Tag Archives: Old School Kid

Old School New Kid 12

“Second Home”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham          

      Indeed, COVID-19 has brought about drastic changes in our lives. My state has a shelter-in-place order at this time, and all that goes with it. People overall have been good about compliance here; I must admit it’s weird driving on freeways with hardly any traffic, but I will take it for what it’s worth.

     I remember the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That has included being creative about staying connected, whether it’s via Zoom meetings or gathering for virtual church services online. I’m sure people are calling each other more to check in, especially with loved ones who are older. Except for the essential errands and a walk, besides prayer and meditation, I get to do more reading and writing, as well as binge-watch my favorite classic TV shows and movies.

     This season has brought good news for me as an author. Earlier this month, I had the honor of being a guest on one of the local radio stations here, where I was interviewed about the impact COVID-19 has had on the LGBT community as well as my literary body of work. Also, my Christopher Family Novel series is now on the shelves of four library systems here in Minnesota. Yaassss!

     For a person whose second home growing up was the library, having my work represented on those shelves is a mark of success for me as an author/novelist. Before the Information Age was deemed as such, there was the public library. Getting my first library card was a license to a whole wide world of books, newspapers, magazines (keep in mind that I was a child of the 1950s and early 1960s).

Never Give Up, book cover, a black Judge in his black robes, sitting in the court

     When I grew older, I would read biographies and autobiographies, but the fiction section tapped into my vivid imagination, particularly novelists who wrote series. To this day, I can visualize myself as a child, all arms and legs, walking home from a trip to the library with books up to my chin. I would then sit in my “reading chair” at home, my pile next to me, and proceed to read every book, each embarking upon a different adventure.

     Indeed, I could stay in a library for hours, and it is still one of the places conducive to my best writing and inspiration. During my childhood and young adulthood, the main library here also had another treat: a planetarium. Field trips to the planetarium shows were part of my school days.  But as an adult, it was a great way to get away for an hour and chill. And then I’d go over to the library and check out books.

     Today, technology is an integral part of our public and school libraries, what with the Internet, computer labs, and the like. Still, there is nothing like having a book in your hands to read; for an author, holding your work in your hands or having a signed copy from your favorite authors.

     Given the restrictions, my interactions with the libraries in my area are currently limited to curbside pickup of my materials—amazing how much we take for granted, given that there was a time in history when it was dangerous for African-Americans to know how to read and write. Seeing these buildings, however, serves as a reminder of another lesson I’ve learned over time—being a good writer means being a good reader.

     Stay safe and well. Believe in dreams and never give up.

© 2020 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 11

“Never Give Up!”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham      

     Summer will be here before I know it, and with it the release of Never Give Up: A Christopher Family Novel. True, it is a historical fiction/whodunit, as I have mentioned in my previous columns. However, the story does have elements of romance, which include the LGBT members of the Berry family.

     Like Allan Beckley Christopher and Elijah Edwards, Judge Earl James Berry’s life is seen through the lenses of his family. The following excerpt features his youngest child and only son, Carter Woodson Berry. As you know, I embrace Black love, and the romantic in me brings together Carter and the Boy Next Door:

 

     After five daughters, I can only imagine that Daddy was in nirvana on a snowy January 25, 1959, when Dr. Bradford said, “It’s a boy.” Mama has a strong sense of the value and importance of African American history, which may be the reason she named me after Carter G. Woodson. I’m sure that Daddy agreed with her choice. Now that he had a son, he probably would have agreed to almost any name she came up with.

     There is something to be said for having five big sisters. If I wanted to keep something secret, I learned early on not to confide in my sisters much. I love them, but while I was growing up, they considered it their sworn duty to stay in my business. The same went for my cousins, Ellen and Elizabeth, since they spent a lot of time after school at our house until Ellen turned fourteen. Douglass Edwards and Julian Edwards were closer to my age, but we went to different elementary schools, so we’d hang out at the park sometimes or whenever our parents got together.

     I was only a toddler when Uncle Eldon was killed, but things changed for our family when that happened. Daddy became an assistant district attorney with a mission of putting the criminals away and getting justice for their victims. When I was older, he told me about how Uncle Eldon’s murderer got off, and part of me hoped the dude would suffer the way my uncle did. “You keep putting the bad guys away, Daddy. For Uncle Eldon,” was my reply. I could imagine him saying that to himself after each conviction that was upheld. Learning that the perp suffered the torture of death by cancer in 1978, a few months after LaVera and Derrick’s wedding, was a vindication of a sort and it gave our family closure, even though it didn’t bring Uncle Eldon back.

