Tag Archives: Old School Kid

Old School New Kid 7

“Authenticity—To Thine Own Self Be True”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

     “To thine own self be true.” I’m sure that somewhere, at some time, brothas have heard or read that phrase. As an Old School New Kid, it has deep meaning when dealing with not only coming out, but being out as an LGBT man of color.

     True, I knew something about me was different early on. I finally had a name for it when I hit my teens. By the time I was 18, I was tired of trying to be something I wasn’t. I had wonderful role models in my parents as African-Americans, but where were those who sat at the intersection of African-American and LGBT? I felt invisible, in my family and at school.

     When I came out in 1971 at 18, it was only the beginning of a journey to an authentic life. Stonewall had taken place the previous year, which was a start. And yet I wondered, “Where are the brothas and sistahs in the crowd?” I would go to the clubs when I was surrounded by older men to keep from getting carded. Bearing in mind that my hometown has a small Black population in comparison to other urban areas of its size, the brothas would only show up on weekends. My best bet was house parties, usually by invitation.

     After I had a couple of years of college under my belt, I discovered that many LGBT brothas were hiding in plain sight—in church. It became a game for me to see how many “family members” were there on Sunday whenever I visited different churches, from the congregation, the music ministry, the deacon board, the ushers, sometimes the pulpit. The sad part was, we were invisible. Our talents would be used and our money would be taken, and at best, we would be tolerated as long as we hid our lives and who we were, even those who were considered “flamboyant.” How many of us have uttered that phrase, “They know but we don’t discuss It”? How many brothas out there have been hurt by these attitudes? Our relationship with Black churches has often been, to put it mildly, a complex one.

     Over the years, the process of living my truth and an authentic life has evolved, from being openly gay to parents, other relatives, friends and at work. It has included correcting people who assume I have a wife instead of a husband. Commanding respect for my modern family. Being authentic and living in integrity was crucial in my relationship to the one person who’s watched my life from the beginning—my son. After all, our children take their cues from us, and as such he’s cool with having two dads. This process has involved walking in faith. I may meet a stranger and be faced with the choice: Do I come out? How important is it in this transaction? I recognize the importance of coming out when you’re ready and you have support, especially when one is a vulnerable youth. Once I did come out, I realized how much stress I had been under when it was gone. Being out is an act of strength.

     Recently, I was the keynote speaker at a Men’s Brotherhood meeting. It consists of a group of men from Black churches in the area, plus some white attendees. The majority of the group were straight Black men of a certain age, officers in their respective churches. Having attended these meetings for months now, brothas knew of me and appreciated my input as an author. Those from my church already knew I was gay and supported me, but the others in the crowd were an unknown factor. Doing this reminds me once again that coming out is an ongoing process. Having prepared my topic, for a minute I did obsess on how I would be received. Then, I remembered that God knew who I was, and He doesn’t make mistakes. Why worry what may or may not happen, when I can trust God to tell me what to say and how to say it?

     My topic was, “You Never Know What Plans God Has For You.” My talk encompassed my life and how God’s plans for me have manifested as a Black gay man. Through God, I was confident, engaging, relatable, authentic as I shared love and who I was. I was reminded that what I gave was what I received, and I was greeted with a standing ovation and congratulations at the end. Several brothas said, “We needed to hear this.” Yep, He’s not through with me yet, and I give Him the thanks and praise.

     Changes have taken place over the years, and there are Black churches who are revisiting diversity, inclusivity and a welcoming community for all God’s children, regardless of who they love. It has taken many conversations, one person at a time. LGBT youth are coming out at an earlier age and more support systems are in place, which is encouraging. There is still much work to do. I have learned on this journey that change is an inside job and that I only have power over my own thoughts, words, and deeds. However, when I changed, everything around me changed. To my LGBT brothas and sistahs: there are those who think that who we are and who we love are strikes against us, when in fact they are strengths. Let us continue to own our strengths and all of who we are, living the best authentic life we can.

     At the end of the day, it’s all about the love. Believe in dreams and never give up.

© 2019 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Old School New Kid 6

“Never Give Up”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

 

Believe in dreams and never give up.

     For this Old School New Kid author, this motto has seen me through my ongoing journey. July has been a productive month for me, as well as one for fun and some me-time. On the fun side, I took a road trip to northern Minnesota, where I saw Bemidji (Paul Bunyan country), lakes and forests galore, and Grand Rapids, the birthplace of Judy Garland. Those of us men of a certain age may remember the code question we used to identify other gay men in neutral surroundings: “Are you a Friend of Dorothy?” On the productive side, my first draft of The Right to Be has been completed, To Thine Own Self is nearing first-draft completion, and the outline, beginning and ending of the next novel in my series, The Rise of Sherry Payson, is done.

