Friday, April 30, 2010

For the Dreamer in You...

Still True Today...


It's been said that the people we attract in our lives for relationships reflect who we are. Their strengths are our weaknesses and our weaknesses are their strengths. The idea is to improve one another. I would go a step further to also say our relationships parallel the relationships we saw as children i.e. our parents or guardians.

My mother & father alternated putting me to bed at night when I was a kid. He would kiss my forehead & tell me he loved me. He told me regularly, "You can be anything you want because you're bright. You're smart. Can't nothing stop you!"

I believe my mother is the reason for my entrepreneurial spirit. I watched her build a business from nothing, but also because she supported me during the times I didn't work while mounting my stage play. She wasn't one to say, "I love you," but she showed it in more ways than I could say.

My parents were married for about 14 years, thus, I have a myriad of memories & some of those contribute to the way I functioned in my relationships. My father had a terse, abrasive way when he was angry or frustrated with my mother especially when he couldn't get his point across or have his way. He would condescendingly call her "brains" when she questioned something she didn't understand or she wanted clarity on.

On the other hand, my mom would ignore my father for days, weeks even to prove a point. Because I was there to absorb it all I adopted both of their patterns. I was in my 20s when I realized the effects their relationship had on mine. One of my biggest struggles then & sometimes now is letting go of anger. I’m the first to admit how begrudging I can be and quite unforgiving even. I’ve been guilty of shutting down & ultimately closing my partner out because I’m upset about something. Undoing learned behavior that we subconsciously carry with us can be difficult to untangle, but doable if we’re honest with ourselves & sit still long enough to identify our role in the relationship.

My patterns, your patterns follow us into our relationships until we make a conscious decision to rid ourselves of them...

Thursday, April 29, 2010


On the right side of the page is a link that says "FOLLOW". Please do so if you haven't already. You don't have to be gay, just gay friendly (smile). Thank you for all the support... Tell someone about the blog

Craig Stewart
Twitter @therealcstewart

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All the Kids Love this...

Every piece of this is funny...

My Prayer...

My grandmother taught me how to pray. I spent every weekend and summer at her house. She would tell me to get down on my knees, even if I was tired. I slept on a cot at the foot of her bed so she was able to monitor whether or not I prayed. One night I prayed while she was on a trip to the bathroom, so when she returned I was in bed. She said, "Get up & say your prayers." I replied, "I already did." She replied, "I didn't see you." So back on the floor I went.

On another night, I didn't see her say her prayers. Generally, she would say hers on her knees as well, but if her knees were bothering her she would say her prayers while lying in her bed with her hands folded across her chest. This night, I didn't witness either occur. I said, "mama, I didn't see you say your prayers." "But, I did," she said. Without missing a beat I said, "I didn't see you say them." She returned, "You didn't have to see me, the Lord heard me! Now go to sleep."

I remember speaking to her over the phone on an occasion while I was away in college & she asked if I was still praying & I told her that I was, but I didn't always get on my knees every night because the floor was dirty in my dormitory. She told me to always pray on my knees, unless I'm physically unable. From that day on I've prayed on my knees.

My grandmother has always been strong & faithful even when there was no evidence she should be. A few months before she passed, I was in the middle of a financial storm. I called her in tears & I remember telling her how unhappy I was with the direction my life had taken. I was pinned in by debt & I couldn't figure out how to get this writing thing to work. She had just had surgery which left her as an amputee, and in a great deal of pain. She softly whispered, "Only God can change it. Keep praying. Tell Him what you need." I sobbed & hung up because I felt foolish whining about "things" when she had suffered more & still believed...

I pray every night, on my knees before I sleep because of Thelma Viola Holly. Here's a piece of my prayer: Thank You for carrying me through this day. I'm grateful for strength, health, the ability to reason, make sound decisions & judgment. Protect me from evil, harm, sickness, disease, disaster and tragedy. Thank You for my gifts. Thank You for using my life to uplift Your name. Use my gifts to inspire, encourage, uplift & empower people everywhere. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bayard Rustin, Someone to Know...

I think it's important that we know those that came before us because it's our legacy as a race & as a community. Since we have no examples of openly gay black people in today's spotlight I decided to reach back & expose you to someone that was when we were still fighting for civil liberties. I believe we need to be reminded of the fabric from which we're made, perhaps then, we'll stand tall(er) in our communities whithout shame.

I posted a video clip of Sylvester previous because he was a trailblazer in the music industry. This piece is devoted to Bayard Rustin, our Harvey Milk...
Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights activist, important largely behind the scenes in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and earlier, and the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

He counseled Martin Luther King, Jr. on the techniques of nonviolent resistance. He became an advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes in the latter part of his career; however, his homosexuality was the basis for attacks from government officials and agencies as well as from interest groups.

Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was raised by his maternal grandparents. Rustin's grandmother was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson who were frequent guests in the Rustin home. With these influences in his early life, Rustin campaigned against racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws in his youth.

In 1932, Rustin entered Wilberforce University. As a student at Wilberforce, Rustin was active in a number of campus organizations - among them the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Rustin co-organized the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947; the first of the Freedom Rides to test the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel.

I find it interesting how open he was then & how closeted some of us are today. This is only a piece of his story. Hopefully, you'll search for more...
*Taken from Wikipedia
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Sylvester, A Trailblazer...

He's a Riot...

Who's to Blame?

My college years were the best years of my life. I met people from all over the world, received one of the best educations available, and behind the gates of Hampton University I would leave the last relationship I would ever have with a female…

It was my junior year when we met, she was a sophomore. She was from New York. We met through a mutual friend on campus. She had a pretty difficult childhood. So much so that she was featured by Essence magazine as one that overcame the odds. She spent many years in foster care because her mom was an addict. Needless to say, she was at Hampton on a scholarship which impressed me. In fact, I was intrigued because in spite of her story she persevered.

She wasn’t like most HU women; stylish or glammed up on campus even in the rain. She had the “put it on & go” look that worked. In reality, she didn’t have the means to step it up. Looking back I see she was the first in a pattern I would later repeat in Atlanta with some of the guys I would date. In some ways I tried to “help” her. I had the resources. I was receiving enough child support that afforded me a car payment & enough money to secure the senior superlative award for “best dressed”. Secretly, she was my shield for some of the whispers that swirled around the campus that I may be gay.