     Daddy’s appointment to the bench in January of 1973 was the culmination of a dream for him, and I was quite proud of him; I told my teachers and classmates all about it. When we moved next door to the Edwardses in July, I thought my dream would come true when Julian Edwards came over to help out. I was a grade behind him, so I guess I was “under the radar” as far as he was concerned.

     He was, without a doubt, one gorgeous man, and he still is. Unlike his older brothers, he looked something like the singer Jackie Wilson in his prime. I couldn’t help but notice him peeking out of his bedroom window as we were moving furniture into our house—Mama wanted everything in its proper place, what with Sylvia’s wedding taking place at the end of the month. Sure, our families know each other, but Julian’s parents had moved when I was in elementary school. Once we were both back at Bryant Jr. High, I was operating under the disadvantage of being a grade behind him and moving in different circles, all because he was seven months older than me. At the age of 14, though, I found myself looking at him in a very different way. I couldn’t help but hear the way my sisters talked about this boy or that boy once they hit their teens. Now I understood what they meant. Mine happened to conveniently live next door.

     I was struggling with a heavy mirror, attempting to get it out to the edge of the van so Daddy could help me with it, when I heard someone behind me say, “Need some help with that?”

     I looked up from my task and—wow!—there he was. I took a moment to wipe some sweat from my brow; no way was I going to turn down that kind of help. “Sure. Thanks.” He climbed up into the van to grab one end of the mirror, while I checked him out as nonchalantly as I could. “Julian?”

     “Yeah. I’m your new neighbor.”

     “You went to Bryant.”

     “Right again. I start at Central this fall.”

     “I wish I was. I have to wait another year,” I said wistfully.

     “Trust me, it’ll pass before you know it.” We edged our way down the ramp, managing the mirror as best we could. “You know, my brothers know your sisters.”

     “Yeah, come to think of it. I remember Linda talked about your brother Mel a lot. What’s he up to?”

     “Just working a summer gig, then it’s back to Northwestern.”

     “Linda’s at Marquette. Careful, the steps are coming up.”

     “Thanks.” He backed slowly up the steps, and I appreciated the way we fell into sync. “So, what’s it like to have five big sisters these days?”

     “OK, I guess—if they weren’t always in my business.”

     “Still, Carter, you do have some fine sisters.”

Never Give Up, book cover, a black Judge in his black robes, sitting in the court

     “That’s just it, they know it. But they’re cool. I feel sorry for the dudes who come around to date them. When Sylvia was living at home, Daddy would take her dates into the den and close the door. I don’t know what he said, but they always came out of there looking like he’d held them at gunpoint. And he was the picture of cool and calm. Same with Deshawna and Linda.”

     “Dad was pretty strict with my brothers, too. John told me it took an act of Congress to get Dad to let him use the car for the homecoming dance. Of course, that was before John bought his own car.” We chuckled as we reached the next set of steps. “But Ma…if they brought home a girl she didn’t like, she’d give them The Look and it was all over but the shouting. So, which way do I go?”

     “Uh….to the left and straight back.”
We set the mirror down in the dining room and went back outside to get more furniture. As we went up the ramp, I heard a familiar voice calling, “Carter! You’d better be careful with my bed!”

     “Relax, LaVera. Stop acting like it’s a Brink’s delivery,” I said sarcastically. As we carried out a box spring mattress, my sister came outside. As far as looks go, she could give Beyonce some competition, but her attitude left something to be desired. “LaVera, you remember Julian Edwards? Julian, LaVera.”

     She regarded this introduction from her regal pose for a moment and said, “Oh, right, you’re Mel’s little brother. Hi.”

     “Hi, LaVera. Where does this go?”

     “Upstairs, second door on the right,” was her lofty reply, giving the attitude that only corroborated my character assessment.

     As the afternoon wore on, we managed to get everything off the truck while putting up with LaVera’s and Chauntice’s orders. Mama and Daddy gave Julian compliments about his helpfulness, but I saw him as my dreamboat. The way he could be awkward and graceful at the same time, tall and gangly yet built, with buns to die for. The smile, had he known it then, that had me ready to melt while Mama prepared a meal to replenish our strength after our hard work.

