Legends of the Ball V: Essex Hemphill

Bold. Raw. Blatent. Powerful.

When you read one of his pieces or you have the rare pleasure of hearing him speak, Essex Hemphill hits a part of your soul and conscious that is often hidden from yourself. On a personal note, even though I always recognized my own queerness, my first reading of Hemphill hit at a spot within me that I hadn’t even realized was there. I felt offended and taken aback by the poet’s honesty and brashness. His willingness to express the Black Queer experience with pretense, with out bullshit fluff. Essex was straight to the point. You felt the pain of a young Black man who had loved, been exoticized by White society, felt the sting of racism, been smothered by the trappings of the inner city, been dealt a cruel hand by contracting HIV and above all who had survived to live and ACT UP! Essex, stands as a mountain of inspiration for myself. Often one of my friends always ask me why I carry around Essex’s book of poetry & prose; “Ceremonies” and I smile and think to myself; “for survival, I need this to survive.”

Get Into Hemphill:

“Heavy Breathing”

I wanted to give you

my sweet man pussy,

but you grunted me away

and all other Black men

who tried to be near you.

Our beautiful nigga lips and limbs

stirred no desire in you.

Instead you chose blonde,

milk-toned creatures to bed.

but you were still one of us,

dark like us, despised like us.

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