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)
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?
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, keithboykin.com. 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.
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.
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.
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Cornel West participated in their first ever public dialogue this week. I had the honor of moderating the discussion, which took place Thursday evening at Columbia University in New York. We discussed politics, the 2016 election, President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Black Lives Matter. The event was hosted by the Institute for Research in African American Studies.
Lots of people have asked me for information about getting published and basically there’s no single formula for doing it. These are the steps I would recommend:
Finish writing your manuscript or book proposal. If you’re writing your first work of fiction, agents and editors at publishing companies will expect you to submit the entire manuscript. If you’re writing nonfiction, you can usually get away with writing a book proposal of 50 or so pages, including a sample chapter. Michael Larsen’s book, How to Write A Book Proposal, is very helpful.
Have someone you trust edit your material with a critical eye. Don’t be afraid to get some constructive criticism from your reader(s).
Identify literary agents from reading acknowledgments of books that are like your own or from lists of agents printed in books about writing (e.g., The Writers Digest Books). Keep in mind, however, that some good agents are oversubscribed and are not accepting any new clients unless the work is extraordinary (which is rare).
Contact agents to find one to represent you. Some people choose not to use an agent, but I recommend that first-time authors find an agent unless they (a) plan to self-publish or publish with a very small press, or (b) already have inside connections and knowledge of the literary world that an agent would typically have.
Submit the work (through an agent or not) to as many publishers as possible.
Don’t forget about small publishers. The small press may not be able to pay you a big advance, but they can usually give you a lot more personal attention than you would get at a big NYC house. If you’re looking for a black LGBT publisher, consider Ishai Books in Tampa (Ricc Rollins), Redbone Press (Lisa C. Moore), or Grapevine Press (Qevin Oji) for example. For an LGBT publisher, consider Alyson Books in Los Angeles.
You may also want to consider self-publishing options. The great advantage to self-publishing is control and money. You have control over the timing, process, and editorial content of what you write and you reap all the net profits. The disadvantage is also control and money. Because you control the whole process, you have to make all the decisions (right or wrong) and live with them. You also have to spend your own money to get it published. But believe me, a good first time writer with marketing skills can usually make a lot more money by self-publishing than by going to a publishing house.
Don’t give up. It’s not easy to find a publisher, and even if you do there’s a lot of details to work through and work out. Many writers receive dozens of rejection letters before they ever receive an acceptance. The difference between a published writer and a wannabe writer is often not based on talent, but on tenacity.
My own books were published by Doubleday (One More River to Cross, 1996) and Avon (Respecting the Soul, 1999).
(This article originally appeared on my website in 2001.)
How the AP: ( white people) Robbed Renisha McBride of Her Dignity in Death
News organization characterizes the 19-year-old as a “woman who showed up drunk on porch” in a tweet.
By Keith Boykin
Moments after a Detroit-area jury announced its verdict in the Renisha McBride murder case, the Associated Press sent out a breaking news alert on Twitter. ”Suburban Detroit homeowner convicted of second-degree murder in porch shooting.”
Five minutes later, the AP updated its Twitter feed with more information. ”Suburban Detroit homeowner convicted of second-degree murder for killing woman who showed up drunk on porch.”
The only difference between the first tweet and the second is that the later post adds more information about the victim, 19-year-old Renisha McBride. Yet the AP’s second post used 34 precious characters to describe a teenager who could have been described in 15 characters simply by using her name.
Compare the AP’s sensationalistic, victim-shaming headline to the breaking news tweet from the Detroit Free Press, which announced,”Theodore Wafer convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm in the fatal shooting of Renisha McBride.”
Fortunately, Goldie Taylor and other observers on Twitter quickly noticed the discrepancy and called the AP out for it. McBride’s status as a black teenager living in Detroit “certainly informed the way the AP headline was constructed,” Taylor told me during an interview this afternoon. AP chose “code words” that “seemed to be casting a moral judgment on the victim,” said Taylor. Rather than describing McBride as “unarmed,” which Taylor said was more relevant to the case, they chose to describe her as “drunk.”
