Today, the children are vogueing in Paris and in Port-au-Prince, and Audre’s words are on lips and hearts all over the world. US Black gay speech and gesture—the snap, the read, the side-eye, and intonation—have entered the realm of global mass culture, mostly out of context and very poorly performed. Even as some of the affect and style of Black/gay is mechanically reproduced, the politics of it is elided in mass culture and inadequately understood by scholars.
Beginning in the 1970s, violence against cisgender and transgender women increased and went uninvestigated or unsolved, in urban areas like Boston—which precipitated the organizing of the Combahee River Collective, and other groups. In South Africa, leaders like Simon Nkoli and Bev Ditsie, fought on several fronts—against Apartheid and against heterosexism in the Anti-Apartheid movement. Jamaicans founded a Freedom Movement in 1977, claiming both gay existence since the Arawak, and certain victory. Once the HIV/AIDS pandemic began its unrelenting assault on Black communities, Black gay and bisexual men, Black lesbians, trans folks, and allies, exponentially intensified the necessary work to save their own lives.
Folks first began to dance, fuck, organize, and make art under the banner of ‘Black gay’ in the 1980s and 1990s. Autonomous organizations arose to demand recognition and acknowledgment of the presence and contributions of lesbians/gay women and gay men within Black communities and within nation-states. This seminar will engage some of the founding Black gay (Black queer) cultural works (film, literature, music) and political organizations of the long 1980s (1979-1995) by Black lesbians, trans folks, bisexuals and gay men.
We will survey works by, for example: Ajamu X, Kevin Aviance, Joseph Beam, Lorraine Bethel, Blackheart Collective, Dionne Brand, Cathy Cohen, Melvin Dixon, Shari Frilot, Lyle Ashton Harris, Thomas Allen Harris, Essex Hemphill, Glenn Ligon, Marsha P Johnson, Charles Lofton, Audre Lorde, Pat Parker, Michelle Parkerson, Marlon Riggs, Colin Robinson, Salsoul Orchestra, Assotto Saint, Sylvester, Barbara Smith, and Donald Woods, among others.
The Black Gay 80sMon, May 3, 20216:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Tue, May 4, 20216:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Wed, May 5, 20216:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Jafari Sinclaire Allen is the Director of Africana Studies, and Center for Global Black Studies; and Associate Professor of Anthropology, at the University of Miami.
His scholarship and teaching have opened new lines of inquiry and offered re‐invigorated methods of narrative theorizing in anthropology, Black diaspora studies, and feminist and queer studies. His new book, There’s a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life, will appear on Duke University Press this Fall.
A recipient of fellowships and awards from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Columbia and Yale universities, and others; Allen is the author of ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba; editor of Black/Queer/Diaspora; the new introduction to Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, and a number of other publications. Allen is currently at work on two monographs: Marooned in Miami: Ecologies of Black Life on an Edge; and Structural Adjustments: Black Survival in the 1980s.
Ajamu X, Topher Campbell, and Mary Campbell Stevens. 2010. “Love and Lubrication in the Archives, or rukus!: A Black Queer Archive for the United Kingdom.” Special issue, Archivaria 68 (2009): 271‒94.
Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “Seek the Roots: An Immersive and Interactive Archive of Black Feminist Practice.” Feminist Collections 32, no. 1 (2011): 17‒20.
Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind: A Queer Ecological Approach to the Archive.” Feminist Collections 32, no. 1 (2011): 59–68.
Richardson, Matt. “Listening to the Archives: Black Lesbian Literature and Queer Memory,” in his Queer Limit of Black Memory: Black Lesbian Literature and Irresolution. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2013.
Scott, David. “Introduction: On the Archaeologies of Black Memory.” Small Axe 26, no. 10 (2008): 1-16.