She and I often talked about a life together after college; children, marriage. I could’ve chosen that path, but it wouldn’t have been fair to her or me because I wouldn’t have been living my truth. So many brothers marry hoping the feelings will vanish, when in fact the neglect intensifies the feelings that are brewing inside.

More times than not, (black) gay men are blamed by (black) women for the shortage of good men available to them. I knew (in college) black women would be facing this very dilemma after college because of the shortage of black men present on college campuses everywhere, and that speaks to a problem within the social structure, not with sexual orientation.

It’s always easy to spot the brothers living the lie; married, with children and "cruising" me while his wife or girlfriend’s head is turned away. They live straight identified lives by moving only in heterosexual environments. These men don't believe they're gay because they don't have gay friends, nor do they go to gay clubs or parties. In some instances they travel in packs. Typically, they run with other brothers with the same ideas or should I say secrets. I always wonder how difficult it would be to live that lie everyday of your life. Only the courageous can live freely. I'm glad I live life on my terms, and not those set by others.

“Why would I want to be someone else when I get to be me?”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Something to Call Our Own...

“A Day in the Life” the stage play was born out of a relationship I had in 1999. He learned that he was HIV positive two months after we met…

It was October 1, 1999 to be exact. I’ll never forget because that day also marks my youngest nephew’s birthday. I met him at a time when I was still pretty green about dating (men); nevertheless, my boundaries were set. I was firm with “rules” I lived by. Quite often I spoke in absolutes detailing what I would “never” do and what I “always” did. One of the things I said I would never do was date someone HIV positive. Today, I make every attempt not to speak using absolutes because the very things we say we'll never do we find ourselves wondering "how" or "why" it happened.

I had an idea of what I thought the “life” and being gay were before I actually submerged myself in it. I was clear that I wasn’t interested in just sex or love triangles. He, on the other hand, was pretty seasoned & seemed pretty fearless in the stories he told about his past. Obstensibly he remembered with delight as he recounted the "fun" he had participating in threesomes, sex parties or weekends in some city park, but behind that smile was shame. In that moment, right before my eyes, it was as if it dawned on him the cause & effect of his choices. His past had finally caught up with him. If I knew then to tell him "happiness doesn't just happen, it's a series of good decisions," I would have.

I remember him telling me, “I think all of us know [gay men] it’s gonna happen sooner or later…” I didn’t agree then, and I still don’t today. I’ve never imagined HIV as a part of my own reality.

That December, I flew home to Maryland for Christmas. I was originally going to stay for three days, but decided to stay a week because I needed to escape this new world I had found in Atlanta that I was having difficulty adjusting to. When I arrived in Maryland, I remember my mom asking why I looked so skinny. She had no idea that I had lost a good deal of sleep & my appetite was practically gone for fearing the worst for him. She had no idea of my new life or the battles I was facing in Atlanta, and I definitely wasn’t about to tell her; at least not yet.

When I returned to Atlanta, after the holidays, I was rejuvenated and equipped with a clear head about what I was dealing with. I was adamant about making it work & he was just as adamant about ending it. I had shed the person that was deteremined to “never” date someone HIV positive for a newer, optimistic version of me. I attended HIV/AIDS workshops whenever I could to learn the dos & don’ts with someone living with the virus. The more I learned, the more he pulled away. I had no idea the information I gathered at those workshops would be the backdrop for "A Day in the Life". He confessed on one occasion that he wasn’t going to tell me (initially) that he was HIV positive because there was no need to; we hadn’t been active. He went on to say, “I love you more than I love myself…I want you to find someone that isn’t sick…I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if you came home one day to tell me that I gave it to you.” He made the decision to walk away & never look back at that relationship. To this day, it's one of the most selfless things anyone has ever done for me...

He died January 2007.

I wrote “A Day in the Life” to celebrate his life & legacy, but also for every boy, girl, man, or woman that’s ever apologized for who they are because they struggle to understand what they’re feeling. This story & blog are dedicated to every young boy in small, rural cities that has few or no examples of progressive gay men, as well as those in a mental war with themselves. Lastly, it's for every brother that mistakenly believes HIV is part & parcel of being gay.“A Day in the Life” belongs to you.
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Before the Housewives...

With my good friend Dwight at a Sunday brunch event hosted by Ms. Sophia. Dwight was one of the first people that believed in "A Day in the Life"...

Crossing Paths Again

With the "Songbird" herself. Tweet & I met many years ago, through her cousin, while I was working for IBM. This was the Pj Morton show featuring Tweet in Atlanta...

More Inspiration!

Sunday Inspiration!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Allure of the Internet...

One of the best parts of life is when one can admit the truth to himself about himself. Thus, I’ve come to understand my experience with dating and the internet resulted from a bout with depression, and the residual effects of a break up. I quickly realized the time I was spending online only pacified my emotional lows temporarily. It became something I had to do. I curtailed phone calls with friends and family because of my angst to see if I had new mail from a new stranger. It was a band aid to conceal wounds that wouldn’t heal fast enough, for me at least. Online dating or surfing gave me something to do with the extra time I had, now that I was single again. It prevented me from thinking too much about what had happened, why the relationship had fallen apart. Some people rebound at the expense of other people, others “sit” in the pain and process through it. I used the internet to cope. Once I determined that I was simply trying to fill a void I closed the accounts; there were multiple.

With respect to gay people, some use the internet to get acclimated with gay life. Others use it as a mechanism to “approach” because they lack courage to do so in person, or for the anonymity. It’s a world where one can become something he’s not, but everything he wants to be and whoever you imagine him to be. It’s a place where someone can look, sound, anyway he dares to design. The internet can serve as a magnet for those rebounding from a break up, or a resource for the resilient that still believe in love. It’s an unofficial antidote to loneliness, or a tool to just chat to make new friends, possibly more. It’s a device for the depressed as well as a sounding board for those frustrated with it all. As with anything, the internet can be used for good by the well intentioned or for duplicity.