     With that being said, I would like to share with you, Wyatt O’Brian Evans’ followers, a preview of my upcoming novel, Never Give Up, scheduled for release this December.

Prologue: November 6, 2012

     Prentice Delaney-Ross was on a high, cheering in campaign headquarters as news of President Obama’s re-election “rocked the house.” People were hugging, cheering and shedding tears of joy all over the office. Several times he and his husband Trevell embraced and kissed and shouted. There were many good reasons to do so that night. Not only had the president been re-elected, but Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted in favor of marriage equality. Minnesotans had voted down a constitutional ban on marriage equality. Having celebrated their third wedding anniversary barely two weeks ago, the victories were mind-blowing.

     He had no doubt his stepbrother, Jerome Franklin-Edwards, and his husband Ariel were at home with their daughters soaking up all the amazing news, even as they listened intently to the president’s acceptance speech. The same held true for the rest of his family, especially his grandfather, Earl James Berry. Grandpa had always been a huge supporter of President Obama, as well as a staunch ally for equality and a believer in justice. He had retired from the bench in 1996, but his reputation as Judge Berry and that of his lifelong friend, Elijah Edwards Sr., continued to be influential in the circles they traveled.

     “You know, when Barack grows up, he’ll look back on this time and wonder what all the fuss was about,” Prentice said some time later after they stepped out into the hallway to hear themselves upon the conclusion of the speech.

     “I imagine he will,” Trevell concurred. “Right now, he’s probably sound asleep while his grandma and grandpa are keeping up with all the commentary.” Indeed, Prentice’s mother, Linda Berry Delaney Edwards, and his stepfather, Melvin Edwards II, had doted on their newest grandson, Barack Joseph Berry Delaney-Ross, from the very beginning. Trevell’s parents were no better. Although they lived in Green Bay, Tremayne and Darcelle Ross were regular visitors to Minneapolis, showering affection on their first grandchild. A former Green Bay Packer, Tremayne Ross often had an audience and he never failed to talk about his grandson. Trevell strongly suspected his father desired to see Barack make it into the NFL when he grew up. Even at the age of two, the brainwashing had already begun.

     Prentice had witnessed this phenomenon, and he understood it well. Grandpa Berry was not above a little brainwashing himself, setting Little Barack’s sights on an appointment to the Supreme Court. It was a challenge to the couple, diplomatically holding those respective ambitions at bay so they could let their little boy be what he was, a two-year-old who was just beginning to really explore his world.

     Hand in hand, Prentice and Trevell strolled down Hennepin Avenue to the parking ramp, basking in the afterglow of victory, sharing smiles and waves to drivers and pedestrians on this brisk fall night. At one point their eyes met and Prentice felt his heart break out into a melody. Twenty-seven-year-old Trevell had the total package—the matinee idol looks of a young Idris Elba, the solid build of a quarterback and a well-spoken demeanor. Prentice himself had inherited his father’s smooth Duke Ellington looks with a strong dose of Berry genes, which would make anyone stop in their tracks to see if he was real or fantasy. At the age of twenty-eight, at this moment he felt like he was on top of the world.

     They reached the parking ramp near the Target Center, for the moment lost in their own thoughts. Prentice’s mind kept going back to his Grandpa Berry. He and Grandpa Edwards had said President Obama really needed two terms to accomplish what was necessary back in 2008, and they had gotten what they asked for. He had to hand it to them, for they never lost faith that this day would come. Jerome, in fact, said so, not only about the presidential election but all the other issues as well, at a time when none of it seemed possible. Grandpa Berry had known the history behind Jerome’s “gift,” all the way back to the time he and Grandpa Edwards were young men.

     Though he grew up on Milwaukee’s North Shore, a six-hour drive from his grandfather in Minneapolis, Prentice always felt a connection with the man. Like his late father, Prentice Delaney Sr., Grandpa Berry had both a passion for the law and the importance of family. Unlike the portrayals of so many police shows these days, he had never been so driven to the point where he totally sacrificed his family for the sake of his career. On visits to Minneapolis with his parents, Prentice was blessed to see the special side of him, the family man. As a grown man, when he and Trevell made the decision to move to the Twin Cities, he made it a point to spend lots of quality time with his grandparents. Witnessing the love, commitment and devotion they shared after sixty-four years of marriage, Prentice hoped that he, too, would have that kind of a legacy to pass on.

 

     They stepped into their Chrysler 300 sports sedan, listening to an Alicia Keys CD as they left the parking ramp and headed out into the streets of downtown Minneapolis. Cars were honking their horns and people were out celebrating, something unusual for a Tuesday night.

     “You think Sierra and Rashid are still up?” Trevell asked Prentice.

