Tag Archives: AQLF

Into Darkness: Remembering Poet, Musician, and Community Activist David Blair

Blair Performing Carl

I cried the first time I heard poet and slam artist, David Blair or Blair perform his persona poem “Carl” in the voice of the black character Carl Carlson from The Simpsons (ironically voiced by Hank Azaria). In the poem an employee at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant draws a black N on Carl’s locker.  It starts off, “I was drawn here” and ends “I was drawn here” and in between dissects what it’s like being black in a predominately white community using brave language. Brave is an appropriate word describing Blair’s poetry, also politically passionate, fiery, provocative, and necessary. Maybe it was Blair’s syrupy-rich voice, his to the point delivery, and bearlike stature that had an impact on me. Maybe it was that I knew he was gay and because he was a black gay writer I could see myself in that poem. Whatever it was he had the same effect on so many people.

The National Endowment for the Arts said “his stunningly evocative renderings of (Emily) Dickinson’s work are not to be missed.”

Jay Connell, author of Eat This City said “Blair is awful. Not in the way you’re probably thinking, though. When you see someone that talented it’s hard not to be reminded of how mediocre a lot of other things are. Every single time I’ve left a Blair show, I’ve made a comment about how I need to see that guy more often.”

Blair Performing Being Black in America

He performed throughout the world after winning against 54 four-member teams at the National Slam Competition with his team, Team Detroit (which included Ben Jones, Aurora Harris, Becky Austin, Michael Ellison, Judah, and Scott Klein) in 2002. At the competition Blair performed an Italian madrigal. I would have loved to have seen that performance or have seen Blair perform in Paris next year. Blair passed away on Saturday, July 23, 2011.

“Because I’m black and gay, the black gay community means a lot to me as a writer, artist, performer and as a listener,” Blair said.

He meant a lot to the black gay community, the slam community, the Detroit community, so many communities.

David Blair and the Wall of Prejudice

Image by Preston Rhea

He described himself as a black, queer writer, and musician. His poetry was heavily influenced by his music. A style called urban folk with an urgent rock feel. He performed with a band called The Boyfriends. Blair was on vocals and played the acoustic guitar along with Leah Woods (Vocals, Clarinet), Ken Comstock (Double Bass), Chris Winter (Drums), Markita Moore (Trumpet), Scott Stone (Drums), Dale Wilson (Electric Guitar), and Nicole Varga (Violin, Viola). Their most recent album, The Line, “was released in 2010 on Repeatable Silence Records. Blair, as a solo artist, and with The Urban Folk Collective, self-released more than seven records in the last ten years.” The Urban Folk Collective, Blair’s first band, a 5-piece band “blending many different styles from folk and blues to jazz, hip-hop and funk.” They performed shows with “Stevie Wonder, M. Doughty (Soul Coughing), Michael Moore, Tribe 8, Niagara, Reggie Gibson, and Harold McKinney.”

Blair and The Boyfriends Performing Freedom Calling

For six years Blair worked at The Chrysler Plant is Detroit where his work suffered. When he quit, he entered into a state of creativity overload, churning out poems, spoken word pieces, music, a one man show called Burying the Evidence performed in Detroit, and an experimental theater piece called The Walking Project, which had a two-week run in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. One of those poems written during that time is appropriately titled My Time At Chrysler which talks about how his work suffered.  My Time At Chrysler ends:

I traded in my Chrysler body
for the body that you now see before you
I know it’s not quite as sleek or as young as it once was
it still gets me to where I need to go
puts me on a new road
points me in a new direction
where the light beams
and the mind dreams
and life seems to go on forever

Blair’s life will go on forever in the minds of the people he inspired, that loved him, and on YouTube. Check out more of Blair’s performances below. Little Richard Penniman Tells It Like It T-I-IS is a favorite. Rest in peace Blair.

Recommended Reading and Listening:

The DVD World’s Greatest Poetry Slam 2002 featuring Blair, Shappy, Becky Austin, George McKibbens, Benjamin Jones, Celena Glenn, Michael Ellison, Sekou (Tha Misfit), and Shane Koyczan Taylor Mali from the 2002 National Poetry Slam in Minneapolis, MN showing both the team and the individual competitions.

The DVD Slam Safe II featuring Blair, Taylor Mali, Lizz Straight, Sonya Renee Taylor, and Simone Beubien from the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Beach FL.

Blair and Boyfriend’s The Line Album. All the songs were written and produced by Blair with Chris Pyle, Josh Antonuccio, and Dale Wilson.

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black lgbt artsy event: atlanta: 6/23 – 6/25: atlanta queer literary festival @ mulitple locations in atlanta and decatur

The premiere LGBT literary Festival in Atlanta, The Atlanta Queer Literary Festival (AQLF), showcasing LGBT authors, novelists, playwrights, and poets will take place June 23-25 in Atlanta and Decatur. Keynote speakers are Sibling Rivalry Press founder Bryan Borland and Women of the World Poetry Slam champion Theresa Davis. There will be readings, poetry slams, workshops, signings, and theater events.

Blogger and AQLF board member Cleo Creech stated the board is “returning AQLF back to it’s Stonewall roots.”

Go to their website for a schedule of events.

Last year Antron Reshaud, black gay poet and author of Bohemian Rebel: Naked and Exposed. Vol 1 and The Rising Vol 2., performed last year during AQLF’s opening night event at Charis Books with Karen Head, Alice Teeter, Timothy Wright, Bailey Lynn, Maudelle Driskell and Mose Hardin. Antron premiered his One Man Show: SIXLIVESINFORTYPOEMS.