I remember moving to Atlanta twelve years ago at a time when personal computers were truly a luxury in the average home, so, there was the phone/chat hook up line. Today, the chat line is practically obsolete, hence internet (sex) sites. The convenience and ease of the internet sites make me wonder how the phone line was so successful for as long as it was. The phone line allowed callers to listen through a series of voice messages left by other callers. Your imagination was the only visual, which meant the person could only look as good as you could imagine. One would have to be pretty eager to meet off of conversation alone. The major advantage with the internet is the use of pictures. Some even opt to use nude pictures for more opportunities.

Internalized homophobia is almost palpable on many of the profiles posted. They boast of how straight acting or DL (down low) they are and insist that you are too. In many cases, this total stranger has required that you are of a certain race or complexion, height, weight or physique before you consider contacting them. From the semantics emailed back & forth to the thugged out wardrobe (for a well thought out profile), to bold text that reads, ‘no fats, no fems’.

I always felt there was something bizarre about meeting someone from the internet only to run into them down the line, and pretend not to know one another because other people are involved this time & neither of you wants anyone to know you previously met in such a desperate way. It's a sick secret that so many participate in.

It's easy to make poor decisions out of loneliness. The poorest decision I ever made was using the internet. It became a tool I would rely on for self gratification because my career or personal life wasn't on track. I got a high from seeing numerous messages in the inbox from people I didn't know. The presence of those messages validated me because I was functionally depressed, but somewhere in my subconscious I felt empty knowing this wasn't characteristic of the "me" I knew. I often wondered who else on those sites felt the same way. I believe so many get caught in the internet web for reasons very personal to themselves. This behavior isn't limited to gay sites. It happens on mainstream sites, in the heterosexual community as well i.e. Facebook, Match, Black People Meet and Black Planet to name a few.

Once I unlocked my truth and was able to get honest with myself, I walked away without looking back...

Follow me on Twitter, @therealcstewart

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From "Fag Hag to "Fag Bangle"

The beauty of a woman is how willing she is to put it all on the line for any man she loves whether it’s her father, brother, son, friend or lover. A woman’s love is the closest we’ll ever see to unconditional. If a woman loves you, despite how many times you disappoint or hurt her (emotionally), she’ll always find it in her heart to forgive you in order to be in your corner because women seem to always see the good in people.

With the exception of girls or women that don’t fancy gay people, there has always been an intrinsic bond between gay boys & females dating back to childhood. While I had many male friends, I’ve always felt especially close to girls, and there are girls that have the same affinity for the gay boys they naturally gravitate to along their paths.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become close to several women. That force that connects us universally inspired the term “fag hag” which, refers to a woman that hangs with gay men primarily; however, fag hag is an outdated term because it implies she is older & possibly dowdy. On the other hand, “fag bangle” would be a fresher way of describing a younger girl or fly woman that hangs around like a pretty piece of jewelry. Aside from the mutual interests in aesthetics, I believe a less obvious connection between a gay man & heterosexual woman is the heartache & relationship struggles we share. I believe by the time we’re both 30, we’ve been disappointed or jaded by the men we love.

Both expecting to find a stable (mentally & financially), loyal, driven man who can respect & honor relationship boundaries.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quick Tongue, High Fashion

Most gay men have quick razor like tongues and an exquisite sense of style. I believe the saucy mouth comes from years of being on the defense after being verbally or physically attacked by strangers & the people closest to us calling us sissy, punk or fag. The snappy mouth becomes a defense mechanism. Ones instincts change in a way that you're always prepared for battle.

The sense of style could be argued as an innate gift, but I would venture to say it's a conscious decision to have everything [else] in place so there isn't room for criticism outside of sexuality.

It's no accident that most gay men are physically fit, well manicured, reside in the best homes and drive the latest cars.

Take a moment to think back to your elementary school classmates. The boys that excelled were the gay boys; the consummate over achievers. For the most part, I managed to avoid being called a sissy or faggot because I was likeable, but every now & then my sister, cousins, nephews, or friends got upset with me & they used any derivative of the word gay in an attempt to hurt my feelings. I remember how ashamed, embarrassed and angry I would feel, especially if there were people I didn't know in the vicinity. That anger becomes scars which in turn become internalized homophobia that we carry into our friendships and finally to our relationships. My self hatred was also directed towards other boys or men that I could instinctively sense were gay, especially if they were effeminate.

Our standard for dating is based upon how masculine or feminine one is. Our society has a warped sense of how masculine is defined, and that definition trickles down to the gay community. We identify it as rugged, unkempt, or simply disheveled & that’s the illusion most gay men chase for companionship.

I still struggle with being non judgmental to the most flamboyant gay men that I don’t know personally because it opposes everything we’re taught to believe about being a man. Flamboyance defies society’s definition of the word man. It's the reason straight men hate gay men, and why gay men sometimes hate each other. We use words like queen, sissy, lady to slander one another because similar words were used at one time to hurt us.

The saddest reality is the most flamboyant gay men aren’t fully embraced in the gay club; the one place a queen should be allowed to be a queen.

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The Writing on the Wall...

The first time I consciously ignored my intuition was my senior year in high school. I had my first car, an eleven year old Toyota Corolla. My spirit told me to drive my usual route home, but I chose to go a different way because my normal route had a steep hill I would have to descend & the car shook whenever I applied the brakes coming down. Needless to say, I took the alternate route. Ten minutes into my commute, I was hit by another car.

I would have many other opportunities to defy my gut; instincts; God's voice; or whatever you may choose to call it, but the most expensive price I would pay for second guessing myself was three years ago.

I was at a birthday party in Atlanta. I caught eyes with a guy that was with some people I know, so I inquired. I learned he was visiting from Nashville, Tennessee and was allegedly married. Immediately I knew I wouldn't act on it because I "felt" we were in two different places, especially if he really was married and attending a gay party.

Two months passed, and the mutual friend called to tell me "he" was in town visiting & asked about me. In fact, he had asked about me several times since the party, but was informed I wouldn’t be interested because I was about to start rehearsing the cast for “A Day in the Life”. Not to mention, he was married! I found out during that phone call he was no longer married and he wanted to invite me to see Alvin Ailey. I really had intentions of seeing the performance, so I caved & decided to take him up on the offer. He wasn’t married I told myself.

