Saturday, March 25, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Final "Happy Birthday" For a Friend....

Turning 30 was pretty hard vs turning 40 which was actually quite a satisfying experience. 40 is the age when you have come to terms with who you are, and what your purpose in the world will be. There is a quiet confidence that comes over you, as you not only know what you want but you know just what needs to be done to get it. This weekend marks what would have been Montice's 40th Birthday and on saturday 20+ people will meet up at Pronto's in Royal Oak to celebrate the day that Montrice had so looked forward too. Just a couple of weeks before he passed this summer, Montrice and Corey had signed for their first home...

While they have always had fantastic apartments and homes...which Monty had fantastically decorated to perfection, this was going to be their first owned home and while Corey has done a great job decorating it, I can only imagine just what influence Monty would have brought to it!

Montrice, Corey, Marcus and Magic all at my 40th Birthday party. Compared to my 37th my 40th Birthday was a fun comfortable gathering of friends. I remember Montrice commenting to me that night that he was looking forward to his 40th, then 6 years in the future. "It was going to be a big ole party!"

Turning 37 with Ben and Montrice... and happier times.

Perhaps the penultimate birthday for me as an adult was my 37th. It had been a double celebration, not only my birthday but as I had come out at the age of tenth year in the life! Montrice and friends were all there and before the evening ended (around 5am) over 400 people had walked through our door! Turns out a good friend who had also been DJing on the radio that night had extended an invite over the air... But hey it was all good as I was to drunk to care...I was like wow look at all my new friends!

The months since Montrice's passing have not been easy for many of us and our circle of friends, infact people have had to deal with allot that they didn't think they would. It seems to be that Montrice was the glue that quietly held us all together and seemingly in his absence the tapestry of friendships/ relationships has become a little frayed. We owe it to Montrice to find away to come together and find new ways to carry on. A final present for a friend who has turned 40 in our hearts.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

R.I.P. Gordon Parks

In march of 1999 I was fortunate to go see "Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks" at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
I was struck by his prolific output as an artist. A photographer, artist, composer, film maker and writer. his years as a photographer intrested me the most as he was one of the only black photographers of the day and as such captured and documented the human condition of his day. I could connect with that journey as I feel I am much on the same one.
Gordon Parks died Tuesday of cancer at the age of 93. The world has lost so many important photographers in the past few years but Gordon Parks was one of a kind... If ones life is meant to leave a mark or make a difference then Gordon has done so.

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, the youngest of 15 children. His mother died when he was 16. He then lived with his sister in St. Paul, Minnesota for a while before he dropped out of high school. His jobs were varied, including as a pianist with an otherwise all-white band and with the Civilian Conservation Corps. At the age of 25, Parks purchased a used camera from a pawn shop and became a fashion and personality photographer in Chicago. His first substantial work came when he began work in 1942 as a documentary photographer with the Farm Security Administration, an agency created to call attention to and produce a historical record of social and cultural conditions across the country. At the FSA, Parks worked as a trainee under Roy Stryker.

The Washington Post wrote: "During this period, he took what became one of his signature photographs, a picture of Ella Watson, a cleaning woman who worked in the agency's building. He positioned Watson in front of an American flag, a broom in one hand and a mop in the other. He named the picture American Gothic, Washington, D.C. The photograph captured his style of focusing on one particular person to illustrate a broad social theme."

This was one of my most favorite images... When I look at this image It gives me a special kind of hope that one day the dream of King and other leaders of the 60's will come true. More importantly it reminds me that racial bias is taught and that sometimes we can learn allot from children.

After FSA closed, Parks became the first black photographer in the Office of War Information. Parks went on to work for Vogue and Life magazines.

He stayed with Life from 1948 to 1968, becoming known for his photo essays on the effects of poverty and the civil rights movement. Parks' 1961 photo essay on an impoverished Brazilian boy named Flavio, published in Life, inspired donations that were credited with saving the boy's life, and to help the family build a house.

