Saturday, February 28, 2009

GLBT Black History Day, Unofficial

The day will come when Black History Month will stop being an exclusively heterosexual affair. I know that tons of black folk are loathe to acknowledge that there is, and always has been, a black GLBT community. Yet, as one who is a part of that slice of the black community, I am proud of the people in our past who created change. On this last day of Black History Month, all I am going to do is provide names and links to black historical figures (not an exhaustive list) who were also a part of the GLBT community.

It's long overdue, and we in the black GLBT community have to speak for those in our past who could, or did, not. Enjoy.

Bayard Rustin
Alain Locke
Ma Rainey
James Baldwin
Barbara Jordan
Alvin Ailey
Angelina Weld Grimke
Audre Lorde
Glenn Burke
Billy Strayhorn
Lucille Bogan
Andre Leon Talley
Angela Davis

Conservatism Today? Baby, I'm Too Through

I have to vent. Unless something monumental happens in my life, I will never be a conservative, at least not like those who use that moniker today. I've never seen a more spiteful, mean spirited, condescending, heartless, sanctimonious, selfish group of people in my life. Now, I have certainly found some elements of intellectual conservatism interesting. But I've always been one who appreciated genuine ideas presented thoughtfully. I've heard nothing close to that from any of these people who tout their conservatism.

During the years of the Bush administration, I felt like a person in exile. I didn't hate the old POTUS, but there was never a sense of pride for him from me. The lies, the obfuscation, and all of the other maledictions that came like waves crashing on a shore at the approach of high tide, were utterly depressing. Meanwhile, so called conservatives, who now claim that Bush was no conservative, said virtually nothing. Bush was praised for all sorts of things that deserved nothing of the kind. And it was incredible to see.

Now that the POTUS is Obama, it seems that these same conservatives are edging toward the precipice of madness. The term "Socialist" is bandied about to scare the populace. People still suggest that Obama is not an American citizen. People still suggest that Obama is a secret Jihadist lying in wait to destroy this nation.

The saddest element is the proliferation of racially charged comments, gaffes and pronouncements that have been coming from the right. I've always been bemused by the cry of political correctness that comes from the right, because people call them out on being rude. I certainly believe in freedom of speech, but there remain responsibilities with that freedom. Why not just say that you want to say "nigger," "faggot," "spic," et. al.? Own up to it. Naturally, this does not apply to conservatives as a whole. That would be ridiculous. Yet, I think there are too many conservatives who are too cowardly (thank you A.G. Holder) to tell that truth.

Earlier, I read a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog, and it drove me to distraction. I could not believe that he actually felt that liberals seek "to punish" those who are successful. I wish I was in a position to complain about that type of punishment, because that would mean that I was clearing at least $250K annually. Please tell me when that became middle class. Please tell me when that type of salary engenders suffering. I call it selfishness, plain and simple. Sullivan is not alone in his sentiments. But I would be glad to pay my share to help others, because I would be so blessed to have enough to give back.

Too many conservatives seem comfortable with the notion of failure. Too many conservatives are comfortable with the idea that people deserve to fall through the cracks, and naturally it was the peoples' fault for having done so. Too many conservatives are comfortable with the idea of people dying on their own, without health care. In my opinion, too many conservatives simply do not care for people, particularly middling to poor people. I don't see how many conservatives can afford to be conservative. I can understand these types of positions from someone making a quarter of a million dollars annually, but how does that work when you make $30K? Why do they not understand, or see, that true conservatives (of the ideological stripe out front and center now) do not have your interests at heart in the least.

A broke conservative would benefit from universal health care. A broke conservative is about to miss out on needed unemployment funds, if he lives in Louisiana, South Carolina or Mississippi, three of the poorest states in the Union. A broke conservative cannot simply pray his way out of his troubles. Can I get a witness? Peace be still.

Pulling oneself up by the boot straps requires boots. I believe that it is perfectly fine for the government to provide boots to those who need them. If I understand current conservatism, then I suppose that those who needed those boots don't deserve such a handout; it will denigrate them. Now, I am the first one to say that government, particularly in minority and poor communities, has done some horrible things with even worse results. Yet, there were millions who have been helped over the years, and too many conservatives dismiss that reality.

I've really tried, and I will continue to try to maintain as open a mind as possible to learning the tenets of conservatism. Again, I like well presented ideas. But the folks who call themselves conservatives now will never be in a position to broaden the appeal of their ideology. Never. If I am wrong about that, let me know. State your case.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When Crazy Calls

It's true. The decision has been made. Alan Keyes is crazy personified. Take a look for yourself.

