Tag Archives: HIV



The documentary, Tongues Untied by Marlon Riggs engrained in me the importance of storytelling and using personal experience to create art. Marlon interweaves Black gay culture, poetry by Essex Hemphill and Joseph BeamSELRES_19391c97-4436-4c9f-abd1-46b2f929e1fcSELRES_646ec62c-616e-43ae-bba9-ae8b806d2647the poetry of Essex Hemphill and Jospeh BeamSELRES_646ec62c-616e-43ae-bba9-ae8b806d2647SELRES_19391c97-4436-4c9f-abd1-46b2f929e1fc, striking imagery, and a snapping tutorial. I have watched it repeatedly to learn more from Riggs.

Years later, I used some of the techniques that he used to produce my first documentary, Genitalic.

Last summer, I curated a reading at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs with the writer, Dave Lara. Lara, in his 70’s, talked how he received a dishonorable discharge for being gay during the Vietnam War. I realized that I needed to preserve Lara’s story for younger LGBT generations because thousands of men like Lara were never able to share their story. I applied for a grant through the city of West Hollywood in order to film the documentary.
Genitalic centers on life for gay men in West Hollywood in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Eight older men were interviewed (seven in Los Angeles and one in London). Their narratives interweave as they discuss HIV/AIDS, race, racism, ageism, passing, daddy culture, and desire in the older male body.
The interviewees include Dave Lara, Lee Jackson, Philip Littell, Juan Castillo-Alvardo, David Friar, Clarence R. Williams, Brian Sean Gaston, and Martin Patrick. Each interviewee has a unique perspective. Dave Lara appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race on Season 5 on the military makeover episode. He was paired with the winner, Jinx Monsoon. In the documentary, he discusses the impact of AIDS on West Hollywood and how men started disappearing. He also discusses how he helped create a gay-run organization for HIV testing and prevention.
Lee Jackson, a fair-skinned Black man, discusses the three picture identification rule for Black and Mexican men enforced by doormen at nightclubs in West Hollywood. These groups of men had to present three I.D.s and without them, they were denied entry. On some days, Jackson passed for white and was allowed entry into the clubs without a problem.
There is a preview screening at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers on June 2nd at 1:15pm. It is part of One City One Pride’s A Day of History event. Watch the trailer below:

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Video: East Los High Actress Tracy Perez talks about Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, the Industry, and HIV

Actress Tracy Perez from the hit Hulu show, “East Los High” speaks to Camp Hollywood Heart in Malibu Hills about Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, being Latina in the entertainment industry, how to break into the industry, and what it means to play a character with HIV on the show.

“East Los High” is a drama series produced and written by Carlos Portugal about teens growing up in East Los Angeles from the American-Latino perspective. The show is the only all-Latino cast show on Hulu.

Perez plays Vanessa De La Cruz. In Season 1 Episode 1 her character is videotaped having sex in a parked car and the video goes viral. The show also stars Janine Larina, Gabriel Chavarria, and Alicia Sixtos.

The founder of The Wall-Las Memorias Project, Richard Zaldivar spoke before Perez at the event. Zaldivar discussed the important of HIV/AIDS advocacy and why the The Wall-Las Memorias Project was important to build in East Los Angeles. Perez’s character contracts HIV from having unprotected sex.

Watch the video to learn more about Tracy Perez and her controversial character.

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L.A. Pride for the First Time: A story for HomoCentric Reading Series

A Story for the Homo-Centric Reading Series
Read for the One City, One Pride Arts Festival
In Celebration of West Hollywood’s 30th Anniversary

Being a polysemic word, Pride means something different between members of the LGBT community. Whether it’s getting the masses to sign a petition, dressing in drag as a cultural protest, safely holding hands with a loved one in public or donning a colorful ensemble, these acts represent Pride. Los Angeles Pride is a smorgasbord of the above times twenty. At my first L.A. Pride, I had the opportunity to walk in the parade with Erase Doubt, an L.A. County-wide safe sex campaign. For the parade, I had to bounce a giant black beach ball that towered over my head. To launch it high up in the air, I lifted the ball above my head and smashed it to the ground. My arms cramped up from exhaustion after two minutes. Another guy had a matching beach ball. Printed prominently on our black balls was the AIDS virus.

Before the parade, I practiced what I would say to attract attention to our group. I settled on, “come stroke my black balls” and “don’t you want to juggle these?” Other people from our group would pass out condoms, beads, t-shirts, and drawstring bags with AIDS ribbons.

I was expecting a large crowd, but what I wasn’t expecting was the number of people that would greet us from the sidewalk. Thousands cheered, waved, high-fived us, stroked my ball, asked for pictures, and selfies. After the parade, an on-looker said it was quite a sight to see two colossal black balls bouncing toward The Abbey.

This year Pride turns forty-five, and that experience made me think about the first Pride in West Hollywood. How did those first walkers feel being greeted not only by the cheers of hundreds, but also hundreds of protesters? It must have been the disquiet that promised to suck the air from their lungs faster than a thumbtack through a balloon. For those brave men and women, I proudly bounced my giant black ball through West Hollywood.