In 1969, Parks become Hollywood's first major black director with his film The Learning Tree, based on his 1963 autobiographical novel. Parks also composed the film's score.

Shaft, Parks' 1971 detective film starring Richard Roundtree, became a major hit and spawned a series of films. Parks directed a sequel, Shaft's Big Score, in 1972.
Parks' writing accomplishments included novels, poetry, autobiography, and non-fiction including photographic instructional manuals and filmmaking books. A self-taught pianist, Parks composed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1953) and Tree Symphony (1967). In 1989, he composed and choreographed "Martin," a ballet dedicated to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks' also performed as a jazz pianist and as a campaigner for civil rights. He was the subject of film and print profiles, notably "Half Past Autumn" in 2000. Parks' late son, Gordon Parks, Jr., directed films including Superfly.

Images of Harlem and the portrait of Langston Hughes are among my personal favorites.

The Learning Tree was placed on the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1989, among the first films so honored. Parks is remembered for his activism, filmmaking, photography, and writings. He was the first African American to work at Life magazine, and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film.
In 1997, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. mounted a career retrospective on Parks, Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks.

"Freedom", Parks said, was the theme of all of his work: "Not allowing anyone to set boundaries, cutting loose the imagination and then making the new horizons."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Getting a KICK out of Curtis....

Tonight In my continuing series to bring you interviews of people who are taking leadership roles in the black gay community I bring you Curtis Lipscomb the executive director of Kick - The Agency for Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Transgender African-Americans.
I first met Curtis through my friend from Men of Color James Drain in the early 90’s. Curtis had just moved back to Detroit from working in the fashion industry in NY, and as he was also a creative type, we clicked immediately. We both belonged to M.O.C. (Men of Color, a motivational group) and at the time they had begun to expand and the organization needed to have a communications plan. Curtis and I started the M.O.C. Motivator a monthly newsletter to keep members up to speed as the organization continued to grow, often covering trips to DC for Black Pride on Memorial day weekend, and other people and events...

Curtis and friends at Banneker Field/ DC Pride

Curtis and Detroit play-write Patrick Burton

We approached that project with a great deal of zeal… not settling for just a “members only” newsletter we began to create something more akin to a magazine. I added my design work and photography to the project where Curtis handled the content and words. M.O.C. was just the stepping-stone for this project which Curtis would later transform the work into a magazine called KICK!

The M.O.C. Motivator... our first collaboration

KICK! Magazine....

The magazine primarily targeted the black gay audience, with commentary, fashion, and lifestyle content. The Magazine grew from a small “zine” style rag into a full size glossy in just a couple of years, and had subscribers from all over the country. Aside from the magazine Curtis and I participated in some of the first years of “Hotter than July” the annual black pride festivals. Over the years our friendship has evolved… and like all good friends we have not always agreed. Curtis and I are both opinionated; while with M.O.C. some of us (with a great deal of humor) dubbed Curtis the “Arbiter of all things Gay and Good” because we could always count on getting a review or opinion about something from him!

Curtis and Willie and I in front of Toronto's Eaton Centre

Classically dressed and coming from the fashion industry we learned quickly that the GAP was where it’s at! Curtis’s love of music and extensive collection would always keep us up to speed on what was good! Secretly I think he liked the title!

Curtis and I at KICK!'s fifth anniversary presentation in Detroit

But one thing I have agreed with and continue to connect with Curtis is the work that needs to be done to bring the black gay community together. To that end I continue to design for him and support KICK! in any way I can. In preparing to publish my photography book FIERCE! Being black, Being Gay in America I approached Curtis to write the preface… Not just because he is black or gay but also because after 14 years he understands me and what my images bring to the subject at hand. Though he’s younger I have sometime thought of him as a big brother…

Mycal, Curtis at my 40th birthday party!

So now on to the interview…

Epiphany: Good! Well Curtis thanks for coming on to the blog!

Curtis: You are welcome. Glad you invited me.

Epiphany: So Curtis we have known each other since what? 1993?

Curtis: Yes.

