Monday, December 31, 2007


From one the first big body auction operating budget fundraisers occured in 1993, many of the participants would dress in some kind of theme to get the audiance going.

December 31st 2007

On this last day of 2007 I wanted to take a moment to wrap up my first 20 years in the life with a little historical piece I had not fully explored previously. In previous posts I brought some slices of what coming out in the mid to late 80's was like for me. My previous post on Clubbing at Bookies and the after hours house club Heaven talked a great deal about my initial coming out experiences.... The late 80's was truly a time of discovery for myself and for the most part one big party. While I certainly had fun, fell in love a couple of times, by the early 90's I found the whole experience lacking in any long term meaning. I began to question if this was all there was to the gay life. In 1992 a group of friends had told me about a motivational discussion group which met on tuesdays in the basement of a church. I was ripe for this kind of experience, though I was full of
in-trepidation. The name of this gathering was Men of Color Motivational Group, and when I was first told about them I immediately asked "How would I fit in to this group?" being that it primarily supported men of African decent.

My friends told me to go... that there were a few other white guys who attended and that I would find an accepting environment. I went and indeed I did from the very beginning. On my first encounter I met 40- 50 guys who were like me wondering if there was something more to this life we had in common. I walked out of that first meeting thinking "Wow! Here are a bunch of fella's who were by in large professionals , who had thoughts and ideas that resonated with me. I learned that while we may have been different in race that we had much more in common than just our orientation. We shared the common Detroit experience and a common goal that included a motivation to not allow the polarization that made up the typical Detroit experience to affect the common goals of the group which were to uplift same gendered loving men of color.... all colors.

I have spoken about some of the Men of Color experience previously in a post about Curtis Lipscomb and Kick Magazine. Curtis was and continues to be one of my biggest supporters in Detroit and was very inclusive of my early efforts with MOC, including the creation of the MOC Motivator which was a monthly newsletter.
Another big supporter was a brother named James Drain, His council was very important to me and he was allways available to help me keep the right perspective. It was a loss for everyone when James passed on, he was one of the first of my friends to pass from AIDS and that day resonates within me even now.

James Drain at one of the regular sunday volley ball gatherings at the park.

I took some time over the past few weeks culling through literally thousands of images that I took during my time with MOC. I wanted to tell a story that I feared might go away into the either if I didn't start putting it down. The story is mostly in images but I hope to include as much text as possible.

So lets start at the beginning... MOC began in 1991 as an effort to provide a dialog for a group of brothers at the Community health Awareness Group (CHAG). After Terrance Sampson had collected several ideas for the name of the group the winning name came from a brother named Greg Rivers. There was a core group of guys who developed MOC in the beginning, Charles Coleman, Cornelius Wilson, Jalal Neeam and Howard Winthrope who facilitated many of the initial meetings at the CHAG offices.

Sometime in 92/93 the group moved to the basement of St. Joseph/ St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on Woodward in Detroit. The effort was sponsored by Father Harmon who clearly understood the need for this kind of group. During the first three years of Tuesday night motivation meetings the group provided a safe space for over 4000 brothers who not only came from the Metro Detroit area but from all over the country. MOC was unique in its size and scope and its obvious attraction to others brought allot of attention to Detroit from the black gay community as a whole.

By 1993 the group had evolved into a more than just that of motivation, MOC was aligned towards a new goal to provide community outreach to finally put a face of color on the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. One of the necessary steps to move towards a non profit status was to elect a Executive Council and Board and began to handle MOC as a recognized community organization. In 1993 they elected a council and Board

(From L-R) Wesley Riley, Guy Leach, Charles Coleman, Alan Richardson, Walter Washington, Micheal Lynch as Vice President and Schawne Parker as President

One of the more touching moments on the day the EC took office was the speech Lee's mother gave as a blessing for the group. Some of the most affirming moments on motivational Tuesdays was when a parent would join the gang and speak about family acceptance.

Schawne Parker at one of the annual Anthology Dinners held at Edmund's Place which was a rather upscale soul food restaurant.
Charles Coleman and Schawne Parker at anouther one of MOC many fund raiser events the Jazz Bash This particular one was held at the stately Parkstone.