Linton Kwesi Johnson on stage reading from a book

Image via Wikipedia

Other black LGBT authors included Charles Stephens, Reginald T. Jackson, Ifa Bumi, and Blair (D. Blair). “Charles Stephens has been an advocate and enthusiast of black queer literature and culture since he read James Baldwin’s Just Above My Head when he was a precocious 12-year old. He also co-organized “Phyre” a celebration of black queer history and culture. His writing has appeared in the Gay and Lesbian Review, the monographs Think Again and If We Have to Take Tomorrow and Alternet.”

Reginald T. Jackson‘s new book of poetry, This Morning I Woke Black: The Barack Obama Poems, on Outskirts Press, “was named a National Shakespeare Pioneer for his adaptation of King Lear as a Black Drag Queen dying of AIDS: House of Lear. He also received a NYC Mayor’s Citation and an Arts and Cultural Foundation Award for his work in Arts-In-Education. His literary works have appeared in the anthology Brother To Brother, the anthology Flesh and The Word 2, BlackOut Magazine, the anthology Sojourner, BGM Magazine, OUTWEEK Magazine, American Writing Magazine, The Pyramid Poetry Periodical,He has completed two novels entitled: Love Sickness and My Homeboy Love.” Check out Reginald’s interview with DJ Baker on the Da Doo Dirty Show discussing the inspiration for “This Morning I Woke Black” and living with HIV.

Ifa Bumi is a poet, spoken word artist, and songwriter. Her spoken word album, Musoetry, was released in 2009 and received critical acclaim.

Blair (D. Blair), 2010 Callaloo Fellow, is an “award winning Detroit-based poet and singer-songwriter, a 2010 Callaloo Poetry Fellow and a National Poetry Slam Champion. He is the author of Moonwalking, published by Penmanship Books. The recipient of Seattle WA’s Bent Mentor Award, he is also a Def Poetry Jam Poet who’s performed on bills with Stevie Wonder, Wilco, Oscar Winner Michael Moore, Bitch and Animal and others. He teaches poetry and music classes in Detroit Public Schools, Hannan House Senior Center, the YMCA and lectures at universities, colleges and high schools across the country.” Blair is performing in Chicago on 4/23 at Scarab Club with Jamaal May and in New York on 5/7-5/8 at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe.

Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission gave the first keynote address at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Cary previously had been IGLHRC’s Senior Africa Specialist, a position he held for four years, and managed the organization’s office in Cape Town, South Africa. Lambda Award finalist Ana Bozicevic gave the second keynote address.

Last year’s panels included: journalism, African-American writers and social media. This year should be even better.

I hope to make this a stop on my book tour. Fingers crossed.

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Filed under lgbt resources, save the date

Resources for Black Gay and Lesbian Writers

The Damaged Good, G. Winston James
The Damaged Good, G. Winston James
  • Redbone Press (LGBT Black publishing house based in Washington, D.C)
  • Cleis Press (Largest LGBT small indie press)
  • Strebor (Author Zane’s imprint with Simon & Schuster)
  • Alyson Books (Largest LGBT commercial press)
  • Vintage Entity Press (Small chapbook press with an impressive collection of Black gay and lesbian authors)
  • Tugson Press (Very small Black and Gay publisher found by Leo Shelton)

PUBLISHERS RECOMMENDED BY LAMBDA LITERARY FOUNDATION

MAGAZINES

  • Pulse (based out of New York, through GMAD, a black urban magazine)
  • Bleu (based out of New York, a black urban magazine)
  • Swerv (based out of DC, a black urban magazine)
  • SGL Weekly (a one man team based out of LA, a black urban magazine)
  • Curve (a mainstream lesbian magazine with celebrity interviews, news, politics, pop culture, style, travel, social issues and entertainment)
  • Callaloo (a non-gay-specific literary and cultural journal of the African Diaspora based at Texas A&M)
  • David (mainstream Atlanta-based print magazine)
  • Gay Chicago Magazine (an online-based mainstream magazine)
  • Mary: A Literary Quarterly (a literary magazine published quarterly that showcases queer/gay writings of artistic merit started by Black-nerd cutie William Johnson)
  • HotSpots Magazine (Florida’s largest gay publication covering news and events in South Florida)
  • Ambiente Magazine (The first & only LGBT publication offered in English, Spanish & Portuguese, produced bi-monthly, offered free of charge, and distributed digitally around the globe to thousands of our readers)

NEWSPAPERS

  • Windy City Times (a Chicago-based print newspaper)

WRITER’S RETREAT

  • Cave Canem (non gay-specific but gay friendly Black poetry retreat  at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and workshops in NYC)

LITERARY CONFERENCES

  • Fire and Ink (Devoted to increasing the understanding, visibility and awareness of the works of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender writers of African descent and heritage normally held in October)
  • Atlanta Queer Literary Festival (an all-encompassing literary festival held in June)
  • Saints and Sinners (an all-encompassing New Orleans literary festival)

WEBSITES

Check out the companion piece to this article All Things Black, Art-sy and Gay: Resources for Black LGBT Artists featuring film festivals, bookstores, networking organizations, and additional websites.

**Will update every month**

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Filed under lgbt resources, The Written Word