Epiphany: During that time you have been through an evolving process that started out as a newsletter and has morphed in to the KICK! organization... How has the process been for you...?

Curtis: The process morphed, as it should have been. There were many times I didn't understand it, but in hindsight it all made sense. The root to it all is variations of communication and connecting with like-minded people. That question is pretty deep, now that I thought about some more...

Epiphany: In deed...It’s always been about communication, but more importantly about communicating to people about the black gay movement? Why has this been so important to you? Besides the obvious you’re black and gay...

Curtis: I have been blessed to know some people in my youth that has influenced me, and help shape me culturally and morally. Many of them were black, gay and lesbian folks. I like talking to members of this "movement" ... they inspire me, and I've learn to tell and publish stories about their life experiences.

Curtis at Palmer Park...Hotter than July

Epiphany: So in away it’s about giving back...

Curtis: That's part of it. It's also about self-reflection, and therefore self-improvement. The good news is that you can learn about yourself in the process.

Epiphany: Absolutely! We have seen the rise and fall of a few major organizations in Detroit, Men of Color for instance... Do you see this as being evolutionary or do you see sustainability issues?

Curtis: I've seen people with good intentions fail. I've seen people with bad intentions fail, also. I don't see the failures as evolutionary. I see that some people are not ethical to run a business. What saddens me is the lack of regional concern when a organization that important to many, isn't saved by many.

Epiphany: Communities like NY have had organizations that have spanned decades now... is this a mid west thing you are talking about?

Curtis: Detroit has had organizations that've spanned decades, too. When I lived in NYC, I've seen organizations fail, too. It's not a regional thing. People run organizations, therefore it's a professional issue, or lack of.

Epiphany: You have run KICK now as an organization for about three years now... what has been some of the unique challenges??? Does it help for the group to have a goal?

Curtis: It's definitely a challenge to run Kick - The Agency for Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Transgender African-Americans. It's also the most satisfactory thing I've done in my career. We definitely have goals, and a mission. We are very aware of the goals, and we verbally state our mission every month during our board of directors meeting. The biggest challenge is that we are a black gay organization, and America is homophobic. How we decide to live has a lot to do with public perceptions of us.

Epiphany: I know one of KICK's goals is to open a center for Black, gays, lesbians and transgendered people... what would the center provide for the community

Curtis: The Detroit Lesbian and Gay Welcome Center will provide a safe space for our unique population, and provide services to improve our quality of life.

Epiphany: Excellent! Its time for a place like that in Detroit... Do you find you have a good relationship with other Gay organizations in the Detroit area? Affirmations etc., which have a whiter constituency? Is that important?

Curtis: There never is a specific time for change. It just has to happen. We have a great relationship with Affirmations. The executive director and I are good friends, and we both know we need each other. Both centers are not race driven, but I do know that many whites and non-whites will come to the DLGWC. (The Detroit Lesbian and Gay Welcome Center) It's really about making the City of Detroit a place where gays can gather.

Epiphany: Well Curtis it seems like you are making steady progress to your goals... Its funny this morning I heard a song from Madonna’s bedtime stories...and as you gave me that disk for Christmas several years back I soo had you on my mind! Aside from KICK What keeps Curtis going everyday?

Curtis and Willie

Curtis: I really enjoy living, and I got a lot to do in life.

Epiphany: I remember several of us used to tease you as being the arbiter of all things good and gay... Do you still fill that roll?

Curtis: Certainly ...

Epiphany: Hahaha good... so is there anything you would like to say to some of the young brothas and sisters who read the blog?

Curtis: Be focused on being a great contributor to life, and always persevere ...

Epiphany: Is it possible to volunteer? How can people join KICK ?

Curtis: People can become a Friend for $35 USD at

Epiphany: Ok great...There ya have it folks! Well Thanks for coming on tonight.

Curtis: You are welcome, thanks for having me ...

KICK sponsers several events through out the year including a musical review called Gentlemens Preferred.. For more information about Curtis and the KICK organization check out