     After that day, we were nearly inseparable. We were at each other’s houses so much that our parents took it for granted. I watched him grow taller until he hit 6’4” and filled out to desirable proportions. I had stopped at 5’8”, built like a gymnast with a touch of bodybuilder. I hoped and hoped Julian would make a move or something, yet I didn’t want to scare him off. It just seemed like forever; it wasn’t until later that I learned Julian felt the same way as I did. He was just shy about approaching me, like that Pointer Sisters song that came out in the ‘80s. Even with that knowledge, it was still a waiting game. Man, how I wished that the Berry charm Daddy and Grandpa Berry bragged about would work for me when it came to Julian Edwards, preferably sooner than later.

     One evening during spring break of my junior year at Central High, Julian invited me over to his house. Ordinarily, it would be no big deal, because we spent so much time at each other’s houses. This time, I sensed something different when I followed him up to his room; the house was so quiet. I started to ask him where his parents were, until I remembered that they went to a fundraiser with mine. Still…

     “Where’s Mrs. Banks?” I asked.

     “Oh, she has the night off,” he said with what looked like a nervous yet secretive smile.

     We sat in his room as usual, talking about school or family stuff and listening to Donna Summer albums. I’d been around Julian long enough to tell when he was building up to something, and this had all the earmarks of it. On a hunch, I gave him my most encouraging look. Please, Berry charm, go to work. Please, please, please……

     “You know, Carter…I like you. I like it when we spend time together.” He moved closer to me.

     “I know.”

     “I mean, I really like you. The way our classmates do when they’re going together.”
At last. “I know that, too, since I feel the same way about you.”

     “Maybe we’ve been dating and didn’t know it. Well…I want to make it official.” He took my hand. “Will you be my boyfriend?”

Believe in dreams and never give up.

 

© 2020 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 10

“Blue Lights in the Basement”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham      

     For those of us brothas of a certain age, “Blue Lights in the Basement” was the title of an album by Roberta Flack. When I think of that phrase, I think of a place and mood that took place despite the challenges. Hence, I consider this installment more as a meditation of a time gone by, but still in my heart.

     Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the primary meeting place for LGBT brothas was at the clubs, where the activity was centered around alcohol. Being under 21, this was problematic for me unless I was shielded by going in with an older group. Given these circumstances, a more viable alternative was a house party, which was normally held on a Friday or Saturday night. Depending on the venue and the purpose, house parties were also known as “quarter parties” or “rent parties.”

     Word of mouth by people “in the know” was key if you wanted to find house parties. The Twin Cities did have them, but not to the same level as those in such urban areas as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, D.C., etc. Because the clubs closed at 1:00 a.m., the parties would begin just before the clubs closed, the buses stopped running, and the downtown streets rolled up for the night.

     My college classmates called me a fashionista, which was partially true since I spent a good share of time deciding which bell bottoms would go with what platform shoes and butterfly-collar shirt. I made sure my Afro was picked out to perfection, applying copious amounts of Afro-Sheen spray. Now, getting funky after an hour or two on the dance floor is one thing, but upon my first arrival at the party, it was essential to wear the right cologne (and not the cheap stuff!)

     The mark of a good host was ensuring that people were comfortable and enjoying themselves, which included having sufficient food and drink—presentation, of course, is everything. A pivotal element in the mix was a good DJ; that made all the difference to me. Remember the line dances on Soul Train? That could easily have been me on that show amongst “the children,” given the amount of time I spent jamming on a dance floor.  

Never Give Up, book cover, a black Judge in his black robes, sitting in the court
     Speaking of which, back then the mark of a great DJ was knowing when to bring the music up and when to bring it down. Ah, the ballads, the slow jams! There are those of you out there who know what I’m talking about—Barry White, the Isley Brothers, the Delfonics, Teddy Pendergrass, the Dells, the Stylistics. These were the opportunities for “up close and personal” time with your man; if you were single, it was another way to get better acquainted with that “phyne” brotha you had your eye on when you arrived to party. And if the vibes were right, you’d be going home with him and putting your Vaseline to good use.

     Another advantage of a house party was a more controlled environment. LGBT rights were in the early stages, and clubs still ran the risk of being randomly raided; house parties provided a safe space to meet and be ourselves. Young brothas like me could socialize and leave with our hearing intact. The environment was more relaxed for taking the steps into our identity as Black gay men, in a community that was only beginning to become visible.

