Otta Benga, Formerly Enslaved
The Epitome of a Nubian Knight

Otta Benga, Formerly Enslaved<br>The Epitome of a Nubian Knight

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"Whenever I use BLACK it relates to some history of Africans in that particular place. It’s the idea of the color BLACK as a metaphor, or as a representation of African-Americans. It’s the notion of BLACK- BLACKNESS - and all its other meanings in relation to the history of race..."

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aaron McGruder's Boondocks Parodies
Tyler Perry

McGruder Parodies Perry
by John-Martin Green

(A Guest Nubian Knight's Perspective)

Aaron McGruder has done it again. His parody of Tyler Perry on Boondocks has illuminated the pink elephant in the room. Perry, with our tacit consent, has become the most popular drag queen in America. In and of itself, that mightn't be so disorienting but for the irony in his steadfastly professing his heterosexuality and Christian devotion. (Not that heterosexual Christians can't cross-dress, but,) because we are so starved for stories about Black people attempting to love each other, we've given Perry a pass on issues like dark and light-skinned stereotyping, including demonizing dark-skinned brothers on the one hand, and feminizing them on the other.

As it happens, a major reason for the pass we've given Perry is that he panders to the stereotypes of our dreams - the stereotypes founded on the standards of beauty we have been acculturated and subconsciously subscribe to. Only last month, CNN reported the scientific re-enactment of the Doll Test, demonstrating that many of us are still training our children to see light skin and "good hair" as preferable attributes. I suppose it's hard not to, with the inexorable messages from the dominant society directing us to value their traits over our own.

Insofar as Perry's sexual bent is concerned, to the extent that he may be conflicted, (and there is no law that says that he is) he is entitled to that conflict. If, in fact, he is a repressed homosexual, he may well be a perfect example of the extent to which gay identity doesn't work for many (if not most) same-sex prone Black folk. When gay liberationists urge homosexuals of all stripes to 'come out' as gay, they fail to take into account the fact that, gay identity is founded on mom, apple pie and other distinctly eurocentric values and iconography. Lest we forget, those symbols are the same ones under which Blacks lived in American apartheid (Jim Crow) at the advent of the gay liberation movement. It would appear that, in the same way that it is hard for us not to value their physical traits over our own, it is also difficult for us not to value their identifications over our own.

If gay is liberating for all homosexuals, one wonders why, with the exception of say, Wanda Sykes, more wealthy, highly-placed Black homosexuals don't 'come out.' The question (undergirding the answer) is, 'Come out to what?' White homosexuals, the architects of gay identity, have built empires to support that identity - think Chelsea, Fire Island, Provincetown, Key West, West Hollywood, and San Francisco, to name a few - districts where they own and control land, properties, businesses, and the means of production. They even have a mafia now.

While Perry owns a budding media empire, he doesn't own it on a landscape where we have engineered anything like control. Control comes of staking out an identity, and then branding that identity until it becomes imprinted in the popular imagination, as has gay. Resisting adopting our own identification of our sexuality is folly.

The role of satire is to expose follies, vices and abuse. McGruder is a brilliant satirist.

John-Martin Green is co-founder and Executive Director of The Black Men’s Xchange-New York (BMX-NY), an empowerment organization of same gender loving (SGL) and bisexual African descended men which works to bridge gaps and build dialogue and community with the larger Black community. BMX-NY is a pro-Black organization built on a philosophy that embraces same gender loving experience as an intrinsic facet of everyday Black life. Integral to BMX-NY’s approach is the understanding that, in order to decrease internal and external homo-reactionary thinking, and demystify differences around diverse ways of living, loving and being, homosexual, bisexual and transgendered Black people must engage in supportive dialogue with each other and the community.

John-Martin is also Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Blackberry Productions, Inc. Theatre Company (BP). Through BP John-Martin creates original theatre that reflects untold stories and history of African Americans, and uses the arts in schools and community-based-organizations to nurture the cultural health of our communities. An important facet of the cultural work John-Martin and his cohorts have undertaken lo the past twenty-five years lies in excavating the history and culture of Africans in the Diaspora, towards reconnecting us with ourselves. As we remember who we are, we are empowered to act as agents in our own struggle, our own progress.

As an educator, Mr. Green was a Co-founder and Co-Director over a decade, of Changing Scenes, an OBIE Award winning arts-based crisis intervention program for juvenile offenders. There he created a theatre workshop wherein participants explored their relationship to issues of human needs, power , control, self-concept, personal responsibility and societal expectations. At the Young Adult Learning Academy with BP, Mr. Green helped create interdisciplinary arts-based curricula that sparked creativity and receptivity to learning. Mr. Green has taught theatre at New School University, Brooklyn College, and SUNY campuses at Old Westbury and Nassau Community College.

He holds a BFA in Drama from Bard College and an MFA in Directing from Brooklyn College.

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