Revolution Songs: Finding Our Own Beat
Revolutions can be measured by the music that served as the soundtrack to them. “We Shall Overcome” has an intense solemn mood, a dramatic progression of the music, and usually accompanied with gospel vocals smoothed over the understated music. John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” has a similar solemn chorus with what sounds like countless people singing while the verses are arresting and rigged with John Lennon scolding about what’s going on in the world. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is romantic and sorrowful which eventually leads to a soulful cry about being bewildered with what exactly is going on in the world he lived in. All of these songs were vinyl classics by the time I was born.
What is my (and the people apart of my generation) closest taste of a revolution song? Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” It’s constructed like a classic pop song with a digestible chorus and infectious bridge that sounds more like runway music than sit-in music. This is where we are. Racism is still alive and well, but it’s matured and muffled by strides that our ancestors have made. Sexism is still here, but it’s hard to evoke pity with Oprah, Beyoncé, and Tyra Banks sprinkled in Forbes lists and Hillary Clinton in full borderline-masculine regalia, doing exactly what the fellows are doing too. Homophobia is in an even stickier place. Gay folks aren’t quite segregated in diners or fighting for equal working wages, but the struggle for queer rights is still real and waiting to be justified by justice and society.
The qualms gay people have, by now, are known. We want to marry. We want to fight for our country publicly. We want to hold hands with our lovers without incident. However as unimportant as it may seem, gay people want to be all over your radio, magazines, blogs, and television next to their heterosexual peers. Call me optimistic, but I see these wants being met. Sure, like any revolution, it’s not easy, but it’s unfolding as game of time rather than a game of politics. Even more of an impatient time game is waiting, seeing, and ultimately trying to carve what it is to be black and gay in this era that is very much so a gray area for us.
Our representation in the media and in these social rallies is sparse to say the least. There’s an underlying question being asked as to where black gay men stand as a culture as opposed to flamboyant reality television sidekicks or villainous sexual deviants. Who are we collectively as a people versus the characters that we can so easily be perpetuated as? This, too, is a time game. Call me pessimistic, but we seem to be at an utter standstill.
Of course, we’re not all high-heel wearing, finger snapping know-it-alls. Certainly we’re not all homosexual thugs that may or may not be married or sleeping with a married man spreading diseases. Yet, certainly this is a common story of the fabric of our culture. Sweeping the spread of HIV or the DL culture under the rug would be similar to the Women’s Rights movement pretending that there aren’t strippers, homemakers, and less than intelligent women in the world. Pretending we don’t have a bountiful amount of effeminate (and sometimes flamboyant) men that belong to our world would be like the Civil Rights movement disowning any people of color that didn’t meet their standards of articulate speech or political know-how. Yet, the forerunners in the black gay community want to art direct so meticulously what the world views it is to be black, gay, and in America that it’s really selling more of a fantasy rather than a honest portrayal. Even worse, we’re still losing on getting our fantasy off of YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and blogs and into livings rooms and newsstands.