I had my issues with President Bush, but I never used language that would encourage some fool to think that they needed to act. Keyes is essentially inviting someone to act on his mad thoughts. This is the same man who disowned his daughter, when she came out. This is the same man who hightailed it to Illinois (leaving Maryland behind) to run for the U.S. Senate, when it was clear that he had nothing to offer, except dark skin and madness.

Sometimes you just wish people would learn to mutter to themselves and spare the rest of us.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When Friends Write Books (He Beat Me to It)

A good friend of mine has done something that I would love to do at some point: written a book. I am confident that my boy Chris Ledbetter has done an excellent job, and I will certainly be doing some reading in the near future. Here is a re-print of the press release. Check it out when you have a chance.

Caenus And The Quiver Of Artemis Goes Global Historical Fantasy Novel Is Set To Have International Launch

WILMINGTON, NC- Caenus and The Quiver of Artemis, a novel written by Christopher S. Ledbetter of Wilmington, North Carolina, and recently published through Outskirts Press in early January 2009, is going to have a Global Book Launch Weekend. Beginning on February 28, 2009 and concluding on March 2, 2009, there will be a host of events that will introduce the novel to a global audience.

On Saturday, February 28, 2009 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm there will be the Online Global Kickoff Party simultaneously on both and There will be contests and prizes including autographed copies of the book given away and most importantly a gathering of friends from around the world. The “Caenus” Facebook page at has mostly American friends and fans, while the “Caenus” Myspace page at, has a collection of international friends that will be attending the online festivities.

On Sunday, March 1, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Christopher S. Ledbetter will be holding a Launch Party and Book Signing at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S.A. In attendance will be guests from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

On Monday, March 2, 2009 from 12:01 am through 11:59 pm will be the day to purchase the book at all of the Amazon sites around the world. “Caenus” will be offered for sale at six international Amazon sites: USA-, Canada-, United Kingdom-, Germany-, France-, and Japan- Anyone who orders a “Caenus and the Quiver of Artemis” book from Amazon on Monday, March 2, 2009, and emails the confirmation receipt to along with their physical mailing address, will receive a signed copy of original concept artwork for the book and an Official Caenus and the Quiver of Artemis bookmark.

In addition to the international Amazon websites, “Caenus” will be offered for sale at and in the United States, and in the United Kingdom, and in Germany, in Norway, and finally in Cyprus.

About Caenus And The Quiver Of Artemis, the novel

The novel is a cross between historical fantasy and alternate history, as fictional characters inhabit real historical settings of Ancient Greece. The fantasy aspect is woven masterfully as the Gods of the Pantheon interact with mortals in real and imagined mythological locales, much as they did in The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid.

Being set in Ancient Greece, the novel has an intrinsically international appeal, and has upon its release garnered interest from fans in Greece as well as Canada, South Wales, Australia, Bulgaria and Turkey in addition to the United States. “Through extensive research, I endeavored to bring to life the real places that are featured in the novel. Someone who lives there now could definitely appreciate the work that went into it. Of course, I have thrown a bit of fantasy in there as well,” Ledbetter offered.“After having taught middle school and high school for six years, I have a feel for what would hold the attention of the young adult audience; intense action and a good old fashioned love triangle,” Ledbetter said. “Its broad appeal, however, transcends a single demographic. Any lover of Ancient Greece and mythology will surely find the story enjoyable. It is an edge-of-your-seat, roller coaster of a story.”

Along the lines of intense action and a love triangle, “Caenus and the Quiver of Artemis” delivers both. Prince Caenus (KEE-nuhs) of Iolkos, the title character and protagonist, sets out to prove his worth at Apollo’s Tournament in Corinth, a five-stage, grueling test of strength and endurance. There he meets two people who alter his life profoundly; Adriande, an elusive local peasant girl, and Makedon a ruthless prince from Neapolis. The hands of the gods guide Caenus and Makedon (ma-KĀ-don) toward a final showdown in the tournament, during which an unethical act is performed to secure victory. Bad blood forms between the two newly minted bitter rivals, and roils to a fevered pitch when Caenus later learns of a revelation he never could have seen coming. Caenus is unwittingly thrust into a set of events that test his faith, his mettle, and his love for Adriande, sending him to the farthest reaches of the Aegean Sea and The Underworld.

Ledbetter moved to Wilmington, North Carolina in August 2006 from Charlottesville, Virginia after a six-year teaching career in Culpeper, Virginia. With a new career as a car salesman at Bob King Volkswagen in Wilmington, Ledbetter relished his nights free of lesson planning and grading that so commonly came with teaching, and so set about indulging in a long dormant dream of writing. “Caenus” began as an idea for a short story, and blossomed into a trilogy, “Of Kings And Gods.”