For several months he made trips to Atlanta to stay with friends, and visit me. Eventually, he would stay at my place on his trips. Little by little, I knew he was troubled by his religious beliefs. He had married because he thought it would save him from being gay. It came out during conversation that he was left without a place of his own or a car. He had been renting cars every week to visit me. I urged him to focus on stabilizing, not a relationship. His response was always tied to the bible or God. He often quoted bible verses or ranted about how good God was to him leaving onlookers believing he was a “man of God”.

I did my best to affirm him as a person that God would love in spite of the feelings he couldn’t control. I often challenged everything he (we) had been taught by family, religion & society as it relates to sexuality. Slowly, reluctantly he abandoned enough doubt that two men could be in a relationship & decided he wanted to make it work with me. I was hesitant & skeptical for obvious reasons. Furthermore, I wasn’t interested in a relationship with anyone at that point. My focus was my show & I told him that regularly. He decided he was going to change my mind, so, he began making plans to move to Atlanta.

Once he relocated, I was able to piece together things I couldn’t when he was living in Nashville. He was leaning on friends & family financially, quite manipulative, but more importantly he wasn’t as spiritual as he pretended to be. He had convinced his mom he was in graduate school, when in fact he was not. He convinced her to cosign for a car, which happened to be the exact same model & color I was driving. He wanted to be me. He had no identity of his own. He was a fraud. I took steps to sever ties completely, but he always managed to talk me back into the situation. Eventually, I cut him off indefinitely.

It was the middle of January when he retaliated. He entered my place & stole a great deal of my winter clothes.

Naturally, I went after him. I hunted him down one night at a club. When I caught up with him, he was wearing a shirt he had stolen from me. I had a car jack in tote. He ran. I chased him & found myself in a domestic dispute in downtown Atlanta. The police got involved & threatened to arrest me for disturbing the peace.

For two weeks I would wake up in a sweat from a nightmare. In the dream I caught him & bludgeoned him to death. I realized I was allowing him to make me something I’m not; violent. I was giving him the power. He wanted me to feed into him; instead, I prayed & asked God to remove the disdain I had towards him because it was no longer about the things he stole. For me, it was getting back at him so he wouldn’t think he had gotten over on me. When I released that, I was able to let go of the anger. I never ran into him once in three years. The first time I saw him face to face was yesterday at another birthday party. I didn’t make eye contact once despite his attention grabbing efforts.

This story isn’t about him or how he stole from me. This is how I overlooked the signs because I was too busy to slow down to see what was there all along. I ignored God’s voice, the first time He spoke to me.

It was an expensive lesson, but worth every bit of wisdom I pulled from it…

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Emotional Maturity...

So often, we think a relationship requires us to help our partner become whole, when in fact he or she should be whole when they get to us. We exert so much time & effort pouring into someone that should’ve been preparing for the relationship while they were single, before you even met. Emotionally maturity is a must to have a successful relationship.

We pair with people in relationships who [in many cases] are unable to say, “I was wrong”, “We need to talk”, “I love you”. Thus, we find ourselves surrounded by hammers, nails & screws attempting to craft a foundation for a relationship that will never be stable because one or both parties involved are incomplete. It’s impossible to build or sustain love when there are fundamental problems. It’s one thing to work with someone that’s impatient, stubborn, unorganized or procrastinates, but it’s another when we try to teach him or her core values they didn’t get in their primary years i.e. conflict resolution, which governs every relationship. The success or failure of a relationship is predicated on conflict resolution. Sadly, we miss the moments, the love because we’re being clinical therapists to our partners instead of riding the wave.

Another mistake, I think, we make is promising forever. People have a difficult time selecting an entrĂ©e at a restaurant, yet, make promises of forever. Some relationships are designed for forever others are bridges; connectors to points in our lives through which we should’ve gained more knowledge of ourselves. The only promise I can make is that I will give 100% everyday that we’re together. If everyone involved did that we’d see more longevity.

Most of us never break our relationship patterns because we refuse to sit still long enough to identify the lessons we learned from previous ones. We’re too busy scurrying to the next relationship. Take a moment to think of the last three relationships or long-term dating situations you were in. What are the similarities? How did they end?

We are the common thread in all of our relationships. Identify your patterns and you’ll begin to choose better…

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Lost Ones...

Ever wonder what happens to the "kids" that get comfortable enough to come out, but never evolve because they get stuck in the trappings of "the life"? Seems the more we become comfortable with our sexuality, enter further into gay life, acquire more friends, the more apt we become to abandon our core values. The foundation for which we were raised upon. Many become people their own families wouldn't recognize because they participate in the most unlikely behavior. Some get caught in the web of one or more scenes, club; ball; house; credit card/check writing/boosting; drug; prostitution/escort; internet cultures in search to find ones placement as a gay person. It's almost a rights of passage from the heterosexual world to the homosexual world that we all experience in one form or another, but some get stuck without ever fully matriculating.

Young adults moving to Atlanta or some other heavily gay populated city to sew their "gay oats". Equipped with big dreams of graduating from an esteemed college/university or pursuits of success in the entertainment industry, inevitably, he gets lured into a life he didn't fully choose, but curiosity of "the life", and some of its predators choose him. All of this made possible because in many cases there was no strategy or plan of action when he left his small town to move to the big city, the family network was shattered after he came out or the family connection was so disjointed there was no line of defense available to help repel these vices when they surfaced. Sadly, the big dreams dwindle to hopes of an apartment with a nice car, fly clothes & a boyfriend. Unable to cope when his new, unfamiliar face (to the scene)becomes familiar on the scene he resorts to any & everything to make his life interesting again...

These young kids (oftentimes) becoming the same ones in jail, 38 years old still and "walking balls", preparing for "pageants", grown men preying on young boys in the nightclubs (for 18 & older crowd) because they got lost in the cycle.

At what point is it time to grow up, and graduate to the next level? Everyone gets lessons at different times, but there has to be a point one says to himself, "It's time to let it go."

The saddest reality, most won't get it until it's too late...

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Enough said...

President Obama tells agency to establish rule barring hospitals from denying visitation to gay, lesbian partners (via CNN).

