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Guest columists

Hot Tea and Ice 12

Who Do You Think You Arr?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

    Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for spring to officially arrive. I love the opportunity to bundle up with thick sweaters and strut my stuff in cute boots, but I’d much rather leave the house wearing a light jacket or long sleeves rather than worry about a bulky coat. But seasons come and seasons go. All we can do is carry on and look good in the process.

     For those who keep up with such things, March is recognized as Women’s History Month.  For 31 days, we aim to recognize those women who have made strides in so many different arenas, ranging from politics to business.  For example, you have Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress.     

     Then there’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education, who at the age of 17 became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Ms. Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against the suppression of children and young people, and her battle to help guarantee the right of education for all children.

     We honor Katherine Johnson, who helped send a man into space.  There’s Shonda Rhimes, who keeps us glued to our devices every Thursday. We celebrate our foremothers, our sister superstars and those who are up and coming. We pay tribute to those women who know who they are and what they are “working with”–and don’t shy away from letting others know who they are, what they have done, and can do.

     During Women’s History Month, we recognize those women who know the value of their achievements and didn’t shy away from being proud of their talents. As a woman who is not ashamed of admitting I Goggle myself to remind myself of all that I’ve achieved, I fully support being proud of the things that set you apart.

     As the saying goes, it’s not bragging if it’s true. If you have something to be proud of, celebrate it to the fullest!  Don’t hide your talent under a bush. Let your  little light shine.

    There’s no worth in doubting your value. Be vocal about all that makes you special and trumpet your talents. You are exceptional.   And while you may not have snatched up trophies on a national stage, you have conquered something.  Don’t  shy away from being proud of that achievement.

     My mother likes to tell the story of how she graduated top of her class in nursing school, but never really talked about it that much because she didn’t want to be seen as a show-off.  If I were able to work a full-time job, carry a full course load and still have time to catch Parliament Funkadelic shows whenever they came through D.C., I’d have no problem letting everyone know.

     If you don’t celebrate yourself, not one else will. Be proud and promote yourself.   I’m not endorsing purchasing a roadside billboard or a full page newspaper ad, but nothing is wrong with letting people know how and where your skill sets “soar.”

     If you know something about a topic, don’t be afraid to speak up and share your experience. Get involved in projects where your experience can be an asset. Trust that your achievements are worthy of being known, and that you’re the best person to make sure everyone knows how much of a superstar you are.

     For so long, the notion of being proud and sharing your achievements was looked down upon as being unseemly. Put But now more than ever, it’s important to let others know how you manage to excel because it serves as example that it can be done.   Put your pluses out there, and prove that success is possible.

     While March is Women’s History Month, seize the remaining days to celebrate and share your own points of pride. Who knows:  maybe your accomplishments will earn you a spot during an upcoming history month run-down!

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Mark’s Surreality 2

“The Greatest Love Affair of All”

 Guest Writer: Mark O. Estes     

       Picture, if you will, a young, Black man on a personal journey during the chaos known as New Orleans at Mardi Gras. He ends up in an establishment on Bourbon Street where the music is just as lively as the gyrating bodies keeping up with its heavy bass and melodic beats. In the middle of this vivacious crowd stands two older Black men, gay and deeply in love, dancing with each other passionately.

     The young Black man was mesmerized by this striking scene.  He realized that not only were these two lovers thoroughly enjoying themselves–apparently without a care in the world–but that also, the crowd around them seemed to feel the same way.

      There weren’t any stares of disgust. No forms of childish finger-pointing or giggling. Just harmonizing love.

      Peaceful, harmonizing love.

     And they did not care.  THEY did nocare

     This wrecking ball of a revelation crashed into something deeply personal for that young Black man.  That wrecking ball was always aimed at the fortress surrounding his mind and soul, but was never successful of breaking through—regardless of the person or literature delivering the message.

     “They” did not care.  Nobody cares, Mark.

      As the young Black man watched this beautiful Black couple enjoy their life– their unconditional love serving as a beacon of hope–one of the lovers spotted him, possibly feeling the young Black man’s intense gaze upon him and his mate. The older Black gentleman matched his younger counterpart’s gaze of interest and awe; but instead of annoyance, there was an instant connection between the two.

     Maybe it was the sense of wonder emanating from the young Black man who encouraged the older gentleman to hold his gaze with this arresting person. Or maybe it was the freshly purchased rainbow pride flag clutched proudly in the younger man’s hand, its bright and bold colors reflecting the revelatory awakening spirit generating their connection at that very moment. Whatever the case, that moment was purely magical on so many levels; tear-inducing, almost.

      The older gentleman, still dancing seductively with his lover, gradually made his way to the young Black man holding the rainbow pride flag; surprisingly, their gaze never faltered! As the couple made their way off the dance floor, the older gentleman walked towards the young Black man with whom he’d just shared a temporary connection.  Then, he pounded fists with his new comrade, a knowing smile enveloping his face.

     The mutual gesture might seem menial to most people; but at that very instant, that fist pound served as the final strike against the blockage within that young man’s mind. Life began to seep through the cracks of his steely resolve until it couldn’t withstand the restless pressure, finally giving in to the weight of a long-awaited breath that was impossible to hold any longer.

     The young Black man became fluid in his surroundings.  The fear that had haunted him for most of his 30 years of existence evaporated into the hazy smoke and sultry environment of that New Orleans club’s atmosphere.  

     And at that moment, the young Black man – excuse me, I – started to really LIVE!

     That fist pound was like an electrical charge, a skeleton key, an inheritance of sorts to a life worth living!  It released me.  It demanded me to live in the moment– and to live for myself. 

     Yes, that message was drilled into my head since before college, but it was always a mirage of sorts when it came time for me to put the sound advice into play.

     I never believed it.  Not until that night!  That’s when I really felt it. The brick to the face divulgence felt supernatural, as if that specific fixed moment in time was supposed to happen. As if that mesmerizing beautiful couple were Angels manifested to properly deliver the message that was constantly getting returned to Sender. My God!  I’d never felt so emotionally free before in my entire life–and actually believed it.

     It’s incredible how something so small and innocent can change someone’s life around in one given, random moment. I hope that I will do the same for someone else one day; but until then, I will continue loving me.  I will continue building me. I will continue being me.

    Falling in love with yourself is the greatest love affair of all.  Everything else just comes naturally afterwards.


Mark O. Estes is a writer, editor, columnist and librarian, who earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Mr. Estes is a writer and editor for both The Big Boy Project and The Male Media Mind, dynamic and cutting edge infotainment sites that are specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them.  Also, Mark is penning his debut novel.  You may reach Mark at buildingmysteries.wordpress.com; Twitter, @theanticritic; Instagram, markoestes.

Balancing My Virtues and Vices

“The Virtues of Communication” 

Guest Writer:  Ja’Won T. Blackmon 

     After pondering my experiences as part of the LGBTQ community, I’ve learned so many things about myself, and the friends and acquaintances whom I have crossed paths with along the way. The variety and multitude of issues, facts and opinions are always interesting to listen–and respond to, as well.

    Whether it be relationships, acceptance, families and friends, money, professionalism–or just our culture in general–it’s never a dull moment!  And, it  allows me to see things for what they truly are—albeit contradictory or brutally honest. Therefore, after introducing myself, I figured I’d explore a continuing hot-button issue in our community:  how we as LGBTQ individuals communicate with one another. 

    But first:  just who is Ja’Won T. Blackmon?  Born in Belle Glade, Florida, I’m a Polymath Renaissance Man.  You may ask, “Exactly what is that?”  It means that while I have a pretty substantial base of knowledge, I’m continuing to learn, and acquire other talents.  I’m also part of the Big Boi Community (bears/big boys of color–and those who have an affinity for them).

    I’ve had a number of careers, including IT.  Currently, I’m social media specialist and peer counselor for STAND (Standing To Achieve New Directions), Inc., a non-profit organization.  STAND provides comprehensive solutions and evidence-based interventions to underserved individuals dealing with HIV, mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and re-entry.   

     My passion is strongly rooted in helping people, particularly in the arenas of technology, teaching and mediating.  Twice, I discovered my talent for helping others. When I was a teacher’s aide in the eighth grade, I was given the opportunity to teach a sixth grade class for an entire year. The second time was when I saved a high school freshman from bullying, domestic violence and suicide.

     These experiences have given my life more meaning and purpose.  As a result, I felt that I wasn’t alone in this world with the conflicts that plagued it.  I realized that I, too, could make a difference.

     Now, let’s delve into how we communicate with one another–particularly in  dating and sex situations.  Do we consistently portray who we actually are?  Do we always openly and honestly convey what we’re really looking for and what we really want?     

     One’s true intention is a crucial component of open, honest and effective communication.  For example, have you ever had an exchange on a social media platform, and the individual says, “Hey,” “‘Sup,” or “Hi”; he follows up with vague and predictable questions regarding physical stats, along with arbitrary phrases (“Cool.” “Okay.”  “That’s what’s up!”)

     Then, he’s sometimes bold enough to take the “conversation” to the sexual realm with no type of substance or direction towards the actual motive.  Next, the conversation seems to “hit the corner of two main roads,” meaning that the conversation reaches a destination or point by avoiding the proper path of execution.  Picture it like this:  a driver can mess up the flow of traffic by purposely driving on the curve, causing bumps and damage to the vehicle, himself,  passenger(s), other drivers and pedestrians.

     Here’s another:  how about when someone tries to hide his true intentions, only to reveal those very intentions at the most annoying times?  What about the unwanted and unwarranted picture or video link that person sent that makes you question their existence?   What about those nude photos people post and send practically everywhere?  (Now, that can be quite risky:  do you know how folks will use them?)  And, what about the inexplicable dead air on a phone or video call?

     It’s my opinion that more than a few men need to seriously consider changing their behaviors. First and foremost, we need to be honest with ourselves before approaching and/or engaging with someone. Then, it’s imperative to be forthcoming and transparent.  There’s no need for hidden motives! (That’s for super villains.)  Besides, that’s such a waste of valuable time.

     In my humble opinion, the direct approach is always best. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  

     I find it quite interesting that one can work hard at communicating effectively on the job, but then struggle (or not) to put in the required effort when getting to know someone in social—and particularly intimate—situations.  Successful communication is absolutely crucial: be it in the work place, in familial and friendship relationships, in the process of getting to know one another romantically—or just for that booty call

     Here’s the bottom line:  we need to make our intentions crystal clear–and consistently.  If you’re hitting me up on a “dating” app, be clear whether you’re looking for a real date—or just sex. Remember the old adage, “Honesty is the best policy?”  Well, it actually is!  It cuts out confusion, and safeguards against hurt feelings.

     Open, honest and effective communication are sorely needed in our community. And, let’s not forget to include integrity and respect.  In other words, let’s get it right!

     And “back on point.”

     Until next time ….


Ja’Won T. Blackmon is arguably the quintessential “Polymath Renaissance Man.”  He’s had a number of diverse careers, including internet technology (IT).  Currently, Ja’Won is Social Media Specialist and Peer Counselor for STAND (Standing To Achieve New Directions), Inc., a non-profit organization.  STAND provides comprehensive solutions and evidence-based interventions to underserved individuals dealing with HIV, mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and re-entry.  Ja’Won is in the process of writing his first novel.  You may follow Ja’Won at his on line home, Jtbchronicles.wordpress.com, and on Facebook.

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 14

“The Power of Prayer”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman  

  1. I pray that the doctors find out what illness my friend has, and cures him.
  2. I pray that my cousin graduates high school, continues on to college, and stops hanging with the wrong crowd–before he ends up in jail.
  3. I pray that my fifth novel, “Honey Hush, Don’t Ask and I Won’t Tell” (the next installment of my “Honey Let Me Tell You” book series), finally is released because it’s a year overdue.
  4. I pray that my most impoverished relative and friend both be bestowed with many blessings in 2016.

     You see, this list has been in a sealed envelope in my bible since January 1, 2016.

     So, on New Year’s Day 2017, I sat in a comfortable chair in my den. It’s that place in my home where I can relax and be at one with my thoughts. It’s  where I can think about the past, present and future. It’s that one area where I feel a sense of inner peace, and feel closer to God.

     It’s my inner sanctum.

     My understated, cozy den has a large shelf that spans the length of one wall, and is filled with all types of books–including my series of novels.       As the shadows from the fireplace illuminated the room and emanated a sense of calm, I reminisced about the past year.

     I thought about all the things that I had hoped to accomplish:  acquiring a new job and home, earning more money, writing another book–just so many things that I wanted to do.

     Every year we have hopes, dreams and goals for what we want to do in the coming year. We ponder those things that will make our lives better. Every year we make resolutions.

     And then at the end of the year, we sit around and think about what we have actually accomplished, and ruminated about the things we want to do in the next year. 

     We think about getting a new job.  Losing or gaining weight.  Changing our lifestyle, or entering into a relationship.

     We think about what we hope and wish for, and then we set out to accomplish those goals.

     But what do most of us end up doing? 

     For the first month or so, we do the best we can to meet our goals. We think about it, put our efforts into it–and strive to achieve it. We instill the thought of achievement in our minds and go for it.

     We try doing this practically every day until slowly but surely, the thrill is gone. The urge of achieving our goals eventually subsides. Then we forget about it until the next year, when the cycle of making and keeping New Year’s resolutions starts all over again.

     For example, a friend of mine wanted to get into a new relationship so he went on date after date after date. But that didn’t last long.  I suppose that he tired of the “calls answering for the booty.”

     Another friend wanted to lose weight, so every morning he went to the gym and worked out. That lasted for a little over a month. Then he went back to sitting in front of his TV. I guess he missed the feel of his butt print on his comfortable couch! (LOL.)

R.L. Norman     And then, there’s me. One of the things I wanted to do in the New Year was to try to eat right, and become a vegetarian.   But because I missed eating meat, that lasted about two days! (Hmmmmm…LOL!)

     But keep in mind that with all our efforts, if we don’t succeed in meeting our goals, we are not failures. Our intentions are good.

     And for a while, I was one of those people. But for the last several years, I’ve changed my ways.

     Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I make a prayer wish list to my God.

     I compose a list of ten things that I want to happen in the coming year. Five things are for me, and five are for family and friends. Then I seal the envelope, get on my knees and say a prayer to God for these blessings to come true. Then I put it in my bible and leave it there until the next New Year’s Day.

     And on that day, I sit in my comfortable chair, open that envelope, and read the list to see which wishes have been answered.

     Keep in mind that I don’t do this as a test of God’s ability to answer my prayers; instead, it’s an alternative to making resolutions.  Simply, it’s my special prayer list to my God. The power of prayer is wonderful because:

  1. The doctors did find out that my friend has curable cancer. His health is improving by leaps and bounds.   
  2. My cousin did graduate high school. Currently, he’s enrolled in Tuskegee University,with an internship job in electrical engineering.
  3. My fifth book was published, and is doing quite well in sales.
  4. And the biggest miracle was that a friend who’d lost pretty much everything:his money, job and possessions due to identity fraud, is now in a new home and a great job.

     You see, I approach the New Year with encouragement and faith in

myself, others–and especially God.   

     The lesson?  To live day-by-day doing the best we can to be the best we can be.

     And the power of prayer does work!  Prayer is a wonderful thing, but only if we have the faith to believe that we will achieve and succeed.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 11

Who Do You Think You Are?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I send well wishes, and hope that 2017 has been filled with good things. We are not going to talk about what happened in D.C. on the third Friday of this month. It is enough to say we should not focus on being discouraged. Instead, we need to commit ourselves to being active, and refuse to let anyone ignore or minimize our value and contributions to this country.

     Within this climate of wanting to minimize the diversity that strengthens our community, I want to step forward and represent myself fully. I am a Black-Southern-Virgo-East Carolina University graduate-only child-pet owner-lesbian. That’s just for starters! With enough time I could list even more hyphenated identified groups of which I’m proud to belong.

     Depending on the setting, one hyphen might take center stage more than the others. For those who follow social media, J16 saw a lot of doves flying, and blue and white profiling in recognition of my sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., celebrating its ninety-seventh Founders’ Day. There wereabundances of graphics incorporating our national symbol–the white dove–soaring around.   

     If you read my books, you know I own being born and reared in the land of sweet tea and “Bless Her Hearts,” known as the South.  I’m proud of all the facets of my identity. While I may not celebrate them all the time, I have no problems claiming them.

     Our distinctive hyphens make us exceptional. We should never diminish our shine in order to make someone else feels comfortable. You should claim all your methods of belonging and identifying because it celebrates that you accept all that you are, and never just one thing. Those of us with hyphenated identities are mosaic masterpieces. The sum of the pieces makes a one-of-a-kind work of art.

     Far be it for me to make the process of walking boldly when others want you to fragment your identity seem easy, for it is not. For a lot of us, it’s easier to not claim our space as a woman, person of color, same-gender-loving individual, and immigrant in order to assimilate. However, when you remove a piece of your puzzle or try to rework your edges, it feels unnatural and ends up being unnecessary.

     Now more than ever, it is important that we wear our hyphens boldly. We cannot fade away or leave a piece of us behind on the nightstand or in the car when we venture into the world. Representing to the fullest is a mandate we need to follow through on every chance we get. Others are watching, and when they see us showing up in all our fullest, they have two choices. Get with the program and allow our brilliance to flourish, or get back.

     Maybe your hyphens are immigrant-Muslim-historically Black university graduate-single mother-Pisces or same-gender-loving-Trinidadian-bearded-Floridian-divorced-veteran. So many combinations contribute to the achievement that is us. We all have different hyphens; and depending on the situation, the order changes. The key is to never be ashamed of any of them.

     Claiming your hyphens and brightly beaming all the facets of your personality like a diamond are powerful. We need to claim that, and walk boldly and dare someone not to salute our greatness.

     So, as we move forward into a new year with new leadership (which may not be your choice), realize that within all parts of your identity is the tool to endure and inspire. Draw upon those hyphens, and force those who want to doubt your validity to see that you are too fabulous and fulfilled to be denied. While some may see hyphens as strikes, they instead can be seen as building blocks to help you soar and get over the hurdle.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Mark’s Surreality

“The Divine Power of Surreality”

 Guest Writer: Mark O. Estes

      Per Webster’s Dictionary, the word surreal means “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; unbelievable; fantastic.” The latest election; the virulent spread of false information in the form of memes, fake news sites, and sheer stupidity; and personal demons have all coalesced into a hazy blanket of what seems like a dream and an irrational reality.  My view of the world has changed, and I would be lying if I said it was for the better.

     But as I learned while I was in the early years of college (actually when I was a kid writing “The Goonies” fan fiction before it became a “thing” fifteen to twenty years later…), writing, for me, is therapeutic. It not only helps me make sense of the world, but it also helps me deal and live within it as well. And as I enter this next leg of my journey into uncharted, yet familiar territory with the “Orange Man” rising to power, my love of and sheer dependence on writing will be the  walking stick/guide through this surreal landscape known to me as my “surreality.”

     So what is “Mark’s Surreality?” This column will feature my journey through the surreal oddities, the trying tribulations, and the awarding triumphs of my life sprinkled with enough fiction to keep the reader guessing what’s real and what’s a simple, yet complex creation of my mind. I look at the set up as a casual view of the world through my eyes: noir tinted and constantly wondering whether I’m awake, “woke,” still dreaming, alive, or in a later stage of death. In other words, little to nothing will be as it seems here.

     Will I always be cryptic? Nope. Complex? I don’t know. Depends on my  mood–which tends to change with the tide. I’m spontaneous, and that keeps not only my audience on their toes, but me as well. One week I may hit you with a piece of biting commentary on the latest chapter of my or the world’s never ending saga, and the next week I may just simply give you some experimental fiction that may or may not be entrenched in some form of my reality.

     Just know it’s going to be some odd shit, regardless.

     Before we go there, some background information. I’m a thirty-three-year old Black gay male residing in a small country town who despises my being. I work as a librarian, am the middle child of my family, and strive to be a successful author. I am a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; class of 2008. I do love to travel, and I am a contributor/editor with both The Big Boy Project and Male Media Mind.

     I’m not your “average” black gay male. Nor do I strive to be. My musical tastes are as eclectically loud as Joseph’s magic colored coats. My views, while not radical, are unorthodox in nature. I can view things from a bubble like most red-blooded humans; but sometimes bubbles must burst from time to time. I am a pop culture junky, but I love the complex literature of Bret Easton Ellis, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, and more. I also have a love/hate relationship with people.

     I am a social butterfly loner. I value my darkness just as much as the lighter side of my being. I say all this to warn you of what’s to come. And I don’t mean the Orange Man’s upcoming reign of terror, because my surreality isn’t for the faint of heart, nor the impatient, or the close-minded.

     Before I go, I would like to thank Wyatt O’Brian Evans for this opportunity and platform. I pray I uphold his well-established brand to the best of my ability, while trying to build and secure my own voice and brand recognition.


Mark O. Estes is a writer, editor, columnist and librarian, who earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Mr. Estes is a writer and editor for both The Big Boy Project and The Male Media Mind, dynamic and cutting edge infotainment sites that are specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them.  Also, Mark is penning his debut novel.  You may reach Mark at buildingmysteries.wordpress.com; Twitter, @theanticritic; Instagram, markoestes.