Again, “Caenus and The Quiver of Artemis” is being sold through and

For more information visit:

Christopher Ledbetter can be reached at 910-352-7265 or by email:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Sometimes you can want something so bad that you are willing to do almost anything to get it. Have you heard about the junior Senator from Illinois? This solipsistic megalomaniac, in his quest to become the fourth African American U.S. Senator since Reconstruction, seems to have forgotten a little thing called the truth. Each time he opens his mouth, I feel as though we are following Alice down the rabbit hole.

I hope Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is proud of himself for injecting racial politics into the appointment of this fool. His admonishment about the lack of black faces in the exclusive club on the North side of the U.S. Capitol Building was unnecessary in the main, and farcical at the moment. Talk about a situation that didn't require racial politics.

I'll say it again; I really want the old guard of the Civil Rights Movement to go to the Grey Havens, where Cirdan is waiting to take them into the West. I'll vouch for Burris and Rush myself.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scary McCain/Palin Supporters?

Last night, I watched Alexandra Pelosi's documentary "Right America: Feeling Wrong." It provided an interesting window into the worldview of a segment of McCain/Palin supporters. By the time the credits rolled, I was mystified by the gulf that emerged during the course of the run up to the 2008 election. Yet, it dawned on me that perhaps the gulf already existed. It just needed figures like Obama and Palin to bring it closer to the light of day.

To listen to a number of the McCain supporters position their perspectives in religious terms was, frankly, disturbing. The United States was not established to be an evangelical Christianist nation. It was settled by a multiplicity of people, most of whom, in the earliest years, were not Europeans, and the historical record supports that conclusion. Obama is a Christian, and it's silly to suggest otherwise.

To know that some of these folks look at someone like me (and Obama) as not really being an American is insulting. To know that there are people in this country who feel that the fate of Western Civilization hung on the balance of this past election is comical. It is incredible to me that we continue to contest the basic information about our country. As an historian, it boggles my mind that so much evidence provides truth to our American reality, yet there are millions of people who simply will not believe that evidence.

I challenge anyone who suggests that I do not love my country. I adore it. The United States is an amazing experiment, and the fact that as a nation we continue to work toward becoming a more perfect union inspires many around the world. Yet, to do that work, requires Americans to be prepared to acknowledge the problems that exist here, and to work to ameliorate those problems. That is where I truly disagree with perhaps the overwhelming majority of McCain/Palin supporters. The United States is not, and has never been, perfect. To acknowledge that is not unpatriotic, period.

I have friends who do not understand how I can have friends who see the world quite differently from me. I relish the fact that I am open minded enough to have those friendships, and it is a testament to those friends that they are open minded as well. We will disagree, often, but that's okay. It's messy, just like life. It's gray, not black and white, just like life.

People on the left and the right too often see the world through ideological lenses, and neither side wants to remove those lenses to see things as they are. I applaud Pelosi for trying to show another side. We need to know all sides. It is the only way we can begin to understand one another and to stop speaking at one another from our demographic corners.

Or am I simply being naive?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Birthdays Abound

I just wanted to send a quick series of birthday wishes to President Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin (both would have been 200 this year), and to the NAACP (celebrating its centennial).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Help a Brotha Out

I am tempted to ask only the fellas, but I will leave it open to a full discussion. After I read this post on Towleroad about Kanye West and his "manhood," I had to stop. What is it really that makes str8 men feel so uncomfortable around gay men, especially when they KNOW they are str8?

Hell, str8 dudes should be happy with less competition for women. Some might want to look to some gay men to help them step up their game to str8 women. I think I am a pretty good potential wing man. It just strikes me as funny to hear str8 men justify anything that may come across as seeming "gay." And it will never cease to amaze me how lesbians and bisexual women (do I even bring the trans-women to the table, or is that too much for the "manhood" police?) aren't nearly as threatening.

So, answer my question. What is it really that makes str8 men feel so uncomfortable around gay men, especially when they KNOW they are str8?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Georgia Douglas Johnson

When I first launched this blog, I wrote an entry that explained the background of the WSNS. Georgia Douglas Johnson and her Saturday salons were very much component parts in the process of bringing this whole concept to life.

Johnson was a native Georgian who eventually moved to Washington, DC, in the early 20th century. She was born in Atlanta in 1880, and educated at Atlanta University and the Oberlin Conservatory. Though I know that she was part of a tiny minority of black folks at that time, I am always amazed by the opportunities that people like Johnson, and those of her class, were able to take advantage of during the period known as the nadir for race relations in this nation (Johnson's sons were graduates of Bowdoin and Dartmouth).

It seems that Johnson began writing poetry and fiction after she moved to Washington, and she became one of the first noted black women poets of the 20th century. Though she was accomplished, it was not Johnson's writing skills that served as a force in either the Harlem Renaissance or the New Negro Movement (which was the pre-cursor to, and the Washington focused effort before, the Renaissance). It was those Saturday night salons in her home at 1461 S Street, NW (that remains a private residence), that proved important to both movements, and captured my imagination.