     I deeply appreciate the progress made for LGBT brothas, such as marriage and raising children with the man you love–and living in authenticity. At the same time, it’s important to remember our history and that part of who we are–as well as to recognize the meeting ground between the generations. Each has a place in our lives, and I embrace both.

     I look back on “Blue Lights in the Basement” with a smile. Believe in dreams and never give up.

© 2020 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 9

“A Writer’s Work Is Never Done”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

     One thing this Old School New Kid has learned is that my writing is ever-evolving. Honing one’s craft and writing style is an ongoing process, especially when writing is one’s passion. I remember my days as a child when my stories were largely about animals.

     In junior high school (Yes, that’s what it was called before the term “middle school” was coined.), I received my first commendation in a state contest for a short story about the misadventures of a bookworm who visited my school—a real worm with a hearty appetite for books.

     And in college and as a young adult, my stories took on more of a satirical nature, with occasional ventures into poetry. Today, as an African American gay man of a certain age, whole new avenues have opened for me.

     Toni Morrison said, “If there is a story you wish to read, and it hasn’t been written, then you must be the one to write it.” Having read about African American LGBT characters in fiction, urban fiction, and erotica over the years, I knew that I wished to read about such characters in the genre of romance; and by extension, write about them. In a subgenre where only 17% of the published authors are male, and far less are African American, I was highly motivated to step up to the plate and add my voice.

     There is truth in the adage that “being a good writer goes hand in hand with being a good reader.” Being the voracious reader that I am, I obtained a better sense of what I wished to write in male/male romance through reading other novels. I love the works of romance authors Brenda Jackson, Niobia Bryant, Rochelle Alers, and Cheryl Barton for the way they represent their male/female, African American main characters, which was in line with my own vision–now, I needed to translate that into male couples. In reading novels from the subgenre of male/male romance, I noticed that when the story had an African American main character, he was in a relationship with a white man the majority of the time.

     So, it begged the question: where are the couples who look like me? If I was asking this question, I was sure there were others out there asking the same thing. Hence, for me, it was time to see Black male couples represented in such novels, treated with the respect they are due.

     In contrast to the dominant Black alpha male/submissive white twink dynamic, I visualized two evenly matched Black men falling in love. Also, my series takes place in a family where being LGBT is simply another fact of life; when you have your family behind you, that’s a major portion of the battle won. And yes, such couples deserve the happily-ever-after their white counterparts receive.

Never Give Up, book cover, a black Judge in his black robes, sitting in the court

     Of course, in a romance novel, there are the steamy scenes of passion. When I’m writing those scenes, I must have Barry White playing in the background. I have to say, a brotha who’s man enough to embrace his vulnerability and take what he dishes out is smokin’ hot– and this element shows up in my love scenes. The brothas have it going on! Authors LaQuette, Christa Tomlinson, Terrance Dean, and Wyatt O’Brian Evans have done this, and their work is amazing.

     It’s nice to read about 20-something couples in love; it’s been even better to read about couples in their 30s, 40s, and on up; the late Mike Warren’s Always and Forever is a classic example.

     In my first romance novel, The Right to Be, expect to see a male couple in their senior years as part of the Christopher family in addition to the younger ones. In the second, To Thine Own Self, the couple is 30-plus. No, they’re not out yet; they are the next in the Christopher Family Novel series after Never Give Up, my historical whodunit novel scheduled for release this year.

     No, a writer’s work is never done, not so long as unlimited creativity and imagination prevails. Even as I speak, more ideas are taking shape and in the works for me as a romance novelist. Fortunately, since my characters come from this large, extended family, I’ve found it far easier to multitask. To my brothas and sistahs: if writing is your passion, let us continue to support one another and lift our voices.

     If you write romance, I’d love to know about your work; my to-be-read pile is low, and I’d love to pile it up with lots of happily-ever-afters.
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 8

Never Give Up” Preview

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

A Wyattevans.com exclusive! A tantalizing excerpt from “Never Give Up,” the much anticipated and soon-to-be released tome by Mr. W. D. Foster-Graham! 

Through the lens of Judge Berry’s wife, Juanita Langston Berry, here is a preview of one of the pivotal events of my upcoming novel, “Never Give Up.