Hot Tea and Ice 10

Looking Back to Move Forward

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

 

    Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Can you believe it has been an entire twelve months since we were introduced? My, doesn’t time fly! For those whose 2016 has been filled with all kinds of shiny and new things, I send thoughts of congratulations and celebrations.

    For others, this has been a year filled with losses and setbacks. For you, I offer a virtual hug and hope things are looking better and brighter.

    We only have to look at the in-memoriam ticker running on our TV news programs to realize that a lot of our great talents and loved ones shed this earthly coil and became the dearly departed.  Also, depending on how your voter’s registration card looked, the election results may not have been your preferred outcome.

    But in a few weeks, an electronic apple, peach, acorn, or whatever your municipalities use to mark the transition will drop, and 2016 will be in the record books–and a new year will be on deck.

    2017 is a blank slate right now. It awaits our actions to define how it will be remembered. Will this be the year our greatest hopes will be realized?  Or will this year be filled with disappointments so profound that it makes the heart heavy? Who knows?

    The new year is ripe with potential to inspire, impress, and improve our lives in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. But with all this looking forward, let’s not forget how we got here.

    There is a saying about what happens when you don’t remember past mistakes. It implies that forgetting incorrect actions results in those actions being repeated. No matter what happened during the past 365 days–be it good, bad, or indifferent–we should not let the lessons learned to stay in the past. We need to bring them forth, and be prepared to put them to good use.

    For me, 2016 provided so many opportunities! I began writing this column, reconnected with three friends through social media who saw me through the best and worst of times, and pursued an opportunity to enlarge my family unit.

    The year also resulted in me losing a member of my family who helped influence my view of what a true man should be–lover of family and friends, faithful to his church and community, and not afraid to get his hands dirty when the time called for it.  That family member was my great-uncle, who after serving in the Korean War, was both a gardener and garbage man.   

    I also bade a final farewell to one of the LGBTQ Pride organizers I had worked with for the past seven years. She was an inspiration and influence to so many dominant lesbian women in the Durham community.

    As well, she was someone I considered a friend. Her influence was so strong that my fiancee asked her thoughts about proposing to me—along with asking my mother for my hand in marriage.

    And through the evolution of two of the organizations I work with, I also came to realize that my leadership styles needed to be tweaked in order to be successful and faithful to the causes I supported.

    In short, 2016 gave me the opportunities to learn so many lessons. The challenge for me, for you, for us all is to take those lessons and move forward with them. Sometimes, unlike Lot’s wife, you have to look back to appreciate where you are going.

    We have to realize that while the erroneous steps we took in the past can’t be wiped out, we can still move forward in a better direction if we apply the lessons our mistakes provide us. 

    There is no shame in admitting that our actions weren’t always the best and that the outcomes weren’t always good. While dwelling in the past never saved anyone, seeing where you went wrong and avoiding doing the same thing again is a solution that doesn’t cost. Your experience is proof of bill paid.

    Time should allow us to see more clearly what went wrong, and that a new year is the opportunity to take that insight and move forward. Reflect on the situations, retain the lessons you learn–and realize you can move forward.

    Many of us begin the New Year with a list filled with things we are going to do differently. That’s great!  But accept that one of the best ways to be successful is to acknowledge the times you failed, so that you can take that knowledge to strengthen your resolve to get it right this time.

    I hope to learn from my past to let people know when I appreciate what and how they do things, instead of assuming they know how I feel. I also want to be more diligent about being open to other people’s ideas instead of operating in the following way:  that just because director/president goes behind my name, it  doesn’t mean I can’t be challenged and open to different methods of doing things. 

    My motto for 2017 is this:  as long as I can open my eyes on a new day, there is a chance to improve on my mistakes and avoid making new ones. Part of that plan is to think about what I have experienced so I can appreciate and handle what is coming for and to me.  I encourage us all to reflect and be open to using that knowledge to shape what lies ahead.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 9

Family Matters:  Not the TV Show

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  The holiday time is upon us with all the trappings that come with it. Travels plans will be made. Diets will be broken. And of course, the holidays are also the time that the concept of how much family matters is held up as a standard.

     For many of us, family is a mother who complains either you put on too much weight, or it looks like you aren’t eating enough. It is that cousin who needs to borrow money and promises to pay you back when she gets her income tax check. Don’t forget about that one aunt who never misses a chance to ask when you are going to find a good woman and settle down, totally ignoring the fact that you have brought Darryl as your plus-one for ten years to every family gathering.

     The coming together of those who share your last name and some of your facial features takes place throughout the year–but really starts being a constant factor during the latter half of the year. We gather around Thanksgiving tables, Christmas trees, Kwanzaa mkekas, and plates of pork and greens to mark the New Year. The families we are born into share laughs about old memories, shed tears for those no longer with us, and swap differing viewpoints about issues.

     For every one of us who looks forward to spending time with our assigned families, there are those who shiver at the thoughts of spending one hour, minute, or second with our relatives. Those families shame, shun, and silence those who don’t meet their expectations.  As the saying goes, no one can hurt you more than your family.  And for so many, this is especially true during the holidays.

LaToya Hankins

     This year will mark the fourth holiday I will spend with my partner and my forty-fourth one with my mom. This year, however, will be my first one with a trio of young people I hope will become part of my larger family unit.

     My partner and I recently went through foster parent treatment, and are looking to open our hearts and homes to a set of extended relatives seeking a safe place to grow and thrive.  We are in the process of starting our own version of family.

     We all have created families that go beyond the ones we are born into. For some, family is the neighbor who looked out for your place when you traveled out of town; and in return, you blessed that neighbor with the outpouring of your kitchen. For others, it is your work buddy, her wife, their kids and the baby daddy who makes the bomb mac and cheese–so they let him come around during the holidays. Still, for some, it’s your “boys” who have been with you through one wife, two boyfriends, three jobs, and more nights spent at the club that either of you will ever want to admit.  However family shows up, the point is that it’s a family that we create.

     I encourage us all to be open to redefining our views of family, and challenge us to keep that definition fluid as life changes. Accept what life hands you, and shape it to ensure that you always have someone around you that supports and nurtures you.

     In creating a new family structure, embrace the fact that you don’t have to spend extraordinary amounts of time with folks who don’t love you for who you are at this stage in your life. There are too many ride-sharing programs and public transportation options to spend a minute more with someone who doesn’t celebrate you. Family obligations are burdens that sometime have to be carried, but guard your spirit as much as you can to avoid it breaking you.  While Uncle Skinny is going on about whatever his liquor is telling him to talk about, turn your mind toward the gathering you are going to have with the family that loves you.

     The key to the family is not if you all look alike or even think alike. The value of creating your own version of family is that you understand each other and want the best things possible. I challenge us to respect the family we have created, and flourish from the strength it gives to accept ourselves.

      So this year, when I grasp hands to say the traditional Thanksgiving recitations of things for which I am grateful, there will be three extra names and experiences I will list.  And, I will do this surrounded by someone who shares my last name, someone who shares my home, and someone who shares my hope for a future filled with great things.

Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 13

“Hands Down, Hands Up” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

      As I sat in the back of the car waiting, I was blinded by all the flashing lights. Vehicles were slowing down as they passed by, with the drivers trying to get a glimpse of what was happening. With all the people who were trying to get a look at me, you would have thought I was a movie star!

     I will admit that the scene did look like something out of a movie–as I sat there with my head down, trying not to show my face.

     I was nervous as I waited for what seemed like an eternity. And who wouldn’t be nervous as they sat handcuffed in the back of a police car like I was?

     You see, in a split-second, my life was turned upside down.

     An hour ago, everything was fine! I was at a bar hanging out with some friends. We were having a great time laughing, joking, meeting and greeting.

     During the evening, the bartender approached and placed a drink in front of me. He motioned across to a handsome gentleman.

     I picked up the free drink, looked towards him, and nodded, “Thank you.”

     He smiled back! And within minutes, he was sitting next to me–hypnotizing me with his dark brown eyes.  

     We talked for a while as I tried to envision him naked. I tried to picture him and me in our “birthday suits,” rolling around the bed exploring each other’s bodies–and feeding our sexual desires! As he was staring into my eyes, he was taking over my mind. That’s how intrigued I was. 

      At one point, I was so worked up that the bulge rising in the front of my pants was becoming obvious. So, I excused myself.  I told him I’d be right back as I made my way to the restroom.

     When I returned, my new friend had bought me another drink.

    After a while, my friends came up to me, saying they were ready to leave.

     Of course, my new friend wanted me to stay.  However, I declined:  mainly because I’d had my three-drink limit. One thing I never, ever do is drink and drive. I know my limit and when to go straight home.  That’s what I intended to do.

     After exchanging phone numbers, he was rather persistent in wanting to walk me to my car.  I figured that he wanted to place his sweet lips on mine and kiss me goodnight. But my friends intervened, and we all walked out together.

     And the last thing I remembered was getting into my car! After that, the next thing I knew was that the police were knocking on my driver’s side window, asking me to get out of the car.

     I was so dazed and confused that I didn’t know where I was! As I got out of the car, I noticed the one in front of mine. It was obvious that I’d hit this vehicle because there was damage to both cars.

R.L. Norman

    I stood with my hands up as the cop kept asking me for my license and registration.

    “OMG, what did I do? I hope I didn’t hurt anyone.” Those were the thoughts ringing in my head as I struggled to remember what had transpired.

     After I told the cop several times that I didn’t know what had happened, he told me to put my hands down as he handcuffed me.  Then, he put me in the back of the police car.

     As I sat there looking at all the chaos that was happening around me, I tried to recall the events of the evening. The police assumed that I was a drunk driver that crashed into another car.

     Luckily, my case turned out well. First of all, thank God no one was hurt! But my precious mini-cooper did have serious front-end damage. After the police investigated, they realized that I was not driving drunk– but instead had been drugged. You see, the man I met at the bar spiked my drink. He was a con artist who tried to walk me to my car and have me pass out so that he could rob me–and then steal my car.  Thankfully, the police caught him.

     But during this entire ordeal, I was not scared of the cops. The police treated me well. I did not feel threatened. They did not harass me or overexert their power. They were simply doing their job.

     That happened thirty years ago, in 1986. During those days, we were not afraid of the police. And the police were not openly afraid of us as black men.

     But now, in the year 2016, times have changed. It seems like every day we hear about another senseless killing of a black man by a white cop. It seems like every day we hear about a white cop pulling over a black driver–who ends up dead.

     It’s funny how times seem to come full circle. Back in the day, black slaves were afraid of their white masters. They would try their best not to cause any problems, in fear of being hurt or even killed by their masters.

     It seems like that is what is happening now. We, as black men, have to be afraid of the white police officer.  We are in fear that we will wind up on that long list of black men being murdered by the law.  And, we fear that the police have a “shoot to kill” attitude instead of shoot to wound.  As well, there’s that fear that we are being executed to slowly diminish the black population.

    Just like the black slaves were afraid to be killed by their masters, we are afraid that we will be murdered by the very ones who are supposed to protect and serve us. And afraid that slowly it will be us against them–a test of survival.

    However, all cops are not bad. But unfortunately these days, we can’t tell who is good or bad. We have to be careful because it appears that if we make the slightest movement while in the presence of an officer, it will result in the “stamp of approval” to murder us.  

    So, it seems that we are going back to the days of slavery where we as black men have to fear the so-called master–now the police.

    These days, hands down we have to be afraid of the police–with our hands up. God help us all.


        R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The latest installment entitled, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask I Won’t Tell,” is now available in e-book format.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L.also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else,debuted January 1 on itunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 8

“Grown Folks’ Friendships”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Sending wishes, and hope fall is doing right by you. For many of us, it is time to move away from shorts and open-toe shoes to sweaters and sturdy footwear. Nights are getting longer, temperatures are dropping and before you know it, store aisles will be decorated for the winter holidays.

For those keeping score from my last column, I am now five years from fifty. My partner threw a phenomenal surprise birthday party for me. In attendance were co-workers, fellow writers, and folks I consider friends. Those in attendance have seen me through a few ups and downs. The get-together was a great experience not only because of the presents received, but also for the faces in the place.

Looking around at the diverse group that makes up my circle, I realized the power of grown folks’ friendships is often underrated. Many of us had ‘best friends’ when we were younger.  Mine were named Charlotte, Vicki, and Jodi. Those friends were the ones we swapped lunches with at schools, took turns spending time at each other’s homes, and got into trouble when we ”acted like we were grown.”

 For a lot of us, friendships formed through neighborhood or educational settings helped us pass a class, get that special someone’s phone number, or exposed us to worlds unlike our own. My friendships introduced me to different religions, family structures, and racial differences.

Friendships formed before the age of consent are fine. I celebrate those who have childhood friends they still hold dear. But I would venture, it is friendships formed once reaching adulthood that really help us become better people.

I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with the friendship of several people who helped me rise to a higher level of being an adult. Those friendships sparked me to start and end relationships by pointing out things I willfully ignored. My friends supported my visions when I was reluctant to stretch out. 

My adult friends are risk takers and empire builders. They have traveled the world, started empowerment projects for women from scratch, and refused to let their assigned gender keep them from expressing themselves as God intended.

We have taught each other so much by living our lives and allowing each other to be a part of the journey.

LaToya Hankins

Having the opportunity to see how other “grown folks” handle their business gives us the push to be on our game.  Adult friendships are the fuel that keeps the best of us moving forward. However, so many of us don’t take care with our adult friendships. We fail to realize once friendships are formed, they also need to be cultivated and nurtured in order to be successful.

We schedule dental appointments and get our hair/nails/feet done, but how often do we schedule time to support our friends?

Adult friendships allow us to not be “Daddy,” “Miss Hankins” or “Juror 91871.” We can be ourselves and share our ambitions and hurts in an environment that provides the support to get up when the world knocks you down.

Adult friends are invaluable resources, and you should ensure that they stay strong. I admit I have taken some of my adult friendships for granted. I didn’t take the time to make the calls just to check in or return that email in a timely fashion.  Friends I considered quite close soon faded away; and as they became “chance glimpses” on social media, I read the postings of their accomplishments.

In a life filled with little regret, my failure to maintain some of my adult friendships is one I carry.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one who shares that thought.

Unlike friendships when we were younger, adult friendship take work to maintain. People have schedules, family, and ten thousands things that need to be done. Still, the rewards are worth it.

The media is filled with portrayal of adult friendships. From The Best Man to Noah’s Arc toWaiting to Exhale. Challenge yourself to incorporate those portrayals into your own life.

My birthday wish for my readers is to reach out to those in your friendship circle to make sure that ties that bind stay strong. Make time to connect over coffee, cocktails, or whatever is legal in the state you reside in. No judgment: part of the fun of being an adult. My hope is that the payoff will be great, and it helps the rest of your adult life go a little bit better.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Slyer Than A Fox 3

Time: That Most Precious Commodity 

 Guest Writer: Buster Sly

     This past year has been challenging on a very personal level. After spending so much time away in Europe last year, I returned to the States when I find out that my mother had just been diagnosed with third stage cancer.  That came on the heels of the passing of my grandmother, uncle, stepmother and “baby” brother.

 

     As I struggled to work through the multitude of feelings caused by this succession of calamitous events, I retreated from work and friends.  I felt guilty for not being there for my family; you see, I’d been so focused on work and all that which went with it–including the long and involved hours spent sifting through data, maintaining my various social media sites, etc.  Consequently, this guilt weighed heavily on me.  And I’m continuing to wrestle with and sort out that–as well as the multitude of feelings I mentioned earlier. 

 

     I determined, therefore, that a balance is what I must seek, where family and friends are not taken for granted.  Putting off a call to a loved one for another day so that I can meet another deadline is no longer acceptable. 

 

     What it comes down to is priorities–along with accepting my limitations.   For instance, I will not travel abroad until there’s a viable solution, one that reduces my workload on the computer and allows me to focus on the things I do well and are necessary for financial survival and betterment.  I understand that this might rankle some fans, but it cannot be helped.

 

      This extended break was long overdue.  A while ago, someone whom I value and learned to listen to when she spoke of her life experiences posed this question:   “Do you live to work, or do you work to live?”   Food for thought, eh?

 

      After pondering that question, I came to the distinct conclusion that we all have a finite time on this planet.  As a result, my options these days are quite clear:  stay on the path I am on, and resentment will be front and center, while my quality of life takes a nosedive.  

 

     There will be many who may not understand why I have not responded to their messages. No matter what I say, there is no reference point for me to start that would give them a clear understanding of how futile it would be to try answering each and every message.

 

     We all should remember the following important tenet:  time is such a precious commodity!  I’m learning to respect and celebrate it.  Therefore, going forward, I vow to manage my time more efficiently. 

 

     It is essential–and my duty–to first offer time to those individuals whom are important to me.  And of course, this includes those I have grown to care for—and love.


Buster Sly is an in-demand Adult Entertainer and Model, who has worked for a number of diverse companies including Dark Alley Media/Raw F**k Club, Forbidden Funk Media, Oh Man! Studios, and SX Video.  Just last year, he had a months’ long, extremely successful European tour–which included live performances in clubs and modeling assignments for top photographers throughout Europe.  This year, Buster has several major projects on the horizon—including filming for the iconic Lucas Entertainment. You may follow Buster at his on line home, www.bustersly.com.   There you can find news, features, and how to contact him  for booking dates and more.

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 12

“The Master Plan” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

      I was standing on the side of the stage out of the line of sight from the audience. From my vantage point, I could only see a few people in the front rows. I had no idea how many people showed up for this event–my debut.

     You see, this was my very first public appearance of my one-man stand up show based on the character of “Norman” in my “Honey Let Me Tell You” book series.

     I planned to make the audience think, smile and laugh about life, love and relationships. It was my dream about to come to true. I’d planned to amuse them with the brief story of Norman‘s life with music, singing, dancing, jokes and language that will make you grab your non-existed pearls as your mouths falls open.

     So, I was standing there, reviewing my notes as I was about to go on stage. Nervously, I waited for the moment of truth to arrive! And then, I heard the announcer say;

     “And now, welcome to the stage, debuting his one-man show titled, “Norman’s One Night Stand,” …here’s Mr. R.L. Norman!”

     As I heard the applause, several people behind me wished me good luck.  Next, I proceeded to the stage’s center.

     As I looked around the room, which was filled to capacity, all eyes were on me. I was shocked that the place was packed!

     Who would’ve known that these many people wanted to see me, or even that they knew where Fort Washington, Maryland was?  And then, I stared back at all the people who were staring back at me.

     “R.L.? R.L.?”  Several people were whispering my name from the sidelines of the stage. 

     “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Norman?” they were asking.

     I simply could not move!  In my mind, I really wanted to leave the stage, run all the way home, jump in my bed, pull the covers over my head and hide.

     That’s because I was frozen with fright! 

     Stage fright that is.

     I stood there holding the microphone to my open mouth like I was deciding whether to talk into it–or lick it like an ice cream cone.

     I couldn’t move…

     I felt like my hopes and dreams were slowly disappearing right before my very eyes.

     I suddenly started thinking back to the first time I actually had to do public speaking. It was in my eighth grade history class. I had made a model of a ship, the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus’ ships. I was supposed to talk about the voyage of Columbus.

     I stood in front of the class, staring at my peers. I was frozen and could not move or talk. Just like now, my teacher was saying my name, asking me if I were okay.

     I could not respond.

     It was the first of three presentations I was supposed to do for that class, and couldn’t. Eventually, I failed history and had to go to summer school: simply because I couldn’t speak in front of people, and express what I had practiced in front of my mirror several times–with no problem.

     Another time was when I was in college. I was majoring in architecture. I’d wanted to be an architect since the ninth grade. I’d already designed both my dream and summer homes by the 11th grade.

     I was on my way! Or so I thought.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

     We had to design an office building and present it to the class as if they, along with the professor, were the clients. Basically, we had to sell our own designs.

     Like I always do, I practiced my presentation in front of the mirror numerous times. I knew it by heart. I was ready.

     When the professor called my name, I slowly walked to the front of the class and placed my building model on the table.

     As I faced the class, a couple people expressed approval of my model.  I was elated; I felt like this was the first step of realizing my dream of becoming an architect.

     Until I froze…once again! 

     Like always, the professor was calling my name, asking me if I were  okay. 

     And once again, I could not answer.

     Sadly, I realized that I could not speak in front of people! 

     Because of that, I had to switch my major to engineering. There was less of a chance of having to address individuals.

     As a result, my dream of becoming an architect slowly faded away.

     But life is full of many surprises–and I had a new dream!  One to make people think, smile, and laugh about life, love and relationships.

     And this dream came out of nowhere! Well, I should not say “nowhere.” Actually, it must have been one of God’s plan all along. I say this because I worked several years as an engineer and loved it. So, I also believe that was in God’s plan.

     But now, he has a new plan for me!   One to inspire people to think about life. A way for people to search their deepest feelings. I believe that God has given me the talent of helping people walk in“Norman’s” shoes as he goes through the “Miss-Adventures of Being Miss-Understood” when it comes to life. To make people realize they are not alone in their journey to true happiness.