...That's all!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Who Are We, Without the Labels...

After years of researching & writing about the gay community, I’ve concluded there’s a link to HIV in the black gay community with the fact there's no public voice for black gay people. The gay subculture, in general, is underrepresented in media, general knowledge history and Hollywood despite the fact the entertainment business is fraught with gay people serving as make up artists, hair & fashion stylists, directors and more. Nevertheless, gay people are summarily discriminated against & excluded unless the creative genius is needed.

With respect to black gay men, no one has given us permission to be who we are, thus, many live in secret. Parents should be the first to offer support, but in many cases they aren't because of their own [religious] beliefs. As a result, the [gay] community is comprised of people that have been rejected by its own families, churches, friends, and ultimately the world.

The black church has always been the foundation for black people. It’s credited with how black people function as a whole & quite frankly could single handedly claim responsibility for carrying the African American community from slavery through civil rights to present day struggles. There's a spirit among black people and that spirit is sometimes manipulated & seduced by our spiritual leaders. We now live in a time where our thoughts "controlled" by bishops or preachers. The church has contorted God’s words for its selfish purposes. Some Christians have been so brainwashed that they can’t hear the voice of God because they’re so transfixed on the pastor’s words. Others seem confused about what God wants from them because of the admonishments from spiritual teachers; many of whom aren't meeting the standards they've outlined for their congregations. It isn’t until a bishop, pastor or priest falls from grace, behind some sort of scandal, that Christians are forced to remember they too are human and fall short.

The black church could “change the game” in the fight against HIV/AIDS by starting a dialogue about the reality of AIDS in our communities. After all, 80% of black people believe in a higher power. Instead, the church has opted to stand by and do nothing as this disease decimates the black race leaving the brunt of the burden & indelible scar of HIV on black women. The black church has broached other subjects that plagued the community i.e. civil rights & race relations, but a dialogue about HIV/AIDS would lend itself to conversations about premarital sex or worse homosexuality which both are prevalent in the congregations AND the pulpits. Nevertheless, the church has avoided the topic. In fact, few have HIV/AIDS ministries.

After years of navigating through life with bottled up feelings, gay men often become promiscuous, perhaps, in an effort to play “catch up” for all the years of not acting on the feelings. Additionally, most become susceptible to one or more vices that lead to anonymous sex; from loitering in public parks looking for sex [with a stranger], to bath houses, to sex parties, to online sex sites or even marriage with hopes of quelling the desire to be with another man. A great preponderance find themselves soul searching; in search to nullify the “feelings" or a way to release pent up feelings & emotions that have been ignored for years.

Week after week these men are badgered & besmirched in churches by the pastors they tithe. The end result is a subculture full of injured men with so many layers that no one has taken time to peel back, including the injured man himself. These same injured men make futile attempts to have relationships that often times are co-dependent. Both parties take turns licking the other’s wounds instead of stepping back to nurse his own wounds after years of verbal, sometimes physical, abuse inflicted upon him from years of being called sissy, punk or faggot by family, friends, even strangers.

A vast majority of gay men, irrespective of race, lose so many years hoping & wishing they weren’t gay, and before fully accepting oneself or acknowledging to oneself “I’m gay”, the popular choice is to make repeated attempts at [same sex] relationships without thoroughly understanding the psychology behind the feelings.

Gay men are synonymous with aesthetics and everything luxury, but the irony is the lack of self worth as a result of years of disenfranchisement....

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blessings In Disguise...

About three years ago, I was headed home. It was late & I was a few hundred feet from my exit when an accident happened right in front of me. It involved a SUV and two tractor trailers. The SUV swerved and careened into the concrete divider which caused the air bags to deploy. I looked in the rearview mirror and noticed the passenger in the SUV was ok & climbing out. So, I proceeded on because I was tired & close to home, besides, I noticed another car had stopped to help. My spirit tugged at me, so I stopped & I literally backed up on the shoulder of the highway.

When I got to the SUV, an Asian woman was climbing out and before I asked if she was ok I thought, "I wonder if she would've stopped for me had I been in an accident-at night, on the highway?" That thought became, "I'll do for her what I would want someone to do for me."

After the police came I gave her my information & told her I would be a witness if she needed one. A few days later, an insurance company called for my statement. A few more days passed & I got a call from the woman's husband. He left a voice message asking that I call him back so he could thank me. I dismissed the message and decided against returning the call because I didn't need a "thank you". I simply did what my spirit led me to do.

Two or three days lapsed and her husband called again. He left another message, so I returned his call. When he picked up I told him I was the witness to his wife’s accident. He re-emphasized that he wanted to personally thank me for stopping for his wife because she was nervous & scared and I had been a great comfort to her. He went on to say, "if there's anything I can do to repay you, do not hesitate to call. When we got off the phone I remember thinking, "hell I got a couple bills you can pay." I was struggling & needed all the help I could get, but that would've been real...well, you get the idea.

I waited a day to process the best response before I called him. When I finally called, I told him that my request would probably be a shot in the dark. I told him that I owned a greeting card business and wanted to rebuild & market the internet portion. I asked if he had any contacts or resources in web development. He said, "I'm at a web development conference as we speak." He said, "I'm willing to consult you, free of charge, because you helped my wife.” He continued, “I think the first thing you need to do is write a business plan. We'll meet whenever you can until it's done, even if we have to meet virtually. When it's done I'll get it to some angel investors..."

We met for an entire year until it was done...

The lesson, give WITHOUT expectation of receiving & it always comes back. It may not come back the way you gave it or from whom you gave it, but it ALWAYS comes back.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

The 30s "Shift"

Something "shifted" inside me when I turned 30. I became less anxious & worried about things I couldn't control. I became a bit more patient & understanding, less judgmental.

The things I needed in my 20s were less important or no longer necessary at all. My needs changed because I was changing, evolving. I began to slow down in the sense that I wasn't living outside myself. Reaching and grabbing for things trying to make success happen faster than God intended for me to have it.

I moved to Atlanta solely to write music. I had no idea it would extend to writing stage plays, and owning a line of greeting cards which allowed me to craft for a celebrity wedding.