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Essex Hemphill: Brother From Another Planet

The first time I heard Essex Hemphill‘s name was in the documentary Black Is… Black Ain’t by Marlon Riggs. His poetry was interwoven into the documentary beautifully. Hemphill began writing at age 14 and studied English at the University of the District of Columbia.

Not only was Hemphill a poet but also an activist for equality and gay rights. In 1980 Hemphill outed himself during “a poetry reading at the Founders Library at Howard University. From the mid-1980s until his death, Hemphill became perhaps the most well-known Black gay male writer in the United States since James Baldwin,” according to Dr. Wilfred D. Samuels, General Editor of A Gift of Story/Encyclopedia of African-American Literature.

Watch When My Brother Fell Performed by a D.C. Native

Hemphill “first gained national attention when his work appeared in the anthology In the Life (1986), a seminal collection of writings by black gay men. In 1989, his poems were featured in the award-winning documentaries Tongues Untied and Looking for Langston.” In 1990 Hemphill finished compiling Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, started by Joseph Beam. Beam died to AIDS-related complications in 1988. Brother to Brother won a Lambda Literary Award. Hemphill later published Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (Plume/New American Library), which was awarded the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award in 1993.

Hemphill’s poetry is in the new anthology, Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDSPoetry Anthologies), edited David Groff and Philip Clark (Alyson Books). Their have been readings from the anthology in San Francisco, D.C., and New York. Other poets anthologized in Persistent Voices are: Melvin Dixon, Chasen Gaver, Jim Everhard, Tim Dlugos, Reinaldo Arenas, Tory Dent, James Merrill, Paul Monette, and Joe Brainard.

“Persistent Voices is more than a catalogue of strong poetry by poets who were equally strong (in many ways),” Bryan Borland, an Amazon reviewer wrote. “Persistent Voices reminds us of the importance of poetry, of its place in society and of how it creates a degree of immortality. It teaches us, again, of how, with pen and paper, the truly persistent voices of these men and woman continue to be heard, to change lives, and to touch souls.”

Hemphill’s poetry is immortal. His poems have appeared in Essence, Black Scholar, Callaloo, Obsidian, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Advocate, and numerous other journals. His poems Dear Muthafuckin Dreams, Where Seed Falls, and American Wedding are in the anthology. In American Wedding Hemphill says:

They don’t know
we are becoming powerful.
Every time we kiss
we confirm the new world coming.

A powerful statement.

Watch Justin Vivian Bond Performing American Wedding

At an event titled Take Care of Your Blessings curated by Black Gay & Lesbian Archive Project, rare and unpublished manuscripts of Hemphill’s were featured. “Hemphill left three projects uncompleted: Standing in the Gap, a novel in which a mother challenges a preacher’s condemnation of her gay son who is suffering from AIDS; Bedside Companions, a collection of short stories by black gay men; and The Evidence of Being, narratives of older black gay men, which he had been working on since the early 90s in order to satisfy his curiosity about cultural and social history before the term “gay” entered popular usage.” Hemphill died in 1995 to AIDS-related complications.

One of my favorite Hemphill poems is The Father, Son and Unholy Ghosts. Read The Father, Son and Unholy Ghosts below and watch two YouTube performances of Hemphill’s work.

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flava works sues sizzle miami

Flava Works, Inc, the controversial black/Latino gay pornography company, is suing Sizzle Miami’s parent company. Dated March 9 2011 the court papers show ” Flava Works seeks to “recover damages arising from infringement of Plaintiff’s copyrights and trademarks in its creative works by the Defendants.” In other words, using “multiple images of its models for its website and email blasts, as well as a print publication, to promote Sizzle Miami last year.” Sizzle Miami is a black gay circuit party in Miami during Memorial Day Weekend which attracts thousands.

FlavaMen Blatino Awards ceremony, Atlanta, Geo...

Phillip Bleicher with Tocarra Jones and Warren Bullock at FlavaMen Blatino Awards

Last year it was advertised that Flava Works would host a Hot Body Contest and Pool Party. However Flava Works moved to D.C. Black Pride according to a statement by Flava Works. Both Sizzle Miami and D.C. Black Pride fall during Memorial Day Weekend.

“The Flava Works models DeAngelo Jackson, Flamez, Baby Star and Ace Rockwood, who were slated to be part of Miami Sizzle, will all be attending DC Black Pride instead and will be available for autograph signings,” the statement read. “FlavaMen’s Hot Body Contest and Pool Party have also been made to fit the DC Black Pride lineup.”

“We apologize to all the fans who booked their tickets to come to Miami for this and other FlavaMen events during Miami Sizzle, but due to scheduling conflicts, we had to change venues at the last minute,” Flava Works Operations Manager Warren Bullock said. “We hope all our fans will be able to join us for a fun time in D.C.”

Flava Works relocated to Miami in 2006 after a very public report by the Chicago Department of Public Health was released concerning “a high level of sexually transmitted diseases” among the models of Flava Works most popular website Cocodorm.com. Other sites owned by Flava Works include PapiCock.com, ThugBoy.com, CocoBoyz.com and FlavaMen.com.