    You see, first came the books. I have written five so far. And that was not planned. It was a personal journal that I turned into books.

     And then came “Norman’s One Night Stand,” which I wrote, created and now was trying to perform.

     That was definitely not planned. I would never have planned to stand up in front of people and perform a 40-minute one man show, one in which many people can actually feel the character’s struggle, pain, triumph and happiness in achieving his goal of being happy with himself.

     My friends suggested and encouraged me to do it.

     So I stood there, frozen with stage fright once again.

     However, I also remembered something else that happened to me a few days prior.

     You see, at a cookout, I met two new friends who made me recall certain events that happened in my life.  They were newlyweds with five adopted children. As if that were not impressive enough, they told me they never planned on adopting children. It just happened! It was “God’s Plan” is the way they put it to me.

     They had met by chance; and the next thing they knew, they were a family. They didn’t think they would succeed, but they never gave up. They informed me that God has plans for our lives and we should follow our hopes and dreams to the fullest.

     Remembering this as I stood on the stage, I bowed my head. I closed my eyes, quickly praying for God to give me the strength and confidence to make this dream a reality.

     I opened my eyes and said, real loud, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”

     The audience came alive! And for the next 40 minutes, I made them smile, think and laugh about life, love and relationships. It was the first of seventeen shows I have performed so far over a five-year span.

     My dream came to life! My dream became reality. 

     We all have hopes, dreams and goals in life. We should pursue them with vigor and tenacity.  

    We should all reach for the sky! And if you fall short, keep trying at whatever is in your heart to achieve your destiny. To bring your dreams to life. To follow God’s Plan.

     Because Honey Let Me Tell You, I have arrived.  God has made me the master of my hopes and dreams–which are now the reality of my life.


        R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The latest installment entitled, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask I Won’t Tell,” is now available in e-book format.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L.also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else,debuted January 1 on itunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 7

“Age Is Just a Number”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers. I hope this month finds you all in good spirits–and staying cool. As for me, I’m coping with the heat by drinking plenty of cool beverages–some of them adult–and trying not to exert myself too much. I believe that a true lady shouldn’t appear slick from sweat by simply walking from her car to the door; but sometimes, temperatures in the upper 90’s cause strange things to happen!

     My body’s reaction to the heat is just one of the many ways I feel that my numerical age is starting to creep up on me. When I was younger growing up in my small North Carolina hometown, I could spend hours riding my bicycle or playing with my cousins without any regard to the summer heat blazing down. Now if I’m outside for any length of time, I feel “mugged” by the heat.  It seems that my tolerance has decreased for those bright sunny days.

     Still, I can’t use my advancing years as a crutch to shy away from being involved and active in life. I urge my readers sporting a few graying hairs to resist the urge to shirk opportunities to try new things. I’ve always felt that one shouldn’t be held back by the number of birthdays you’ve celebrated.You are never too old to reach out and grasp your heart’s desire and your mind’s potential.

     A little over a month from now–provided the creeks don’t rise–I’ll celebrate my forty-fifth year on God’s green footstool, or what we call Earth. A lot has transpired from the time I drew breath that early Saturday morning. I graduated from college, explored at least five different career paths, buried loved ones, found love, and accomplished at least three goals on my life’s To-Do List.

     Still, I don’t plan to rest on my laurels; I plan to continue to strive forward by embracing opportunities.  I realize that until I close my eyes for that last time, there is always more to do. I shouldn’t let the fact it may take me a little while longer to get back up when I “drop it like it’s hot,” to keep me from getting my groove on, to getting things done.

     We can’t let the fact that we’re getting older keep us from branching out and stretching toward our full potential. Our life’s experiences are the best tools to conquer the unknown. Every disappointment allows us to develop the sharper vision to see and achieve the goals we want to scratch off our To-Do List.

LaToya Hankins

     Those of us who have been there, done that, and have the scars or stories to prove it have the tools to conquer new adventures or create opportunities to stretch ourselves in different ways. Getting older is a blessing to those of us lucky enough to experience it–and should embrace it fully. Step out of your comfort zone and explore different horizons.

     The longer we live on this earth, the more we realize that it doesn’t hurt to try something different at least once. If we don’t like it, then we don’t have to do it again. If we do like it, then we have found something which brings even more joy to our lives.

     Since 2016 began, there has been so much sadness, and things no one ever expected we would live long enough to see. We have followed the hashtags, seen the social media posts, and participated in the town halls, marches, and vigils to know that so many of us will not be able to enjoy their next birthdays. We owe it to those snatched away by violent circumstances to challenge ourselves by dipping our proverbial toes in different ponds. 

     Just like many of us have moved away from having the birthday cake with the candles we feel pressure to blow out with one breath, we have to think about how we approach the process of getting older. We can no longer view it as an excuse for slowing down! This is when we need to rev up and move forward.

     Now, I’m not saying that you have to explore bungee jumping or running with the bulls, if extreme sports aren’t your thing. I’m suggesting that you be open to new things if they come your way, and not staying stuck in how things used to be.

     I have changed in so many wonderful ways, and I’m looking forward to changing so more. I wish the same for all those looking to add to their list of enriching encounters when they find themselves trying something they never expected.

     It could be walking into the role of activist, serving as a parental figure to a younger person in need, or simply switching that hairstyle you have worn since LL Cool J and Queen Latifah were known for simply being good rappers.

     So, I leave this birthday wish for you all:  Let this upcoming year be filled with great adventures and tremendous and unique experiences! As for me, I plan to enter this next stage of life with high hopes and big plans to challenge myself.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 11

“I Will, I Won’t, I Do” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

 

 

“I object!” the man shouted as he stood up in the back of the church.

I can’t believe this is happening! How dare someone object to my marriage?

I know that some people in my position would not get married; but I am doing what my heart feels.

You see, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Several years ago, I was living in Washington, D.C., and there was a terrible snowstorm. People panicked so much that you would’ve thought the world was coming to an end.

Now, me being from New Jersey, I was accustomed to snowstorms. I was used to waking up at any given day during the winter, and not being able to get out of the house. That was because the snow was so high that we couldn’t even open the door!

I remember as kids we would sit around the kitchen table hoping for a snow day.  We’d listen to the radio or TV, and just wait and wait for the announcer to say: “Whittier Elementary School closed.” Oh, how my two brothers and I waited with anticipation for that wonderful news! 

And on those days, we would yell and scream and act like we had won the lottery. My parents would tell us to calm down.  And then, of course, they’d tell us the rules we had to follow while they were at work. Oh, those were the days…

So as I said, I was used to snowstorms. But it was obvious that the D.C. government was just not used to such acts of nature.  They’d shut down the whole city!  The only other time I remember that happening was when I was in college in Tuskegee, Alabama–and they had a covering of snow. They shut down the city as if the world were coming to an end!  It was crazy and funny–especially because the snow melted the very same day.  

So, I was in D.C. and the city was closed. I was out of orange juice for my cocktail. I had plenty of food and stuff, but no OJ! And if I were going to be stuck in the house, I had to “get my drink on.”

I called around to see if any store was open. After several minutes, I discovered that the 7-Eleven was open, which was about a fifteen minute walk from my house. Then, I put on my heaviest and warmest winter coat and boots, and made my way to the store.

As I got closer and closer to that 7-Eleven, I saw another person in the distance. And as continued his approach, I surmised that maybe he had to get some orange juice, too. As came nearer and nearer, I realized that this was one cute, sexy man!

He was dressed in a big yellow ski coat with matching gloves. As we faced one another, I peered into his sexy brown eyes–and the pretty white teeth behind his smile.

 Passing one another, we nodded and smiled at each other. After taking a few steps I turned around–and noticed that he’d done the same!

After a few seconds, he walked back to me.   And for a good half hour, we stood there talking in the middle of a snowstorm.  While the city was shut down, we were getting to know one another.

Later on, I realized how romantic that was!  And, I am a hopeless romantic. 

Before I knew it, we were dating. And after a while, I went from admiring him, to liking him…and to loving him!  I not only loved him, I was in love with him. Who would’ve thought that I’d find the love of my life in the middle of a snowstorm, while going out to get orange juice for my cocktail? 

 And now, we’re getting married!  I’m thinking about all of this while standing at the altar.  I know that at the age of 55, a lot of people wouldn’t get married.

Last June was the one-year anniversary of the legalization of gay marriage in the United States. And during the past year, several of my friends have gotten married.  They’re all over the age of 50.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

Some people didn’t understand. You see, some of my friends said that they would not get married. They claimed that they just didn’t see the point. At that age, it’s a lot of hassle to figure out who changes his name.  And then there’s the changing of health and life insurance, driver’s licenses, credit cards, etc. 

Some of my friends said they would simply live together, and continue to love and support each other.

But then, others said they would get married, and make it a small affair. The last wedding I attended, the couple went to the justice of the peace, and then had a big reception after the wedding. It was a great time had by all as the couple was showered with love and support from family and friends. The wedding I went to before that was at the couples’ home, with only about ten people attending.  

And then there’s me! I’m standing here in a big church with my five groomsmen.  As I’m staring into the eyes of my future husband, we’re holding hands. The church is decorated in silver and white, with flowers everywhere. Afterwards, there will be a big reception in a rented ballroom, complete with ushers, waiters, caterers, music, etc.  And after this grand affair, we’ll be on our way to London and Paris for our honeymoon.  We truly are celebrating our love for each other.

Now, some of my friends objected, saying that we were too old to be doing all of this!  However, others thought that it was absolutely wonderful.

Here’s the bottom line:  the legalization of gay marriage is really the legalization of love for everyone. I believe that people should be able to show their love anyway they want regardless of age, race, gender or sexual preference. People should be able to love whom they want, and get married to whomever that want. Love is a powerful thing at any age. Without love, this world would be a terrible place.

Suddenly, I was roused out of my daydream by the sound of someone actually objecting to our nuptials!  Next, I was shocked back into reality as that person walked from the back of the church towards us.

And as he got close to us, he yelled, “I love you, Norman!”

At first, I couldn’t see who it was because the back of the church was dimly lit. But as soon as he stepped into the light, I was shocked to see that it was my very first love who’d disappeared out of my life!  You see, after college, he enlisted in the Air Force and was deployed to California.  We lost contact for about 25 years.

But as soon as he was upon us, someone else jumped up and said,“I object!”

OMG!  What’s going on?

Well, to find out, read my “Honey Let Me Tell You” book series! It’s all about my misadventures of being misunderstood.


        R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The latest installment entitled, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask I Won’t Tell,” is now available in e-book format.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L.also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else,debuted January 1 on itunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Conversations With The Duchess 3

“PRIDE: A Celebration of Liberation” 

Guest Writer:  Carlton R. Smith 

     President Barack Obama has just designated the area around the Stonewall Inn in New York City as the nation’s first national monument to LGBTQ rights.  As you know, The Stonewall Uprising is largely regarded as the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ movement for civil rights.  And our PRIDE celebrations grew out of that movement. 

     During the 1960’s, very few establishments welcomed openly LGBTQ individuals.  Therefore, there weren’t many places for us to socialize.       

     Then, at 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, eight police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, located on the famous Christopher Street in the city’s Greenwich Village.  In 1969, police raids on gay bars occurred regularly.  It was illegal to serve LGBTQ persons alcohol, or for them to dance with one another.  During a typical raid, the lights were turned on, customers were lined up and their identifications checked.  Those without ID or who dressed in full drag were arrested.  Oftentimes, patrons would be roughed up.  And, those arrested had their names printed in the newspaper, which resulted in some losing their jobs.   

     It was simply another risk of being gay. 

 

     During that early morning, approximately 200 people were in the Stonewall.  The raid that early morning was the bar’s third during that week; and as always, the police entered with search warrants.  

     However, this time, those 200 patrons did not cooperate.  They resisted and fought back. They were people of color, including Puerto Rican drag queens, Black hustlers, bartenders and some “butch lesbians” (who are not always mentioned in the narrative of what transpired.)

     While others were lingering outside the bar, the police were escorting patrons into the paddy wagon. Suddenly, a fight broke out and the crowd started throwing cobblestones, bottles and garbage at officers, who retreated back into the bar as the crowd grew massive.  As the rioting crowd spilled into the streets and alleyways, the police was forced to call for reinforcements.  The uprising continued for two more nights.

     It was the birth of a liberation movement.

     The Stonewall Rebellion didn’t have “identifiable leaders.”  However, it had  community stakeholders who took a stance against oppression–resisting their oppressors.  It was collective action.  Stonewall became a model, a touchstone for gay liberation groups.  A revolution had begun across the nation.  

CARLTON SMITH  the one

     Now, having said all that, I have some pertinent questions:  shouldn’t the Black Queer Lives Matter Movement be as revered and respected as the Stonewall Uprising?  Shouldn’t it matter just as much?   Where’s the love for people of color who are constantly traumatized by oppression and hate?

     Moreover, Black and Latino trans individuals often face bigotry and violence as they try to live their lives like the rest of us, while too many of us take being exempt from it for granted.  

     On Sunday, June 12th, a gunman entered Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub and killed 49 people. This tragedy has claimed more lives than any other mass shooting in modern day American history–namely the lives of Black and Latino LGBTQ people.  However, mainstream media, politicians and others routinely continue to ignore the implications of race, citizenship and class in narratives about the Orlando tragedy. 

     Actually, the “whitewashing” is nothing new.  Storytelling about Stonewall and other acts of LGBTQ resistance has routinely been told without acknowledging the central roles of brown and Black queer folk–especially transgender women of color.

     Although this is rather disconcerting, together we must combat ignorance and hatred in our daily lives—even after the media spotlight dwindles, and then moves on.  I have to keep in mind to love my enemies according to the Scriptures. However, know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not retreating back inside any closets, for that would be a spiritual and emotional death.  

     Remember:  love is our greatest victory–and I’m in it for LOVE! 

His Royal Highness,

Duchess

 


     Carlton R. Smith has advocated on LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues for many years, placing emphasis on the African American LGBTQ community– specifically men who have sex with men (MSM).  Mr. Smith has served on various committees providing leadership and outreach, and continues to represent the needs of LGBTQ individuals at the local, state and federal levels.

     Carlton’s resume is both substantive and stellar:  currently, he is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of The Center for Black Equity-Baltimore (formerly Baltimore Black Pride, Inc.), now in its 14th year of operation.  Also, he is a member of the JHU CFAR community participatory advisory board at the John Hopkins University Center for AIDS Research. 

     As well, Carlton serves as community co-chair of the GBISGLRT Response Team (convened by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), and is one of the co-founders of “Sankofa” Community Conversations on Black Same-Gender Loving Men, established in 2014.

     Carlton also is a former member of Maryland Moving Forward Network,  National Minority AIDS Council, National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (membership chair/member of its executive committee), and was Vice-Chairman of the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Planning Council

     And, Mr. Smith is an ordained deacon with Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore.  You can connect with and follow Carlton on Facebook at Carltonraysmith; on Twitter: @BmoreBlackpride, @Duchess_WitTea; on Instagram and Vine, Baltimore Black Pride.

Hot Tea and Ice 6

“The Power Of Pride”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!   Hope you are staying cool in this summer heat. Although I consider myself a proud daughter of the South, even I sometimes find the rising temperature a little bit too much to take. Days of ninety plus weather leaves me praising the person who invented air conditioning—and mastering the art of sweet tea.

     For many in the LGBTQ community, June is the month we fly our Pride flag freely. We attend festivals where we eat, drink, dance, march, flirt, and triumph in the sheer bliss of being out and about.   But unfortunately, on June 12, forty-nine members of our community enjoying the freedom of being themselves were taken from this world by an atrocious act of a misguided and angry soul.

     That Sunday morning, hearing the news of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history rendered me speechless. My heart and mind battled to reconcile the reality of what had taken place in Orlando.  I joined the millions around the world wavering between anger and grief. Viewing pictures of vigils and hearing the voices of survivors, family, and friends almost made me exit social media. In order to guard my heart, I retreated from my ritual of listening to the news.

     But then, I remembered:  June is LGBTQ Pride month!  By definition, pride is “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”

     For thirty days, the LGBTQ community celebrates the power we possess that allows us to thrive when others want to diminish us. That power comes from acknowledging and living authentically as the person you were meant to be–instead of what society expects. The Power of Pride empowers hundreds of men, women, and those who reject labels to walk in their truth–be it in sensible shoes or stilettos.

     While some point to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 as when the Pride movement started in full effect, the reality is that the Power of Pride has always existed. It is the force that allowed members of the community to rise above the rejection of family and friends. Pride is what kept us going and moving past tragedy.  

     Now, more than ever, we have to seize the Power of Pride in ourselves and those who have gone before us to shake the dust off our feet–and keep pushing forward.

     The LGBTQ community, and by extension anyone who has been discounted for being who they are, have endured far worse and risen. We have survived and thrived! No one is strong enough to snatch away the many victories we have worked so hard to achieve.

     The massacre in Orlando should encourage us to dig deep and harness the Power of Pride so that we can continue to hold our heads up, reach out to others to help strengthen them, and continue on the path of being the individuals we are meant to be.

     Claiming the power that lies within isn’t always easy. Sometimes barriers such as shame, sexism, racism, and just sheer lack of self-acceptance block our power from coming through at full force.  But know that we are powerful when we embody our Pride.

LaToya Hankins

     While June is LGBTQ Pride month, the achievements which earned us the right to hold our heads high are something we should celebrate year-round.

     Unfortunately though, being powerful in our Pride won’t prevent obstacles.  Dark forces gather when communities seen as powerless try to assert their natural power.  We saw it in Charleston, S. C. last year when a killer gunned down nine church members during a mid-week service. We saw it in Los Angeles during the riots of the 1980’s when decades of mistreatment boiled over in majority-minority communities. We saw it across the South in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement when men, women, and children were arrested and killed simply for exercising their rights.

     The powerful cannot back down. We have to harness our Pride to push back the forces that want to diminish our shine. We can’t concede and allow those misguided, ill-informed and just plain wrong individuals to define and defile us.

     It is good and necessary to grieve for those who have been snatched away by and through hate.  But we have to lift our heads and walk strong with our Power of Pride.

     So I know it may be difficult, but I encourage everyone to unleash their Power of Pride this summer. Don’t limit yourself to the calendar. Go beyond the thirty days and use the Power of Pride for good. If we all unleash our power, perhaps it will defeat or weaken those who seek to derail our accomplishments.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 10

“Writer, You Say What?” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

      He stood across the room from me not saying a word. I was slowly becoming nervous as he just stared at me, looking all seductive. As he walked slowly towards me, I backed up until I could go nowhere.

     I bumped into the desk that was behind me and stumbled for a brief moment.  He took that opportunity to get as close to me as possible.    

     Then he was directly in front of me, blocking my way between the desk and the door to the classroom.  And just as I was about to say something, he suddenly grabbed me, pushing me down on the desk.

    “I want to see if Norman kisses as good as his books state,” he said in almost a whisper as he stared into my eyes.

     At first I said, “STOP!”, with a force in my voice as I tried to push him away. But then, when his lips touched mine, I whispered “stop” because he suddenly had me under his control–and I simply could not deny my sexual urge for him.

     But as he kissed me, I knew it was wrong because of who he was.   

 

     Who would have thought that only an hour before, I was standing in front of a classroom full of students.  And now, I’m having my first “student-teacher conference”–so to speak.

     You see, I was teaching a college creative writing course at Honey University.  And, my job was to give them direction on how to write a book: 

     “Are you one of those people who thought about writing a book, but didn’t know where to start? Or, you hesitated because you didn’t know the first thing about writing? If your answer is “yes,” then this is the course for you!  All you need do is to open yourself up and allow your ideas to flow onto paper.  And the number one thing is that there is no wrong way to writing. Everyone has a different method to make their ideas come alive, if you will.” This is what I told my students.

     Most of them consisted of housewives, businessmen, and recent college graduates.  Their ages varied from 22 (an office assistant) to 67

(a great-grandmother who wanted to write her life story).

     And of course, there was my problem student:  Chauncey Whitmore III!

     I was addressing the class, when in, he walks.

    “During this course, I will give you the basic elements of writing a book. And then I want you to …”

     (The door opens and closes.)

     “Eh, excuse me!  But did the dog break your time clock?” I directed my pointed question to the late arrival.

     “Professor Norman, I am Chauncey Whitmore III, and I can explain why I’m late,” he replied, with a certain amount of arrogance in his voice.

     As he stood there as if to say, “What nerve do you have to question me,” I immediately knew that he was going to be a problem. It was obvious he was a snob. I could tell that just by his demeanor and air of arrogance. 

     But I will admit, he was one sexy man!  Very attractive, he was tall, brown skinned and muscular, with a mustache and shaved head. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties.

     “Mr. Whitmore III, there is a time and place to be a storyteller,” I replied, because it was obvious that he was about to lie to me as he stood there trying to think of an excuse.

     “Ah, Professor Norman, that’s cold! You don’t even want to hear my excuse?”

     I ignored his question and responded, “You cannot be a writer if you don’t have discipline–especially time management. Please sit down.”

     I looked back at my students.  Some had smirks on their faces.  They were obviously amused by our brief banter. 

