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Video Q&A with Emerging LGBT Leader Carolyn Wysinger

The name Ruth Ellis may not be as familiar to you as Harvey Milk, but it should. Ellis, born in 1899, was the oldest living open lesbian and LGBT rights activist. Before she died in 2000, her life was documented in the film project, Living with Pride, directed by Yvonne Welbon. She came out as a lesbian in 1915 and in the 1920s she met Ceciline Franklin. They moved from Springfield, Illinois to Detroit, Michigan in 1937 and lived together for 30 years until Franklin’s death in 1973. During the three decades that they lived together, Ellis became the first American woman to own a printing business in Detroit and her home with Franklin became “a refuge for African-American gays and lesbians.”

Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100 is being screened at the Art Exchange in Long Beach, this Sunday, starting at 5. Emerging LGBT leader, Carolyn Wysinger, is one of the key people responsible for putting together the screening.

Carolyn Wysinger is an activist, writer, and event coordinator, whose goal is to build bridges within the LGBT community. She earned her B.A. in English from California State University, Long Beach and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Organizations that she is involved with include: BUTCHVoices and Black Lesbians United. She is also active in the local Long Beach community as a member of the Leadership Long Beach Class of 2013 as well as a Member-At-Large of the Lambda Democrats.

Qulture writer Victor Yates spoke to Wysinger about the life of Ruth Ellis and Sistah Sinema as well as her community work.

Watch the video above to learn more about Wysinger and go to Qulture.org for more LGBT news and information.

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A Writer’s Year in Review

English: Hollywood Boulevard from the top of t...

Hollywood Blvd. from top of Kodak. (Credit: Wiki)

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.

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Filed under lgbt resources, The Creative Spark, The Written Word

Notes on Shoe Shine Boxes: Another Essex Hemphill poem

A young woman wearing pink high-heels at Helsi...

Image via Wikipedia

HOMOCIDE: For Ronald Gibson by Essex Hemphill

Ronald Gibson, 20, was found shot to death in the 2700 block of Arizona Avenue, N.W. Police said Gibson was wearing a dress and high-heeled shoes at the time of his death. According to Homicide Det. Lloyd Davis, Gibson, also known as “Star,” hung out during the past two years in the area near 14th and Fairmont Sts., N.W., an area frequented by drag queens who solicit sex for money. Detectives say they have no suspects and know of no motives in the case.
 The Washington Blade, 1/8/82

The poemHOMOCIDE: For Ronald Gibson by Essex Hemphill

Grief is not apparel.
Not like a dress, a wig
or my sister’s high-heeled shoes.
It is darker than the man I love
who in my fantasies comes for me
in a silver, six-cylinder chariot.
I walk the waterfront/curbsides
in my sister’s high-heeled shoes.
Dreaming of him, his name
still unknown to my tongue.
While I wait for my prince to come,
from every other man I demand pay
for my kisses. I buy paint
for my lips. Stockings for my legs.
My own high-heeled slippers
and dresses that become me.
When he comes,
I know I must be beautiful.
I will know how to love his body.
Standing out here on the waterfront/curbsides

I have learned to please a man.
He will bring me flowers.
He will bring me silk
and jewels, I know.
While I wait,
I’m the only man who loves me.
They call me “Star”
because I listen to
dreams and wishes.
But grief is darker.
It is a white dress
that covers my body.
It is a wig
that does not rest gently
on my head.


Published in Blacklight Vol. 4, No. 4

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The Creative Spark: how to unlock the creative process and inspire: read michelle tea

“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies” — Winston Churchill.

Community is important to me as a writer. I had to create community (an online community) through YouTube and blogs. No money. No formal writing education. Living in Backswamp Florida no literary festivals came my way. I scoured the internet for writers whose work inspired me and allowed me to see writing as a living thing. Writing as a method of storytelling. With sounds, colors, and experiences. Michelle Tea is one of those writers I pretend sat in creative writing class with me and we read and

Sister Spit - Michelle Tea

Image by cathredfern via Flickr

listened to each others work.

How I discovered her I can’t remember. But it was on YouTube. The video clip, Michelle reading at Sizzle, a monthly literary series held at Femina Potens Art Gallery in San Francisco on Market Street. The piece, a 30 year-old queergirl visits her mother in Florida after a devastating hurricane hits her city. The narrator is sleeping with her mother’s 24 year-old neighbor Aidan. Aidan’s going into the military and Aidan’s sister is 17 and pregnant. The group, with two hicks Marcus and Hank, are driving to karaoke night at a Chinese restaurant.

Michelle Tea Reading at Sizzle

I listened to that clip while I wrote. I turned it up high while I showered, while I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, all I could afford to buy. The language and style put me in the scene, in the car, in the restaurant.

Read the excerpt below:

Holy goddamn, Angela said, her snout pressed up against the glass, her eyes picking out shapes in the dark. There’s a boat, she narrated. There’s a couch, there’s fridge or something—a stove? Her hands with their chipped and bitten nails were folded under her belly, cradling the thought of it. How long you think it’ll take to get normal here? Not that it was ever normal, but you know. She gave me a look, like we were in on knowing that this place wasn’t normal, the two of us together in a vehicle of boys who thought this road was the whole world, more or less.

Additional excerpt:

Something about the layout of the karaoke place felt like a really bad brothel. The carpet was chunked with geometry and spattered with oblong cigarette burns; it rolled down a hallway that sprouted private rooms and dead-ended where the hurricane had ripped a chunk of the back wall off. The proprietor shrugged and pointed—I’m still the luckiest! I’m still here! Our room was lined with Naugahyde benches, the covers split, revealing a bulk of foam stuffing. A table was piled with binders listing songs, and a remote control that plugged the songs into the system. The proprietor demonstrated: “The Greatest Love of All” chimed into the room, joined by a video of sheep in a meadow. One sheep turned to face the camera, chomping on grass. It looked alarmed. Everybody’s searching for a hero. The words lit up across the pasture. Never found anyone who could fill my dreams. The proprietor left with a wave.

Michelle, a staple in the San Francisco lit community, is curator of her own reading series, Radar and a founder of a touring poetry/spoken word troupe called Sister Spit. Michelle and Sini Anderson, Sister Spit co-founder, “gathered together a group of some of the most notorious, talented, and just frickin’ interesting women and dykes, and went on tour all over the U.S, according to Sister Spit’s website.

I went through all of Michelle’s videos on YouTube. One of my favorites is titled Passing on the Pen, April 15, 2008 (PART 7). The video forced me to reevaluate some of the chapters in the book and go back and really think about what I was writing and how to pull in the reader.

Michelle Tea Reading at Passing on the Pen

Sister Spit is on tour now. Joining Michelle is Dorothy Allison, Justin Vivian Bond, Cheryl Dunye (Cheryl wrote, directed and starred in her first film which was the first African American lesbian feature film The Watermelon Woman), Erin Markey, Cassie J. Sneider, Kit Yan (an Asian American transman from Hawaii).

Check out Sister Spit for more information.

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Filed under lgbt resources, The Creative Spark