1. We Were There, Too: Black Queer Activism and the Fight Against AIDS
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. 
Since the epidemic first appeared in the early 1980s, black gay/bisexual men and transgender people have been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Organizations, such as Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), have struggled to mount prevention campaigns to respond to the soaring infection rates, particularly among young black men—gay, bisexual and transgender. This panel will explore the factors impacting HIV/AIDS prevention and services for this community.
One of the panelists, Hayat Hyatt, is a Brooklyn-based playwright and artist currently undertaking research for his next project, Villanelle. Below he shares his inspiration for the documentary and what led him there. 

Hayat Hyatt: 
Villanelle really began in 2011 during the final workshop for my play, A Little Bit Past 9, which focused on a pregnant man, his lover and their families from the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s to the present. After developing the play for a year and watching it with an audience, I realized I hadn’t done enough research on the time period or AIDS itself, and the text reflected my ignorance. And so did the characters.  None of the characters were black or people of color. 
There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing a play with only white characters—people do it all the time. But I felt a strong responsibility to raise awareness to the continuing AIDS crisis and epidemic within the black community.
So, rather than going back to work on a new draft of the play, I immediately asked friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends for advice (thank you MIXNYC, VisualAIDS, Union Docs, and Other Countries). I started setting up interviews and recording them with whoever showed interest in the project. Each interview led me to a new book, or a new source or a new place, and Villanelle was born - an essay film that uses poetry, found materials, and documentary to explore the diverse emotions and experiences of gay black men and the larger black community during, before, and after the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.   
What surprised me at the very beginning of this project was the strong role stigma continues to play in the crisis. It didn’t surprise me to find that such stigma existed (and obviously continues to exist today) but the extent to which shaming continues to prevent people of not only black men and women but people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds from educating and protecting themselves, surprised me.  
Since then, I’ve conducted many interviews with men and women over 40, who were of age during the early years of the crisis and have shared very powerful stories of their own experiences and also memories of friends who were either queer black artists and activists, or ordinary people doing great things. 
 At the moment I’m still editing, and hopefully wrapping sometime in the new year. If you’re interested in learning more about my project, or being interviewed, please email me, project.villanelle@gmail.com
  

Register for the program!
This program is presented by the Ordinary People series, a program series centered around black LGBTQ films, books and politics presented by In The Life Archive of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Division.

 

    We Were There, Too: Black Queer Activism and the Fight Against AIDS

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

    Since the epidemic first appeared in the early 1980s, black gay/bisexual men and transgender people have been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Organizations, such as Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), have struggled to mount prevention campaigns to respond to the soaring infection rates, particularly among young black men—gay, bisexual and transgender. This panel will explore the factors impacting HIV/AIDS prevention and services for this community.

    One of the panelists, Hayat Hyatt, is a Brooklyn-based playwright and artist currently undertaking research for his next project, Villanelle. Below he shares his inspiration for the documentary and what led him there.

    Hayat Hyatt:

    Villanelle really began in 2011 during the final workshop for my play, A Little Bit Past 9, which focused on a pregnant man, his lover and their families from the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s to the present. After developing the play for a year and watching it with an audience, I realized I hadn’t done enough research on the time period or AIDS itself, and the text reflected my ignorance. And so did the characters.  None of the characters were black or people of color. 

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing a play with only white characters—people do it all the time. But I felt a strong responsibility to raise awareness to the continuing AIDS crisis and epidemic within the black community.

    So, rather than going back to work on a new draft of the play, I immediately asked friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends for advice (thank you MIXNYC, VisualAIDS, Union Docs, and Other Countries). I started setting up interviews and recording them with whoever showed interest in the project. Each interview led me to a new book, or a new source or a new place, and Villanelle was born - an essay film that uses poetry, found materials, and documentary to explore the diverse emotions and experiences of gay black men and the larger black community during, before, and after the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.  


    What surprised me at the very beginning of this project was the strong role stigma continues to play in the crisis. It didn’t surprise me to find that such stigma existed (and obviously continues to exist today) but the extent to which shaming continues to prevent people of not only black men and women but people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds from educating and protecting themselves, surprised me.  