     After Mr. Whitmore III sat down, I proceeded.   “After that rude interruption, I will now continue.  During this class, we will go through the basic elements of writing from the beginning until the time you submit your work to the publisher.

    “And for the purpose of this class, I will be the publisher/editor.  Any questions?” I looked around the room.

     “Hmm, the man with no sense of time,” I said, peering at my problem student as he was raising his hand. “Yes, Mr. Whitmore?”

     “Well, professor: how are you qualified to teach this class?” he asked with a high and mighty tone, as if he was challenging my credentials.

    “Good question,” I replied. 

    “Well, let me tell you about my experience in writing. I didn’t plan on becoming a writer. I’m an engineer by profession. I didn’t write my first book until I was 50 years old. I am now 55, and have written five.

     “I started writing my first book by accident. I kept a personal journal since I was in college. And every day, I would write a page or two of my thoughts and ideas of the day’s life, love and relationship events. I called it ‘starting small’. I suggest that for all first-time writers.

     “And that brings up another point: what to write.  Write about what you know! The easiest thing to write about is something you know about.”

     Then, the not-so shy great-grandmother raised her hand.

     “Yes, Mrs. Walker?”

     “I’ve read some of your books, and they are about sex!” So I assume that is what you know.”

     The class stared at me curiously, awaiting my reply.

     “Well, my books are really about the ups and downs of someone searching for love.” I tried to refrain from talking about the sex part.

     “But I bet the sex didn’t hurt!  Professor, I’ve read all of your books, and it seems like you’re very experienced,” Mr. Whitmore added, with a smug look on his face.

     Several people in the class muttered comments under their breath.

     “This is going to be a challenge,” I said to myself.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

     “Okay, class. Look at your handout,” I said, once again ignoring another question by Whitmore.  “I’m going to tell you the basics for writing a book; and during the course, we will discuss them in detail.  Now, here’s the list:”

  1. What do you want to write about? As I’ve stated, write about what you know. And, character development is essential:  create a character that your audience will want to know, and know about. That’s half the battle.
  1. Start small. Write little by little. Anytime an idea pops into your head, write it down so you won’t forget it. You can expand on it later.
  1. Develop an outline. As you write, make an outline. Organize your thoughts. Remember that everyone has a different method of writing. I write the beginning and ending, and then fill in the middle. That’s my style.
  1. Set a time to work on your book. Personally, I write whenever the mood hits me. Or I have an idea that I just have to write down, then and there. But if you are naturally a busy person, set a time to record your thoughts. And be accountable for your time. It’s all about setting goals.
  1. Choose a place to write. Pick a place that suits you best to make your thoughts come alive. When I write, I have the TV or radio on. Some people like complete quietness. It’s up to you.
  1. Give yourself a deadline. That’s where time management comes in. Set goals to complete various portions of your book. And that’s important because publishers and editors will give you certain deadlines.
  1. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Make your writing sound realistic. Enable readers to understand what you are saying. As well, make your words come alive for readers, so that they can actually visualize what you are saying. 
  1. Get early feedback. There is nothing worse than writing a book, and then having to rewrite the whole thing. Have a few people close to you help you discern what’s worth including in your book. And regardless of the criticism, stay motivated to finish your book. Because when you do, the rewards of self-accomplishment will be well worth it.
  1. Read, read and re-read your work. Make sure the story flows. The best way to do that is to read it! And always spell check your work. But here’s a little trick because the spell-checker doesn’t always catch everything…read your book backwards! I know it sounds crazy, but you will be surprised by how many errors you catch by doing that. Think about it:  you probably know your book by heart. But by reading it backwards, you see errors that you may have missed.
  1. Embrace failure. Know that everyone is not going to like what you write or how you write. But criticism, good or bad, is part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid of rejection.

     During the whole class, Chauncey was staring directly at me with lust in his eyes!  He was eyeing me seductively, which made me a little tense.

      “Our time is almost up for today,” I announced.  “And during the course, we will discuss each point in detail. But in the meantime, do me a quick favor.  Off the top of your head, record what you want to write about. Hand that in so I have a general idea about your thought process.  This is all to prepare you for the final exam. And, we will discuss the topics anonymously at the next class.

     “Class dismissed,” I said as I walked behind my desk and sat down.  As they left the class, they each handed me a piece of paper with their book ideas. They seemed excited with my class so far. I sat behind my desk, pleased with my first day.

     I got up to leave.  At first, I didn’t notice that Chauncey Whitmore III had stayed behind, and was standing at the door smiling at me.

     “Here is my book idea” he said, staring at me seductively.

     And suddenly, he had me on my desk, kissing me aggressively. The song by Al Green filled my head, “If Loving You is Wrong (I Don’t Want to be Right).” 

     I don’t know how long we kissed–or how long the dean of students was standing there watching us!

     But once we were aware of it, reality set in and we jumped up quickly!

As we straightened our clothes, I was speechless.

    “Dean, I can explain!  I was just…..”

    “You don’t have to explain, Professor Norman,” The dean said, interrupting me. “I came because I had a feeling that this was going to happen.”

    “What?” I said with a puzzled looked on my face.

    “Chauncey, you can leave!  And, don’t let his happen again!” the dean said sternly, with a sound of familiarity towards Chauncey.

     Chauncey smirked and didn’t utter a word as he left the room.

     I looked at the dean, waiting to be reprimanded–and possibly fired.

     “Professor Norman, don’t worry about this at all!  It is not the first time he has done this. He can’t seem to help himself.”

     “Oh,” I responded, confused. “He’s done this before?”

     “Yes. And I know that firsthand!  You see, he is my son,” the dean revealed as he walked out of the classroom.

     As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, I was tongue-tied!   Then I thought, “Oh, that’s right! Dean Whitmore. Chauncey Whitmore III!”  I hadn’t realized the connection at first. Wow.

     Well, this will be another chapter for my book, “The Miss-Adventures of Being Misunderstood.”

     And never forget… put your work out there, and see what happens!  And most importantly: NEVER, EVER GIVE UP YOUR DREAM.


   R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The latest installment entitled, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask I Won’t Tell,” is now available in e-book format.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L.also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else,debuted January 1 on itunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Conversations With The Duchess 2

“I Am a Survivor!” 

Guest Writer:  Carlton R. Smith 

     For my second column, I was trying to think of a theme that would be of compelling interest to my new readership.  

     Then, I had an epiphany:  how about sharing my story, my journey of being a longtime HIV survivor.

     As of March of this year, I quietly celebrate 30 years of living with HIV.   God and His amazing grace has made this milestone possible. 

     And simply put, I’ve always wanted to be an instrument of change.  It’s been my strongest desire that my testimony would be as a shining light to help others who are living with the disease. 

     My personal journey began during the mid-80’s, as part of the disco scene of Studio 54, Better Days and the Garage. These were the glamorous New York City nightclubs during the height of the disco era where many people endeavored to escape the reality of the real world.   

     Like scores of other folk, I wanted to a part of the nightlife and the sexual freedom of that decade.  I’d arrive around close to midnight and hear my favorite DJ beat those melodic sounds that linger in your memories as though it was yesterday.  I’d groove to Grace Jones, Donna Summer, First Choice and Gloria Gaynor, among others. 

     Remember the songs “Slave to the Rhythm,” “Hot Stuff” and “I Will Survive?”   I certainly do!  And, I can vividly recall sweating up a storm, sucking on my favorite cocktails–and meeting hot dates that gave you “service” in the bathroom stalls!   It all reminds me of that “Basic Instinct”movie scene, the one in which Sharon Stone and her girlfriend Roxy ushers the Michael Douglas character into the men’s room stall to “carry on” inside the club.

      Yes, those are some of my memories of the mid and late 80’s.  And, who would’ve thought that a little four-letter word (AIDS) would be an epidemic that would take the lives of millions of people across the globe?

     Therefore, my life’s journey starts the day I found out my HIV status.  I was a twenty-three-year-old Same-gender-loving (SGL) man with the expectation of entering the Air Force. I’d visited the local recruiting station, and signed up for what I’d hoped was going to be a great opportunity to expand my educational background after finishing college.

      However, I received a letter from the military recruiting station’s medical office requiring me to immediately come in for a follow up.  It never dawned on me that my test results would be at issue.

      I remember that chilly morning in March.  At the medical office, I learned that I had acquired AIDS, and had that my life expectancy was only between five months to five years.   And, I was truly devastated by the comments from the doctor who said that my “promiscuous lifestyle” and prior sexually-transmitted diseases were responsible for the infection.

     Like many other men during that time, I didn’t have any information about HIV/AIDS.  Feeling angry, confused and suicidal, I asked myself, “What kind of future will I have?”  I felt as if I’d fallen into a deep abyss, without a parachute.  I didn’t know what would become of my life. 

     Fortunately, because of my strong spiritual background, I realized that suicide just wasn’t an option.  The only thing for certain was that the Universe (God) had my back.  My unshakeable faith in God and prayer got me through this dilemma, along with the positive support I received from many people who themselves were infected/affected by the epidemic.

     Moreover, I just couldn’t get over the hypocrisy the so-called Black churches were spouting to tithe-offering individuals who love God as much as other fellow Christians.  This judgmental attack is why churches are behind the curve on HIV/AIDS prevention.  This promotes ignorance and stigma.  Once again, I had to bounce back and know for myself that God is Love. 

CARLTON SMITH  the one
     Even though I saw death all around me, I didn’t succumb to the illnesses that plagued many of my associates and friends. I had the will and the power to survive!!   This was the result of many years of process and sharing my stories about living with HIV to many groups. 

     And, having a HERO (Health Education Resource Organization) buddy give me support enabled me to soldier on.  The information and resources I obtained through the support of others empowered me to become an advocate and a leader.   I found strength in discussing my status as “Heaven In View” (HIV)–and encouraging others to do the same.  Meeting esteemed individuals including A. Cornelius Baker (National Association of People with AIDS, NAPWA), Bishop Cheeks (Inner Life Ministries) and Marlon Riggs (director of the film “Tongues Untied”) also was empowering.  

     All of this assisted me in bolstering my self-identity and self-esteem to later establish a purpose of survival in a culture where Black men and women were being accosted by media outlets for the high incidences of HIV/AIDS. This “scarlet letter” of affliction had penetrated the inner circle of the Black community.

     Through advocacy groups, Black SGL men and some Black women made a declaration to fight against HIV/AIDS in their communities.  As a result, these minority leader activists created a purpose for community-based organizations whose main purpose was to disseminate information about prevention and treatment during the third wave of the epidemic. These national and local organizations (National Minority AIDS Council, NAPWA, etc.) created the groundwork for many to raise their voices.

     Not being called a victim of the epidemic became the cornerstone of empowering many individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  The death of Ryan White  was the impetus for Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Legislation, the largest Federal program focused exclusively on providing HIV care and treatment services to people living with HIV.  White was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December 1984.  He later died from the disease.

     Today, I have become that advocate, policy maker and community leader/ stakeholder for many individuals across the country.  As an activist, a champion, and a fighter, I’m one who dared to care for the community and give himself to that community. 

     Being stigmatized gradually guided me to my passion to keep myself healthy. It is the love of God that has sustained me and allows me to serve humanity with divine purpose.                                                

His Royal Highness,

Duchess


     Carlton R. Smith has advocated on LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues for many years, placing emphasis on the African American LGBTQ community– specifically men who have sex with men (MSM).  Mr. Smith has served on various committees providing leadership and outreach, and continues to represent the needs of LGBTQ individuals at the local, state and federal levels.

     Carlton’s resume is both substantive and stellar:  currently, he is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of The Center for Black Equity-Baltimore (formerly Baltimore Black Pride, Inc.), now in its 14th year of operation.  Also, he is a member of the JHU CFAR community participatory advisory board at the John Hopkins University Center for AIDS Research. 

     As well, Carlton serves as community co-chair of the GBISGLRT Response Team (convened by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), and is one of the co-founders of “Sankofa” Community Conversations on Black Same-Gender Loving Men, established in 2014.

     Carlton also is a former member of Maryland Moving Forward Network,  National Minority AIDS Council, National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (membership chair/member of its executive committee), and was Vice-Chairman of the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Planning Council

     And, Mr. Smith is an ordained deacon with Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore.  You can connect with and follow Carlton on Facebook at Carltonraysmith; on Twitter: @BmoreBlackpride, @Duchess_WitTea; on Instagram and Vine, Baltimore Black Pride.

Hot Tea and Ice 5

“No Confetti Required”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! Happy belated Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day to those who fall in those categories. Also, we observe a moment of silence and loads of respect for those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. We honor you all on Memorial Day.

      Along with honoring parents and veterans, this is also graduation season. This is the time of the year everyone pulls out their good suits and hats to see the next generation leave behind an academic institution, and become part of the real world. Be it high school, college, or for those special graduates leaving behind the wonders of kindergarten, everyone it seems dons solid-color polyester robes to line up and march in step. Some will sit under the spring sunshine listening to some celebrity try to inspire and impress. Others will be shoulder to shoulder with classmates in auditoriums or gyms.

      Regardless of the setting, the feeling of accomplishment is universal. It doesn’t matter if the graduate walks with honors or through the grace of Most High, graduations are good times. It brings together family members who otherwise wouldn’t speak to each other unless under court order, and usually ends with a meal where everyone laughs and loves.

     Yes, graduation ceremonies with the handing out of diplomas, requests to hold applause until the end of the ceremony, and cards with money inside are wonderful things. Graduations are formalized ways of celebrating the achievement of accomplishing a goal, which in some cases, may have taken four, fourteen or even forty years.

     However, even if you are the Class of 19- rather than 2016, you have something to celebrate during this graduation session as well. We may not wear mortar boards or have someone say our full name in front of strangers and classmates who never knew your middle name is MyCole, but we are graduates of the hardest school there ever existed–life.

      Some of us graduated when we decided to no longer define our worth through someone else’s lenses. We turned our tassels when we left behind situations that weren’t beneficial to us.

LaToya Hankins

     We may not have heard Pomp and Circumstance played when we walked into that job,  but we graduated. There was no need to put on a robe or walk across a stage to confirm we made it through whatever tried to keep us back. We have our confirmation when we look in the mirror and like the person looking back.

     Take time to celebrate your individual graduation situations. When we honor the journey, the destination becomes even more valuable.

     It is easy to get (Set) Adrift on Memory Bliss,” shouts out the musical group P.M. Dawn (for my ‘90’s ‘peoples’, Y’all), when we see the pictures on social media of friends, family, and friends of family. I admit, my mind went back to the summer of 1989 when I was a young woman getting that high school paper or that day in May when I officially left behind Emerald City (Greenville, N.C.) after four years to start my bachelorette with a bachelor’s life.

     Then I remembered I didn’t need Wake County Schools or the North Carolina Board of Governors to confirm my graduation from being a shy school girl to a self-assured woman. My graduation took place when I realized I had the power to create my own better life.

     We all have graduation stories we need to remember and draw upon when we face challenges. Just like when we walked into those classrooms those first day, nervous and unsure, only to emerge years later strutting and serving it up for those in the back rows.  You see, we graduated to something better. Celebrate your achievement and realize you don’t have to hold the applause until the end. Take pride in your triumph.

     So get loud and throw your hands, hats, and heels in the air because you have graduated to the next part in your life’s journey. Have a graduation dinner and invite all those family and friends who adore you and hopefully don’t think you are too big for a gift card—or card with cash inside.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Conversations With The Duchess

“Remembering a Musical Genius: Prince Rocks Us with ‘Pop Life’ to Pop Culture” 

Guest Writer:  Carlton R. Smith

     Greetings!  First, I want to give a shout out to Wyatt O’ Brian Evans for such an amazing opportunity to write this column for his extensive fan base.

     My nickname is “Duchess,” which was given to me by one of my lifelong friends who, unfortunately, succumbed to AIDS. As you read my bio at the end of this column, you will have the opportunity to review some of my accomplishments within the African American LGBT/SGL (same gender loving) community.

     For me, writing assists in putting my rapid thought process in concrete form.  And, it’s very therapeutic!  And like music, writing is “food for the soul.”  

     And like you, I also was saddened by the recent passing of the man who was formerly known as Prince.  Many of his fans were heartbroken with grief, and saddened by the unexpected death of this multi-talented artist and the music he left behind. However, we will to continue to remember his legacy.

     In fact, many of us recall when Prince first burst upon the scene with his provocative and erotic messages, which caused “parental consent” stickers to be placed on his succeeding albums.   I remembered when I was “coming out” of the closet, and the “Controversy” video was getting it’s gyrations on MTV during the 80’s.   

     I mean, could you believe it?  This small framed man dressed in Edwardian fashion, wearing women’s pumps, who was slightly clothed in lingerie and leading a band called the Revolution. His lyrics baptized and mesmerized you with this new gothic, funky beat.

     And let’s not forget the unforgettable, “Am I black or white?  Am I straight or gay?”   He was questioning our ethnic background with the temptation of our sexual orientation, along with the spellbinding Lord’s Prayer–in a salacious nightclub setting. The conversation about his song definitely pushed the envelope, which caused his video to be shown as late night adult entertainment. This was just the beginning of His Royal Badness crossing over into the mainstream media.

Prince

     In the spring of 1984, just one year before I graduated from Morgan State University, Prince introduced the world to what is now his signature album, “Purple Rain,”— as well as the song of the same name.   I remembered such tunes as “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry” receiving much rotation on major radio stations, VH1 and MTV. It wouldn’t be Prince not to include exotic songs like “Darling Nikki” and “Erotic City” to keep up the tempo of the 80’s sexual revolution.

     Meanwhile, many artists were expressing their androgynous style on videos and television.  For example, there was Culture Club with their own outrageous Boy George singing “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and Madonna crooning, “Justify My Love.” These artists were pushing the envelope–as well as our sexual imagination. What used to be censored is now being shown during VH1/MTV daytime rotations.

     In fact, the “Prince-inspired” sexual and Cultural Revolution gave birth to the Stonewall Anniversary Rally and the LGBTQ marches on Washington in the 80’s and 90’s. His songs would influence so many people, as well as myself.  I was especially “tinkering around” my own sexual orientation and impulsiveness toward black SGL men.  I, too, was “coming out” in such a way that produced radical changes in my life–and the people with whom I have associated from college to later life. This, too, were the “Sign o’ the Times,” another album Prince released in 1987.  It spoke to social and cultural norms, health disparities, the AIDS epidemic ravaging the black community, and drug trafficking—including the use of heroin/crack in poverty-stricken communities.

     Prince was like a scriptural prophet who was given historical revelations about the oneness of humankind. Truly, he was that creative visionary and genius who challenged many of us to think differently about who we were and how we engaged in society.

     Prince produced more than three decades of discographies that shined a bright light on raw sexuality and scriptural contemplation.  As well, he had written and produced songs for many artists who had just gotten their starts in the music industry, including his proteges Sheila E, The Time and Vanity 6.

     Lastly, I remembered his exclusive interview with Ebony magazine in July 2010, written by Harriette Cole.  During that interview, he was at the “ageless age” of 52. 

     Prince discussed his profound love of God, his religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness, and his acknowledgement of studying the bible.  In that interview, he  spoke of his tutelage of music legend Larry Graham, who also was a devout Jehovah’s Witness.  I was somewhat astonished by his truth about God and his relationship with people.  He commented, “Keep your friends close–and your teachers closer.”  Profound, indeed.

     On this past April 21st, the Artist Known as Prince Rogers Nelson made transition from earth into afterworld. We remember a legend. Musical polymath, prolific singer, songwriter, virtuoso guitarist, keyboardist and drummer. Film star. Oscar winner. Prince was truly one of a kind. After all, he’ll be the only one that knows sometimes it snows in April!  Thank you, Prince. There will never be another one like you in your little Red Corvette…

His Royal Highness,

Duchess

CARLTON SMITH  the one


     Carlton R. Smith has advocated on LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues for many years, placing emphasis on the African American LGBTQ community– specifically men who have sex with men (MSM).  Mr. Smith has served on various committees providing leadership and outreach, and continues to represent the needs of LGBTQ individuals at the local, state and federal levels.

     Carlton’s resume is both substantive and stellar:  currently, he is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of The Center for Black Equity-Baltimore (formerly Baltimore Black Pride, Inc.), now in its 14th year of operation.  Also, he is a member of the JHU CFAR community participatory advisory board at the John Hopkins University Center for AIDS Research. 

     As well, Carlton serves as community co-chair of the GBISGLRT Response Team (convened by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), and is one of the co-founders of “Sankofa” Community Conversations on Black Same-Gender Loving Men, established in 2014.

     Carlton also is a former member of Maryland Moving Forward Network,  National Minority AIDS Council, National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (membership chair/member of its executive committee), and was Vice-Chairman of the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Planning Council

     And, Mr. Smith is an ordained deacon with Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore.  You can connect with and follow Carlton on Facebook at Carltonraysmith; on Twitter: @BmoreBlackpride, @Duchess_WitTea; on Instagram and Vine, Baltimore Black Pride.

