­i­zens into con­sumers, but grass­roots move­ments into sprawl­ing bu­reau­cra­cies. Neo-lib­er­al­ism is also about for­get­ting. That’s why col­lec­tive mem­ory, for so many of us, is an act of re­sis­tance. And any con­sid­er­a­tion of move­ment his­tory, and col­lec­tive mem­ory as an act of re­sis­tance, con­jurs up the force that was the writer and ac­tivist Craig G. Har­ris. His act of de­fi­ance, tak­ing the stage of the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion An­nual Meet­ing, grab­bing the mic and pro­claim­ing “I will be heard,” is the inspiration be­hind the “I Will Be Heard” day of ac­tion, and also in the DNA of all of our ef­forts as black gay men to re­spond to the im­pact of HIV on our lives and com­mu­ni­ties.

We, at Counter Nar­ra­tive Project, cel­e­brate the courage and legacy of Craig G. Har­ris, and we also cel­e­brate the gen­er­a­tion of black gay men that built the ground we stand.

Au­gust 18, 2017

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.