    Since then, I’ve conducted many interviews with men and women over 40, who were of age during the early years of the crisis and have shared very powerful stories of their own experiences and also memories of friends who were either queer black artists and activists, or ordinary people doing great things.


    At the moment I’m still editing, and hopefully wrapping sometime in the new year. 
    If you’re interested in learning more about my project, or being interviewed, please email me, project.villanelle@gmail.com

      

    Register for the program!

    This program is presented by the Ordinary People series, a program series centered around black LGBTQ films, books and politics presented by In The Life Archive of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Division.

     

  2. Lawrence Graham-Brown: The Bared Truth
His work has been described as “stridently race conscious,” who wrestles “with issues related to Black and gay self-hatred, Black-ness, Jamaican-ness, African-ness, sexuality, class and religion. He achieves all this through a self-taught direct style that calls on Rastafari and Garvey symbolism.” I would describe his work as right on time.
I met Lawrence a few years ago at a Rainbow Book Fair then hosted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. He was quiet, unassuming and polite. Apparently, he saves his energy for the stage. When the spotlight hits him, Graham-Brown comes alive. He can be credited for taking the Black male body into various spaces (the church, for example) and making it front and center in unique, startling ways.
Below he shares his sensibilities about his art and its purpose. 
How would you describe your artistic process?
Well, an inspiration could come from many sources. I might develop an idea by writing about it then create artwork through various media, vis-à-vis painting, collage, performance video, or just having a discussion to flesh out thoughts about it. Sometimes I may put a thought on hold and then return to it later, however  I would like to think I am a 21st Century man and so I try to address issues I think would be of relevance to me and my communities.
Nudity figures prominently in your work, talk about that.
My work is rooted in concepts of liberation, fear, boundaries or lack thereof, risks, challenges, religion, race, sex-sexuality and so on. So therefore nudity would certainly be a friend. Nudity always draws a range of emotion; it is like brush strokes or piano keys in my work. I like to create a range of emotion. Some folks pick up on the nudity because that is where they enter the work, or the olfactory notes, or sounds, or actions but as a Jamaican liberation is at the very core of my being, with influences from Garvey, Rex Nettleford, Marley, and many others. You would be blind to not realize the erosion of our civil rights, so as a 21st Century Black man in USA, I believe that public policy makers do not believe we have the right to own our bodies, to dance how we want to dance, and to dress the way we want to dress.
On Tuesday May 28, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. join Jamaican artist Lawrence Graham-Brown for a screening of “Rites of Passage/Sacred Spaces 2012,” his recent performance/film at the Schomburg Center. After the screening, Graham-Brown will be in conversation with Steven G. Fullwood about his insightful views on art, politics, and public performance as a venue for change, expression, and liberation. Light refreshments will be served.
Free! Registration required! Register here and spread the word!

 

 

    Lawrence Graham-Brown: The Bared Truth

    His work has been described as “stridently race conscious,” who wrestles “with issues related to Black and gay self-hatred, Black-ness, Jamaican-ness, African-ness, sexuality, class and religion. He achieves all this through a self-taught direct style that calls on Rastafari and Garvey symbolism.” I would describe his work as right on time.

    I met Lawrence a few years ago at a Rainbow Book Fair then hosted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. He was quiet, unassuming and polite. Apparently, he saves his energy for the stage. When the spotlight hits him, Graham-Brown comes alive. He can be credited for taking the Black male body into various spaces (the church, for example) and making it front and center in unique, startling ways.

    Below he shares his sensibilities about his art and its purpose.

    How would you describe your artistic process?

    Well, an inspiration could come from many sources. I might develop an idea by writing about it then create artwork through various media, vis-à-vis painting, collage, performance video, or just having a discussion to flesh out thoughts about it. Sometimes I may put a thought on hold and then return to it later, however  I would like to think I am a 21st Century man and so I try to address issues I think would be of relevance to me and my communities.

    Nudity figures prominently in your work, talk about that.