Hot Tea and Ice 4

“It’s Not How You Got Them, It’s How You Keep Them”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins    

 

        Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea Sippers. Hopefully, temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, and you are getting ready for short sleeves, shorts, and sundresses. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s just something about shedding layers that leads people to consider adding a “plus one” to their lives. Perhaps it’s the increases in wedding invites, pop-up BBQs that lead to hook-ups, or you finally realizing that the cutie who has been sitting across from you on public transportation all winter long actually has a pretty smile–when it is not hidden by a wool scarf!

      And then there are those of us who have spent the past several seasons in relationships. We are usually the ones buying yet another present for friends who decided to jump the broom.  We are the perpetual hosts for the BBQs because we have the houses/condos/apartments. 

      The mystery of knowing what each other looks like with or without the scarves is long gone because we probably purchased the items–or “borrowed” yours. Spring time is indeed for lovers; but sometimes, long-term partners don’t feel the enthusiasm.

      It’s easy to take each other for granted when you see each other day in, day out.  I know. After three years, I have to admit my partner and I began acting more like simply friends than lovers.  We spent our nights doing the same old dinner in front of the television thing, rehashed the same conversations about work/family/friends, and went to bed at a “decent” hour where we fell fast asleep.

      Don’t get me wrong:  it is good to find a comfortable existence with the one who feeds your spirit. Relationships don’t have to be a go-go party every night to be authentic. Still, you have to challenge yourself with the thought:  if we didn’t do this when we dated, why are we doing it now? The two of you are the same people who talked long into the night about complex topics, traded favorite movie lines, and got down with the get-down every chance you got.

      Why is it too easy now to pass as few words as possible when you do pass each other, fuss back and forth about what to watch on TV, and can’t remember the last time you got “funkdafied?”

      Too often, we can find time for everyone else, but sometimes our partners find themselves slipping farther down on our priority list. So many of us have our days scheduled on our smart phones to the “Gawds,” but can’t find an extra moment for our special one. For those who have someone special, reflect back on when it was new and exciting. You didn’t get her or him by talking about what your irritating co-worker did to vex your spirit once again. So, why do you think that will keep him/her?

      Being in a relationship allows the best of you to come forward and connect with someone to make a fantastic whole.  It takes work to form a suitable and sustainable bond. Once the hard work is done, keep it going may seem to be a task– but it’s worth it.

LaToya Hankins

      When you reconnect with your significant other, you are also reconnecting with yourself.  That fun, engaging, enticing self whose milkshake or frozen yogurt brought the boy or girl to the yard is still there. Dig deep and unleash that person back into the world. In the process, you have the potential to stoke the relationship fire and get your own flame burning brighter.

      So, first things first:  use those time management skills you have mastered through juggling work, friends, and community involvements to schedule time for you and yours.  And no social media allowed!  Don’t worry, it will be there when you get back.

      Focus on something totally fun and freeing. No bills, no nagging, no picking the same fight you have had for the past season. It you need to switch up the scenery to get it going, go for it! The key is for the focus to be on each other.

      For me and my spouse, we decided to break out and get back to what brought us together.  We started telling each other fantastic stories about ostriches with gambling skills, fictionalized titles from memories, and how our hips were too dangerous to be insured. Those creative bursts helped bring us together and hopefully will keep us together. We instituted date night where we attempted to pick each other up using our best lines. Sometimes it worked, sometime it didn’t. But it was always fun!  

      We decided to treat each other to a week without cooking. When it’s my week, I cook for the house and when it’s hers, she cooks for me.  Nothing is better than coming home to a home-cooked meal or at least a meal ordered from home.

      So as spring causes all those singles around you to get sprung, I challenge all my paired people to focus on keeping love going and value the other person who shares your space. The payoff will be priceless. 

      Until next time,  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 9

“Honey I Should Have Told” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

      I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I was stumbling down the street to meet my blind date whom I had met on-line. It was about 9 o’clock p.m. on a Saturday night in the middle of winter. There were about 10 inches of snow on the ground, as the whole town was a sea of white.  Actually, everything was white except for the red on my blood-stained white shirt.

      I didn’t want my date to see me like this, but I only had two options because I didn’t have a cell phone.  It was either not show up and keep him waiting, or go meet him and explain my appearance.  So, I did the latter.

      I was supposed to meet my date at a restaurant down the street from my home. I didn’t want him to come to my house for two reasons:  first, he was a stranger and I did not want him to know where I lived. And secondly, I didn’t want him to meet my ex-partner, just in case he was in one of his drunken drug-fueled rages.

     My ex-partner: whom unfortunately, I still lived with. My ex-partner: whom, at one time, was the love of my life.

     Oh yes, the love of my life, Craig!  Now, let me tell you about Craig.

     Craig and I had been dating for two years, and we’d been in a committed relationship for three. When I first met him, we had such a great time! We went everywhere together. Movies, plays, museums and even walks in the park. We even traveled to London, Paris and Italy.

     After two years, he asked me to marry him. We bought a house and moved in together. We actually had a white picket fence and two small dogs!  I was working as an engineer and he was a graphic artist. I drove a BMW; and him, a Jaguar. Several times a year, we threw lavish parties in what some called our “fabulous home.” 

     Life was wonderful!  I was truly living my dream.

     But then one night, in the blink of an eye, everything changed!  Craig punched me in my face.

     We’d had disagreements in the past, but never anything physical. Our philosophy was if we got that mad at each other, we’d go to our separate corners, so to speak. And later, we’d meet after we had calmed down.  And then, we’d talk.

     But not this night. 

     On this particular night, I came home late from work and Craig was really upset. And I didn’t understand why.  I’d called him and left a message saying I would be late. I even texted him. But he accused me of cheating on him . He was yelling and screaming at me; and during our heated argument, he punched me.

     I was shocked as I fell over one of the kitchen chairs, and then landing  hard on the floor. When I regained my composure, he was standing over

me–apologizing again and again.

    I just sat there, staring at him in amazement!  I could not believe he’d done that.  His expression told me that he felt the same way.

    He grabbed a warm towel and placed it on my suddenly bruised face. He kept apologizing over and over, promising that he would never strike me again.

    The next day at work, I told everyone that I accidentally bumped into a door.

    For a few days after that, everything seemed to be back to normal. But slowly, he became more and more agitated. He would get upset over the littlest of things.

    The arguments became more and more frequent, just as the bruises on my body and my excuses to my family and friends did.

    I covered up everything as best I could. When he twisted my hands and broke one of them, I told people I fell while running to a meeting. When he  hit me on the back of my head with a pot–which produced a gash–I told the hospital that I’d accidentally fell backward against a window of a metal gate.

    When Craig pushed me down the stairs, I told everyone that I accidentally fell.  And when Craig’s mother popped up at our house for a surprise visit, Craig told her that I was the one who’d trashed the office, throwing stuff everywhere–even smashing the computer.

     Craig told everyone that I was the “crazy one,” always yelling and screaming at him. His family and friends believed every word! And my friends and family didn’t know because I never told. Or should I say I never admitted anything, even though they knew something was wrong.

    Come to find out that Craig was an alcoholic and addicted to crack. It was a deadly combination for the both of us. I assumed it was the pressures of life—(and of course) me causing him problems that made him do it. And I didn’t want anyone to know that I was living in my private hell.

     But I loved him.

     Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore!  I told Craig that I was leaving him, that our relationship was over. I’d packed my bags and was going to move on the following Sunday.

     The Saturday night before, I’d made a blind date. I’d been on-line for a while; of course, behind Craig’s back. I normally don’t meet men on-line; but this was my first date since I broke up with whom I had considered to be the love of my life.

    And this night, I made a date with Clarence. He seemed to be a nice, well- established gentleman. And single–which was a plus!  I’d been out of the dating game for years, so I was just jumping back into the swing of things.

     The only problem was that Craig could not accept the fact that we had broken up. He just refused to believe that I was leaving him! He kept telling me that I was ugly, no good, and that no one would want me. All the while, he was beating me. 

     He broke down my self-esteem so badly that when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know who the person was staring back at me.

     I’d lost myself.  

     Well that night, I left the house and walked down the street relieved that Craig was asleep–or so I’d hoped. I hated for him to know that I was going to meet someone else.

     As I got closer to my destination, with each and every step, I was becoming more and more nervous. I had not been on a date since I met Craig, so I felt like a fish out of water.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

     As I was trying to get my nervousness under control, suddenly someone jumped me from behind! I didn’t see who the person was because he was on top of me so fast, punching and clawing at me. At one point, I couldn’t see anything because my glasses had been knocked off in the tussle.

     Punch after punch, he beat me up. I tried my best to defend myself; and at one point, I got the better of the person. I was on top of him, punching him until he lay lifeless in the snow. I was so scared that I didn’t take the time to see who it was or try to find my glasses.

      I got up and stumbled down the street. I decided to meet my date instead of going back to my house just in case Craig was awake. I hated to explain where I was and with whom.

     As I approached my date, who was standing in front of the restaurant, he had a confused look on his face–as did other people walking in and out of the restaurant.

     “Clarence?” I asked, as I approached him.  Slowly, he took a step back as I got closer.

    “Yes” he hesitantly replied, as I’m sure he noticed that I was disheveled with a blood-stained shirt, no coat or glasses.

     “My name is Norman.”

     “Oh my gosh,” he replied.  “Are you okay? What happened?”

      “I was mugged.”

      “Well, you have to call the police,” he insisted.

      “No. I can’t. No police,” I practically yelled at him.

     I didn’t want Craig to know I’d left the house. And I didn’t want the cops investigating my personal life because they would find out the truth about my life in hell. I loved Craig so much that I had to protect him. He was in my heart. I thought, “He didn’t mean the things he did. I was the one that made him upset. And this would have definitely made him upset.”

    “Well, you have to at least go home and get cleaned up.”

     Clarence, a perfect stranger, was so concerned about me!  It felt good to have someone genuinely care about me. It had been so long.

     He convinced me to go home get cleaned up–and then we’d continue our date. I agreed, but I asked him to wait outside while I changed clothes. We got into his car and drove to my house.

     The events that night prompted me to write this poem: 

     I met him, I liked him, I wanted him, 

     He’s in my heart. 

     We dated, we went to movies, we went to plays, we went to dinners. 

     He’s in my heart. 

     I wanted only him, I wanted him to always be in my life. 

    He’s in my heart. 

    We moved in together, we got married, we brought a house. 

    He’s in my heart. 

    I was in heaven, I was on cloud ten, I was loving my life. 

    He’s in my heart. 

    But then he cursed me, he belittled me, he chastised me. 

    But he’s in my heart. 

   He kept me from my friends, my family, my loved ones. 

   But he’s in my heart. 

   Then he slapped me, he punched me, he cut me. 

   But he’s in my heart. 

   He said he was sorry, that he will never do it again, He said he LOVES ME. 

   He’s in my heart. 

   I forgave him over and over again, I could not leave him, I LOVE HIM. 

   He’s in my heart. 

   But my family and friends told me to leave him and I finally listened. 

   He’s not in my heart anymore. 

 

   You see, the person who mugged me was Craig! When I walked in the house, he was waiting for me. And of course, another fight erupted and my body received several more bruises.

   I wish I had reported the abuse to the police or the hospital earlier. But at this point, who would’ve believed me?  Besides the fact that most of my bruises were below the neck.  He had everyone convinced I was the abusive one.

   And before that night, I told myself that I loved him and could not live without him.  Or should I say he convinced me of that lie.

   But no more.

   I moved out of my private hell into the sunshine of heaven. I finally left the man who abused me for years.

   And even though I am happy now, every once in a while, I think about the fact that he might be abusing someone else. I think about the fact that…. 

   I should have told……..

   LGBT domestic violence is vastly underreported, unacknowledged, and often reported as something other than domestic violence.

   Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the batterer or abuser) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate and/or dependent relationship. Experts believe that domestic violence occurs in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community with the same amount of frequency and severity as in the heterosexual community. Society’s long history of entrenched racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia prevents LGBT victims of domestic violence from seeking help from the police, legal and court systems for fear of discrimination or bias.

   Abuse is never right. If you are in abusive relationship… tell someone.  If you know or suspect that someone is in an abusive relationship…tell someone.

   YOU SHOULD TELL. 

   For more information or to get help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sizzling sequel, entitled “Honey Hush…Don’t Ask & I Won’t Tell,” drops soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And catch his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else, on iTunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 3

“It’s All About March-amorphosis”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

    Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice sippers near and far!  I hope your spring sprung in the best way possible; and, if you plan to partake in Easter festivities, your basket will overflow with good things.

    This month marks a transition into a new season. Time to put away the coats and boots in order to embrace short sleeves, light fabrics and open-toe shoes (provided proper prior pedicure protocols have been followed).  It is also a perfect opportunity to metamorphose into a person prepared to embrace new opportunities, and rise to the challenge of being better versions of ourselves.

    Every day, we are presented with situations to expand our horizons; but too often, we don’t step forward and claim them. We get stuck in our ways and find comfort in the status quo.  

    Now, there is nothing wrong with sticking with the “tried and true.”  Finding something that works is wonderful, and I commend those who have found their lane and maximize its potential.

    But there is also something to be said for taking things to the next level and embracing the beauty of metamorphosis, or coming out and into your own.

    Stepping into your potential is a scary prospect. For a period of time, I was afraid of stepping out and changing how I did things. I was comfortable just going to work, coming home to my Gaston County (N.C.) apartment, and spending time with my fiancé. I was afraid to challenge myself to do something beyond what was expected of me–get a job, get engaged to my college boyfriend, and get ready to spend the rest of my life doing what was expected of so many southern African American women.

    Then I realized I couldn’t spend the rest of my life not stepping out of my comfort zone and allowing the true me to come out. I had to break out of the cocoon of conformity, and spread my wings to soar.

LaToya Hankins

    So, I placed an ad to have a one-night stand before I got married. Sure, there were other things I could have tried to expand my horizons. Truly, I didn’t expect a response to the ad. I just wanted to do something unexpected to break up the monotony of what my life had become.

    Spring with its longer days and warmer weather is the perfect time to become that person open to trying new things and discovering talents that lie dormant. Flowers shouldn’t be the only things that should bloom. March should be a time to metamorphose into a better version of the person who started the New Year.

    Metamorphosis could be something as simple as getting a haircut, being the person that speaks up at meetings with a suggestion that could make things better, or finally deciding to make that move to a better place. The key is to find that thing or things that allow you to flourish.

    To be sure, change is never easy. The first step toward metamorphosis is usually the hardest, and the one that is going to be the most uncomfortable. There is the uncertainty about whether or not you are making the right move, the unease of being outside your comfort zone, and the off-chance the time isn’t right.

     Then, there is the chance your challenging the status quo will leave some people hurt or left behind.  My choice resulted in a broken engagement, coming out as a lesbian, and some tense holiday dinners since it took my mom a few years to accept my sexuality.

    However, my decision also led me on the path toward co-founding a black Gay Pride organization, becoming a published author, and being comfortable in my own skin. By treating my worries about going into different directions like some many sweaters–things to be packed away–I metamorphosed into someone following a path I believe will take me to a much better place and state of mind.

    Just like pulling out last year’s spring tops only to find that they “shrunk” while they were packed away, metamorphosis is going to require getting rid of some things in order to make room for the new. The key is to be push through and move forward.

    How will you know how well your process is coming along?   That depends. The measure could be an increase in your paycheck, the number of hours you can sleep, or the number of times you smile during the day because you have metamorphosed into someone who is committed to being a better version of her or himself.

    Until next time, adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 8

“Kiss Me You Fool” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

     “Oh, my gosh!  Oh, my gosh!  My parents will be home soon, and this boy peed on my mama’s new couch!  I’ll bet that when she finds out–besides giving me a whooping—she’ll wish she had put plastic on the furniture. She wanted plastic on it when we first got it, but my father said it would make our good furniture look ‘cheap’.”

     Of all things, this was what I was thinking about as I was about to have my first kiss with this new man I’d been dating for a while. We’d been to a few dinners and getting to know each other; but at the end of the evening, we’d never kissed.  And kissing is very important to me.  If a man can’t kiss, then that’s a big turn-off.   

     As we were sitting in his car at the end of the date, I was thinking about the year 1972 when I was twelve years old.  At that time, I was a latch-key kid and I knew exactly when my parents were to arrive home from work, depending on traffic.      

     You see, a latch-key kid means that your parents work during the day, and aren’t at home when you leave school.  

    And as a latch-key kid, I had certain rules. One was that as soon as I got home from school, I had to lock the doors and call my mother at work to tell her I was in the house. I didn’t call my father: he was a bus driver and on the road. (During that time, we didn’t have cell phones.)  Also, my mother worked for the phone company, and it seemed like she was always at her desk when I called.

     And, when my parents weren’t at home, the number one rule was, “No company at all!”

     That day, unfortunately, I broke that rule.  I had company.  And that company peed on my mama’s new couch.

    I didn’t notice it at first. He had left about a half-hour earlier, and I was making sure everything was fine in the house. I didn’t want my parents to realize I had broken a rule.                                       

     But actually, I had broken two rules… The second one was, “Don’t skip school.”

     Well, I did.  And, I’d planned to forge an absent note from my mother saying I was sick and that’s why I didn’t go to school that day.

     I had practiced the note over and over again. The good thing was that my mother always signed the notes “C. Norman” –and not her full name. So I just took a previous note, put it on top of a piece of a blank paper and traced her signature. I would tell my teacher that I wrote the note and my mother had signed it.

     My classmate and friend Jason had also skipped school to come over to spend the day with me.

     We’d been playing around with each other for a while. In fact, he was always chasing me, wanting to wrestle with me and “feel me up.” At first, it was just child’s play. But after a while, he started whispering nasty stuff in my ear.

     “I’m going to get you naked,” he would say. “I want to see your dick,” he added.  Once, he even showed me a picture of his dick,  I was shocked, intrigued and perplexed.

     I thought to myself, “Am I gay? If not, then why is it I can’t stop thinking about that picture–or Jason?”  I was so confused.

     I’d learned about sex in sex education class, and the rest from my parents and other kids. Even though my parents gave me the so-called “talk,” I was still very naïve about what was happening with my body and inside my mind, as different thoughts ran through my head. 

     After a while, whenever I saw Jason, I would run.  Part of it was out of fright because I never knew what he was going to say or do. And the other part was because I didn’t want anyone to know that I liked it, and that I might be gay: especially not Jason!  Who knew what he would do with that “little piece” of information.

     So, we kind of played this “cat and mouse” game until one night, he caught me in a dark alley when I was on my way home.

     I was almost to the end of the alley when all of a sudden, Jason appeared out of nowhere!  He must have been following me.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

     I was stunned!  As he slowly approached me, I froze in my tracks.  I wanted to run, but my feet wouldn’t move.  And, he didn’t say one word as he got closer and closer to me. 

     Jason was so near that I could feel his hot breath on my face!  And the only light shining was the moon, which seemed to light up the entire alley for the world to see us. 

     We just stood there face-to-face, just staring at each other. Part of me was scared because I didn’t want anyone to know we were in this alley alone.

     However though, another part of me was intrigued by the whole thing.   

     Jason continued gazing at me, hypnotizing me with his deep, brown eyes.  As he slowly leaned in closer and closer, he stared at me, as if waiting for me to react until his lips touched mine.

     All of a sudden–and without a single word–he kissed me!

     For what seemed like an eternity, Jason pressed his lips against mine. Then, he stood back.

     And we both just stood there, staring at each other once again as if we were anticipating each other’s reaction–which would be the start of my gay experiences.

     But after a few moments, I was so frazzled that I didn’t say a word!  I ran out of the alley all the way home, ending up straight in my bedroom and closing the door.  I was so confused as I lay in the dark with all those thoughts running through my mind.

     I’d just had my first kiss… and it was with a boy!

     Part of me liked it.  However, part of me was so terrified that someone would find out that I might be gay.

     After a while, my mother called me to the phone. I slowly got up and walked passed her as she asked me if I were okay.

     I didn’t answer her. That’s because I was just not sure of the answer!  I went downstairs to pick up the extension.  

     “Hello,” I muttered.

     “How did you like the kiss?”  asked the low voice on the other end of the receiver.

     I was so startled because at first, I didn’t know who it was. My first thought was, “Someone saw us in the alley, and everyone is going to think that I’m gay!”   

     I was petrified.  

     But then, my nervousness turned to more confusion as I realized that the person on the other end of the line was Jason!

     He did most of the talking, and eventually asked me to skip school. I wanted to say “no;” but for some reason, my body made my mouth say “yes!” I didn’t know what I was thinking or saying.

     Several days later, I left the house like I normally did and waited around the corner until my parents left for work. Then I went back home and waited for Jason to arrive.

     “What was I doing? Why is it I can’t get this boy out of my mind? Am I gay?”

     These were my thoughts as I sat there counting the minutes, waiting for him to arrive. 

     Jason arrived around noon, and we sat on the couch not saying much. I wasn’t sure what to say, or what we were doing.  Most of the day, we just watched TV, ate and wrestled around a little bit.

     Then at one point, Jason did the same thing he’d done the other night. He began staring at me without saying a word.

      This time though, two things were different!  First, he put his arms around me, hugging me close.  And second, he stuck his tongue in my mouth.

