Non-fiction

To “Feel Seen”: The Black Gothic in America
Chicago Review of Books

Macabre. Morbid. Melancholy. These words might come to mind when one thinks of gothic culture. But the gothic is also whimsical and fanciful, and those attributes are almost always associated with whiteness. In Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul, which is part history, part memoir, and part critique of American culture, author Leila Taylor (pronounced LEE-lah) debunks that myth.

Steeped in the underbelly of American historical narratives and the melancholia that makes its way into popular culture, Darkly explores the American gothic and analyzes the ways gothic culture relates to American history and race — from slavery to the killing of Michael Brown, from New Orleans to post-Motown Detroit. By pulling back the curtain on America’s horrific founding, on white supremacy, and on extrajudicial and state-sanctioned killings of Black people, Taylor exposes the guilty conscience in a country that “got away with murder.” She shows how American culture and gothic culture are intertwined, and poses the question of whether American gothic is ontologically Black.

Taylor, born in Detroit, is now the Creative Director for Brooklyn Public Library. She is well situated to take on this topic, as she has the rare distinction of being both goth and Black, a self-described AfroGothicist. I caught up with Taylor by phone about her research, the 1992 Chicago-based horror movie Candyman, and what it means to be both goth and Black in America.

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How to ‘do diversity’ when you’re lazy, ignorant, and/or malicious
Another Chicago Magazine, Issue 56

1. Throw around toothless terms like “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” while ignoring the fact that whiteness is at the center of your initiative.

2. If the notion of “diversity” is ever challenged, or if anyone suggests using the term “equity,” tell them emphatically that “equity” sounds too community organizer-ish and will scare people away (and by “people” you mean “white people,” but don’t say that part out loud).

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As Strong as They Come
Los Angeles Review of Books

Tears never fall from your eyes. You are the shoulder that others cry on. You do not feel pain. You never sleep in. You barely need sleep at all – no more than four hours. You rarely bleed, and, when you do, it is only a few drops — a panty liner, not a full pad. Compared to other women, with their “vulnerability and emotional outbursts,” you are so strong.

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Miss Sick of This Vs. Mama Cool
MUTHA Magazine

My four-year-old so often says, “Mommy, I need to tell you something,” that I almost missed what she had to share that day. I hurried her up the steps and out of her preschool, ensuring that we had enough time for her to eat a snack of cheese and pear, change into her leotard and tutu, and drive the four miles to her ballet class.

Even with my hand on her back in the sweaty space between her shoulder blades, gently nudging her faster, faster, “Let’s see who can make it to the car first,” faster up the stairs and out to the parking lot, I knew that her ongoing declaration was a parenting pop quiz. A way to make certain that her words mattered to me, that she could trust me. So, I accepted her test as I always do, no matter the pressing time constraints.

“Okay, Morgan. I’m listening.”

She was dawdling. To quicken her pace, I snatched up her paint-speckled hand, the yellow sparkling like gold on her brown skin.

“William spit on me, Mommy.” Her boisterous voice shrank to a pained near-whisper. “Not the William in my class. Not my friend William. The other William, in the other class. On my cheek, my hands, and right here.”

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Talking Race With a Toddler Who Wasn’t Talking About Race at All
“Motherlode,” The New York Times 

Recently, my 27-month-old daughter, Morgan, asked this: “Mommy, can you hand me the black one?”

Sitting with her on the living-room rug amid a mess of plastic building bricks, I realized that she was referring to one of her action figures.

Long before, and apropos of nothing, she had named two of her toys Sonkey and Donkey. And since the ponytail-wearing girl figures look alike, she has always treated them as if they were sisters. But this time, as she set up a colorful birthday party with imaginary cake and balloons for them to enjoy, instead of calling them by the names she had given them, she referred to one of them as “the black one.”

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Asleep on the Job
Primetime, ABC News

“That’s the reactor building,” my partner Dana Hughes said as we drove onto Pennsylvania State University’s campus. She looked down at the map. She looked up at the sign on the road. She looked down at the map again. She whispered, “This is it.”

It was about 11:15 a.m. and we had been driving for four hours. During the drive we went over our plan for the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor: Day One would be surveillance; Day Two would be a scheduled tour of the 1-megawatt reactor with low-enriched uranium.

“Let’s drive up there,” Dana said. I drove to the building.

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Nader/Gonzalez: ‘Open the Debates’
The Huffington Post

In their vice-presidential debate Thursday night, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden ended in a veritable draw, not unlike Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in their first presidential debate.

But what if there were a third (and fourth) candidate on the debate stage? What might he or she add to the discussion?

Former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and Ralph Nader running-mate Matt Gonzalez said third party candidates would offer Americans more of a “clash of ideas.”

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Green Party VP Candidate: ‘The Hip-Hop Community Has To Go Green’
The Huffington Post

In her acceptance speech as the Green Party vice presidential nominee in July, hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente said to applause “we can lead a nation with a microphone. Hip-hop has been that mic, but now the Green Party needs to be the power that can turn up the volume and blow the speakers out.”

Green Party Convention attendees likely knew a lot about Green Party presidential nominee and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, but unless they knew the difference between KRS-One and Ludacris, they probably hadn’t heard of Clemente.

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“The person behind the wall”: an interview with activist Ginny Apuzzo
Another Chicago Magazine

In the summer of 1969, it was illegal in most states to be gay. In New York, same-sex public displays of affection were against the law, as was wearing more than three pieces of clothing intended for the opposite sex. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities were often harassed on the streets, and police routinely raided nightclubs where they congregated.

The mafia, looking to make money off of the marginalized groups, stepped in and opened the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village and one of the only nightspots that allowed dancing alongside its watered-down drinks. The raid on June 28, 1969, was not the first at Stonewall, but that early morning surprise visit was the one that ignited a riot.

Police roughed up and arrested patrons, and, for six days, Village residents and Stonewall frequenters clashed with law enforcement on Christopher Street. The uprising galvanized members of the LGBT communities to become leaders, to join forces with one another, and eventually to launch a movement that would change the course of American social, political, and economic policy.

One of those leaders is Ginny Apuzzo. She was raised in the Bronx, graduated with a BA from SUNY New Paltz and an MA from Fordham University, and would eventually go on to work in New York State government as well as the Clinton Administration. President Bill Clinton appointed her assistant to the president for administration and management, making her the highest ranking out lesbian in national government office. Apuzzo left this post in 1999 when she rejoined the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force as the first holder of the Virginia Apuzzo Chair for Leadership in Public Policy. In 2005, she was one of the founders of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, and in 2007, Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed Apuzzo to the New York State Commission on Public Integrity, where she served through 2011. She lived for many years in Kingston, New York, before moving to Florida in 2013. She took time to speak with ACM by phone about her career before Stonewall, and how the uprising changed the course of her life.

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