Micheal Lynch, Alan Richardson and Charles Coleman.

Myself and Cornelius Wilson who was the MOC Chair of the Board durring my entire tenure with MOC. (Check out all that hair! Yikes!)

In June of 1994 the application for 501-3(c) tax exemption status for a non profit had been submitted and approved by that September, a building lease had been signed for half a floor in the David Stott building in Detroit's downtown core. MOC had won a significant grant from the Detroit Department of Health in conjunction with money from the Federal Ryan White Act to provide testing and counseling to inner city men at risk for HIV/AIDS. MOC had finally come into its own with purpose and goal.

The name of the program was called "In The Circle"

Carl Stepps ran the "In The Circle Program"

MOC had run it Tuesday meeting operational budget for a number of years based on fund raisers through out the year. One of the biggest events was held towards the end of July called the MOC Body Auction. This one event held the ability to keep the lights on and paper in the copy machine for the whole year... which was still important given that the department of health money was strictly for out reach. Every year a group of volunteers would converge on a club setting for an exciting runway show. Brothers would ironically allow themselves to be auctioned off during the event in exchange for a service such as cleaning a house, preparing a meal, washing a car... that sort of thing. Of coarse the show it self became a huge spectacle and every year more and more guys would volunteer... it became a source of pride to be in the auction.

By 1994 MOC was on its third Auction here is an example of the 94 Body Auction Flyer.

And Ticket.

Schawne Parker would always kick off the evening, explaining the importance of fund raising for the group....

No event was complete with out Transgendered LaToya Pearson as the MC, She really knew how to amp up the evening and bring that money in as many of the guys would go for hundreds of dollars!

She definitely got the guys going!

1994 saw a huge jump in participation.

By way of example here is someone in an Egyptian costume!

Or a turban!

The show had it's handful of drag queen "Vanna Whites" to present the models, in this case the one and only DIVA!

Here are the fellas from 1995! Love the jammies Curtis!
In 1996 it moved to Off Broadway East!

Audience participation was definitely on!

Many of the members of MOC had attended the March on Washington in 1993. Returning empowered they vowed to make DC an annual visit for Memorial Days DC Pride. So in 94 they rented a bus and a slew of hotel rooms and off we went to DC!

Saturday were spent at Benjamin Banneker Field at Howard University... Banneker who was a free black man helped build Washington DC in the late 1700's was rumored to be gay... Hence DC Black Pride spent many years celebrating there.

OK I may be biased but your not totally gay until you been to San Fransisco, New York and to Dupont Circle In DC!

Other trips included Gay Day at Ceder Point!

Once a year MOC would hold a summer picnic in and around the same time as the body auction. Every year it got bigger in size... Other groups began to join in not only at the picnic but evening events as well. The Billionaires Boys Club (BBC) would throw a once a year extravaganza befitting their name.

The picnics were a safe place for everyone to come out and be themselves!

James Bagsby

Jerry and a friend.

The picnics grew to include entertainment including dancing in the circle which continues to this day.

On the way to the first HTJ picnics at the Huron Metro park....

Schawne and Shawn

In 1995 The name "Hotter than July" (HTJ) came to cover all the events that happened at the end of July. The name was finalized by Cornelius Wilson, Shawn Parker and Curtis Lipscomb while sitting on my couch one afternoon. The result was a small card that was printed up (see below) and distributed to everyone a couple of weeks before the event. As you can see there were several events over the course of the week held by several groups! It was quite an honor to see the MOC events spark off what today is Black Gay Pride in Detroit.

Im 1996 Curtis Lipscomb now with KICK! and Cornelius Wilson of MOC began to bring the HTJ under one organization.

By 1997 with the more formal organization in place and event advertisement was covered both DBGP Organization as well as individual groups like MOC

Today that organization has gone global with the Black Pride Society, a loose conglomeration of all of the black gay pride events held around the world. Its been 16 years since those first motivational meetings at CHAG in Detroit. Sadly while MOC no longer exists as an official group their revolutionary groundwork continues to shine through to this day!

Note: All images and text (not specified) is copyrighted by Christopher Cushman. This site does not specify or denote the sexual orientation of any model and as such please post your comments accordingly.