On the evening of August 19, 1960, Earl and I, Eldon and Elaine, and Donna and Eli were gathered at Eldon and Elaine’s new house at 4054 Clinton Avenue, enjoying a barbecue. It was a warm but comfortable summer evening. Eldon, like most men, considered himself a master at the art of all things that could be barbecued on a grill. Our children were playing in the back yard after they ate, while we sat back in the lawn chairs and talked. We had already discussed the movie we went to the previous evening, Butterfield 8, and now we were on to politics.

“So, what do you think Kennedy’s chances are at the presidency?” Eldon asked Earl.

“Well, I know we’re going to vote for him,” was Earl’s hearty reply.

“If we are, I hope this baby waits until after the inauguration to get here.” Elaine rubbed her softly rounded stomach, partially concealed by her sleeveless maternity top. “I want to see what Jackie’s going to wear to the inaugural ball after she has her baby.”

I took a sip of root beer. “You know, she’s going to set some fashion trends around the country.”

“Anyway, I hope Kennedy makes some changes for civil rights,” Eldon said, getting up to go inside the house. He came out after a minute and said, “Elaine, I’m going to get some more beer. Do you want anything?”

“Bring some Coca-Cola. We want to make some ice cream floats for the kids.”

“Got it.” Eldon gave Elaine a kiss, flashing a smile as he walked to the driveway where their 1958 DeSoto hardtop was parked. “I’ll be back.”

Donna, Elaine, and I continued to talk about Jackie Kennedy as a fashion trendsetter. Earl and Eli discussed the finer points of owning a Cadillac, in particular, the 1957 Cadillac we bought from Woody at the beginning of summer. When Earl first saw Perry Mason driving that model on the TV show, he had to have one like it. There were times when it was wise to concede to one’s husband—I benefitted from the deal with a 1958 Buick station wagon as an anniversary present.

We must have talked for a good twenty minutes or so, enough to notice it was nearing sunset. Carter had fallen asleep in my lap, so Elaine and I went into the house to find someplace comfortable and safe to put him down. Donna soon joined us with her youngest son Julian, who had also pooped out.

“I wonder where Eldon is?” Elaine asked. “At this rate, the kids will all be asleep by the time he gets back.”

“It shouldn’t be too long,” Donna answered as she put Julian down. “The stores are going to be closing soon.”

As time went by, however, we grew more concerned. Just going to get beer and soda shouldn’t have taken Eldon so long. We talked on, but the atmosphere started to cloud over with unease. “Why don’t I go down to the store and see what’s holding him up?” Earl offered.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Elaine said. “Sometimes he gets to talking with people in the neighborhood that come in the store.”

We rounded up the kids and brought them inside as twilight made its appearance. Earl grabbed his keys and prepared to leave when we heard a knock at the front door. I saw the puzzled look on Elaine’s face upon seeing the two men standing on the steps. “Yes?”

They identified themselves as police detectives and asked her, “Are you, Mrs. Eldon Berry?”

“Yes, I’m Mrs. Berry. What’s this about?”

“Mrs. Berry, we’re here to give you some news,” one of them said solemnly.

We didn’t like the way he said ‘news,’ and the apprehension grew worse. “What kind of news?” Earl asked.

Mrs. Berry, a man was shot and killed about an hour ago.”

Elaine grew tense. “What does that have to do with me?”

He was identified by his driver’s license as Eldon Berry. We’re sorry for your loss.”

To her credit, Elaine didn’t faint or scream—she was more stunned—but we could see how hard the news hit her. She clutched the door frame for support. I heard the tears in her voice when she said, “Where is he?”

He’s been taken to the morgue, Mrs. Berry. But we need to ask you some questions.”

Can’t that wait until she’s gone to identify him?” Earl adopted his take-charge stance. “You’ve just told her that her husband’s dead.”

We’re sorry, but we need to do this while things are fresh in her mind.”

Earl’s expression was strained, but his voice was strong and controlled. “I’m Earl James Berry. I’m his brother, and I’m also an attorney. We’re going to the morgue. You can ask all the questions you want in the morning.”

I grabbed Elaine’s purse and handed it to her, still in disbelief over the grim report the police had given us. “You go ahead with Earl,” I told her. “We’ll stay here with the kids until you get back.”

Never Give Up, book cover, a black Judge in his black robes, sitting in the court

When they returned, I saw the pain and raw grief in their faces over the reality of Eldon’s lifeless body lying in the city morgue. Elaine’s tears came gradually after she sat down, with Eli and Donna doing whatever they could to comfort her. My husband held me in his arms. I could feel his body shaking with unreleased sobs, sobs on the inside. It seemed like untold moments passed before he could compose himself, saying to me, “Honey, could you stay here with Elaine? There’s something I have to do.”