     At first, I was frozen with shock!  It was so unexpected. But after a few moments, my tongue took on a mind of its own, and we were tongue-kissing each other–and I loved it!   (I believe that’s why today, a man has to know how to kiss to get with me.)

     We ended up rolling around on the couch feeling each other up until eventually, his wishes came true!  We were both naked.

     At one point, Jason lay on top of me and started moving his dick between my legs. As he was doing this, I was thinking to myself, “Is this how sex is supposed to be with two guys?”

     You see, in school, we were taught about sex between a man and woman–not two men. So, I was not sure what we were doing! We were just kind of fumbling around with each other until suddenly, I felt a strange sensation in my body.

     As I felt a sudden rush in my nether region, I was not sure what was happening.  When I moaned a little in Jason’s ear, he did the same.

    After a few moments, the feeling subsided and I felt exhausted. He must have felt the same because he took a deep breath–and then was limp on top of me.

    When he finally got off of me, there was white stuff all over my stomach and thighs. I grabbed a towel, and Jason proceeded to clean us both. How considerate he was.

    After I walked Jason to the door, he kissed me–again. “Hmmmm…I could get use to this kissing thing,” I thought to myself.

    As I was straightening up the living room, I noticed a stain on the couch. “Oh, my gosh!  Oh my gosh!” I thought.  He’d peed on my mama’s good couch.

    I didn’t have time to clean it, so I did the next best thing. I turned the cushion over, hoping my parents wouldn’t see or smell it.

    That night, I called Jason to confront him about peeing on my mama’s good sofa. But come to find out, I was wrong. It was not pee! Jason informed me that it was my “cum” stain on the couch. You see, he’d ejaculated on my stomach, while I did so on my mama’s good sofa. It just looked like a pee stain.  

    WOW… my first sexual experience, and it was with a boy!  Jason and I got together numerous times after that. Of course, I found out later that we never had real sex. I learned how to have real sex in college and I loved it.

    However, that first kiss was amazing, and I loved it a lot. I guess that’s why today, for me, a man has to know how to kiss with feeling and compassion. You have to know what you are doing!  If not, c’est la vie or such is life… bye-bye (smile).

    But we should all cherish our first.  Our first crush. Our first kiss. Our first sexual experience.

     Our first love. 

    Let’s cherish those moments in life that make us feel special. Those moments that make you feel like it’s your very first kiss.

     Let’s cherish the good things in life. They give us precious moments that last a lifetime.

    And by the way, ’til this day, my parents never saw the stain on the couch! And if they did, they never said anything about it. And my date tonight definitely knows how to kiss and because of that, there will be many more dates.

     Let’s just hope he doesn’t pee on my good couch.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sizzling sequel, entitled “Honey Hush…Don’t Ask & I Won’t Tell,” drops soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And catch his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else, on iTunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 2

“Missing The Ones That Didn’t Get Away” 

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Happy February!  It’s also known as the shortest month, with the most reasons to break your diet.  I hope your Mardi Gras was filled with “flava,” your Valentine’s Day was full of love, and you have recovered from Beyonce’s “Formation” domination of the world’s conversation. While this Carolina girl wasn’t happy about the outcome of the Super Bowl, I appreciate the effort both teams gave–and the spread my partner made for us to enjoy while we watched the game.

     For those who read my January introduction, you know that this year I am focused on the art and craft of being grateful. One of the things topping my list is the woman I call my “Canadian ChapStick.”   My sweetie took her first breath in a Canadian hospital, and moved to America when she was eight years old.

     We met during a Lesbian book club meeting held at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, and it was my beloved second occasion as the facilitator. Actually, she was the co-facilitator. I assumed the other woman leading the meeting was her partner.

     So when I asked where they were from, she quickly corrected me that she was from Delaware. She left the other person to fill in her own “blank.”  She was single, and I was in the midst of shucking off a bad relationship.

     The next occasion we crossed paths, we were both single ladies. That time it was during a Shades of Pride brunch.  Shades of Pride is the LGBT pride organization I co-founded in North Carolina’s Triangle area–and to which I still devote my talent, time and treasure to when I’m not “dazzling the world with my written words” and working for the State of North Carolina.  I was the hostess and she was a guest.

     The third time was the charm to convince us we were meant to be together. While I was in Charlotte and she was in Durham, we conversed via text messages during the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) basketball weekend. We had our first face-to-face date the first Monday in March, and the mythology of us began.

     With her, I think I have found my forever.  I know:  the whole thing is so sweet, you feel like you need to brush afterwards!  (Smile.) 

     One of the ways that I know she is the right one is because I have had my share of bad ones. I’m not talking about “it’s not you, it’s me” type of bad.  I’m talking, “Oh my Gosh, what was I thinking?”

     Stop me if some of these scenarios sound familiar: (1) the “cutie” that couldn’t keep a job–it was always “the man” trying to hold a “conscious” person down.  (By conscious, I mean they claim they’re all about being “positive” and  “righteous,” but knock anyone that doesn’t adhere to the same natural-fiber wearing, natural-hair-sporting, last-poet-quoting line they follow.)  (2) the “boo-thing” who felt the butterscotch candy between her thighs was too good to limit it to just one person; (3) the person who got jealous if someone had more than a five-minute conversation with you about something other than the weather. 

     Sometimes when my mind drifts back to those females (and males), one of the lines from my favorite songs comes to mind, “I wish you were the one who got away.(Hey—I, too, had a “straight” phase!)

     Then, I realize that if they were the ones who got away, I may not have fully gained the ability to appreciate the good person I have in my life right now. Going along with the theme of being grateful this year, I am grateful for bad relationships because they helped me appreciate the beauty of the good one I am currently experiencing.

     Bad relationships allow us to challenge our standards, prompt us to reevaluate our value, and rise to the occasion of seeking someone who deserves us—that is, if we are in the market to expand our horizons to include someone romantically. 

LaToya Hankins

     Don’t get me wrong:  many bad duets involve two people singing off-key In order to move forward, you have to challenge the part you played. But while you are doing that, embrace the memories of that special someone who always asked to let them “hold something until payday.”  If handled properly, it can create a path toward greater appreciation of that person who always has their own–and has something for you, too.

     Remember that ex you couldn’t bear to bring around your friends because someway, somehow, that person and one of your “friends” always ended up in a secluded corner–“just talking about you?”  Consider that when weighing the value of something so trustworthy even your 86-year-old grandmother would let them hold her purse while she went to the bathroom.  (Also–you may need to check your circle of friends.)

     Remember that insecure individual who had to have your attention placed only on them? That relationship can serve as the measuring stick to see how far you have come with that new person by your side.

     If you are single and looking, your exes can serve as an excellent checklist to assess if the effort to get to know someone is worth your time, talent, and treasures. The people we have dated are great tools to see how we have progressed in our appreciation for what truly is important in relationships.

     Don’t wallow in your bad relationship choices. Learn from them and move forward when considering dipping your toe and other body parts in the dating pool. Appreciate those who let you down, so that you can value the ones who lift you up. 

    Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 7 

“Is It Live Or Memorex?” 

Guest Writer:  R. L. Norman 

     I, along with everyone in the audience, stared at the big screen with shock!   As I slowly looked around, I saw people whispering and gawking with disgusting looks on their faces.

    That was because on the screen, there were four naked men.  It looked like they were in a hotel room.  A couple of them were on their hands and knees on either side of the bed. The other two were standing up behind each man. They were “doin’ the nasty,” as the saying goes.

     The cameraman was getting close-ups of the faces of the men as they were doing all sorts of sex stuff to each other. As the lens landed on the last man, the screen froze!  And as “big as day” was my face–there for all the world to see on this national TV talk show!

     I didn’t know what to say or do!  I gazed at the host, who was about to ask me a question. And I thought, “If this is a dream, I want to wake up because it has suddenly turned into a nightmare!”

     You see, this was the last scheduled program that I was on to promote my new book, “Honey Hush…Don’t Ask & I Won’t Tell.” 

     First, I appeared on the radio program, the “Russ Parr Morning Show.”

     Russ said, “R. L., this is your fifth book about the trials and tribulations of the character Norman. I have read all the books and loved them. While I am not gay, it is so interesting how you write these stories and how people can relate to them whether they are gay or straight. Was that your intention?”

     I answered, “Not at all. I just write what I know. But everyone needs to realize that life’s relationships have no boundaries. The only difference between gay and straight is who your partner is. We all experience the same feelings for each other.

     Next I was on “LIVE with Kelly and Michael.”

     Michael stated, “Your books are full of sex, sex…and more sex. And some people think they are gay X-rated books. Now I am not gay, but….”

     “Yes, Michael–you are a big muscular football player. Hmmm…” I said, smiling and jokingly looking at him.

     “Watch it R.L.,” Michael said, grinning and folding his legs like he was hiding his manhood. Everyone cracked up!

     Then he added, “Well, some people say the books are just full of men having sex, which is not really writing.”

     “I disagree with that,” I responded.  “If you read the stories and take away the fact that it is two men doing it, you are left with the feelings and emotions of the people involved. And for that, it doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. My books are about the passion of love for another person. And sex is just the reality of life!  It’s part of the love of a relationship. And I am sure there are several people here who have done some freaky stuff! I just let you read about it.”  The audience clapped.

     Then came “The View.”

     Whoopi announced, “He has written several books, has a monthly column, a podcast and a one-man stand-up show titled, ‘Norman’s One Night Stand’.  He’s here to do the G-rated promotional version of his show because I’ve seen the X-rated version–and some of you couldn’t take it.” She laughed.

     “Now, here is R. L. Norman with his promo for ‘Norman’s One Night Stand’.”

     The audience applauded.  After I gave my three-minute performance, I sat down with the ladies.

     Raven Symone commented, “Now, ‘Norman’s One Night Stand’ is your stand-up show.  However, I heard that you performed your very first  routine in elementary school–and it involved a shoe! Tell us about it.”

     I smiled and explained, “When I was in the sixth grade, the teacher had each of us read a passage from a book in front of the class.  My classmates were getting up there and boring us by reading a page or two.

     “Well, I decided that I was not going to just read to them. So, I stood in front of the class and started reading ‘Hamlet’–which was just a ruse!   In actuality, I was going to read from one of the books from the ‘Get Smart’  series. It was a series of books based on the old‘Get Smart’ TV show about secret agent ‘Maxwell Smart’.  Remember that old TV show? 

     “So after a few moments of reading ‘Hamlet, the class heard a phone ringing, which was actually a tape recording that I’d placed under the desk!  I then told the class that I had to take the call.

     “Next, I removed my shoe and turned a piece of cardboard that I had tacked to my heel.  I was pretending to unscrew my heel. I then answered the call from the ‘Chief’.  You see, the secret agent’s shoe was actually a  telephone!  I placed the shoe to my ear and I said my part as the ‘Chief’ said his part, which I recorded in a different voice.  Then, I told the class I had to go meet ‘Agent 99’ for a mission!  I exited the room.”

     The audience laughed and clapped.

     Next I went on “The Talk.” 

     Julie Chen inquired, “R. L. you have a monthly column titled ‘Honey Let Me Tell You Something’ and…”

     Smiling, I immediately interrupted her… “Julie, you have to say it right, and with a little ghetto soul!  It’s ‘HON…NEEEE….. let me tell you something’,” I corrected her, placing emphasis on the “NEEEE.

     The audience erupted into laughter.

    Then, Julie tried to say it.  “Well ‘hon…knee’, how did you come up with Nathaniel Octavius Nerdo, which is your pen name for the column?  And secondly, how do you, month after month, create such different, diverse and interesting topics?”

     “Julie, I have to credit Wyatt O’Brian Evans, my good friend and the person who publishes my column every month on his website, Wyattevans.com.  Wyatt suggested the name. And when I first heard it, I thought it was crazy! But after I said it over and over again, I started laughing to myself.

     “As I go about my day-to-day activities, the topics I write about just pop in my head.  I try to write about those things that make people think about life.”

     Then I went on the “Steve Harvey Show.”

     “R. L., your books have some very colorful characters!  Just how do you create them?” Steve inquired. 

     “Well Steve, I call myself a realist.  I try to write my books as real life situations,” I revealed. “Situations that we all may have been in and can relate to.”

     Then, Steve jumped in, “Does that mean you have slept with all those men as Norman has in the books?”  Everyone howled, waiting for my response.

     I stared at him and thought for a moment. “Steve, let’s just say I have many friends,” I chuckled.   “But don’t ask me that ’cause I can’t tell you.”  More laughter.

    On the next program, I sat on the couch and stared at the host with sheer amazement!  She was so kind, thoughtful–but also slightly commanding.  I listened in total awe as she was interviewing me. It was always my dream to one day be interviewed by Oprah! And here I was; on“Super Soul Sunday,being interviewed by none other than Oprah herself.

     “Super Soul Sundayis where she interviews top thinkers, authors, and visionaries exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment–and what it means to be alive in today’s world. 

     “Well, there is one thing that people always say about you, which is that you are humbled and flattered by any attention”, Oprah stated. “In fact my staff told me that when they contacted you for the show, your response was, ‘Are you sure you have the right person’?”

     I replied, “Well yes, because to me I just wrote some words on a piece of paper, or made someone smile or helped someone think about life. I am just surprised by it all. I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but everyone tells me that I should embrace my blessings and the reality of it all. So I am surprised when anyone asks me to appear somewhere, or say they like something I did.

     “But Oprah, I am just in awe to be here with you! You have no idea.”  Then, I added, and with a smile, “And we have to take a selfie.”

As the audience cheered, we both smiled.  And she nodded, “Yes!”

     Oprah continued, “Well, R.L., I have read all your books, and I especially like the endings of each chapter.  Norman, the main character, shares his deep feelings and relates them to a song. And I love the songs! And you have song tracks for each book.

     “Sometimes, I put in the CD and just listen to your song choices. How did you make those particular selections?  And, how would you describe your writings, and the character of Norman?”

     Thoughtfully, I began, “Well, I write about feelings and the heart.  First, I write what I feel, and then I read it back like I’m someone else so I can see if I get that special feel of what I wrote.  I write to inspire.

     I continued, “At one time or another, we all were Norman. We all aspire to love and be loved. We all aspire to be happy. And, Norman is a fighter and a survivor when it comes to love! I write to give people inspiration that through the good and the bad times, we all can be as happy as we want to be. Also sometimes, music expresses our heart and feelings, and the songs just emphasize that.”

     From “Super Soul Sunday, I was hustled to my last television appearance of the day, the“Wendy Williams Show.

     “Tell us about your latest book about to hit the stands any day now,” Wendy asked, with a slight grin filling her face.

     I thought to myself that something was up! This is Wendy and I expect something to happen. I just didn’t know what.

     I stared at her a moment and then said, “Well, in the first four books Norman stopped his wedding, was almost murdered, nearly had a secret come out that would destroy his life, and then almost lost his man to a woman.  This book is based on secrets!  Everyone has secrets.  Some should be revealed, and some should NOT. The books are about how sometimes people should “kiss and tell” or keep their mouths closed. So basically, every character has or knows a secret and has to decide whether to tell or not.”

     The host continued.  “Well, speaking of secrets, people say you are a very private person in real life and don’t ‘kiss and tell’. They also say that you are the one person that can always keep a secret!  They say that even with people you sleep with, you are very selective and don’t deal with anyone unless you are sure they will not tell everyone. Is that true?”

     Being reflective, I stated, “Well, yes. I am very private when it comes to my personal life.  And one thing most people know about me is that I certainly can keep a secret.”

     Wendy followed with, “Well, evidently everyone that you deal with does not agree with your philosophy of ‘don’t kiss and tell’.

     I stared at her, confused. “What does that mean?” I asked.

     “Take a look at this,” she said, motioning towards the screen behind us.

     Suddenly, the lights in the studio dimmed a little and the screen behind us came on. I turned around to look.

     At first, I thought we were looking at an amateur porn video. I wasn’t sure what I was viewing or why. And then, I became mortified as I realized that I knew every star of the movie!Especially myself, as I stared at the freeze frame of my face, which was there for all the world to see on this national—no, international–talk show.

     I didn’t know what to say or do. I looked at Wendy, who was about to ask me a question. And I thought, “If this is a dream, I want to wake up because it has suddenly turned into a nightmare!”

     I just stared at Wendy and quickly said, “No! No! No!”, as the audience was yelling, “Hoe… Hoe… Hoe.”

    As the chanting of the audience became louder and louder, I stood up and put my hands over my ears!  Their chants got so loud that it was blaring.

R L NORMAN NEW COVER DESIGN

     But then, suddenly, I woke up in my bed wet from sweat! I peered around the room, trying to figure out where I was. What day was it? What time was it?  I was so confused.

     After I regained my composure and pulled myself together, I realized that I had a dream, and that my alarm clock was ringing.

     Just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I Have A Dream.”  Well, I have always dreamt about being on talk shows.  I tell my family and friends all the time that one day, I’m going to be on several of them.

     I’m trying to make my dreams a reality. And I believe that everyone must  follow their dreams.

     Dr. King believed that one day, we will all be free to be what we want to be, and to follow and achieve our dreams the best we can.

     Therefore, in honor of MLK and Black History Month, I challenge YOU to follow your passions, your hopes, your dreams…and your desires to be free to do what makes you happy.

     Regardless of the circumstances in your life, you have to do the best you can.  Because if you do that but fall short of your goals, then you have achieved because you tried and believed it.

     As well, have faith in God that you will achieve–as long as you believe.  MLK believed–and look how far we have come. Do your best to be your best.

     I just hope that one day I won’t B saying O.M.G. on T.M.Z. telling Y.O.U. that what you C is not M.E.—me!


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sizzling sequel, entitled “Honey Hush…Don’t Ask & I Won’t Tell,” drops soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  And catch his Podcast, “Honey Let Me Tell You Something Else, on iTunes.  All of these endeavors are part of his production company, Honey Let Me Tell You.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

Bits Of BS

BitsofBS 3

“Shady BS” 

Guest Writer:  Bobby Smith

     A white CIS woman and a Black SGL man are leaving a business meeting together. The woman tries to hail a cab for both of them to share; however, a cab is not obtained until the man attempts to hail one.

     The woman chalks it up to old school misogyny until she notices the male driver is making flirtatious eyes at her associate. She then smiles and states to the man riding beside her, “We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”

     The lives of same gender loving people of color have improved in many ways over recent decades. Multitudes of new doors are open to those of us who openly identify as same gender loving. I sometimes wonder if, in making sure that we are adorned in coats befitting the status of the doors we’re entering, our egos have made us blind to the value of someone pulling our coattails. Are all the fractures that remain in our communities the result of external social elements or do the chasms remain due to limited internal assessment?

     I ask this question as someone who has never forgotten the value of a good “read.” Back in the day, you could be “read for filth”* but only if the person reading you was respected and if you were actually slipping in the action(s) being addressed in the reading. I differ reading from the “shade” in today’s terminology because serving shade seems to be solely for the purpose of giving slight to another individual or entity. The response to shade is to throw more shade.

     When one is read, there are two options: 1.) Read back based on inaccuracy of the accusation or, 2.) accept the reading and check your behavior so no one else would be able to read you ever again (well, at least not for exactly the same faux pas). People who were known as ones who would read you up and down were community members who served as unofficial auditors in our community life. We didn’t easily fight in the streets and the clubs or leave our “besties” hanging to be the next notch on a non-relationship-material’s bedpost because we knew we would get read.

     As throwing shade has evolved, it appears (to me and a few others) that we have developed a narcissistic focus. How dare anyone check us on our etiquette, work performance, civic actions, ethics, or even whether our noses are booger-free!  The best of readers are very much aware that they are subject to be read too. A developed ability to throw shade makes one impervious to other’s shade.

     Nowadays, certain community presence or status can make one impervious to being read. This impunity stunts the growth of our community. How can we strengthen something while providing a hiding place for faults in the blind spot of our egos?

     This is my BitsofBS for this month. I guess it can be classified as an attempt at a slight read. I am open to be read for my statements. I view readings as a gift. Either a valid point will be made and I will be educated (betterment) as a result, or a comment will be so sideways and ignorant that I will have the opportunity to construct a good “clapback” (entertainment).

     I just hope at least one peruser of this column is inspired to lend a different ear to the source of reprimand, minding the possibility that whoever is mouthing those words is actually someone who cares enough to attempt bettering a friend by holding them up to a higher standard.    

     To note:  if you are in the dark as to what being “read for filth” is, click here.

 

 BITS OF BS


 Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page–https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOTand by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/And, you mail email Bobby at:  bitsofbs@outlook.com

Hot Tea and Ice

“It’s About That G-Thang”

Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

Happy 2016!  I’m trusting all is well in your world.

Please allow me the opportunity to introduce “my selves” to you.  I may be an only child raised by an only child, but I feel I have a not-so secret identity I want to share with you.

By day, I am LaToya Hankins, a 44-year-old polite woman who works for the State of North Carolina. LaToya drives a compact car, has a dog named Neo, and shares her home and birthday with a “Canadian professional listener” (a mental health therapist), and two feline divas named Percy and Patches.      

