Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Correcting An Error Regarding Poet Assotto Saint

Letters to the Editor
The Gay & Lesbian Review
P.O. Box 180300
Boston, MA 02118

December 27, 2004

To the Editor:

I would like to correct an error that appeared in Felice Picano's review of Patrick Moore's Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality (November/December 2004). The late poet Assotto Saint is identified as a Jamaican-American when in fact he was born in Haiti. As a longtime friend of Assotto's, and as one who knew of his pride in his Haitian roots, I could not let the error go unacknowledged.

Sincerely yours,

Charles Michael Smith

Note: This unpublished letter was submitted to GLR via e-mail.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sidney Poitier: Actor, Director, Novelist

While browsing the "New Fiction" shelves at the Morningside Heights branch of the New York Public Library, I came upon a novel by legendary actor Sidney Poitier called Montaro Caine (Spiegel & Grau, 2013). I immediately took it off the shelf and turned to the inside front flap to read its plot description.

According to the front flap copy, the novel tells the story of Montaro Caine, a corporate CEO, in whose office is brought "a coin of unknown provenance, composed of a metal unknown to Earth." The flap copy goes on to tell the prospective reader that "the value of the coin lies not in its monetary worth but in its hold on the people who come into contact with it."

I was disappointed after reading about the plot of the novel. I was hoping that Poitier, one of my favorite actors, had written a novel from the perspective of a young black male actor attempting to build a successful film career. If Poitier had done that, he would have given his readers-- and fans--another insider's unique look at Hollywood, warts and all.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New York AIDS Forum For Black Men And Women

A forum on AIDS for black gay men and lesbians, sponsored by an ad hoc group of black gay and lesbian activists, was held Feb. 1 [1984] at Hunter College. One of the purposes of the forum was to counteract the widespread belief among black gay men, and the black community in general, that AIDS is a white disease. This perception is fostered by nearly exclusive media attention given to white gay men with AIDS and causes blacks to have a diminished interest in AIDS educational forums and events.

The first of February was chosen because of its significance as the beginning of Black History Month. Gwen Rogers, the forum moderator, said the event would demonstrate that black gay men and lesbians were "concerned about all aspects of our oppression." The forum, she continued, provided "the opportunity for us to raise issues of the struggle against AIDS, to raise the issue of AIDS as a health concern, and to raise the demand that health care is a right."

The audience, numbering between 90 and 100, some of whom were white, heard the following panelists: Leonard Brown, M.D. ("The Medical Facts of AIDS"); Raymond Jacobs, resident recreation therapist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York ("Psycho-social Issues"); Jessie Cadet ("The Impact of AIDS on the Haitian Community"); and Bruce Hall, a black man with AIDS ("Reflections of a Person with AIDS"). Diego Lopez, a social worker who was called to speak at the last minute, expressed his concern for quality health care and asked the audience to help him and others reach the black gay community with AIDS information.

The ad hoc committee, while planning this forum, said Rogers, a psychologist, did not "view the AIDS question in isolation," but saw it as being part of the overall concern for better health care delivery within the total black community. They also saw the socio-economic ramifications of the disease, which has a 40 percent mortality rate. Rogers saw the forum as something that will help unify the gay, as well as the black, community.

Dr. Brown's presentation of the medical facts on AIDS included the by-now familiar rundown on symptoms and treatments. Jessie Cadet's presentation was short and to the point: "There is an urgent need for more money for AIDS research and the oppression of Haitian immigrants by U.S. officials must end."

The two speakers who gave the most interesting presentations in terms of information, if not style, were Hall and Jacobs.

Hall, a 29-year old ex-New Yorker, now living in Chicago, was diagnosed with AIDS in September 1983. He felt, following the diagnosis, that it was unfair for him to have come down with this disease, especially after several years of abstinence from drugs, alcohol, and sex with multiple partners. He's presently involved in a monogamous relationship, and although he and his lover have not refrained from having sex, they do not exchange body fluids. Hall is also in a self-imposed program of hypnosis, weight-lifting, and bicycling. Although it's part of his battle against AIDS, he's not sure if any of it works.