    My work is rooted in concepts of liberation, fear, boundaries or lack thereof, risks, challenges, religion, race, sex-sexuality and so on. So therefore nudity would certainly be a friend. Nudity always draws a range of emotion; it is like brush strokes or piano keys in my work. I like to create a range of emotion. Some folks pick up on the nudity because that is where they enter the work, or the olfactory notes, or sounds, or actions but as a Jamaican liberation is at the very core of my being, with influences from Garvey, Rex Nettleford, Marley, and many others. You would be blind to not realize the erosion of our civil rights, so as a 21st Century Black man in USA, I believe that public policy makers do not believe we have the right to own our bodies, to dance how we want to dance, and to dress the way we want to dress.

    On Tuesday May 28, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. join Jamaican artist Lawrence Graham-Brown for a screening of “Rites of Passage/Sacred Spaces 2012,” his recent performance/film at the Schomburg Center. After the screening, Graham-Brown will be in conversation with Steven G. Fullwood about his insightful views on art, politics, and public performance as a venue for change, expression, and liberation. Light refreshments will be served.

    Free! Registration requiredRegister here and spread the word!

     

     

  3. BGLA Ordinary People Film Series: A Marlon Riggs’ Retrospective

    The Black Gay & Lesbian Archive’s Film and Book series - Ordinary People presents

    A Marlon Riggs Retrospective - Screening and Panel Discussion

    Affirmations, Anthem and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret)

    On Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. 

    Marlon Riggs (1957-1994) was a gay African-American filmmaker, educator, essayist, and human rights activist. Riggs produced, wrote, and directed several television documentaries, including Ethnic Notions, Tongues UntiedColor Adjustment, and Black Is… Black Ain’t. Riggs’ aesthetically innovative and socially provocative films examine past and modern representations of race, gender and sexuality in the US. 

    We asked our panelists to talk about what excites them about Marlon Riggs’s work. Here’s what they had to say: 

     

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    “He was a fiercely intelligent person who was also very down-to-earth and regular… a sweeter person you couldn’t find, except when it had to do with business.  He was quite matter-of-fact about what he wanted, what he would and wouldn’t do.  And that came through in the quality and universality of his work, the fact that it stands the test of time.”—Al Cunningham

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    “25 years after he created Tongues Untied, the film is still relevant. There are areas where we can see the conversation has grown and expanded in terms of black masculinity and sexual identity, but there are still people who haven’t seen the film but who watch it for the first time and have a similar reaction to the work as people did during the height of the culture wars of the late 80s and 90s.” —Rhea Combs

     

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    “I find Marlon’s work exciting because as Alice Walker said years ago, he was “undaunted by anticipated criticism,” which means he was fearless.  I also liked that he dug into sensitive areas around race, gender and sexuality for everyone, but that he particularly wanted to communicate with Black folks about these issues. He challenged us to examine issues with the hope that – in the end - we would be stronger.”—Cornelius Moore

  4. What impact did “The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman” have on your personal life as you were creating this project?

    "I wondered how I, a straight white filmmaker in a completely strange environment, could possibly find the courage to do justice to this subject. Although I had traveled and made films in West Africa, and Central and South America where I had justifiably felt a complete outsider, the feeling of being out of my depth in New York was very strange.

    My filmmaking style is to try and be as unobtrusive as possible, to avoid giving directions, to follow the subject instead of lead it, and to let the natural flow of events suggest the direction of the film. Making a film with/about Chip was full of surprises, and one of them was how completely his openness to life and experience helped me find courage that I didn’t know that I had.”—Fred Barney Taylor

    Tomorrow, December 4 at 6:30 p.m. the Schomburg Center’s BGLA will screen The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. After the screening, join the filmmaker for a dialogue. Free.

    Register here and spread the word!