However, once the sun sets, LaToya takes off her badge, “lets loose” her locs (dreadlocks) and becomes…Toya!  She’s the author of books, short stories and clever social media updates who creates worlds where LGBTQ persons of color who call the South their home thrive.  Toya loves potatoes, pasta, and the percolator (that popular 1980’s dance where you rapidly gyrate your legs in time with the music and “pop” your booty)–which she does furiously in her mind when she listens to the Pandora house music station.

LaToya Hankins

Over the next few months, I hope to share more about LaToya and Toya with you, and I hope to learn more about you as well. However, with this being a New Year, let us start with what probably passed through most of our lips on January 1st (besides collards and black eyed peas): New Year’s resolutions.

Like many of you, I resolve to lose weight, cut back on my television watching and save money. All of which is cute.  But what I really want to work on is being more grateful for what I have, in order to allow more great things to come into my life.

Many of us know the power of gratitude, but we have been reluctant to claim it as part of our lives.  Maybe we don’t know how to start, what we should be grateful for, or how to show it.

There is no wrong way to be grateful and it’s quite easy to do once you put your mind to it. The first step is to be grateful for simply being you. Many people didn’t make it to 2016, so celebrate the simple fact that you are still among the number. 

Next, take a look in the mirror. When looking at yourself, be grateful for the achievements which followed you across the threshold of the New Year.  Last year, many of us gave ourselves peace of mind by shedding failed relationships. Others gave ourselves the power to believe in our own abilities by starting new businesses, going back to school, or accepting the fact that we are better than our circumstances. We have to be grateful for the opportunities provided and created by us to step outside the lines to be better people in 2016.

Along with being grateful for the achievements we have manifested, we need to be grateful for those who have been in our corner celebrating and commiserating with us. It could be your mother, your best friend, your beloved, or that neighbor you have had a crush on forever. We all have someone in our lives whose laughter chase away the storm clouds, knows just the right time to call to shake us out of our foul mood, or comes through with a home-cooked meal (depending on the situation) to feed our souls and stomach. Be grateful for the simple treasures of that person who has your back, stands in front of you to shield you from trouble, and stands in the gap for you when you can’t stand alone. 

     Many of us have memorized “The Color Purple,” but one of the lines that stands out for me is the notion that walking by the color purple in a field pissed God off. In this New Year, we have to be grateful for the simple acts of beauty and kindness we see all around us. Express gratitude by taking the time to listen to raindrops hitting the windows when you are inside with no particular place to go, and then acknowledging that perfect symphony of sound.  Show gratitude by standing still and finding calmness in the sight of twilight when the sun exits the celestial stage, allowing the chorus of stars to be showcased. Display gratitude for the touch of a loved one by expressing thanks through your words and deeds for their contributions to your life.

     Showing gratitude allows us to feel better and opens us up to receiving more good things. Happiness attracts happiness.  And no matter what resolutions we set forth, the main objective is to be happy. Gratitude doesn’t require gym fees, special fees, or new clothes. It’s free and feels good. So indulge!

This is my first column, and I am grateful that you have read it. I hope it sparks you to think about what you have to be grateful for so far in 2016, and I hope it inspires you to add to the lists of gratitudes with each passing day. 

Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”    


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 6

“WHAT DO THE LONELY DO AT CHRISTMAS?”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman 

  It was so silent that we could hear every sound or movement in the house.

     We sat there as still and as quietly as we could, even though we were half asleep. We had waited until we thought our parents were asleep before we went on our undercover mission. 

     It was about 2 a.m., and I and my two brothers, ages eight and four, snuck out of bed and took our places half-way down the steps–waiting.  Being the oldest at 10, I led my brothers on our “grand” adventure. It was just supposed to be me and my middle brother; however, my little brother woke up while we were trying to leave the room, so we had to take him along.

     From our vantage point, we had a good view of the fireplace, which by this time the fire had gone out. The only illumination in the room were the flashing Christmas tree lights. And so far, the only gifts under the tree were the gifts that we had brought for each other!  I remember I’d bought a glove and scarf set for my mother, and a bottle of Brut and Soap-On-a-Rope for my father.  Feeling quite proud, I couldn’t wait for them to open them!

    And there we sat… waiting and waiting and waiting. It was Christmas Eve and we were waiting for Santa Claus.

     It was 1965, and we were determined to see Santa come down the chimney! My youngest brother even had my mother leave “The Big Guy in Red” milk and cookies. We had decided—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that we’d catch him that year.

     The next morning, we woke up back in out beds when our parents came into the room to tell us that Santa had come and gone. We didn’t remember going back to bed, but we didn’t care!  Practically tripping over each other, we ran down the stairs to get to the Christmas tree that now had what seemed like a zillion gifts.

 

     Fast forward to Christmas Day 2015.  My daydreaming has ended.  As I’m watching the kids open their gifts, I sit here thinking that at this moment, I am not lonely.

     Earlier this morning, I was in my living room looking at my Christmas tree that didn’t have a lot of gifts under it like when I was a kid. It only had one.

     The special gift I’d bought for myself.

     I purchased it because I’m single, and don’t have a significant other to exchange presents with.

     That’s one of the pitfalls of being lonely and alone.

     There are many of us around the world that belong to that “Club of Loneliness.”  And unfortunately—and sadly—Christmas can be one of the days to be extra lonely. 

     You see, there are 12 days of Christmas.  Additionally, there are Six Days of Loneliness throughout the year. Six days each and every year that the Angel of Darkness comes knocking harder at our hearts and souls.

     Six days that we lonely people feel the most alone–while others celebrate.

     Six days that the emptiness in our hearts gets heavier.

     Six days when we sit at home and the echoes of silence are so loud, that it rings in our ears—and can almost be deafening. 

     So, just what are those days?  They are New Year’s Eve, when couples celebrate together to ring in the New Year with that first kiss. New Year’s Day, when couples go to brunch/dinner to celebrate.Valentine’s Day, when lovers come closer together to profess their love. Thanksgiving Day, when couples meet and greet each other’s families.  Your birthday, your extra special time when friends and family just don’t seem to be enough to guarantee your happiness.  And of course, Christmas Day.

     It’s on these days that the fact that we are single weighs heavier on our minds–and in our hearts. These are the times when we wish we had a partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, and lover–or at least someone to dream about.

     It’s on these days that life seems that more empty when we wake up with our back towards the empty space in our beds, and we feel that empty space in our hearts. The days when we want to sit in a lonely, bedimmed room, with the curtains drawn, dwelling on the darkness of our world–instead of the brightness of life.  

     Some of us think that we have to be in a relationship to “not be lonely.” But that’s not the case. Loneliness is a state of mind.  It’s all about realizing that you are blessed and that God is good. Whether you celebrate the day with friends and family or with strangers.

     But it’s those lonely days when we should realize that we are not really lonely. We should not forget that we are all loved by someone.  And we should also remember that God loves us.

     And on this Christmas day, I’m smiling as I watch the children having a good ole time opening their presents at the homeless shelter.  Each year, I visit a different shelter, in large part to let the little ones know they are not alone.  And as I observe them, I reminisce about my past Christmases, which were filled with life and love.

    I realized that the joy of life and love filled the emptiness in my heart so much that it was overflowing!  This enables me to ignore the fact that I was supposed to be lonely.

     Not being in a relationship is not the end of the world!  You shouldn’t need a man/woman to be happy. Happiness is what you make it. As well, the level of loneliness is what you make it.

     So on those six days of loneliness, what do we do–particularly on Christmas?   

     The Number One thing is to try not to think about it. Make it through the day the best you can. Always put one foot in front of the other and keep going.   

     We have to think about our lives and what it means to us.   We must realize that we can make a difference.

     As we put a smile on someone’s face, we can put a smile in our hearts. Celebrate FRIENDSHIP… Celebrate FAMILY …Celebrate LIFE…Celebrate LOVE!

     The bottom line:  the moment we encourage ourselves to celebrate life, the loneliness will disappear.  And believe me, that moment can feel like a lifetime.

     Encourage yourself…..   


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 5

“Do You Know Your A, B and Cs?”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman 

     On a sunny day in June, I was among what seemed to be hundreds of guests at this outdoor wedding.  It took place in the backyard of a mansion in Bowie, Maryland.  Rumor had it that a Washington Redskins football player owned it.  But who knows if that were true.

    When I arrived, a valet parked my car and a well-dressed usher led me to the backyard, which was decorated in purple and white lilacs. There was a large pool, with smaller pools here and there. That, along with several gazebos all around the yard, were quite impressive.

     As I made my way through the crowd meeting and greeting, I was thinking how I never thought I would see the day when one of my good friends, Percy, would be getting married.

     I have known Percy since our college days at Tuskegee University in  Alabama. Back in the day, we used to be very popular on campus. And once we pledged to a fraternity, our popularity increased–especially among the male student population.

    Oh yes, those were the days!  We were invited to all the underground gay parties. You see, in those days back in the early 1980’s, to be gay was basically an “undercover” thing.  This was especially true on college campuses, where you had to be a part of the “in-crowd” to know where the parties were.  So, it was a privilege to be on the so called “C” List.

    And that was one thing I didn’t understand about Percy and this wedding. You see, Percy also was on the “C” List. But he was marrying someone on the “A” List!   

     What do these Lists mean?  Well, I’ll get to that shortly.

     As the announcement was made that the wedding was about to commence, everyone took their seats around the designated areas in the yard.

     The wedding parties came in and took their places in front of the makeshift altar.  Percy looked wonderful in his black-tailored tuxedo and  purple vest.  And, there was a purple flower in the lapel. Actually, everyone looked great.

     As the wedding song began to play, we all stood up and turned toward the mansion doors. We waited with anticipation for the appearance of Percy’s future mate.  And as those doors opened into the backyard, you could hear a pin drop.

     And suddenly, she appeared!  Yes, I said “she.” A woman.  A panty wearer.  A makeup wearer. A high-heel wearer. A dress wearer.

     Even though these days, that could also describe a man; but this was a real woman!  My good friend, with whom I use to go “man-hunting,” was marrying a real woman.  And, someone on the “A” List. 

     Now, this is the appropriate time to explain the Lists to you–or should I say, your A, B, and Cs.

     You see, when you print the letters A, B and C, they have different meanings.  For example, to print the letter “A”, you use all straight lines. To print the letter “B”, you use a line and curves.  And the letter “C” is just a curve.

     Therefore, let’s interpret: A = straight people, B = bisexual people and    C = Gay peoplethe A, B and C Lists.  And basically, everyone belongs to one of the three.

     And this woman was “strictly di**ly”–just like Percy!  She wanted d**k all the way; just like Percy.

      She wanted to be with a man.

     Just like Percy.

     She belonged on the “A” List while Percy belonged on the “C” List. That is why we could not understand why she wanted Percy.

     Or for that matter, why Percy wanted her.

     As she made her way toward the altar, I was remembering the bachelor party the night before.  It was held at this fancy ballroom in downtown D.C.

    At the door, we were given Mardi Gras-type masks that all the guests were wearing.  The object was that you wouldn’t really be able to see anyone’s face.

     Once inside the hall, we were greeted by waiters offering champagne and hors d’oeuvres.  All of them shirtless, they wore purple bow ties—and were poured into little tight black shorts.  It was hard to look at anyone except these “phyne” waiters–who were everywhere! 

     As I filtered through the crowd, meeting and greeting the men at the party, it was obvious from several conversations that there were A, B and C List people there.  So, I guess no one was bothered by the fact that the entertainment included half-naked men and women dancing, singing and flirting with the crowd.

    And Percy was in his glory!  He had men all over him and he was loving it.  It reminded me of our college days–when we both had men all over us.   

     During the night, I had a chance to speak to Percy about his impending nuptials. I asked him why he was getting married.   His response really surprised me. 

     He said, “I’m lonely.”  

     I was confused for a moment–until he “broke it down” for me.  Percy explained that through the years, he dated many men but could never find that one true love.  He was tired of just settling for different men so that he would have someone to wake up to in the morning, and someone to fill that temporary void in his heart.

     The bottom line:  he didn’t want to grow old alone!  So he decided to settle for a woman.

     I thought about this as I stood at the wedding, daydreaming about our conversation. I was thinking about the fact that I, myself, get lonely sometimes; however, I would never settle for just anyone in order to have companionship. That would not be fair to me, or to the other person.  I would rather wake up each morning with my six pillows in my lonely bed, instead of with someone to whom I was not attracted. 

    Percy’s problem was that he was not honest with himself.  

  And definitely not with her!

    In life, we should try our best to be who we truly are–regardless of what society dictates. You cannot just put your name on the “A” List if you truly do not belong there.  I, myself, belong on the“C” List and am happy with that.  I would not try to be on another list because that would make me unhappy and dishonest.

    Jumping over to the “A” List and not being straight not only affects you, but the person you date or are married to. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule; but that all depends on the honesty, openness and communication of the individuals involved in the relationship.

    Suddenly, I was roused from my daydream when I heard the preacher say, “If anyone objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

    Everyone got so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. But I was thinking that most people there knew that Percy very much wanted to object.

    After the passing of a few moments of silence, some people coughed and cleared their throats. Those few minutes felt like a lifetime.

    And then, it happened.  Someone said, “I OBJECT.”

    The crowd rumbled a little as everyone tried to figure out the identity of the brave soul who would perhaps save Percy and his bride from a potential life of heartaches and pain when the truth came out about who was on what List. 

     I was relieved–as I am sure most people were–when Percy made that statement. Yes, Percy did the right thing and objected.

     By stopping his own wedding, he was honest with himself and the bride about which List he was on. Of course not everyone was happy about this—particularly the bride.

    And as it turned out, she did not have a clue that Percy was gay.  While he secretly lusted after men, Percy used the excuse of “waiting until marriage to have sex.”

     But today, years later, they are both married to different people. The bride actually married the owner of the mansion, a football player.

     And Percy?  In the wake of the legalization of gay marriage, he married a wonderful man. They have even adopted two children.

     Therefore, in life, if you “keep it real and stay in your lane,” happiness will follow.   Don’t try to be someone you are not: it makes life that much more difficult and it hurts other people. 

     So here’s the question:  “Do you know your A, B and Cs? Or, just what List do you belong to?” 

     Express yourself and be yourself!  It will make you and the world a happier place. 


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Bits Of BS

BitsofBS 2

HIV Taboo BS

Guest Writer: Bobby Smith 

Are our actions saying only the lives of celebs like #MagicJohnson or #CharlieSheen matter after a HIV-positive diagnosis?

     I “went straight” after the maternal matriarch of my family–my great grandmother–passed on to a higher plane.  You see, I broke up with the high school crush I had connected with six years after graduating. Then, I entered into a heterosexual marriage–in concession to the perception that the only source of purely unconditional love had left me all alone.

    Shortly after exchanging vows, I moved my family to Atlanta, “JOJA” (Say it out loud if you don’t get it!) where events unfolded that “straightened me back out” – leaving me with no other option but to face and accept the sexual orientation that had been evident in my life since early childhood. One of my first orders of business was to reconnect with my ex and apologize for a breakup to which he had no culpability.

     Unfortunately, I was unable to locate him.  I later discovered, however, that he had moved back in with his mother; at which point, suddenly, all former social contacts had been severed. 

     As a result, no one in our social circles knew he had passed until well after his interment.  In the late ‘80s, when someone who was gay, under thirty years of age, earning an income well above minimum wage in a high-demand vocation moves back to the family home, odds were heavily in favor of  correctly deducing that some health crisis was instrumental in that situation.  I thought about the loneliness and alienation my beautiful ex must have experienced in his final days. 

     That prompted me to begin volunteering in the HIV arena.

    As a HIV-negative person, I had little to offer besides companionship.  I wasn’t afraid to touch someone who was positive, or drink and eat what was offered to me in the homes of people who were treated as lepers.  My “meager” offerings were treasures to people who had become accustomed to the paucity of handshakes and hugs, to people whose relatives forced them to eat off paper plates and sit on plastic placed on furniture in their own childhood homes, to people who settled for avoiding the public by remaining inside their homes – waiting to die, and then also having to endure the emotional torment of trying to cope with the mistreatment of others, which was due to rampant fear bred by the culture of ignorance that existed back then.

     Nowadays, I cringe when I see comments in reaction to posts by men such as Kyle Goffney, who show themselves as making informed decisions, armed with knowledge of PREP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV-negative individuals from becoming infected)–and the true risk associated with “undetectables.” Several oppose promoting PREP because they strongly believe that our entire LGBTQ community will succumb to barbaric wantonness without the discipline of HIV taboo (stigma).

     Others preserve HIV taboo (stigma) by denouncing the studies proving the low transmission rates by those who maintain an undetectable status because the transmission rates are not zero, while simultaneously passing out condoms at events and socials.  NEWSFLASH!  Condoms carry close to the same risk as unprotected sex with an undetectable. Combine using a condom with someone who is undetectable, and the risk approaches that of abstinence (100%).

     Instead of preserving the draconian fears that birthed HIV criminalization laws, our community needs to change its attitude that an undetectable status is as deadly as an untreated, undiagnosed HIV+ status.  Get tested!  If your result is positive, then adopt and follow a treatment plan you can stick with so that you can obtain an undetectable viral load.

     And if your result is negative, update your information by reading the current facts available athttp://j.mp/namaidsmap_factsheet or http://j.mp/PARTNER_studyQA  Don’t miss your opportunity to possibly meet “Mr. Right” because you’re “Mr. Wrong Information.”

 

Scorn

BitsofBS Pt 2 Nov REVISED Poem Image


Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOT and by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/And, you mail email Bobby at:  bitsofbs@outlook.com

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 4

LaToya Hankins:  Madame Triple Threat

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

     LaToya Hankins is an author, poet and an activist. Upon graduating from East Carolina University, she earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Journalism and a minor in Political Science.  Currently, she is the president of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority graduate chapter in Raleigh, North Carolina (N.C.) As co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization, she helps create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of N.C.’s LGBTQ communities.

     Her two books, “SBF Seeking…” and “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood, focus on the lesbian experience–not just through the eyes of the main character, but also on how North Carolinians react to that main character’s lifestyle. Ms. Hankins’ entire body of work demonstrates that she is an inspiration to us all.

LaToya Hankins

     Just recently, Nathaniel Octavius Nerdo (my alter ego) sat down with the charismatic, enterprising and multi-faceted Ms. Hankins for one absorbing and enlightening experience.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COM!  Thanks for granting me this interview.

     LaToya:  You’re welcome!  It is my pleasure and I am excited to talk to you.

     Nathaniel:  Well, before I inquire about the “LaToya’s World” in North Carolina, I first have to ask you to tell me the story of what happened to you when you were five years old. I found it amazing, creative and inspirational.

     LaToya:  Oh, yes. When I was five years old, I had open heart surgery. And since I was in a small town in North Carolina, everyone knew; especially since I was not in school for a while. And kids, by themselves are curious.

    So I figured: why not capitalize on their curiosity and make me some money for ice cream and candy? So I was charging, I think, a dime to see my scar!  Kids would follow me to the bathroom, and I would pull up my shirt and show them my scar.

     And my teachers got wind of it because every time I went to the bathroom, four or five kids would follow me.  And one day, one of the teachers came in and I said, “Where’s your dime?”  (LaToya and I both chuckled.)

     Nathaniel:  So you just pulled up your shirt?

     LaToya:  Oh, yes… The scar goes from the middle of my chest to my back, so I would just pull up my shirt. The kids got their money’s worth, and I got ice cream and candy.  But it didn’t last that long.

     (We laughed again.) 

     Nathaniel:  Well, thank God you made it through!  You are such an example. And secondly, I think that was a very entrepreneurial idea to have at such a young age.

     LaToya:  Thank you so much!

     Nathaniel:  So what about junior high and high school?  Did you do other imaginative, innovative things?

     LaToya:  I didn’t do too much exciting stuff in junior high school. I basically kept to myself. But in high school is when I started questioning my sexuality, although I didn’t act on it. I started wondering and noticing some things. And I was feeling some kind of way but I never spoke about it.

     However, I did the typical thing:  I had a boyfriend in high school, and we were close. We were friends before we became boyfriend and girlfriend.  And, I had another friend in high school that said there were some things that I said or did then that they would start questioning and wondering about. But they would put their thoughts about me to the side because I was from the era that “nice girls don’t do that; especially nice black girls.”

     Nathaniel:  So in high school you didn’t know or do anything with women?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I am a procrastinator by nature and I just didn’t take the time to do anything about it. I focused more on my school work. I really focused on just being involved with school projects.

     Nathaniel:  So in college is when you came out?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I didn’t come out until I was 25 years old. In college, I didn’t focus on my sexuality. I focused on school work and my career. I had a good friend who was a guy and we did everything together. And he knew his sexuality; that he was gay. But we never discussed it, We were like each other’s cover because everyone thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

    But years later, I realized that all the signs were there for something to happen in college with women.  I just never acted on it.

     Nathaniel:  So, was your sexuality an issue when you pledged the sorority?  Did anybody know?

     LaToya:  Well I did an intake into the sorority. So I didn’t actually do the college pledge thing. And at the time, most people didn’t know and it was not an issue. But today, with Facebook and whatnot, I am sure my sorority sisters know.

     Nathaniel:  Did you start writing in college?

