In the past, it was important for me to believe others perceived me as someone who knew where he was going in life. Someone who had a good life, a good career, knew everything to know about the world; someone to envy or at least, have an intellectual conversation with. It was a cover to prevent people from discovering the real me, that I was in the category of “other.” I’ll call that protection fear. In college, I learned that distance can help prevent people from getting to know too much about me and my experience leading into adulthood reinforced that: getting a new job in a new city, forgetting old friends to get new friends, not ever having enough time to call home. Distance and perfection, I carried them like hand guns. I was so used to flaunting them, that they became my hands. Slowly, I learned to let go of distance, but perfection I had to hold on to. Perfection, in its own right, is truth and truth is incontestable, until proven false and nothing is false anymore, only less true. Today, the most important person in my life, just called me shallow. Now I don’t know who to blame: me, him, or the world. The world, as in, the idea of things; how men think, survival; the rules of effective communicate; multi-tasking in a post-digital area; being a good boyfriend. A friend of mine worked at a national forest and had to learn deescalation techniques to take the fire out of heated situations. She would mimic the escalated persons behavior and recognize their feelings. It always worked. Why aren’t their deescalation manuals ready and available at bars? At this moment, looking back, I never knew where I was going.
Tag Archives: gay black man
At the start of 2012, I experienced two major transitions: being accepted into a fiction writing program and moving from Long Beach to Inglewood. I knew the writing program would help me advance within writing, however I didn’t know what to expect. I had a publishing deal with a small publishing company, but I thought, why not workshop my book to get more eyes on the book. Their suggestions took the story from surface to being able to exist above the page. The story itself did not changed; I brought more of the contrast between race, immigrant life, religion, and identity out in front of the reader.
Beyond having breath breathed into my book, in 2012, I:
- Read at the West Hollywood Library on 12/8/12
- Was invited to read at the City of West Hollywood’s Pride Festival, “One City, One Pride” taking place in June 2013
- Was invited to White House Briefing for Black LGBT Emerging Leaders 2, 24, 2012
- Was invited to read at Soulful Salon, for In The Meantime, a LGBT community organization
- Started writing for Campus Circle Magazine
- Started writing for Qulture
- Started writing for GBM News
- Interviewed Frenchie Davis, DJ Danjazone (LMFAO’s Tour DJ), Diana King, DDm, and Orikl
- Wrote my first poetry review for a literary journal
- Submitted a fiction piece to one of my favorite literary journals
- Read at my first book fair, West Hollywood Book Fair
- Was published in the anthology, For Colored Boys
- Started working as an Editorial Assistant for a academic publisher
- Went to 10 author readings
On New Years Eve 2013, with a group of friends, I wrote down on paper what I did not like about 2012 and I burned it. With each new piece I completed, part of me was afraid to branch out and take my writing career to the next level (writing for a major magazine and be able to freelance write/edit for other publications). The paper turned from white, to egg-colored, to ashes in the fire pit in East L.A. While watching it burn, I reflected back on other details of 2012: I learned that I would be working for LAist.com (for the Spring term) and I made it to the Semifinalist round for the Point Foundation Graduate Scholarship. Also that I got the courage to submit new poetry to four literary magazines and I pitched an article idea to Essence magazine. No New Year’s Resolution to lose fat or be a better person, I want to reserve all my energy into writing. And whether or not all of those opportunities fall into place, I will keep striving to become a better writer and be part of the writing community.
For my Diary of a Natural Gal Style Files interview, I worked with an amazing crew to shoot the pictures. The photographer was Garen Hagobian and the stylist was Rico Cherry. I can’t wait to post the full interview here. Here is an excerpt:
Kisha Roby: I would describe your style as sultry school boy, where do you draw inspiration?
Victor Yates: Is that a good thing (laughs)? I use to only wear black and gray. That’s it. Then my best friend started picking out clothes for me that I wouldn’t normally wear. I went from school boy realness to wearing cowboy boots, with khaki linen cut off shorts, and shirts and sweaters from the 80’s. I love 80’s Adidas shorts, vintage designer clothes, and conversation pieces. Today so many things inspire me. I like patterns, textures, and bold colors and mixing things together that the average person might think is strange. Since moving to Los Angeles my thrift store obsession has grown. Buffalo Exchange and Wasteland are my top thrift stores in L.A. But out here thrift stores are like coffee shops.