In 2007, Flava Works and Derrick L. Briggs partnered with Sizzle Miami for an open-forum discussion on “Online Hook-ups and Sex” which Atlanta blogger Darian Aaron attended and enjoyed.

“Sizzle Miami has a history of violating others’ copyrights and saying sorry later,” CEO Phillip Bleicher told JRL CHARTS, a gay film industry website. The company “used copyrighted photos of their performers Baby Star, DeAngelo Jackson, Matrix and Xavier Vega in order to increase its profits.”

“Dwight Powell and Sizzle, Inc. had no right to use our intellectual property to promote their products and services. By doing so it diluted our valuable trademarks and is causing confusion among consumers that believe Flava Works endorses his products. We filed this lawsuit as part of the overall process to vigorously defend and protect our copyrights and trademarks,” Bleicher said.

Sizzle Miami’s partner company Platinum Planning Group is owned by Dwight Powell and Luis Medrano.

In 2008, Flava Works won a copyright suit against DGSource, Gairoo, ISTackPorn, and internet forums for $350,000.

It is uncertain how the Flava Works/Sizzle Miami suit will turn out.


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The Other Brazil: DVD REVIEW: Madam Sata

Madame Sata Movie Trailer

The directorial debut of Karim Ainouz’s, Madame Satã, is a pictorial marvel detailing the life of João Francisco dos Santos, a black Brazilian man living in 1930’s racially and socially oppressive Lapa (northern Brazil). João (Lazaro Ramos), along with Laurita, (Marcelia Cartaxo) his best friend and Tabu, (Flavio Bauraqui) his pseudo household maid, construct a colorful yet restrained, irrational yet tender, spellbinding yet dark world through prostitution, drug usage and fantasy. Having the desire to rise above his meager lifestyle, Joao aspires to be a celebrated stage entertainer (drag queen) and loved by the public. Madame Sata illustrates how João “negotiates being in the world,” reacts to its judgment and the harsh realities that hauntingly follows. Ramos and the entire cast of Madame Satã, unforgettably breathe life into the sounds, sadness, beauty, and personal narrative of the human experience. The movie alluringly captures the multifarious textures, shades, and rhythms of Brazil in dramatic lighting and cinematography.

Madame Satã (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Emotional Scene from Madame Sata

Madame Sata is subtitled, it’s a Brazilian film in Portuguese. After the first five minutes it’s like you’re watching an English language film. The movie was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release and won Cinema Brazil Grand Prize’s top prizes Best Actor (Melhor Ator) and Best Actress (Melhor Atriz).

The name of the movie is taken from Cecil B. DeMille‘s movie Madam Satan about a woman trying to seduce her unknowing and unfaithful husband and teach him a lesson. In the movie João dresses as the character from Madam Satan.

Lazaro Ramos also stars in one of my other favorite movies, Carandiru, about Brazil’s largest prison in São Paulo. I only own two DVD’s Madame Sata and Carandiru.

Carandiru Movie Trailer

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Erase Doubt + Know

April is STD Awareness Month. The purpose of the month is to get people talking about STDs and STD prevention.

“Since 2009, MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other partners have been supporting National STD Awareness Month with the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign to inform young people about STDs, encourage and normalize testing for STDs, and connect young people to testing centers,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2009 there were 1,244,180 cases of Chlamydia, and 301,174 cases of Gonorrhea. There were also 42,959 new diagnoses of HIV infection in the 40 states and five dependent areas. People with an STD are up to 5 times more likely to contract HIV.

Knowing your status is key to your health.


Image by Kenta Arai's Photostrem via Flickr

“Just over half of all new sexually transmitted HIV infections are spread by people who have it and don’t know it,” according to EraseDoubt. EraseDoubt is dedicated to increasing HIV testing in Los Angeles County, driving awareness of HIV prevention, and providing updated information about HIV/AIDS treatment and care. Through advocacy and education, Erase Doubt promotes a greater understanding and respect for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and those at higher risk of contracting HIV.

African-Americans make up 9.8% of Los Angeles County’s population, but account for 22% of living HIV/AIDS cases.

Get tested. Know your status. If you’re in LA County go to the Erase Doubt website to find locations where you can get tested.

If you’re not in LA County go to HIV Test to find a location near you.

And remember it takes a second to protect yourself.

The video below is a good how-to video on using a condom.

Tip 1: Don’t put a condom in your wallet. Prolonged exposure to heat attacks the structural integrity of the condom.

Tip 2: Do not flush a condom in the toilet. Condoms aren’t biodegradable.

I’m a Brand Ambassador for Erase Doubt. We had a photo shoot in January and the billboard is finally out. If you’re in West Hollywood you should see the billboard soon (if you do see it take a picture and send it to me so I can print it and add it to my personal shrine).

Erase Doubt Campaign with Victor Yates

Victor Yates in Erase Doubt's Campaign

For more information on STDS, HIV/AIDS treatment, and testing visit Erase Doubt or you can contact them at Erase Doubt 600 South Commonwealth Avenue,  10th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90005.  P: 800-367-AIDS (2437) E: info@erasedoubt.org

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