     LaToya:  I did!  But I worked for a newspaper and a minority magazine. So it was more featured topics, or should I say, “assigned topics.”  I wrote some poetry and short stories. I did not do fiction writing. I did an internship with a local newspaper, so it was all non-friction writing.

     But I always wanted to be a writer.  I am a big reader, so I appreciated works of fiction.  However, I always thought I was the one to read the books—not actually the one writing the books.  

     Nathaniel:  Do you prefer writing short stories, or writing books?

     LaToya:  Well, I prefer short stories because I like it when you have a definitive beginning, middle and ending. And writing books, you may think you are at the end; however, something comes up and then it becomes another chapter or two.  It’s hard to write a lot of words and make it make sense and interesting.  It takes, craft, dedication and commitment. You have to actually sit still and write, and edit and re-write.

     Nathaniel:  I assume that your books do not mainly focus on the “gay thing,” so to speak.

     LaToya:  They have gay characters.  And one thing I realize is that as gay, lesbian, transgender and people of color, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We have friends, family members and work experiences with people who are not gay. I wanted to make sure that when I write my books, I incorporate gay and straight characters.  I wanted to show that gay people can exist with their family members and friends who are not gay, and that everyone can respect each other. 

     Nathaniel:  Now with your first book, “SBF Seeking…”  You did accomplish that with the coming out scene. I loved the way you wrote that. 

LaToya Hankins

     LaToya:  Yes.  The main character came out to her straight friends and family, and they all had different reactions. And in my second book, “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood,” one of the line sisters comes out, and it tells how she deals with the rejection from her sorority sisters.

    Therefore, I wanted to make sure that if you read my books and you are not lesbian, you can still find yourself in the pages. You can find a character that you can identify with.

     Yes, you may want to identify with the main character who is a lesbian.  But also, you may be a divorced women with two kids, or a women on her second marriage or somebody’s mama. There is a character for you to relate to.

     Nathaniel:  Now you have two books.  Do you plan on writing another?

     LaToya:  Actually, I am in the process of writing my third book which is initially called “Waterworks Whispering.” I plan on releasing it in January 2016.

     Nathaniel:  Why should people read your books?

     LaToya:  Great question!  Because they are interesting and relevant.  It is easy to find yourself in one of the characters, and they give you food for thought.  I think my books make you see things in your own light and in the light of others. And it gives you a chance to visit North Carolina through my eyes because that is what I write about and where I reside at and from.    

     Nathaniel:  How is food an inspiration when you write books?

     LaToya:  Food is the great “smoother over” for negative emotions.  Because you can’t be mad with anyone with your mouth full of food!  You can’t be mad if your mouth is full of ham and beans.  (She’s smiling.)  You have to swallow your anger.  Also, I think most life decisions are made over a plate of food.  I wanted to incorporate that in my books because everything goes better with food.  If you share a meal, you can break down barriers. And in my books, I mention actual restaurants in the Raleigh area that are black-owned that gay people go to all the time.

     Nathaniel:  Now you are not just the president of the largest graduate chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority in North Carolina, but also the co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization. What’s the organization all about?

     LaToya:  The Shades of Pride organization brings people together to share life’s experiences with being gay. We are an active supporter of LGBTQ issues and address health disparities that affect our community, especially our young people who are coming out younger and younger each day. We need to educate them so that they feel good about themselves and their lifestyle, so that they accept themselves–as well as others accepting them.

     Nathaniel:  What is your message to the LGBTQ community in the South?

     LaToya:  I want to represent the South in a positive manner because we are doing great things in the LGBTQ community here.  We have an “out” lesbian on the city council.  And she is sitting on that council with an “out” black gay man. We have had an “out” black gay senator. We have a lot of out gay black people doing many great things in North Carolina. When you think of the South and gay events, it is not just Atlanta. 

     So my message is “Don’t sleep on the LGBTQ community in the South.”  We are doing a lot of positive things in North Carolina. And I am here to represent, and support and spread the word that we are here and you will hear more and more great things going on down here.

     I try to capture the essence of the African-American Southern experience, and live by the motto, “I don’t weep at the world; I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

     Nathaniel:  How can people reach out to you?

     LaToya:  At www.Latoya Hankins.com.  On Facebook, LaToya Hankins; on Twitter, Hankins Latoya; on Instagram, Toya Hankins.  My email is Latoya.Hankins@yahoo.com.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, it certainly has been a pleasure talking to you!  You are in inspiration to the South and the LBGTQ community as a whole.  And, we will continue to look for the inspired, extraordinary writings and works that you do that support our people and the community.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Bits Of BS

BitsofBS

Closeted Pride BS

Guest Writer: Bobby Smith 

     Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, Queers, Genderfluids, Bisexuals, Pansexuals, and Same Gender Loving people are no longer just the whispers coyly cultivated on lips shielded by mischievous hands. Freedom to Marry, an American coalition committed to winning and keeping the freedom to marry for same-gender couples, reports that 20 nations have approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

     American media has realized what was once considered only taboo is now the bankrolls of success. When I look out across the world, I see a community that has earned its Pride. However, when I look through the other end of the telescope, it appears that Pride sometimes is less evident or non-existent.

     Free Dictionary.com defines Pride as “a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.” In spite of the strides our community has made to garner more respect from the masses, behaviors are prevalent that show we may be missing the mark in nurturing the same expansion of respect to the home grounds within our LBGTQ community.

     Internalized homophobia is still evident in how many are still closeted, under the guise of “professionalism” or “privacy.” Coming out doesn’t (always) mean donning a rainbow wig and running with a flaming torch through the streets. Coming out is simply refusing to sidestep any part of yourself just because it differs from someone else’s norm. You may not consider yourself to be closeted.  Yet, you never sit on the same side of a booth with your significant other; you use clinical gender-camouflaging terms including “spouse” during general conversation; your place of worship sends two newsletters to an address–although the tithes for both members come from the same account; you only interact with those who are “obviously” gay or transgender in safe zones, such as affirming churches or HIV charity rallies.

     Our community is a reflection of ourselves. There is, at least, a little bit of lesbian, a little bit of flaming queen, a little bit of Black SGL activist, a little bit of gender nonconformist in all of us. Many in the heterosexual communities have come to realize this in becoming allies. Why do we, ourselves, miss this message in keeping lines drawn between lesbians and gays, between tops and bottoms, between “passables” and “non-passables,” between gender-conforming and gender-liberated, and even between races or social classes? The fight to become accepted in the world’s community as a whole seems ironic when members of the marginalized preserve margins by maneuvering through social networks exclusive of some of their own.

     By failing to learn and know history specific to our culture, many of us fall short in exercising Pride. Knowing every Bette Davis movie, the plot of every Golden Girls episode, or the winners of every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race may be impressive, but lacks connection to the rich history that belongs to us.  Pride insists that we acquaint ourselves with the achievements of our LGBTQ community, and celebrating the accomplishments of lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, genderqueers and gays equally.

     Our sisters and brothers have made many noteworthy contributions to society in areas beyond Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) activism.   Development of your “bragging rights” is as easy as using an internet search engine, taking LGBTQ studies courses at a local university, or visiting the LGBT Institute at The Center for Civil and Human Rights, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

     Take these “Bits of BS (Bobby Smith) to heart over the next month, and make me prouder than I already am of my LGBTQ community. Feel free to email me  any topics you’d like for me to highlight.  Or, leave a comment regarding how your pride is flourishing!

Reprimand


Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOT and by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/And, you mail email Bobby at:  bitsofbs@outlook.com

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 3

“Stop, in the Name of Love…”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

 

     “STOP!!!” I screamed. “PLEASE STOP.”

     As I struggled to get loose but couldn’t move, tears began forming in my eyes. The weight on top of me was way too heavy.

     As I struggled more and more, the grip around my body got tighter and tighter. His arms were wrapped around me, and the bulk of his weight was practically crushing me.

     “Don’t scream, you will wake up the neighbors,” his low, threatening voice whispered into my ear.

     At that point–out of fright–I remained motionless, as his body grinded into me.  I was hoping that my cries and prayers would be answered, that someone heard my scream–because for a few moments, he didn’t move.

     But I was mistaken.

     Suddenly, he thrust his big, hard manhood deeper into my ass. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t help but scream out again!  I was so loud that I was again hoping that the neighbors would have heard me. 

     And before I knew it, he suddenly started fucking my virgin ass hard, fast and rough. Again I tried to yell out “STOP” but the pain was so excruciating at this point I could hardly get my own voice pass my lips.

     Then suddenly, I had an out of body experience as he raped me.

     My mind went back to the beginning, and how I happened to be on this blind date in the first place.

     You see, during my sophomore year in college at Tuskegee University in Alabama, I was spending the summer in Dallas, Texas. I was with a group of other students trying to get some hands-on sales experience by selling bibles and medical dictionaries door-to- door.

     Yes, you read it correctly!  Bibles and medical dictionaries, of all things.  

I had attended a seminar at school, where this company was recruiting college students for what they called “easy money.” You know that term means a lot to financially struggling college students. We were hooked! The things we do to make money in college (SMH—Shaking My Head).

     About 50 of us drove cross-country, and we didn’t know anyone in Dallas. So, we had to basically find our own way and survive. Upon our arrival, we found out that it was not easy money or an easy life.  From the very beginning, it was a struggle to survive. 

     I did meet several people during my days there and one in particular: Clifford.  He came to be my ally, my friend.

     When I knocked on his door, he answered in a flamboyant and grand way. Immediately, I was surprised, shocked and intrigued.

     He was about fifty years old and a real “queen,” as they say. He didn’t buy a bible or medical dictionary. Instead he tried to buy me. I turned down his numerous overtures eventually he became my gay mother away from home, so to speak. He introduced me to the gay scene in Dallas, and numerous people along the way.

    But during that time that summer, I became very lonely and homesick. Being a door-to-door salesman was a very emotional and mentally-challenging job. The rejections were becoming too much to handle.

    So, to help me out, Clifford suggested that I go on a blind date with a friend of his. I agreed because the gay bar scene was not for me. All I did was stand against the wall, feeling depressed.  And I am sure that is why no one ever approached me.

     The night of my blind date, Clifford’s friend Randy picked me up from Clifford’s house at 8 p.m. sharp. When Randy walked into the room, I was pleasantly surprised and excited!  He was “phine:” about thirty-years-old, pure dark-skinned, 6′ 2″, about 230 pounds of muscle, goatee and fade haircut. My 5’11, slim 155-pound frame looked like a little boy standing next to this real man.

     Instantly, Randy “swept me off my feet.”  He took me to a nice restaurant for dinner, then to a jazz bar to listen to music and talk some more. He was so endearing that I felt like a school girl on a first date.

     When we left the bar, he suggested we go back to his place to watch TV. I readily agreed because I was having the best time ever since I arrived in Dallas.

     Randy’s apartment was very neat and well-kept. He had very expensive taste. There was what appeared to be very pricey artwork and statues all around. And the focal point was that the apartment overlooked the skyline of Dallas from the 44th floor. 

    But I should have known something was wrong when he said the TV in his living room was broken, so we had to go into the bedroom. I could not imagine a man like this with a place like this having a broken TV!  But I agreed.

    We sat on his bed where he kissed me for the first time. Eventually, the TV was watching us as we kissed, cuddled and hugged.  It was all good until his hands got very invading.

     Randy was trying to take off my clothes, even as I kept pushing his hands away and resisting his advances. I repeatedly told him “No;” but at one point, he forcibly unfastened my pants, pulling them down as he had me pinned down on the bed.

     Before I knew what was happening, he’d undid his pants, pulled them down and thrust his dick in my ass!  And, as he was penetrating and pounding into me, I’m thinking, “This is not happening.”  But after a while, I was in so much shock that I no longer felt  the pain.

     After what seemed like hours, Randy panted heavily in my ear, shot his seed inside of me and collapsed on top of me.  Then, after a few moments, he rolled over. I just lay still and didn’t move.  

     Actually, I couldn’t move.  I was numb and in shock.

     After I got my senses together, I asked him to take me home.  He declined.  So, I slowly got dressed and proceeded to walk out of his house.  I tried to figure out how to get back to Clifford’s house.

     I walked aimlessly down the street until eventually, Randy showed up.  As he took me back to Clifford’s, I did not say a single word. Even after we arrived back at Clifford’s house, I couldn’t speak. I just nodded my head at Clifford with a quick fake smile, and went to his guest room.

     For several weeks, I continued to be paralyzed and utterly dazed about my body being violated. I hardly spoke or went outside because I felt…. I don’t know how I felt. I was just in limbo.

     I was experiencing so many emotions that included guilt, shame, fear, denial, anger and sadness.  I was so confused!  I was on an emotional roller coaster.  

     But I knew one thing; I didn’t want anyone to find out.

     And, the following thoughts plagued me:  Did I tease him? Did I lead him on? Did I let him go too far that he couldn’t turn back?  Was it my fault? 

     Or is he just a rapist?

     I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell somebody? How does it look for a man reporting rape by another man?  But I wish I had told somebody.  I wish I had him prosecuted. I wish he would rot in jail. I am sure he did it to someone else because I let him get away with it. And that is my fault because I didn’t tell.

     Well, now I am telling and it feels good.

    Many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men; however, the fact of the matter is that 1 out of every 10 men is sexually assaulted.  And most of those go unreported.

     Rape is Rape.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. And if you feel that you have been raped, TELL SOMEBODY…ANYBODY …..PLEASE.

     Rape is not Sex.  Rape is not Love.  Rape is Rape.  So stop it–in the name of Love. 

    If this has happened to you, make sure that you tell someone because you don’t want to walk a mile in my shoes. They are not comfortable.  

     For assistance, you can contact the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.  Counselors are available to help you 24/7.


L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.” The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

HONEY, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ! 2

The Ball is in Your Court

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

 

   Not too long ago, I was reminiscing about this guy I dated years ago.  It was a cool night in November: the breeze was rather inviting, and it wasn’t too cold or too hot.

     Actually, it was just right as we sat at our dinner table on the restaurant’s rooftop overlooking the skyline of Baltimore. The restaurant was named the Circle because the roof slowly revolves so that you get a panoramic view of the entire skyline of Baltimore. 

     It was our first date, and I was having such a splendid time that my mind and heart were slowly being drawn to him!  Our conversation flowed with ease.  My “first date jitters” slowly disappeared.

     You see, I didn’t meet him on line or even through a friend.  I met him in Home Depot, of all places.  (The best place to meet men, ‘cause all the manly men go to Home Depot!  LOL.)  I was there looking for some supplies to erect my fish tank, which actually looks like an oversized picture that hangs on the wall.  Until this day, people still don’t believe it actually contains real fish! (Smile).

     As I was trying to find the best supplies to purchase, I spied a tall, brown-skinned, bald-headed man at the other end of the aisle!  His tight-fitting jeans covered his round, plump ass.  

     As well, those jeans gave the distinct impression that his manhood was a very nice size—very nice, indeed!   And, his muscle shirt exposed his manly arms and hairy chest.  And as a bonus, his Timberland boots completed his construction worker outfit.

      As he moved in closer to me, I suddenly turned into a “dumb blond” and said, “Excuse me, Sir.  Uhhhm, can you help me? I don’t know which screws I should get, or hammer to use to hang something on my wall.”

     At first, confusion filled his face!  But then, he started grinning.

     I assumed he was trying to decide if I were for real.

     He finally responded, “Let me help you,” and proceeded to show me different types of screws.  Then, he asked me several burning questions–one of which was my phone number! 

    And by telling me his name, he answered one of those burning questions.  His name was Baldwin!  What a rich, manly-sounding name, which complimented his deep, masculine voice—not to mention his plump, kissable lips that uttered that very name. 

     After a few phone conversations, he did the first of two things that was very surprising to me!  Something that rarely happens these days.

     During one of our late night calls, Baldwin said, “I’d like to ask you out to dinner and a museum.”

    And before I could answer, he inserted, “And this is NOT a booty call!  Sex is easy.  Friendship and love are what’s are hard to find!  (Pause.)  Are you up for the challenge to get to know me as I get to know you?”

     For a moment, I was taken aback!  Baldwin was actually asking me out on a date–and not for sex.  He made that perfectly clear, even though my clothes would simply fall off if he were to ask me to go to bed with him! 

    And that got me to thinking:

     Whatever happened to the days when we would actually ask someone for a date face-to-face; or a least on the telephone? Whatever happened to the days when if someone asked you out, your first thought was NOT sex–but actually getting to know that person?  And, whatever happened to the days before the computer and cell phone when our voice was our main form of communication?  

     These days, too many people don’t know how to communicate without the computer or cell phone!  There are a lot of lonely people in the world because they hide behind their computer screens or use text messages to communicate.  And to temporarily fill that empty void in their lives and hearts, they perceive sex as the basis of a “relationship.”

     I, like everyone else, don’t like rejection.  And of course, by hiding behind a computer screen, it’s easier to take rejection. But maybe we all should try to come “out of the closet” at least once.  So, step away from that computer screen or text message, and directly communicate–just like Baldwin did.  

     Instead, let people see the real you.

     The second surprising thing that Baldwin did was to pose a question after we’d left the piano bar that first night after dinner. Along with other patrons, we’d just finished singing songs…

     Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks, in the middle of the sidewalk. 

     Then, he turned towards me.

     Next, his firm, warm hands grasped mine.  As Baldwin gazed deeply and almost lovingly in my eyes, he inquired, “May I court you?”

     Now, for those of you who don’t know what courting is, allow me to clue you in.  It means dating/focusing on just one person.  You can date lots of folk, but you can only court one special person—the one you really want to get to know.

     Obviously, the ball was in my court!  Patiently, Baldwin waited for my answer.

     So, without saying a word, I leaned over and kissed him…passionately!  As you can tell, my answer definitely was NOT a “No!”  LOL.   

     And trust me, our first date–and the dates thereafter–were very special because he courted me with words and actions. 

     Not words on a screen. 

     So, come out from behind that computer screen and show your true colors!  You may find that those colors are a welcoming sight.  And, you might also discover that your time of loneliness will slowly melt away. That’s if you communicate with words and deeds. So call someone up or ask that person for that  face-to-face date.

     The ball is in your court!    

     Now, will you hit it back?


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  Currently, R. L. is finishing the sequel.  As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also iswriting a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming. You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

HONEY, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING!

“What Did You Just Call Me?”

Guest Writer: R. L. NORMAN

      A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I was with a couple of good friends on the subway train, on route to Dupont Circle here in D.C. Even though it was a chilly night in June, we decided to hang out at a neighborhood bar, the Fireplace. It’s the place we go to drink, meet and greet men.

      As we exited the train, I accidentally bumped into this guy as he was trying to get on. I turned and apologized, even though I thought no one was at fault, considering both the train and platform were crowded.

     “I’m sorry.” I said. “Excuse me.”

     The man looked dead at me. After hesitating, he said, “Hmmm, Faggot.”

      Honey, I was about to take off my earrings and beat that ass! However, my friends held me back. Then I looked down at my outfit of tight blue jeans and a sweat shirt that read “Sleeps Well With Others. “ You see, I figured he should have called me a whore before he called me a faggot! Go figure.

      As we left the metro and walked down P Street, one of my friends pointed to a guy walking across the street.

      Sarcastically, he said, “Look at that faggot.”

      As I looked at the guy, I will admit he was a little flamboyant and dressed in wild colors. And, he was switching like a woman as he proudly walked down the street with the air of confidence that some of us lack– but wish we had.

      He was a real man in his own right.  And that got me to thinking.

      Faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, bull dagger are some of the names we call each other within the gay community. These are the names that we call people who are different from us. These are the derogatory names that we call our fellow gay brothers and sisters. The same names that we would get upset over if a straight person called us that.

      Yes, let a so-called “non-gay” person call us one of those names–such as that guy calling me a faggot–and we’re ready to fight!   But then, we turn around and hurl those same so-called slurs toward our fellow brothers and sisters.

      But if you think about it, that’s just like the word “nigger.”  We can call each other that and think nothing of it. We say it to each other as a term of endearment to an extent. But let a non-black person say that and we are ready to fight.

      There are a lot of people who think that we shouldn’t call each other nigger because of the origin of the word. As we all know, that word goes back to the days of slavery. But here we are today, using it as a positive word. Honey, go figure.

      But why do we NOT use the words faggot or queen as a positive? Why do we feel the need to down our own gay brothers or sisters?  Why do we call each other those names and think it’s okay? Why do we judge each other? Aren’t we being judged enough by the so-called straight community?

      We in the gay community have enough problems to deal with without putting each other down.

     So, I think people should not judge someone for being more womanly or manly than ourselves. We should always accept our gay brothers and sisters for who they are; a strong confident man or woman. Not a faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, or bull dagger. If we use the word “nigger” as a term of endearment, we should do the exact same with the aforementioned words. Most of those people you are calling those names have more self-confidence in themselves than most of us have. They are just being themselves just like you are.

     Actually, you should be careful. First of all, someone may be calling you the same name that you just called someone for being gay and different. And secondly, the person that you called a name may be more of a man than you ever were–and more man than you’ll ever be.

     He might even make you assume the position. Face down, ass up.

     Honey, think about it.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.” Currently, R. L. is finishing the sequel. As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.” All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.