While the country has been engaged in several racially charged controversies in recent years, the AP post does little to further our understanding of one another. Instead, “their headline does nothing more than stoke the flames of fear and racial tension to sell a story,” ColorOfChange executive director Rashad Robinson told me today. “No parent should have to fear that their child will be gunned down because someone assumes they are a dangerous criminal based on the color of their skin,” the group said in a statement.
It’s not just the description of McBride that raises concern. The characterization of Wafer as a “suburban Detroit homeowner” also reflected a “cultural bias” in his favor, Taylor suggests. Remember, Wafer, a 55-year-old man who claimed to be fearful for his life, shot McBride through a locked screen door last November after getting his loaded shotgun, releasing the safety, aiming it at McBride and then pulling the trigger, essentially executing her for the crime of knocking on his door.
Some have, understandably, drawn comparisons with the McBride case to the recent shooting deaths of two other black teenagers, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. In a society that reinforces violent images of young black people and empowers white men to arm themselves in defense, it’s not surprising that these incidents keep happening. What is surprising is that some juries keep believing these suspects even after they’ve killed the primary witness to their crimes.
Just as Michael Dunn never called the police to report the supposedly life-threatening incident that led him to kill Jordan Davis, Wafer also never called the police when he supposedly felt threatened by a young black woman knocking on his door.
And although George Zimmerman did call the police to report Trayvon Martin as a “suspicious” character in his neighborhood, he never bothered to wait for their arrival before taking the law, and Trayvon’s young life, in his own hands.
But the Wayne County Circuit Court jury of seven men and five women came to a different conclusion today. After listening to 27 witnesses testify over eight days, they found Wafer guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm, despite the best efforts of Wafer’s defense team to demonize McBride.
Sadly, the type of overzealous defense work that portrays victims as deserving targets is all too familiar for women and people of color who have grown accustomed to such accusations. What isn’t as familiar is when the supposedly unbiased news media brazenly repeat the very same stereotypes to describe the victims and the perpetrators.
It’s no wonder that people like Wafer, Dunn and Zimmerman fear black teenagers when so many of the media images projected to them confirm their beliefs and stereotypes. And it’s no wonder that black kids aredisproportionately convicted for behavior that white kids engage in when juries repeatedly associate these kids with those dangerous media images.
It’s gratifying, to some extent, that the jury got it right, this time. But we all know it will happen again and again until we change our attitudes. Yes, it’s about time we hold these men accountable for their actions. But those of us in the media need to be held accountable for our actions, too.
(Author’s Note: The original headline to this column used the word “slander,” which is a legal term with a specific meaning. I’ve changed the headline and the column to reflect the incident more accurately. I apologize for the error.)
BET National News - archives
Aug. 8, 1986
PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Ohio Police Fatally Shoot Black Man Holding an Air Rifle
Commentary: In Detroit, Justice Attained for RenishaCommentary: How the AP Robbed Renisha McBrideWhat You Need to Know About the Renisha McBride CaseRenisha McBride’s Killer Found Guilty of MurderOpening Statements Set in Porch Shooting TrialTrial Begins in Porch Shooting Case of Renisha McBrideMan Charged in Porch Shooting Wants New JudgeCommentary: Remembering Trayvon, Two Years LaterBring That Week Back: Trial Date Set in Renisha McBride CaseHomeowner Must Stand Trial in Renisha McBride DeathA Year of Gun ViolenceBring That Week Back: Miami Cops Accused of Racial ProfilingCommentary: Standing Our Own GroundIs the Renisha McBride Case on the Right Track Now?Homeowner Charged in Michigan Porch ShootingIn Detroit, Renisha McBride’s Death ResonatesBlacks Seeking Help From White Strangers – Beware