Kisha Roby: When did your passion for writing begin? What is your ultimate dream for your writing career?
Victor Yates: I started writing poetry at 14, after reading Maya Angelou’s work. I loved libraries and would read a lot. Also, my mother loved books and she would buy books for me as well. I remember trying to read The Firm, by John Grisham, and not being able to understand it. I hope to write quality fiction books and venture into short stories and writing plays.
Photographer: Garen Hagobian
Stylist: Rico Cherry
Email: rico243@yahoo dot com
Interviewer: Kisha Roby for Diary of a Natural Gal
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.
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.
hot java is a community coffee house in long beach’s gay ghetto at broadway and junipero. across the street from the coffee house is bixby park, a notorious park where gay men cruise (i accidentally found out it’s a cruising park). a sign is posted to prevent cruising. inside hot java you’ll see a lot of gay men and lesbians and hipsters and straights, of course. i went the first saturday of the month for the sanctuary open mic night. a poetry, spoken word, and music event. it’s hosted by two lesbians but straight-friendly. i met a poet by the name of husseldiva and a woman with brown locks whose name i can’t remember. the woman with brown locks suggested i get up on stage at the next open mic night. i’m debating if i should go. i have until may 6 to decide.
what piece would i do? my poems are typically short and really open mic/spoken word type/Def Poetry Jam pieces.
somehow this reminded me of catherine zeta jones. she’s been admitted to a mental health unit for bipolar.I read she was stressed out over her husband, michael douglas’ cancer battle. that sounds more like stress and not bipolar. whatever it is sounds serious though.
it’s the stressful times that has inspired me and made my work real. when i was trying to get over the last guy i was dating i was editing chapter 4 of my new book, the taste of scars. i used everything i was feeling with him to make the characters made relatable. i achieved with memory and imagination. creative souls, that’s often, what we have to go on.
to all the crazies out there stay crazy and create.
which gets back to my original question what piece should i do? maybe i’ll write something about Catherine Zeta Jones, at least i’ll tell people it’s about her when really it’ll be about me.
Chapter 1: Pages 1-5
Dad told us the drive was four hours. It’s been eight. He misread an interstate sign and drove the wrong way in Battle Creek heading toward Chicago. The windy city. Where we’re from. Where as a kid I hid in Harold Washington Library sneaking little peeks of naked models in photography books. We couldn’t figure our way out the gray
and green maze. Endless highway. Endless grass. Dad stopped at another gas station I never heard of. The whole time my obnoxious older brother kept screaming, “Move off me” at Ricky. He felt crammed. We’re all crammed thigh to thigh in the moving truck baking under Michigan heat, dad, my brothers, me. Reed Jr. or just Junior, my obnoxious older brother is asleep, thank God, on the passenger side. Reed Jr. hates to be called Junior. Between Junior and me humming to dad’s hand-me-down camera is Ricky. Ricky is 11. Sleep is a memory Ricky lost. Dad’s red eyes squint at something. Something he doesn’t see. His face scrunches up into a look of miserable confusion. We’re lost. I suck my teeth. As soon as I hear myself make the sharp sucking sound I know dad’s going to say something. I cough loudly to cover up the sound. A quick red-eyed glance isn’t burned into my face. Dad didn’t hear me, thank God. So we’re lost. Again. At least we’re lost inContinue reading . Our new house can’t be too far. Some people might be upset moving from where they’ve lived all their lives. I’m not. I cross my hands over my arms and close my eyes. Dad jerks my arm. “Stop that,” dad snaps. “That’s what girls do. It’s feminine.” Dad’s words are an instant Polaroid of summer. I’ve heard “girls do that,” “that’s feminine,” “that’s girly,” almost everyday. I stare at dad’s words in front of me like pictures from a front-page story too important to put down. Substitute the word feminine for gay. That’s what he’s really saying. It’s gay. I’m not. Gay. I haven’t done anything sexual with a guy. The closest I’ve come is with a friend, we weren’t really friends, he was in all my classes. There were slits in his bathroom door thin enough quarters could slide through to make a wish. He liked throwing knives at the door. It killed time. Sometimes I’d rub my fingers in the grooves. All smooth. Perfect for spying. The first time I watched him undress and shower was an accident. He wouldn’t go out unless he showered. We were talking about my photography assignment at Union Station. The shower came on. I heard the bathroom door close sitting in the living room. Guess I was too slow answering the