Those gatherings brought together future luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance, including Jean Toomer, Jessie Fauset, a very young Richard Bruce Nugent, Langston Hughes and W. E. B. DuBois. In his monumental biography of DuBois, David Levering Lewis describes the salons in this way: "On late, liquescent, and often memorable animated Saturday nights, Jazz Age muses gathered around Georgia Johnson's concert piano and paired off in lively huddles, their talk flowing back and forth between tangy gossip and serious debate as indiscretions were revealed and old and new poetry, drama, fiction and art were critiqued." (p. 184 in W.E.B. DuBois: The Fight for Equality and the American Democracy, 1919-1963)

When I read that passage, I want to be right there in the midst of it all. The participants in Johnson's salons knew that they were destroying the assumption that black folks lacked culture, and they did it with each poem written and every canvas painted upon. It worked. Though the New Negro Movement has been eclipsed by the Harlem Renaissance, Johnson played an important role in both, simply by opening her home and having people talk and share. I am humbled to know that all of that happened just a few blocks away from where I sit right now more than 100 years ago.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Robert Russa Moton High School

I am a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College. It is the oldest of the remaining men's colleges in the nation (Morehouse College and Wabash College are the other two), having been established in 1775. When I arrived my freshman year, all I knew about Prince Edward County, Virginia was that my uncle (by marriage) grew up in the county seat of Farmville. I was shocked to learn that it was the same county that decided to close its entire school system between 1959 and 1964 to resist integration.

It was the students of R. R. Moton High School who set the events in motion that would alter permanently the history of that small slice of Southside Virginia. In 1951, Barbara Johns organized a student strike, to protest the horrible conditions at Moton, which the school board refused to ameliorate. I think it's important to note that the original intent of the strike was not to seek integration; it was to force the county to uphold the fallacy of separate but equal. Yet, there was a decision made to sue to integrate the schools. The Davis v. County School Board case was added to the cases that comprised the landmark Brown v. Board of Edcuation decision of 1954.

The closing of the schools in Prince Edward County was a part of what was called massive resistance, an effort to thwart integration. When it was clear that the schools had to be integrated, the county closed all schools. Those whites with enough money were able to send their children to Prince Edward Academy (now known as the Fuqua School, which did not integrate until 1986). Everyone else, regardless of color, had to seek other options for an education.

One can imagine the impact that decision had on this small community, even I could tell, once I knew the truth. During my time at Hampden-Sydney, I asked some of the black workers at the college what that time was like. One lady who worked in the dining hall told me that she went to stay with relatives in Massachusetts to finish her secondary education. Others went to stay with relatives in surrounding counties, and some simply never finished school. Most of the professors that I talked with arrived at Hampden-Sydney after the schools re-opened. I think it's time to find out exactly the actions of the college during that time.

Let me stop here. One of the best aspects of historic preservation is that one has an opportunity to visit historic places that have been preserved, and the R. R. Moton High School, a National Historic Landmark, is a museum that is open to the public. The story of the school and of integration's aftermath in the county needs to be better known. And I strongly urge folks to take a visit.

Every time I go back for an event at H-SC, I think about the lives (regardless of race) damaged by a move that was nothing more than a self inflicted wound. Only now does it seem that the community is willing to open up about those events that happened not too long ago.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

James Mercer Langston Hughes

This is the first Black History Month in a while when I was not responsible for putting something out in a work environment. Not that I minded necessarily, but I can actually relax and contemplate fully what I would like to say.

Black History Month is often misunderstood and vilified. Over the years, I've heard people proclaim its irrelevance, or the fact that somehow "we got stuck with the shortest month of the year." As one who believes that African American history has to be integrated into the broader American historical narrative, I still believe that there is a place for these extra curricular highlights. As was the case when Carter G. Woodson created "Black History Week," too few people of all stripes remain unfamiliar with the significant role the American black has played in American history.

I will, over the course of the month, post various stories related to black history, beginning today.

One of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes. To me, many of Hughes' poems express a need to belong, whether it was to his country or his people. He seemed to postion himself as the outsider looking in (I am sure his not being straight heightened that). But through his words, he articulated the longings of a people who had been here since the beginning. And here we are in 2009. A self identified black man is the leader of the free world. Another black man has been selected to be the leader of the other major American political party. Black folks have moved leaps and bounds, and we're finally able to sit a lot more comfortably at the American table. Please take some time to enjoy the poetry of Langston Hughes, in his own words. Today would have been his 107th birthday.

"I, Too"

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers"