“Legends of The Ball” is a series that I hope to do weekly. Each week we will look at one queer Black figure in history. In this way, I hope to acknowledge where we come from and look to these people for insight as to where we need to go. If we do not recognize ourselves no one will.
When asked, in an interview, how he felt on being born Black, Gay, and impoverished James Baldwin responded “I feel like I hit the jackpot.” James Baldwin, stands in rare company. His insight into the heart and spirit of Black America is almost unparralled. Perhaps he saw the oppression it’s manifestation in the Black communties attitude towards one another so clearly because he was a victim of the negative aspects of the latter. Baldwin was unapologetically gay. This would often effect his interactions with other prominent Black activist and artist of the time. In one of the more notable negative encounters, Eldridge Cleaver, a member of the Black Panther Party, denounced Baldwin by calling him subhuman and claiming that Baldwin self hating. The pain of being scorn by “family” is one that Queer Blacks know all too well, but it is also something that fueled Baldwin’s genius. When I was coming into my own and discovering who I was, it was Baldwin that was chiefly intrumental in coming to terms with myself. His words were like diamonds. In a sea of mediocre Gay Black fiction, Giovanni’s room stuck out to me. Despite the fact that the lead characters were white, I was appreciative of a Black Queer writing. I still to this day read “Just Above My Head”, Baldwin’s last work, repeatedly to this day.
Please get into Father Baldwin’s brilliance. Here is one of the best short stories ever written, and one of his most noteble works, “Sonny’s Blues”: http://www.wright.edu/~alex.macleod/winter06/blues.pdf