Of course,” I agreed, knowing where he was going and how difficult it would be for him to deliver that horrible news. No matter what people think, there’s never an easy way to tell parents that their child is dead, even a grown child. I noticed the older children standing around with confused looks on their faces. Oh, the news. How are we going to tell them?

Eldon’s funeral was an ordeal we got through only by the grace of God. The senselessness of his death was lost on no one. People had so many good things to say about him as they expressed their sympathy to the family. Mother Berry had her head on Father Berry’s shoulder during the packed service, the life force seemingly drained out of her. Earl’s face had a grim expression on it, one that swore revenge on the perpetrator of this crime even as they lowered his brother’s body into the ground. Eli and Donna, as well as the rest of the Edwards family, also attended the funeral and stood by us during that difficult time. I was grateful Earl had a friend like Eli, another rock he could depend on.

As soon as the trial date was set, the Berry family was there, with the Edwards family and my parents providing solid moral support. When the defendant was brought in, Earl’s body tensed up and his jaws grew tight. My eyes narrowed as I took a good look at the vile, monstrous beast that had callously taken the life of my brother-in-law. In that instant, I wished that Minnesota had the death penalty, but I had to settle for the thought of him rotting in a prison cell for the rest of his miserable life.

At the age of thirty-seven, Eldon had been struck down in the prime of his life. He had had so much to look forward to. With a wonderful wife like Elaine, the family he’d always wanted, plus an excellent career working side by side with his father, why did this have to happen to him?

I came to the trial whenever I could, but Earl and his parents were there every day. The case seemed cut-and-dry to us; the defendant was robbing a store and Eldon was killed trying to stop him. What could be clearer than that? Unfortunately, the defendant got off on a technicality.

I remember sitting there in the courtroom with Earl, Elaine, Mother and Father Berry, wanting to scream obscenities at the judge for a miscarriage of justice but too stunned to say a word. I glared at the defendant and his attorney congratulating themselves, hoping that they would be driven to walk into the Amazon River and become lunch for a school of piranhas. I didn’t have to go far to see that same look in Elaine’s eyes.

To say that the verdict left a bad taste in our mouths was a gross understatement. There may have been celebration about President Kennedy’s election, but there was a pall over our family during the holidays. I could only imagine what it was like for Elaine, having a three-year-old child and pregnant with another, one who would never know his or her father except through others. Elaine’s doctor had been concerned that the stress of Eldon’s death and going through the trial could cause her to either lose the baby or go into premature labor. Her doctor, however, hadn’t reckoned with the steely resolve of the Berry family to both protect and support Elaine and Ellen. In addition, the family stood firmly on God’s promises of protection for them. We knew He never failed.

Earl had changed when it came to his work. He was tense, just “doing his job” without the passion. He often came home from work short-tempered and testy, to the point where the children were hesitant to approach him. I often had to intervene, and the tension between us could be felt. In addition to that, our sex life had taken a nosedive. The fact that Eldon’s murderer had walked was eating away at the family. Something had to be done.

On New Year’s Day of 1961, we were all in church, listening to our pastor’s sermon. Earl was unusually quiet, hardly saying a word during fellowship time. That night, after all the kids were in bed, he turned to me and said, “I’ve come to a decision.”

What kind of decision?”

About my work.”

I was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

I’ve had enough of being a defense attorney.” He must have read the question in my eyes, because he added, “No, Juanita, I’m not giving up law. But I am changing it.”

But how?”

Tomorrow, I’m having papers drawn up to have my partners buy me out.”

That still doesn’t tell me how you’re changing things when it comes to practicing law.”

Because I’m putting in for a position at the district attorney’s office. I’m going to become an assistant district attorney.”

I looked into his smoky gold eyes. Never had he been more serious than at that moment. “This change…it has something to do with Eldon, doesn’t it?”

There was steely conviction in his voice. “If I couldn’t get justice for my brother at the trial, then I can get it for others. The only way to do that is to become a prosecutor.”

Tammy Wynette put out a song years ago called “Stand by Your Man.” We spent half the night discussing the matter, but by the time we went to bed I was convinced that his decision was merited, and I stood by him. It was as though the negative energy Earl had been carrying around diffused, for he took me in his arms and made up for all those nights of we had gone without.

© 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 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.