  5. Fred Barney Taylor’s film about Samuel R. Delany, appropriately called The Polymath, offers viewers a moment to take in the personal and professional life of an American genius. Taylor wisely allows the elder statesman glimpses of his unbridled life in this stunning documentary and tells us (below) what he thinks about the man, the writer, the genius.
 “Samuel R. Delany is one of the most interesting, charismatic, and inspirational men I have ever met. I made a film about New York writers several years ago, and he was but one of several subjects. I knew right then and there, that I had to make a longer, more intensive film about this astonishing character.”
“I’m not quite sure what a genius is, but “Chip”, as he has been called since childhood, must be awfully close. He is an award-winning writer who has written 25 novels, numerous critical essays and theoretical tracts, an autobiography, pornography, and several issues of Wonder Woman. He has been called by some one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century.”
“Chip is also a gay black man with a history of a gloriously promiscuous lifestyle. I approached this project with the intention of making a film about a writer and his writing. But when Chip started telling stories about his sexual adventures and attendant philosophy, I was taken completely by surprise. I realized then there were many levels to this film previously unimagined.”
Next Monday, check back on Tumblr as Taylor tells us how he came to the project and how it impacted his life.
On Tuesday December 4 at 6:30 p.m. the Schomburg Center’s BGLA will screen The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. After the screening, join the filmmaker for a dialogue. Free.
Register here and spread the word!

    Fred Barney Taylor’s film about Samuel R. Delany, appropriately called The Polymath, offers viewers a moment to take in the personal and professional life of an American genius. Taylor wisely allows the elder statesman glimpses of his unbridled life in this stunning documentary and tells us (below) what he thinks about the man, the writer, the genius.

     “Samuel R. Delany is one of the most interesting, charismatic, and inspirational men I have ever met. I made a film about New York writers several years ago, and he was but one of several subjects. I knew right then and there, that I had to make a longer, more intensive film about this astonishing character.”

    “I’m not quite sure what a genius is, but “Chip”, as he has been called since childhood, must be awfully close. He is an award-winning writer who has written 25 novels, numerous critical essays and theoretical tracts, an autobiography, pornography, and several issues of Wonder Woman. He has been called by some one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century.”

    “Chip is also a gay black man with a history of a gloriously promiscuous lifestyle. I approached this project with the intention of making a film about a writer and his writing. But when Chip started telling stories about his sexual adventures and attendant philosophy, I was taken completely by surprise. I realized then there were many levels to this film previously unimagined.”

    Next Monday, check back on Tumblr as Taylor tells us how he came to the project and how it impacted his life.

    On Tuesday December 4 at 6:30 p.m. the Schomburg Center’s BGLA will screen The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. After the screening, join the filmmaker for a dialogue. Free.

    Register here and spread the word!

  6. Tiona M., Executive Producer/Director of Harriet’s Gun Media, is an award winning multi-media artist whose mission is to make the invisible, visible and to humanize her subjects. She (along with Lisa C. Moore) is currently in production with the Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project, and shared some information about the current phase of the project.

"We finished round one of filming last fall and we are preparing for the next round of filming and fundraising.  We are currently creating a field research campaign to secure about 4-5 field researchers in different regions throughout the nation that can join us in illuminating black lesbian elder history on a regional scale as well as assist us with locating potential interview subjects for the film. The goal is to present a brief cut/extended trailer of the film early next year that will showcase the general aesthetic that we are striving to reach for the film as well as address the content that we will be exploring within the film. I want to present a high quality film at the end of the day and we also want the various communities that have supported us in financing the film to understand where they funds are going and how they have been used thus far. Events such as the one with the BGLA at the Schomberg allow us to have a check in with the community and hopefully will encourage more folks to join us in spreading the word about the film."

    Tiona M., Executive Producer/Director of Harriet’s Gun Media, is an award winning multi-media artist whose mission is to make the invisible, visible and to humanize her subjects. She (along with Lisa C. Moore) is currently in production with the Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project, and shared some information about the current phase of the project.


    "We finished round one of filming last fall and we are preparing for the next round of filming and fundraising.  We are currently creating a field research campaign to secure about 4-5 field researchers in different regions throughout the nation that can join us in illuminating black lesbian elder history on a regional scale as well as assist us with locating potential interview subjects for the film. The goal is to present a brief cut/extended trailer of the film early next year that will showcase the general aesthetic that we are striving to reach for the film as well as address the content that we will be exploring within the film. I want to present a high quality film at the end of the day and we also want the various communities that have supported us in financing the film to understand where they funds are going and how they have been used thus far. Events such as the one with the BGLA at the Schomberg allow us to have a check in with the community and hopefully will encourage more folks to join us in spreading the word about the film."