Jacobs spoke of the isolation and psychological crisis AIDS people endure, leaving them angry, guilty, and ashamed. He's observed a tendency to moralize and to believe that having the disease is due to the wrath of God.

Jacobs placed AIDS people in three categories: those with the disease who have not contracted a major illness; those with a major illness who are working their way towards death and dying; those, like Hall, who have recently been diagnosed.

Hall told this reporter in a later interview that he visits AIDS people in hospitals so they know that someone cares and that there are people with AIDS who are able to function. These visits, he feels, "might give them some hope."

A question-and-answer period followed the prepared presentations.

This is article was originally published in the Gay Community News of Boston (February 18, 1984).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

PBS To Air Documentary On Slain Mexican-American Journalist

Shortly after Mexican-American journalist Ruben Salazar's untimely death in 1970 at the age of 42, I received from the Los Angeles Times a booklet containing some of his columns for the paper. In the back of the booklet was the eulogy delivered by Times publisher Otis Chandler at Salazar's funeral.
Said Chandler: "He [Salazar] was a fighter, a firm believer that all men, regardless of color or language barrier, could, in the end, live together peacefully and productively in our city.

"But he knew that before this could happen," continued Chandler, "the Anglo community had to understand the basic problems in the minority communities."

The Los Angeles Times published an article (January 8, 2014) that reported that on April 29, PBS will air a documentary called Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle. I eagerly await the broadcast of this documentary about a courageous and important journalist whose name and work should never be forgotten.

No doubt public radio's On the Media will do a segment on the documentary prior to its scheduled airdate.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Creating Choreography Via Architecture

Avant-garde dancemaker Gus Solomans, Jr.'s segment will be half of a shared evening of dance at the Danspace Project of St. Mark's Church in [Manhattan's] East Village (April 14, 15,16 [1989]). In a collaborative work with a team of Columbia University [architectural] students, the Solomans Company/Dance will present Site Line, described by Solomans (a former architect), in a telephone interview, as a dance with "a wall that would divide the dancing space in half. The audience on each side of the wall [will] see essentially a different dance. They'll be able to see the dancers on the other side. The wall is partly transparent, partly translucent, and partly opaque." Solomans says that he wants the audience to interpret what they see for themselves, "to make choices, to participate as viewers, not just sit there and [let the choreography] wash over them and be entertained. I try to make the visual atmosphere rich enough for everyone to get some stimulation."

This article was originally published in the New York Amsterdam News (April 15, 1989) as part of a Spring 1989 Dance Roundup article.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Choreographer Donald Byrd's Future Plans

Donald Byrd, 40, who "had always wanted to [dance]" but got started late (in his late teens), formed his own dance company--Donald Byrd/The Group--in 1978 in Los Angeles where he decided to stay after touring there as a member of Gus Solomons, Jr.'s company. Five years later, he made the move to New York because L.A. had "no sense of community, no support for the arts. I felt isolated from other people, from other artists."

Since then the North Carolina-born, Florida-reared choreographer's critically-acclaimed, issue-oriented dance works have been set on companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (which premiered Shards last year at the City Center [in New York]) and the Minneapolis-based Zenon Company.

Also a teacher, Byrd hopes to build a school and performance space through the Donald Byrd Foundation, established in 1985, as a way for him to repay the theatre world "which has given me a lot." He sees the school as "a place where kids can come in and do the kind of work that I see is important work."

Shortly before a one-week tour of Hungary and Yugoslavia, Donald Byrd/The Group performed a children's program on August 11 [1989] at the Harlem School of the Arts. They will next participate in the Black Choreographers Moving Toward the 21st Century dance festival scheduled for San Francisco (November 1-12) and Los Angeles (November 12-19). [These were 1989 dates.]

This article was originally published in the New York Amsterdam News (November 25, 1989).