It is not always easy to be who we are, but as we grow up and mature and develop coping mechanisms that enable us to survive and thrive in a complicated world, we have the responsibility to reach back and help others still struggling along the way. In so doing, we can also help ourselves. Above all, we cannot allow each generation to grow up in a world where they feel they are alone while we carry so much knowledge, history, and foundation that we can, and must, pass on to them.
—  Keith Boykin, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough (2012)
R.I.P. Donald Agarrat

I am very sorry to report the passing of my old friend Donald Andrew Agarrat. He was a photographer, web designer and activist who chronicled black LGBT life in New York City and Harlem for more than a decade.

Donald was the one person most responsible for my first blog, When I moved to New York in 2001, I wanted to start a standard static website, and I hired Donald to develop and design it for me. But Donald had bigger plans.

When he encouraged me to start a blog on my new site, I resisted. I wasn’t familiar with blogging, had no interest in doing it and didn’t even like the word “blog.” It also sounded like a burden to me, and I didn’t want the responsibility of writing something every day or the invasion of privacy in sharing my life with the world. But Donald, in his persistent way, continued to push and eventually convinced me to give it a try. I’m glad he did. That blog introduced me to new people all across the world and became a major platform for my career.

During the years of the blog, I think I had a love-hate relationship with Donald. I would ask him to make changes on my site, and he would take his time if he didn’t like the direction I was going. Once when I wanted to remodel my site, Donald refused to make some of the changes I requested because they weren’t consistent with his “artistic vision.” I was astounded. When I threatened not to pay him until he made the changes, he still wouldn’t budge, even though he needed the money. That’s when I knew he was serious about his artistry.

I didn’t realize it at first, but Donald had a vision of who I should be that wasn’t entirely comfortable for me. He continually pushed for me to be more of an activist, even though I told him that was another word I never particularly liked. In fact, when I tried to remove the “activist” page on my website, Donald wouldn’t let me do it without a fight. Just because I didn’t want to be in the streets holding a picket sign didn’t mean I couldn’t be an “activist” in the broader sense, he argued. He felt strongly that I had to be an activist, even when I was ready to retire and pass the torch onto others.

If you look through Donald’s Flickr page, you’ll see hundreds of photos he took over the years of New York City black LGBT community leaders like James Earl Hardy, George Bellinger Jr., Dr. Marjorie Hill, Steven Fullwood, Bryan Glover, Kenyon Farrow, John Keene, Robert E. Penn, and many others. But you’ll also see the history of a movement. Donald was there at the rally for 32-year-old Mark Carson, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in May of this year. And Donald was one of the people who spoke up loudly when 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was murdered in Newark during the same week in May ten years earlier. He believed in the cause.

I didn’t see Donald much after I closed my blog about six or seven years ago, but every now and then we would run into each other and he was still the same person. He had his own look, his own style, and his own quiet way of making a difference.

I just learned of Donald’s passing this morning when my friend Maurice Franklin called to tell me. I still don’t know the details of his death, and it feels strange to write this post without an idea of what happened. But I do know that Donald played a major role in my life. There were times when I wanted to hug him for his artistic brilliance and times when I wanted to strangle him for his stubbornness. But looking back, I cannot imagine what my life would have been if I hadn’t met Donald Agarrat.

UPDATE: The family has asked for donations to be made to the Donald Agarrat Memorial Fund to help cover the cost of his funeral expenses.

Gays and lesbians have served as the butt of insensitive and offensive jokes for generations. To suggest smacking a “dude” simply because of his attraction to or appreciation for a male sports star is clearly homophobic, which is the second important issue raised by Martin’s tweet. Even if the violence he encouraged wasn’t to be taken seriously, the homophobia at its root seemed to be.

I’ve known Roland Martin since 1995, and when I spoke to him Wednesday night by telephone he insisted his controversial tweets were not meant to be homophobic and expressed his willingness to meet with officials from GLAAD. Martin said he was merely singling out Beckham because he plays soccer, a sport he says he has repeatedly ridiculed on Twitter in the past.

As you might expect from any medium that limits your posts to 140 characters, Twitter is not the best place for subtlety and nuance. Most Twitter followers don’t research your history of previous posts before they respond to your remarks. Thus, I did not find Martin’s soccer explanation plausible when I first read it online, but he seemed to hold onto it sincerely when we spoke on the phone.

I have no way of knowing what Martin was really thinking when he posted his tweet about Beckham and another one about a Super Bowl fan in a pink suit, but the effect of his remarks was real to many people. Even if we take Martin at his word that he posted completely innocent tweets, it’s easy to understand how the gay community could interpret them differently and be offended by them, especially given his own past statements.

It was Martin, after all, who seemed to defend comedian Tracy Morgan last year after the NBC 30 Rock star was criticized for a homophobic comedy routine performed in Tennessee. And it was Martin who defended Miss California, Carrie Prejean, after she expressed her disapproval of same sex marriage during the 2009 Miss USA pageant.

And as far back as 2006, Martin posted a comment on his web site suggesting that homosexuality was a choice that gays could simply resist. “My wife, an ordained Baptist minister for 20 years, has counseled many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle,” he wrote. In the same article, he compared gays and lesbians to “a woman who is an alcoholic, the child who continues to be disobedient to his parents [or] the young lady who is hell-bent on stealing.” Martin ended his piece with a final statement of purpose: “That isn’t being homophobic. It’s being a Christian. And no one should have to apologize for that.”

