“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.
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.