Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS

The AIDS Memorial on Instagram and Facebook invited me to write a post about black gay writers during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s. I came out around that time and quickly saw the devastation the disease caused within the black gay literary community. Writers whose works I came to know and lean on for support suddenly started dying.

I met poet Assotto Saint at the 1st OutWrite writers conference in San Francisco, 1990. He went around to all the young black folks to make sure that we hooked up and knew each other. Thus, he introduced me to poet Alan Miller, who at the time lived half a mile from me in Oakland. We’ve been friends ever since.

Assotto died of AIDS in June, 1994, just four years after we met at OutWrite.

Here is the post. I thank the AIDS Memorial for keeping alive the memory of so many lost to AIDS.

View this post on Instagram

Posted @withrepost • @theaidsmemorial — “Black gay voices exploded in the 1980s: #MelvinDixon, #MarlonRiggs, #EssexHemphill, #StevenCorbin, #AssottoSaint, #JosephBeam. So many others. . Their words — fresh, vital, fierce — sashayed on to the pages of journals, magazines, and books created in their own image, shackled no more by “the invisible chains, linked over centuries, of silence and shame” (Riggs). . Their voices gave me solace when I came out in 1988, provided dignity and pride. “We are coming home with our heads held up high” (Beam). And then, they started to die. . The @lambdaliterary Award-winning anthology ‘Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS’ (Other Countries Press, 1993) captured the confusion, anger, and pain of a generation decimated by HIV/AIDS. “I’ve lost the future tense from my vocabulary,” wrote Dixon, who died before Sojourner dropped. . Craig G. Harris, like so many, first lost a loved one: “There is so much unfinished business between us … I still feel like you were the one.” Then he himself got sick: “I try to satisfy myself with video lovers who don’t ask questions.” . In the tradition of #JamesBaldwin, they pulled no punches. They spoke hard truths about isolation from their families, alienation from the white queer community, and a lack of access to medicine many African Americans living with AIDS faced despite the higher rates of infection in their own community. But like Baldwin and #AudreLorde, they spoke with a haunting eloquence. . I have a short story in Sojourner, an excerpt from my novel ‘Sin Against the Race.’ I’m humbled to be on the same pages with these giants. It angers and saddens me that so many are no longer here, their voices stilled not just by AIDS, but by a government and society that just didn’t give a damn. . As a Black gay writer, I am obligated to bear witness to their lives and remember their names. I exist in print because of the trail they blazed with high flung *SNAPS!*” — by Gar McVey-Russell @garmcveyrussell . #whatisrememberedlives #aidsmemorial #theaidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids

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© 2019, gar. All rights reserved.

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