Black is Beautiful, Gay is Good! is a photography-based exhibition that celebrates Black Gay culture, life and history by Haitian-American photographer Ocean Morisset. The title of the exhibition was culled from two slogans popularized during the tumultuous 1960’s, a time when the Civil Rights Movement exploded into the forefront of American Culture. Black is Beautiful was a phrase popularized by activist and Black Panther Stokely Carmichael. Gay is Good was inspired by Carmichael’s slogan and coined by (white) gay activist Frank Kameny during the same period.
Exhibiting this body of work (which includes names and contributions of notable black gay and lesbians makes a provocative, yet affirming statement that reminds us of the legacy and history that black gays and lesbians have made and continue to make. Historically, black gays and lesbians have been viewed by the general public as insignificant and unworthy members of society. In this age of CHANGE, this exhibition seeks to provide imagery and information to filter into our collective consciousness, and realize that we are all ONE. "I AM, therefore WE ARE".
****At the end of the exhibition read an INTERVIEW about my process and my black lgbt photography****
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, GAY IS GOOD!
EXHIBITION IMAGES (Click any to enlarge)
Sakia Gunn Rally, 2005
Sakia Gunn (May 26, 1987-May 11, 2003) was a 15-year old African American lesbian who was murdered in a hate crime in Newark, New Jersey. On the night of May 11, Sakia was returning from a night out in Greenwich Village, Manhattan with her friends. While waiting for the #1 New Jersey Transit bus at the corner of Broad and Market Streets in downtown Newark, Sakia and her friends were propositioned by two men. When the girls rejected their advances, by declaring themselves to be lesbians, the men attacked them. Sakia fought back, and one of the men, Richard McCullough, stabbed her in the chest. Both men immediately fled the scene in their vehicle. After one of Sakia's friends flagged down a passing driver, she was taken to nearby University Hospital, where she died.
SAGE Kwaanza, 2005
SAGE is the world's oldest and largest non-profit agency dedicated to serving and advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors. Since its inception, SAGE has pioneered programs and services for seniors in the LGBT community, provided technical assistance and training to expand opportunities for LGBT older people across the country, and provided a national voice on LGBT aging issues. In 2005 SAGE became the first official LGBT delegate at a White House Conference on Aging. SAGE is celebrating its 30th Anniversary with activities throughout 2008.
PRIDE in the CITY drag performer, 2005
PRIDE IN THE CITY, New York City's Black Gay Pride celebration takes place during the first weekend in August. Events include an Opening reception, Family Day Picnic in the Park, and the ever-popular beach party.
PRIDE hot body contest, 2005 (from the PRIDE in the City series)
Lesbian Couple Dancing, 2005 (from the PRIDE in the City series)
PRIDE beach outfit, 2007
Lesbian Love at PRIDE, 2005
Blackkat and Boi Tony, 2005
Representin' brothas in the black leather community.
Blackkat and Boi Tony II, 2005
Singer/Ententainer Kevin Aviance, 2005
Hate Crime Press Conference at City Hall, 2005 (Kevin Aviance speaking)
On Saturday June 10th, Kevin suffered a vicious bashing at the hands of four cowardly attackers. In the aftermath of the attack, members of the community mobilized to speak out against hate crimes.
Couple at PRIDE, 2006
Evolution of Standard Ball at Roseland, NYC 2005
The Legendary House of Latex Ball at the Roseland Ballroom is THE Ball to go to if you're in that scene and usually attracts thousands of House Children and onlookers. For the past sixteen years, the Gay Men's Health Crisis has sponsored this free event, which results in HIV testing of hundreds of mostly black and latino youth.
Aging in the Black Gay Community
Anthony Jenkins- Fashion Designer, Father and Grandfather. Harlem NYC Age 65 (Photographed Jan. 2006. Coat and hat made by Mr. Jenkins.
Mukuru is a portrait based project that takes a look at the lives of elder black gay men and their experiences with aging in a community driven by youth and beauty.
Respect for the wisdom of elders is a legacy of black culture. We are taught to respect our elders, yet we as a community do not honor them. Africans are traditionally renowned for their admiration, respect and reverence for their elders. The term "elder" is known to have a variety of connotations including the common one of a person who is in a higher age hierarchy. "Elder" can also mean one who is in a position of higher authority or responsibility or one who has masterful expertise in a field. Aging or becoming elderly in the black gay community is often viewed as an affliction rather than a stage of life that deserves to be celebrated.
Many people when they think about gay men, they think about the representations they see in pop culture: young-to-middle aged, urban, and white. They don't think of older men, and certainly not older black men. This project aims to represent elder black gay men as dignified, beautiful and a vital part of the black gay community.