     “Sure. They wouldn’t miss this for the world. The only reasons they weren’t at campaign headquarters was because Destiny was sick and it’s a school night for Little Earl,” Prentice replied, picturing his sister and her husband watching the set and simultaneously calling everyone they knew.

      “You know we’re going to be going through this with Barack in a few years, just like they are.”

     “True. Anyway, since Barack is spending the night with Mom and Mel, let’s stop by and see Grandpa and Grandma.”

     “Aren’t they in Chicago visiting the Christophers?”

     “They were, but they wanted to make sure they were home for Election Day, so they could vote. I’m sure they’re up for the occasion.”

     “OK, but just remember that we have grocery shopping to do tomorrow and I have an early meeting.”

     They passed Loring Park and the Walker Art Center before they turned off on Douglas Avenue, driving through the historic, posh Lowry Hill neighborhood. Just before they reached the Berry estate on Kenwood Parkway, they happened to see a car driving away from it at high speed. “What’s up with that?” Trevell wondered.

     “I don’t know, but I don’t like it,” Prentice answered. “Wait a minute. That looks like Grandpa’s limo over there.”

     Prentice braked quickly and they bolted from their car. The road was normally quiet, but tonight it felt a little too quiet for comfort. Ears alert for unnatural sounds in the cool night air, Prentice and Trevell slowed down as they approached the still Cadillac limousine. Their eyes grew wide with fear as they stepped closer, their night vision revealing the bullet holes in the windows.

     “Nooooooooooooooo!!” Prentice yelled as Trevell frantically grabbed his cell phone to call 911…

 

© 2019 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Old School New Kid 5

“Fatherhood”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

   

     June is when Pride Month is celebrated. It’s also the month when Father’s Day is observed. For far too long, there’s been a myth that the two are mutually exclusive. As a Black gay man of a certain age (or SGL) who is also a father, I wish to share my own thoughts and experiences on this particular journey of a lifetime.

     Back in the day, those of us who had boyfriends/partners resigned ourselves to the fact that we would never have children, relegated to “the gay uncle” status if we were out, “confirmed bachelor” if we weren’t. Then there were those of us who had children from an opposite-sex marriage or a girlfriend, but that came with the steep price of hiding who we were. Sadly, that legacy is still in part with us today.

     Having come out at 18, it was a trip when, during a heart-to-heart shortly after graduation from college, my father talked to me about having grandchildren and the respectful way to treat women. I understood the first message: don’t make a baby you cannot raise. I never spoke my thoughts out loud, but my mind said, “Dad, didn’t you get the memo? I’m gay. Not happening.” I hadn’t counted on the fact that my Higher Power has a sense of humor, for at the age of 45 I sat down with Dad and said, “I’m ready to be a father.”

     That moment was the start of a three-year journey to fatherhood. To Dad, it was the opening for “Son, welcome to my world.” We had many philosophical discussions and heart-to-hearts about what being a father meant. For me, this portion of the process better prepared me mentally. I also realized that many of the values I grew up with had rubbed off. One thing was certain—every step of the way, Dad had my back.

     My commitment was firm: I was going to be a father whether or not I had a husband/partner. I became part of a new category—the one of families we create, via adoption or surrogacy. Trust and believe, these are the most planned-for children on the planet. Like Dad, I wanted to start from scratch in raising my child. If I were to have only one, I wanted a boy. It was a process I certainly had to be prayed-up for, for I encountered my share of detractors, some of whom were other gay men who considered what I was doing to be impossible.

     My Higher Power, however, had other plans. Wherever I went, doors opened, and I am grateful to every person who was part of the journey. There were false starts as well. However, I went on making space and preparations for my child as though it was already a done deal. At one point, I was down on my knees praying, “Whether You give me this child or not, I will still praise You.” Two weeks later, I received a phone call at work. I was skeptical at first because of the previous false alarms, but they were serious. They had a baby boy for me—straight from the hospital!

     When they brought him to me that evening, my first words were, “Oh, my God,” and fell in love on the spot. At the age of 47, I was now a father. Dad, of course, was over the moon when I called him with the news. My church family was also a strong support system for us. Now the work started; as I have since learned, being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, and it never stops.

     Oddly enough, I experienced a certain form of sexism when my son was a baby. Since he went everywhere I went, there were people around who made comments like, “Oh, you must be babysitting.” When I revealed I was a full-time single father, I was asked, “Where’s his mother?” On occasions like that, knowing that people kept such comments to themselves when addressing a single mother, I put on my Resting Bitch Face and said, “You’re looking at her.” Unknowingly, I became a role model, for some of those very people, after watching my life, commended me for the way I raised my son. Thanks, Higher Power!