I've always known great things would happen to and for me, but I thought I could manipulate it. I figured I could connect the dots faster if I took big risks. I later discovered my path was more difficult than it had to be because of poor choices I made. I thought I had to choose between being an artist or working a 9-5. I opted to be an artist, and that decision caused me to struggle in ways I wouldn’t have had I held on to a job to at least pay the bills. I often found myself living in very precarious conditions worrying day to day, week to week and month to month wondering how I would skip this bill to pay another. Had I been rational, I would've kept the great jobs I had & worked on my craft on the side. Instead, I would leave work (sometimes without permission) to record music with different artists or producers (that had a big name in the industry) because I thought that would be my only shot.

I declined jobs if I thought it would interfere with "my" schedule as an artist or as an entrepreneur. Consequently, I landed in difficult financial dilemmas which led to a functional depression. Publicly, I managed to maintain a smile and jovial disposition, but secretly I suffered.

One of the brightest moments in my career as a writer was debuting "A Day in the Life" my first stage play. The initial success was tremendous. The show sold out & I got lost in the hype. I got caught up in the shine. I totally forgot I had been “chosen” by God to tell this story; to spread a message of hope and awareness. I neglected to consider He could’ve chosen anyone to tell this story. I thought the success was about and for me to bask in. I thought it was so I could buy things, live comfortably. My ego grew. I forgot His instructions, so He took it ALL away.

I was on the brink of touring the show nationally. I met with a national promoter who agreed to take the show on the road, but without warning he disappeared. I believe everything happens for a reason in the spiritual realm & for a reason in the physical realm. In the spiritual realm, God decided I wasn't ready, thus, He set things in motion that would prevent the promoter from following through with a tour. In the physical realm, the promoter didn't call because he was afraid to promote a "gay" show.

Today, I know everything that happens to you, me, us happens for our greatest good even when we can't see how, at first. I know, without a doubt, had my show toured when I was 26 years old, I would probably be HIV positive, arrogant and foolish enough to think I did it on my own. God has a way of protecting us from ourselves…

My struggles have made me wiser, stronger, more compassionate and humble. I've refocused my vision. I know my purpose. I know that I have to trust the process, God's process. I have to be patient with the journey. Never again will I get distracted by the journey, by the setbacks because the end is still the end...

I'm grateful for age. With age, there's wisdom. I look forward to 40! Thank you Jesus...

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Friendships Have to be Recycled Too...

I remember thinking in high school that the friends I had there would be my friends forever. We were inextricably bound at the hip. If you saw one, the other was sure to be nearby. When I went off to college my interests changed & I began to dream a bigger dream while my friends from home seemed to be stuck. Whenever I went home to visit it felt like someone had pressed "PAUSE" on their lives. Everyone was seemingly the same and I was often accused of changing because I no longer carried the infamous Baltimore accent where words like leather become "levah" or dog becomes "dug".

In college, I garnered friendships with like minded people & quickly began to think we'd be friends for life, but the people I was closest to in college I only speak to once, maybe twice a year because "life" happens and people lose touch even though you promise not to.

Once I moved to Atlanta, those high school friends predicted I wouldn't last one year in Atlanta. To this day, I'm not sure why that surprised me because they didn't think I would last a year at Hampton University because "it's expensive to go there." They predicted I would fail at every major step I took. One even said, "what makes him think he can just go to Atlanta and write? He'll be back in a year." I thought, "people will tell you, 'you can’t' because they’re afraid of what you’ll become if you do."

After living in Atlanta about three years, my core friends were gay people. We met at a time when we were all discovering who we were and embracing it. We were trying to find our place, our niche in the gay community. For the first time, I connected with friends on every level. We did everything together from partying to travelling to eating. If one knew it, we all knew. There was no such thing as a secret among us because gay men talk as much, if not more than, women.

We believed we were cut from a different cloth. We weren't the typical group of gay boys. We didn't sleep together, date each other's boyfriend, do any of the seedy things like sex in the park, bathhouses etc. Nor did we participate in illegal "stunts" because we all were gainfully employed; some of us were entrepreneurs even.

We vowed, in our 20s, not to be the old gay men in the club trying to fit in with the young boys by dressing young. We decided we would do & be something different, but I began to see some of the group becoming who & what we said we wouldn't which ultimately caused us to become more & more estranged. Initially, I thought it was because our schedules had changed or because we would be involved in relationships, but our lifestyles changed. There were secrets built on lies, deception and an array of untruths. I felt how toxic the relationships were becoming and realized I was growing in a different direction. Breaking off those friendships were just as painful as any break up, but I knew there was no other option because if I can't be honest with someone, we can't be friends.

I resolved that I had to let go to make room for healthy friendships in my life....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Crossing Our Ankles"

We love to cross our ankles at a restaurant and talk about everything & nothing at all. My friend Marvin coined the phrase "cross our ankles" referring to us sitting at a table eating with our legs crossed under the table.

Our conversations get deep, especially if we have a cocktail or two. We debate about big things, little things, and pointless things that carry absolutely no value. We discuss how great President Obama is doing with healthcare (until Calvin chimes in that he needs to focus on jobs), how white America is really angry that he, a black man, is the one to finally get a healthcare bill passed to why so many gay boys wear women's clothes now. Is it a fad? Do they wanna be women? Or, do they think that's what it means to be gay?

The biggest question for me has been and will continue to be "what legacy are we going to leave for future generations of gay people?" Twenty years from now, there should be fewer incidents of HIV infection, more tolerance, acceptance, liberties for gay people, advancement in the fight against HIV/AIDS because we (our generation) existed.

We talk about how the rules of dating have changed with the advent of text messaging. The tendency for people to text you to death with the intentions of getting to know you, but choose to hide behind the text messages.

We continue to wonder why we call gay people "the kids", "the children", "family", "the girls", "the gays", "fags", "faggots", or "faggies" (if you're from Maryland, D.C. or Philly), but without a doubt, the dominating theme of our conversations is "why is it so hard to find quality in one person to have a relationship with if we all say we want it?"

