For “Funny” Boys incarcerated in Black Homes
By K. Déaunta Edwards
-Dedicated to Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden Jr-
As I contemplate my own existence I gaze at both my past and present, try as I might, I cannot conjure what a future for me will look like- if I am permitted one, but a question derides me, “why?” A bright young handsome twenty-six year old scholar with my entire life well ahead of me, yet I find myself attempting the long walk for a short ride. Though my heart weighs heavy, I feel as light as a goofer feather that will surely conjugate and decorate the wings of my escape. I question the pains of my kind of love, I question the oxymoron of love creating a hate so ferocious that it has driven me to a darkness most foul that I believe myself to have been dead long before todays’ revelation, but mostly I question how effortlessly hatred is projected from the very mouths who shout praises to the Lord Almighty on Sunday with such diction that I often believed God himself would come down from his holy place, in human form, and attempt to save my wicked soul. I have heard of a man who loved all, who died for all, and saved all, yet I am told that Christ’s love does not extend its olive branch to me and my kind, the ones who desire to feel hair upon the lips of their lovers when upon their own lips rest hair, the boys who prance instead of walk, the furrowed brow tweezed and shaded, the lip alive with color; it seems the definition of “all” eludes some as we are beaten, burned, and scorned. Nothing breaks the embrace of Black hands like homosexuality. The unfamiliar strikes fear into the hearts of bigoted Black men and women the likes in which the KKK can only dream to. But why? Pen and paper in hand, I gather I should grant my heart the voice it has begged me for to no end. Confidence has found me at last in my final hour and I welcome its counsel with a smile and out stretched arm.
I often wonder the thickness of blood that ties Black families. The wideness of noses and matching complexions surrender any doubt one may have of their origin- the generations of gapped teeth and chocolate brown eyes are seemingly enough to embrace a loved one at first sight without question. This does not apply to So and So’s funny acting son with the ever so slight switch in his walk or quiet demeanor. He is not family nor the help; He is the blemish on the otherwise smooth skin that is the family’s name; he is an outsider- an alien who dares to ask for toleration, or idiotically love from the self-righteous stepfords in which he unquestionably burdens with his very existence. For “funny” boys, like me, who are incarcerated in Black homes know it is the equivalent to the life of a slave in the days of olde. To be both Black and gay living in the south is a punishment fit for Hitler- the Devil himself if one finds himself with a high vibrato and a weak throwing arm. The maximum security of mother’s watchful warden eye leaves no chance for a merry skip or gyration of joy. The Massa father is swift and unforgiving with a back hand or fist if his young captive makes the unfortunate mistake of picking up ballet shoes over cleats. The hound dogs of this prison take form as siblings, enthusiastically and sickeningly ready to bark and bite feverishly to alert our captors should we stray from traditional pastimes of wrestling and tooth and hammer. What is this hand so many of us funny boys have been dealt? Why must we be Dorothy on the yellow brick road of life- never truly getting our heart’s desire- only to succumb to the bare minimum with a smile most fraudulent. We are the new Black. Oppressed, stereotyped, driven to the back of society’s bus, and even bludgeoned and slain by weak, wicked Black men and women who dare call themselves family. Family. The word burns my tongue as I speak the blasphemous word in reference to the captors in which I belong. I’ve learned long ago that DNA has always proven to be the weakest link in the chain of love.
The only family for the ebony funny boy is among other funnies. We are perpetual lost boys forever in search of a mother without a scowl or a gilded smile to hide her selfish disappointment at her “mistake.” Her arrogance allows her to mourn and strike like a wounded viper. I find myself thinking of Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden Jr- my brothers who were mutilated by a sadistic mad man. No doubt he will be given a slap on the hand and a pat on the back simultaneously for his crimes. I suppose my funny ways betray my Black skin as I shudder and can barely get through your interview, brother, my heart became gelid, and black, hideous, and malicious thoughts begin to eddy where once laid peace. I allow rivulets to flow freely from both eyes- in pride- as bath my lethargy with your truth. I mourn that you will never forget this betrayal of family, trust, and security. I find myself blinded with anger as you are forced to relive that horrendous moment for the world’s education…entertainment. My brothers, I apologize for not being there to save you. I scold myself for my dedication to the hamster wheels of life that I’d made no time to seek or support the ones who fight tirelessly for our liberation. I apologize for being content with a wedding ring and the ability to adopt a child when we are still hunted and burned like witches in Salem. I gag as I think of the people who will call you a survivor or tell you that this experience will make you stronger. Is a soldier stronger after he’s lost both of his legs? Does a woman beam with pride at the bruised black eye given to her by her drunken lover? As I watched your head hang in humiliation I wept for I know you will never be the same. You will never drift off into a peaceful slumber in a warm bed without first looking over your shoulder. So much more was taken from you than just smooth caramel skin, and I do not believe our world understands that. Again I weep. If that monster stands trial for the crimes against you, brothers, then it must be for crimes of murder! Murder of identity, dignity, trust, security, and self-worth.
My brothers, I’m sure you are being pressured to forgive and forget; ironically I’m sure you’re bathed in love and compassion by the very jackals that aided in your low self-esteem, but I want you to know that you don’t have to forgive them if you don’t want to. As we’ve learned all too well: a crime against our kind is rarely given just desserts until the criminal dines with their maker beyond the world’s jurisdiction. I urge you to simply forget them; I beg you to wash your hands of them all and find family in the embrace of our people. When his dying day comes, I beseech you to refrain from meeting with him. No doubt he will call for you in his wicked attempt to make amends and free his soul from its guilt and inevitable damnation; there will be no true remorse in his breathy words- just an old coward in a desperate attempt to refrain from his own reaping.
My funny boys, I must be frank about our current situation and how there is blame to share. I spoke apologetically about not being there when our brothers needed me most, and though I did not know them personally I meant in obligation. As Pecola wished for the bluest eye, I, like most, have wished for the deepest voice. We pride ourselves on our ability to blend in with our oppressors with our masculine build and low vibrato; we beam with a smile fit for a Cheshire cat when chauvinistic heteros says we don’t “act gay” or “you’re cool for a gay guy.” We swallow these insults down like fresh lemonade on a hot June afternoon, letting it nourish our sense of selves to a distain for the true face that lies behind the mask. This crime against Marquez and Anthony is a product of our own self-hatred. Many times we sit quietly as our proud feminine brothers are slaughtered both verbally and physically, or give a pusillanimous snicker at a “sissy” joke. It is our betrayal that leads to incidents such as this one. I have never been guilty of being ashamed of my sexuality, but I (like most) am guilty of silence. In our current state, I find myself referencing the astute words of Lupe Fiasco, “Silence is worse than violence.”
For funny boys incarcerated in Black homes, for you I renege my oath to the noose, for you are worth living for. As a proud Black gay man I cannot abandon you when your own families plot your demise. There is love in the world for you- all of you. From West Hollywood to Lucky Chang’s, there is a community that loves, adores, supports, and lives just for you. I implore you all, whether weak or strong, guy or girly, to choose courage even when fear wets your tongue like sweet nectar to a parched butterfly. Choose PRIDE when the weight of silence seems a much lighter burden to bear, and always choose love even when hate seems to have the bigger arsenal; we are stronger than they believe us to be- than they want us to be. Take what you will from my emancipation, but understand this if nothing else: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
From one funny boy to the next, I love you,