Eugene Compson, (from MUKURU, Black Gay Elder series)
Bill Stewart, (from MUKURU, Black Gay Elder series)
Valerie Prinez holds a (dated) photo of her son, hate-crime victim Dwan Prince, 2005
Dwan Prince is an African American gay man living in Brooklyn, New York. On June 8, 2005, Prince was assaulted in front of his home by Steven Pomie and two other men, who yelled anti-gay epithets as they stomped and kicked him. The attack ensued after Pomie and Prince exchanged words, and Prince responded flirtatiously.
Brothers at BMX Sexuality Forum, 2005
BMX is a forum for Black men to safely discuss issues that impact their lives and to connect with other brothers in a positive, affirming, nurturing environment.
Gay youth on the pier, 2006
Gay Pride Embrace, 2005
Couple embrace in the ocean. From Pride in the City Riis beach event, 2007.
Drag performer/Comedian Harmonica Sunbeam, 2006
Catching yo' LIFE!, 2007 (from the PRIDE in the city series).
Pride, Joy, Laughter, 2007
R & B Singer Nhojj at the OUT Music Awards, 2009
Nhojj did the improbable by becoming the first Black male artist ever to win an OUTMusic Award from the Alliance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Recording Artists and Performers. His song “Love” was named OUTstanding R&B/Soul Song of the Year.
Filmmakers Patrick Ian Polk (Noah's Arc) and Maurice Jamal (Dirty Laundry), 2007
Rashawn Brazell in his graduation portrait.
In February 2005, Brazell's dismembered body parts were found in garbage bags strewn throughout the borough. Though his story was initially refused coverage in most mainstream media outlets, it incited overwhelming responses from bloggers, activists and outraged community members alike. To date, no arrests have been made in connection to this gruesome murder.
Desire Brazell, mother of Rashawn Brazell lights candles at a vigil in honor of her son.
Azande Warriors of Ancient Africa (from the series Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History),2008
According to extensive research and fieldwork by the British Anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, the Azande date back to the early 1600's in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unmarried Azande warriors routinely took on boy-wives, who would be between the ages of twelve and twenty. They would purchase these boys in exchange for spears, and their bond would be publicly acknowledged. The boys did not cook, but would fetch cooked food, and would perform other services for their husbands. In return, the husbands gave the boy-wives pretty ornaments, and he and the boy addressed one another as "my love" and my "lover".
Lead photo from GMHC's Father/Son Campaign (My Son is my Life), 2008
I know the face of AIDS, 2006. In memory of our brothers and sisters who lost their battle to AIDS.
Kaletra Sculpture against the basil plant, (from the Kaletra sculpture series), 2006
I was helping my best friend Bill clean out his apartment during the summer of 2005 when we came across boxes of old HIV medication he had once been prescribed. One box contained several bottles of Kaletra. Kaletra is an anti-HIV medication in a category of HIV medicines called protease inhibitors (PIs). Kaletra prevents cells infected by HIV from producing new virus. This reduces the amount of virus in your body, and can increase the number of T-cells.
Bill's dosage was 5 pills twice a day. He told me he stopped taking the Kaletra, after starting with a "burst of energy", but things soon "fell apart". He had difficulty in following the twice a day regimen, and sooner than later, he stopped taking them altogether. According to Bill, it was a stressful experience, and the fear of taking the pills at work, being questioned by nosy co-workers about the reason for taking these five, bright orange colored pills. All of this was too much for him to bear.
Going through all the pill bottles, to remove the labels before disposing of them, we discovered something that was too hot to pass up for a photograph! Inside some of these bottles were congealed Kaletra pills! Funny, especially given the fact that Kaletra's materials state that the pills can be keep room tempurature. Yeah, right, but for how long??
Anyway, this discovery also got me to thinking about how many brothaluva's in the community don't have or know how to access medication or healthcare. Worse yet, according to the CDC, when it comes to HIV in the African-American (MSM) community, black men account for 46% of HIV infection! A startling number that at this rate, is bound to continue rising!
I was struck with a creative spark when I saw all these orange pills stuck together and went for my camera and began styling the impromptu still life shoot! With Bill's assistance, we documented an important chapter in his life, and journeyed
through the process of letting go and forgiving oneself.
Wings of Glory, 2005
Notable black gay men and lesbians and their contributions:
Lee Daniels began his career as a casting director working on projects such as 'Purple Rain.' He went on to become the first sole black producer of an Academy Award-earning film with Monster's Ball. Daniels went onto direct 'The Woodsman' and 'Shadowboxer.' He identifies as gay and has two children.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Lorde was a prolific poet and activist in the 1960s. In 1980 she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press which became the first U.S. publisher for women of color. Her essay, "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" critiqued the feminist movement for its racism. She died of breast cancer in 1992.