At some point or another, we've all made poor relationship choices out of loneliness, fear of being single fear of waiting for someone worthy, or fear that we'll never find someone else. We get into the habit of giving love & support to people who need it, but don't deserve it from us because they didn't earn it. The only ways, I believe, to avoid "settling" is to have a great support system of friends to occupy us in those "weak" moments & to hold us accountable for our choices. Also, learning to sit still long enough to process what we want, need and deserve in a relationship. It really is ok to be single. That's when we learn our biggest lessons. Most times we jump into something new because we don't want to deal with the pain or reality of the break up, so we try to rush or avoid the pain by moving on before we're ready.

It's a myth to think you get can over someone with someone else.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

"A Good Man"

My oldest nephew and I are only five years apart, so essentially we grew up together. Naturally, we argued and fought as kids. Partly because we were so close in age, and because we competed for more of my mother's (his grandmother's) attention. I often wondered what would become of him because he wasn't too fond of school, and was rather introverted. I'll never forget when he and his girlfriend (at the time) were expecting their first kid. He was 22 years old.

I remember thinking he wasn't ready to be a father because he was still quite dependant on my mom. She did so much to enable him. When I left for college, he lived with her rent free, she cooked for him, and did his laundry. I often told her, "you're crippling're raising him to be a sorry man," but I was wrong. Becoming a father was the best thing he could've done for himself because it gave him purpose. It grew him up immeasurably. He became self sufficient. He made me proud. I'm not proud because he stepped up & took responsiblity as any father should've, rather, because he's a gentle father with his daughter...

and his three boys...

...something we don't often get to see because most men, unfortunately, believe affection or love translates to gay which couldn't be further from the truth. You're either born gay or you're not, generally speaking.

As my nephew and I have gotten older, we've developed a relationship that's allowed him to open up to me about most things going on in his life, especially as it relates to his wife and children. I encourage him to love his boys with the same vigor and level of affection he shows his one and only girl. Hug them. Kiss them. Show them compassion. Boys require the same love as girls. We've been conditioned to believe if they get too much they'll be soft, or worse, gay when the reality is they'll be coarse and callous. These little boys become men that are unable to express themselves to their own wives and children. My dream for my great nephews is that they love harder & more passionately. My hope is that they'll be the men so many women have been unable to find...

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coming Out Stories...

It was November, 1999 when I called my mom to tell her. The only reason I planned to tell her was because the guy I was seeing wanted us to have Thanksgiving together and my mom was planning to visit me for my first Thanksgiving in Atlanta.

I called her from work because I figured if the conversation got too heavy I could always end the call. Not hang up, but get off the phone suddenly because I had "work" to do.

When she picked up, I made small talk and finally said, "I have something to tell you." There was a pause. Then she said, "Is it personal or professional?" I said, "Personal." She said, "Is it about a man?" I gasped, then said, "No! Why would you ask that?!" Before she could answer I said, "Well, yeah it is." And then the phone went silent...

From that point, I knew (without a doubt) your mom always knows. Whether she mentions it or not, she knows if her child is gay.

When she finally spoke, she said, "I was hoping, wishing and praying you weren't." I told her I had too. For 22 years, I hoped, wished and prayed it would go away, I could just suppress the thoughts, the feelings.

Before we got off the phone she gave this laugh, that I recognized as her "phony laugh". She only used that laugh with strangers. She then said, "Nothing's gonna change," but I knew things already had.

For two weeks, we played phone tag. She strategically called when she knew I wouldn't be at home so she could simply leave a message. She wasn't ready to face me, to face it. When I returned her calls she was always too busy or too tired to talk. I had to accept that she wasn't ready to deal with it, yet. More importantly, I had to allow her time to process it. After all, it took me 22 years to come out. I couldn't possibly expect her to be ok in two weeks.

When she opened up, she explained she was fearful that I would become HIV positive as all of her gay friends had. I explained that I couldn't be reponsible or fearful of what had happened to them. I could only be responsible for me.

I decided HIV wouldn't be my fate because I never want to let my mom down. I think of her & that conversation as a reminder to make prudent decisions when my health is at stake.

It would take time for my mom to warm up to this new reality, but I was patient & never force fed her. The only reminders she had that I was gay was if she asked what I had done during that week or the weekend. I would then tell her who I was with or what we had done, like a date. Eventually, she would ask about my friends that she knew were also gay.

Since that time, she's become my biggest supporter as it relates to my past relationships, and my work with the gay community and HIV/AIDS.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Conversation with God"

I see people buying homes, cars & clothes around me and I can't!
I think, "What happened to my life in college? Where's my progress?!" But then He quiets me & says, "You've had that. I'm trying to offer you something bigger, better, greater, long lasting if you can just hold on."

And then He says, "I'm setting things up in your life for your greatest good. Look at all the things I've connected in your life."

‎​"I keep sending u signs" He continues

"When I open this door for you completely they'll wonder how it happened. I just need you to remember me..."

And I keep asking and questioning Him still. "Why do you give me ideas, visions, dreams if you're not gonna help me?" He says, "It's timing. This is much bigger than you. I'm aligning forces in the universe to work in your favor."

"I know it feels like your work has gone unnoticed, but if you can just hold on..."

I surrender...

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Love & Life

Who said black gay relationships can’t work? I’ve had the privilege of enjoying a love that was generous, consistent, and stable when my life was in turmoil. It was the only thing constant in my life at that time. He came into my life at a time that I was just trying to survive emotionally, mentally, professionally and financially. He was so interested in my dreams, my thoughts and my needs, but I couldn’t open up to him the way I wanted or needed to because I was depressed, and my heart was numb because of it. I also knew a little about his past relationships and ways he had been hurt and taken advantage of. I knew a little about his past because we shared a mutual friend, though, we never knew each other.

When we made the decision to be together I went into the relationship thinking, “this is the one that’s going to work.” As with all relationships, we confronted challenges that we had to hurdle, together. At some point, we both thought we could do it alone, so we were bound to stumble and fall & we did.

I found it increasingly difficult to share with him the things that were going on in my life for fear he’d think I had too much baggage, that I expected him to take care of things for me, or that I was another slacker. So, in many instances I concealed the facts of my life: my rent was past due, thus, the eviction process had started; my bank account was -$660.00; and then my car was totaled. Subsequently, I closed him out. Naturally, he began to believe he was the problem. He was never the problem, but that was difficult to prove because shutting him out became my routine for dealing with the pressure. Small things became big things, for me. I just wasn’t happy with the way my life was going and no one seemed to understand what I was feeling.