     We went through the good times, we went through the rough times, we went through the make-us-pray times. When it came to parenting skills, in addition to my own, there’s a lot of Dad in me. It was imperative for me to be a positive example for my son, hence he knew I was gay early on. One day, at the age of eight, he endearingly told me, “Daddy, I’m going to find you a husband.” A year later, my little matchmaker played a role in my meeting my husband for the first time, in church. Result: the three of us became a modern family.

     At 19, my son has grown into quite a young man. During this time, hearts, minds, and laws have evolved. He’s brought his friends home, plus a girlfriend or two in his high school years. It’s as though I blinked, and now he’s an adult, with dreams and ambitions of his own. When it comes to his family and friends, he’s loyal and protective. He owns up to his new responsibilities. The years of loving on him have reaped a son who says, “I love you” whenever he goes out, which touches my heart deeply. And I have a deeper appreciation for the plans my Higher Power has for me.

     I saw a poster in my local community center that said, “Boys shack up; men get married. Boys make babies; men raise their own and someone else’s.” Black love. And to all the Black LGBT fathers out there, raising your children with love and living your truth: I wish you peace. I wish you power. I wish you strength. I wish you joy.

     Believe in dreams and never give up.

 

© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Old School New Kid 4

“REFLECTIONS FROM A BROTHA OF A CERTAIN AGE”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

     When I hear the word “Reflections,” the old school in me immediately thinks of the hit by Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1967. Of course, that was one of Motown’s go-to songs when your man has dumped you and you make a late-night visit to your kitchen, answering the call of a half-gallon or more of Ben & Jerry’s. This would be followed by another of those go-to songs like Brenda Holloway’s “Every Little Bit Hurts” and the Fifth Dimension’s “One Less Bell to Answer.” In today’s thoughts, however, reflections come from my latest visit to my alma mater as an alumnus of 45 years.

     The weekend in question was Pride weekend, which is held in May because the bulk of the LGBT community in this small town is made up of college students. A huge parade down the main street, rainbow flags all over campus and all over town, celebrations in the park and parties downtown. Such was a foreign concept to me during my freshman year as a college student in the fall of 1970. I was one of the very few openly gay Black students on campus, and the Stonewall riots had only occurred the previous year. Sure, there were other LGBT students there, but they weren’t out, and there was no “safe space” for us. The American Psychiatric Association didn’t remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders until 1973.

     This go-around, I felt like visiting royalty. The LGBT students had lots of questions for me, and more when they realized I was an author. I represented their history, one that they wanted to know more about. For those who, like myself, stood at the intersection of Black and LGBT, I represented hope. Somewhere along the line, I became the role model I wished I had had at 18, and let me tell you, that experience is humbling.

     When I seek images of Black male couples online, I am reminded that our community is still youth-obsessed to a great degree. Sure, I looked great in my 20s, but I can’t look that way now and I refuse to step into the trap. Experience, character, and wisdom helped me step up my game when my looks started changing, plus the desire to keep learning. Every now and then I see such couples whose marriages have stood the test of time (like mine), something I feel younger brothas need to see.

     That, however, has to begin with us. There was a saying I read once—“the darker you are, the harder it is to come out.” Hopefully, that’s changed to some degree. I also remember losing count of the funerals I attended in the 1980s, at the height of AIDS paranoia; so many potential mentors struck down too soon. In 2019, I acknowledge those of later generations who are speaking up, speaking out, living their truth. This, as well as having a son of my own, inspired me to step up to the plate as an elder. Not everyone can do that; some may have been too wounded in one way or another. But for those who can, I give you your props. You never know when you may come across a young LGBT brotha who’s watching your life—it could make all the difference.

W D Newest Book Cover You Never Know Book

     Being a brotha of a certain age, I have noticed that my conversations have changed. With my contemporaries, subjects of health, nutrition, retirement, and grandchildren are more common (no, I’m not a grandfather yet). Given the life expectancy of African-American men today, I am grateful for every day I am blessed with. I have left the corporate world behind; being my own boss as an independent author is, in a word, gratifying. My creativity has grown. I may have learned about them at a later age, but those LGBT trailblazers of color that paved the way for me hold a special place in my heart. And I can still bust a move when the old-school jams come on.

     Yes, I think of times gone by, like my do-wop childhood, my Motown teenage years, coming out in college, nights under a disco ball, travel to whatever hot spots were in vogue in various cities, life in corporate America, becoming a father and husband. When I’m writing love scenes in my M/M romance novels, I turn on Barry White (now you know he was the maestro). With all that, I am yet an ever-learning, ever-evolving, work in progress, which I give thanks for.

     In conclusion, since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I leave you with this poem. I wish you an excellent day and good success:

1969 teenager living the age of Aquarius hot fun in the summertime

Life impacted by Selma Memphis Huey Newton Viet Nam

Unaware of event halfway across the country altering my life’s course

The voice of Stonewall

© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.