Octavia Butler (1947-2006)
One of the most brilliant science fiction writers of our time, Octavia Butler authored more than 14 books that built and destroyed notions of race, class, sex and sexuality. In 1995, she won a $295,000 MacArthur Fellowship, known as the "genius grant." In 2000, she received the Nebula Award, science fiction's highest prize, for her novel 'Parable of the Talents.'
Darryl Stephens Is most famous as the lead actor in the Showtime series, 'Noah's Arc,' also known as the black gay male 'Sex and the City.' Though initially reluctant to talk about his sexuality, Stephens confirmed that he is gay in 2007 but remains guarded about his private life.
Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)
A premiere architecht of the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin organized the very first Freedom Rides as well as the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin who counseled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on techniques of nonviolent resistance, traveled to India to learn the Ghandian technique firsthand. He was openly gay and spoke out on gay rights later in his life.
Paris Barclay is an acclaimed director of television, film and music videos including LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out.' The openly gay Harvard graduate has since gone on to direct successful shows such as 'The Shield', 'Cold Case' 'CSI' and 'ER.' He has two Emmy awards, a Director's Guild of America Award and two NAACP awards for his work.
Andre Leon Talley
As Editor-At-Large at glossy fashion bible, VOGUE, Andre Leon Talley is the most recognized Black man in fashion. The Ivy leagued educated fashionisto is instrumental in promoting young designers of color and he has authored two books
Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)
Served as a congresswoman in the US House of Representatives from 1973-1979, the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House. Jordan never publicly acknowledged being a lesbian but lived with a companion, Nancy Earl for over 30 years. Jordan was also the first black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
One of the most successful artists of all time, Johnny Mathis is known best for his romantic ballads including classic 'Chances Are.' In a 1982 interview, Mathis came out saying his first love was a boy when he was 16 years old. However, he later maintained that should have been off the record.
Maurice Jamal came out to his classmates at the tender age of 16 but waited five years to tell his family. The writer, director and actor is most noted for his film, 'Dirty Laundry' with Rockmond Dunbar and Loretta Devine. He says he finds it empowering to be an openly black gay man in Hollywood.
Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
An integral part of the Harlem Renaissance, the highly educated Cullen wrote volumes of haunting poetry with names such as 'The Black Christ' and 'Ballad of a Brown Girl.' Cullen, who married W.E.B. DuBois' daughter in 1928 divorced her two years later reportedly due to his relationships with men. He married a "good friend" ten years later.
Three time Olympic gold medalist and three time WNBA MVP, Swoopes is often referred to as the "Female Michael Jordan". She is the first women's basketball player to have a Nike shoe named after her "Air Swoopes." She married in 1995 and had a son, but divorced and came out 10 years later.
Best known as a radical activist from the '70s who was jailed for an attempted prison break and murder of a judge ("Free Angela"). She was later aquitted. This Birmingham born Communist is an ardent feminist, socialist, author and college professor. Davis came out in 1997.
Rainey is often referred to as The Mother of the Blues. Within five years of being signed to a recording contract in 1923, she recorded 100 songs. Though married to "Pa" Rainey, her 1928 song, 'Prove it on Me Blues,' made no bones about her relationships with women ("I don't like me no mens.") Rainey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
One of the premiere American dancers and choreographers of our time, Ailey is the founder of the The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His 1960 masterpiece Revelations is one of the most popular ballets performed in the 20th century. When Ailey died from AIDS in 1989, he asked that his doctor announce that he had died of terminal blood dyscrasia to save his mother -- who was always opposed to her son being gay.
Joesphine Baker (1906-1975)
Singer Josephine Baker was the belle of Paris in the 1920s, known for her beauty and sexually charged performance. In 1947, she and her gay French husband wed (her third marriage) and adopted a "Rainbow Tribe" of 12 children. Though she loved men, Baker had many affairs with women, including Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
With his unique look and style, performer Aviance has become a popular personality in NYC's Gay community. In 2006, he was a victim of a vicious hate crime when he was attacked by a group of men who yelled anti-gay slurs at him. [The men later plead guilty to the hate crime charges and received sentences from 6 to 15 years in prison.]
Self proclaimed womanist and bisexual, author Alice Walker once had a love affair with singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman whom she says she was "completely in love with." Walker received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her critically acclaimed novel 'The Color Purple.'
Singer, actor and song writer RuPaul was born Rupaul Andre Charles and does "woman" better than most women. His song 'Supermodel (You Better Work)' was a huge hit in the '90s as was his beauty, eccentric personality and drag queen persona.
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
"Lady Day," one of America's finest jazz song stylists (and subject of the film 'Lady Sings the Blues'), was said to have had affairs with both men and women. Two of her most notable relationships included one with director Orson Welles and Tallulah Bankhead.