Consequently, I became irritable, terse, and short with him because he was the closest person to me. I could no longer manage my mood swings after a while of doing so. Even when I was aware of what I was doing, I couldn’t help it. Life was getting the best of me. To combat my many personalities he attempted to find my lost soul, the love he found and lost so quickly. He did everything in his power to make me happy, to make me smile, from trips to dinners to plays to concerts. Nothing seemed to work. The harder he tried, the more I pulled away because I didn’t know when I would begin to see the light. I just didn’t think it was fair that he so graciously gave his heart, and I couldn’t. So, I developed a coping method that worked for me, but hurt him. I walked in and out of that relationship without notice, without reason, and without justification. Breaking it off whenever I felt like it.

When my life took a turn for the better, his heart was too far gone for me to reach. My tears weren’t enough to convince him that this time would be different. I couldn’t help thinking if I had damaged him so badly that he would never be able to trust love again.

Love and life are two of the most difficult chapters to read in the book called life, for there are no instructions to follow, guidelines to adjust to, or handbooks to reference. It’s hard to imagine how the one who fell so hard for me found it difficult to try again…I never got a chance to show him the best of me, and I may never find that kind of love again because quantity is great, but quality is scarce.

I Found "Me" Again…

I’ve found the person I was,
before I came into what’s been called “The life”.
The person that exercised sexual restraint; boundaries.
One that didn’t abuse sexual opportunities
because he could.
Finally realizing, again, my worth.
No longer allowing myself the excuse
“because everyone else is doing it.”
It, being the internet or any other vice
so many of us get tangled in indefinitely.
A web of confusion & uncertainty,
hoplessness, emptiness & despair
because we, as a community,
don’t know our worth & because we don’t
know our fair market value we subject ourselves
to the most scurrilous & salacious predicaments
found in the gyms, on the internet, public parks or
some stranger’s house.
I lowered the bar because I grew tired of waiting
to be with someone worthy, deserving even, and
I knew the bar was too high for most to even reach;
for many to even attempt.
I wouldn’t trade my experiences
for nothing in the world because I gained
a better sense of who I am,
what I need,
and what I can do without.
I realize in all my past experiences
I was the common denominator and my role,
I thought, was to save, but I can’t save anyone from themselves.
No longer can I afford to dream a bigger dream
for someone that doesn’t dream for themself…

Monday, April 5, 2010

“The Different I’ve Needed…”

I wanted us to approach this
with the same fervor, yet ease,
in which we approach our friendships.
Those aren’t deliberate, they just are-without calculation.
They happen organically as a result of genuine fondness.
It’s the unmistaken chemistry when kindred spirits connect,
and everything else just seems to fall in place.
No one frets over when you’ll actually get together,
the possibility of the inevitable arguments
(that will occur) at some point in every friendship,
nor do we question how long it will last (the friendship)
because we know the best friendships aren’t or cant be planned;
they simply evolve.
So, for me, the idea was to free fall in the same way.
I believe we approach relationships too cautiously
because of past hurt, past pain.
My plan, for us, was to go into it without fear
that the novelty would expire or
worry the newness would dwindle away & we become regular.
For the first time, ever, I began to feel as if someone
got me on multiple levels;
as an artist; a person; more importantly, as a partner.
He could see my dreams because my dreams are his dreams
with a different slant to them.
In finding him, I found the different I’ve needed.
Before, I settled for the ones that lacked
a sense of self & I thought it my responsibility to save them from themselves…
I thought if they came to me damaged,
in need of repair,
I could fix them…
The return, on my investment,
would be loyalty, longevity, consistency and monogamy,
for me…I thought.
I would soon discover that wasn’t a guarantee.
One epiphany after another led me to realize
that although the players involved changed,
I was the common denominator in every scenario,
and I was allowing people to “choose me”.
For the first time, ever, I’m choosing…
and this time I chose better…
He’s the different I’ve needed in my life…
He’s the antithesis of every person I’ve dated or loved.
I'm no longer the most interesting
part of the equation
because he, too, has carved a piece out of this life for himself
and it’s the perfect complement I’ve needed…

Opening Night

I decided to create a blog because my concern, over the past 10 years, has been the gay community. Seems as if the stories never change, only the faces. Relationships ending for the same reasons, people becoming infected with HIV or dying from AIDS. My prayer has been " uplift, inspire, encourage, and enlighten gay people through my writing."

My first contribution was a dramatic comedy (stage play) called "A Day In the Life" that debuted in Atlanta.

It's the story of 6 gay men, who I believe, represent all the personalities in gay life. From the queen, transgender, minister of music, closet professional, progressive gay...

to the guy on the low.

They come together in a focus group because of one obvious commonality, their therapist. His idea is to bring them together with hopes of them learning from one another & possibly seeing their dysfunctions and/or destructive behavior through dialogue. Instead, there's contention.

The conversation triggers each to have a flasback to a day in their lives bringing about discovery and more self awareness.

I realized most people's entry to gay life is via internet sex sites or the club. I wanted to alter that in some way. Perhaps, a healthier alternative. I wanted to create a space with integrity that is for us and about us without any hint or notion of sex. It's for anyone that's ever prayed, wished, even hoped they weren't gay.

I believe we are the most gifted of God's people. We're more than just the obvious hairstylist & interior designers. We are writers, doctors, lawyers, singers and athletes. We were James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Audrey Lorde and Bayard Rustin. We are the entertainment industry; yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's.

Somehow we've allowed ourselves to be backed into a corner of shame because of who we are. Because of what some people don't understand. We've allowed ourselves to be defined by their standards or definitions instead of following our own inner voice & conscience. Your conscience is your direct link to God. He speaks to you & guides you if you're available to hear Him. He'll direct you through every choice or circumstance in your life. He tugs at us, trying to get our attention when we're veering off in the wrong direction. He'll keep us awake in the middle of the night hoping we'll get the lesson; hear Him at least. He does it when we're unsure about a relationship, a job, a move. He's there in every dilemma we face.

Follow me on Twitter @therealcstewart