Martin is entitled to his opinion, and I don’t think he should be fired from his job simply because of what he believes. But given those beliefs, why wouldn’t gays and lesbians assume Martin’s tweet about smacking a male fan of a shirtless David Beckham was meant to be an insult to gay men?

—  –Keith Boykin, Monday Morning Quarterbacking With Roland Martin, Huffington Post 2/9/12

“Everything The Media Told You About Occupy Wall Street Is Wrong”

A reality check in the form of a “told you so” in the form of a “fuck you” to any conservatives who may be hijacking your posts.


#OWS     #thanks jessica

Keith Boykin
News Anchor, Journalist, Author

Keith Boykin (born August 28, 1965) is an American broadcaster, author and commentator. He was editor of The Daily Voice, a CNBC contributor and a co-host of the BET TV talk show My Two Cents.

A former White House aide to President Bill Clinton, Boykin was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida, before graduating from Dartmouth College.

After leaving Dartmouth in 1987, Boykin spent a year and a half working for Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign and then entered Harvard Law School, where he was a leader in the campus diversity movement and general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He received his J.D. from Harvard in 1992 and then joined the Clinton/Gore Campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas. After Clinton’s election, Boykin became a Special Assistant to the President and Director of Specialty Media. Once the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Clinton White House, Boykin helped organize and participated in the nation’s first meeting between gay and lesbian leaders and a U.S. President.

Boykin left the White House to write his first book, One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America, published in 1996. He released his second book, Respecting the Soul, in 1999.

From 1999 to 2001, Boykin taught political science at American University in Washington, D.C.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen Don Lemon in Harlem quite a few times. He’s always friendly and always says hello, even when I don’t recognize him in his street clothes. And although I understand his frustration with some things in our community, I fundamentally disagree with the views he expressed this weekend. 

You see, as a relatively privileged well-educated Black man of a certain age, I have to agree with Lemon that sagging pants and littering teens bothers me. Nor do I like to hear the N-word every time I walk to the corner store. That was not my life experience as a product of the suburbs. But I also know these community issues are not the main problem facing young Black kids today. 

Sagging pants and littering neighbors aren’t stopping young Black men from getting jobs. It’s racial, social, and class inequality that’s stopping them. It’s the lack of educational and economic opportunities available to them. It’s the disproportionate incarceration of young black men and the 700,000 stop-and-frisks on New York City streets. Unfortunately, what Lemon’s analysis does is to confuse cause and effect. That’s because it’s a lot easier to focus on the effects – the street issues – than to deal with the cause – entrenched systemic and institutional barriers that restrict opportunities for African-Americans. 

In a country where white unemployment has never reached 10 percent since the Great Depression but Black unemployment has only rarely dipped below 10 percent since records have been kept, our problems are not sartorial but structural. In fact, if white unemployment remained at the level it has for Blacks over the past 40 years, we’d launch a new “New Deal” program to get people back to work. We’d invest in job training and education and encourage home ownership, just as the nation did with the GI bill after World War II. But that’s not happening. 

The truth is that jobs won’t miraculously come to Black kids if they pull up their pants. Justin Bieber gets to prance around with sagging pants as often as he wants. Mark Zuckerberg can wear a hoodie without ever being accused of being “suspicious.” White kids on college campuses can listen to the hardest rap music without being called “thugs.” White kids get to be kids. They get to go through “phases,” to listen to bad music, to wear stupid clothing, and to make mistakes. But then they get to grow up and become successful adults. Black kids, on the other hand, don’t often get the benefit of the doubt, the second chances and the opportunities that come along with it. 

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for Black kids or assuming they’re all the same. I’m just not blaming them for forces beyond their control. Like most African-American parents, I want my kids to be productive members of society. I don’t want them to use racism as an excuse for failing to try. But I also don’t want them to think that the burden to fix our community is theirs alone. If we really want to practice tough love in America, as Don Lemon argues, then we should start by examining the priorities of the adults in our larger society, not by knocking our kids. 

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton.

'Clay Cane Live' Episode 86: September 24, 2013

If you missed last night’s Clay Cane Live, our guests included MSNBC commentator Keith Boykin - who helped us understand the Obamacare controversy and reflected on the late Donald Aggarat -  director of The New Black Yoruba Richen and cultural critic Anti Intellect.  In addition, we talked The Pope, the murder of Jonathan Ferrell and more.  

Click on the red button below to listen.  

‘Clay Cane Live’ Episode 86: September 24, 2013

Ten years before he was gunned down outside his Memphis motel room, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. survived another assassination attempt. He was signing his new book at a Harlem bookstore when a 42-year-old woman suddenly started screaming and then plunged a knife into his chest.

Dr. King was taken to Harlem Hospital for surgery and survived the attack. But in an interview with local reporter Gabe Pressman, King offered forgiveness to his attacker. “I think she needs help,” King told Pressman. “I’m not angry at her.”

Today, as we remember the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, his words of nonviolence, love, and forgiveness could serve as a useful guide for fearful politicians debating gun control.