Harris sold his first book 'Invisible Life' in 1991 out of the trunk of his car before he landed a book deal and later went on to have nine of his books on the New York Times best seller's list. He was one of the first authors to explore being black and gay in his works of fiction.
Felicia "Snoop" Pearson
After meeting Michael K. Williams of HBO's 'The Wire' in a Baltimore club Pearson was invited to the set where she was introduced to producers and writers of the show and was then given a role. Her memoir, 'Grace After Midnight' spoke about her life as an aggressive or an AG (a male-identified lesbian) in her native Baltimore.
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Baldwin, author, essayist, poet, playwright and activist, explored issues of racial and sexual identity in his much heralded literary art. Baldwin touched on issues facing black gays and lesbians at a time when society was not yet ready to grasp the idea.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Langston Hughes, writer, activist and poet is noted as "one of the most prolific and versatile American writers of his generation" and a true man of letters. Hughes is probably one of the most famous names of the Harlem Renaissance. An intensely private person, Hughes has been "reclaimed" by the gay community in recent years, though he never officially came out during his lifetime.
Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones began his dance career at the State University at Binghamton as a theater major. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide before founding the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his late partner Arnie Zane. He is the recipient of a Tony Award and MacArthur "genius grant."
Also known as the "black Broadway bitch" singer-writer Porter built a strong reputation as a theatrical singer on Broadway; his one-man show 'Ghetto Superstar' was a touching tale of growing up gay in Pittsburgh.
N'DeGeOCello has been called the redeemer of soul music and nominated for nine Grammys. This acclaimed singer and songwriter is a longtime lover of women including writer Rebecca Walker (Alice Walker's daughter).
Bessie Smith (1894-1937)
Known by regal title "Empress of the Blues," Bessie Smith was the foremost blues singer of the 1920s. Though she married, she was bisexual and had many affairs with women. She also referenced same-sex love in her lyrics. In 1970, singer Janis Joplin paid for her gravestone which had previously been unmarked.
Jermaine Stuart (1957-1997)
Stuart was well known in the 1980s with appearances on shows such as American Bandstand and Soul Train. His most famous work was 'We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off.' In 1997 Stuart died due to complications from his battle with AIDS.
President Barack Obama's plan for the LGBT Community
According to President Barack Obama he plans to:
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
About the Artist Ocean Morisset
Double Exposure Self-Portrait, 2002-03
Ocean Morisset is a self-taught Haitian-American photographer who specializes in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.
Career highlights include:
2001- Ocean establishes the Fort Greene Photography Organization, a membership organization of photographer amateurs and professionals.
2003- Ocean travels to Havana, Cuba to teach a two week photography and arts workshop to Cuban youth under a grant secured by Cuban-American Photographer Nestor Hernandez.
2004- Ocean travels to Gonaives, Haiti with the humanitarian organization Eritaj Foundation to deliver food aid and medical supplies to survivors of Hurricane Jeanne. While there, he photographs the resilience of the Haitian people with special emphasis placed on the food distribution efforts. The photo essay is called The Aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne.
2004- Ocean begins documenting the Black Gay community with projects that include Mukuru: Black Gay Elders and Pride in the City, New York’s Black Gay Pride celebrations. The Black Male Nude project also begins this year.
2005- Ocean is accepted to the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop for Photojournalism with his portfolio of images from The Aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne. At the end of the four day workshop, due to his outstanding performance, Ocean is awarded an assignment with The New York Times and TV Guide Magazine.
2005- Select images from Ocean’s body of work of the Black Male Nude is published in the book, Black No. 5 published by Janssen Publishing, South Africa.
2006- Ocean is commissioned to photograph the subject of Black Male Nudes for a book to be published out of the UK.
2007-08 —The coffee table book Nude Photography, The Art and Craft is published featuring Ocean’s black male nude photography by DK publishing, the largest publishing house in the UK.
2010--Ocean travels to Haiti on a medical relief mission, tending to the sick and wounded. He has documented his experience in this photo essay:
2010- Ocean continues to photograph personal and commercial projects, and enjoys making new discoveries through photography.
Bill and Ocean, Self Portait 2005
In loving memory of my dearly departed best friend Bill Harmon (March 29, 1959-July 5, 2007) whose inspiration I carry with me every day! I MISS U BILL!
You may view more of my Photography at:
http://omorisset.myexpose.com (Photojournalism and Documentary Photography)
www.musecube.com/nycphotographer (Male nudes)
Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated! POST them on this site or email me at email@example.com
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH ME AND DOUG COOPER SPENCER HERE: http://brothaluvacafe.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-photographer-ocean.html
Read the review of this exhibition by GBM News correspondent Antoine Craigwell at:
HAPPY BLACK HISTORY!!!
Haitians will rise up!
Peace & Light,