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.

I always wanted to be an magician, but I could never perfectly execute any magic tricks. So, I decided on being queer, black, and an artist instead. Born in New York, thriving in Atlanta.

  • evolsicisum

    Great article, Myles. The title is very appealing and compliments the body of text very well. This article is very necessary and appropriate for our time and community. I do believe that change will occur, but I’m seriously waiting for the day for our community to grow from glamour and glitz to activism and movement.

  • Marty McNasty

    Wow Myles! The passion you wrote withwas amazing. The struggle is still very real. The points you made are beyond valid. I even learned something about the fight for gay rights. All those ignorant of the revolutions purpose should give this a read. It is time for changes, but we can only change if we all simply accept as the song says we were “Born This Way”.

  • Danté

    Like all art, music is a sign of the times. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is a revolutionary representation of the fight that the LGBT community has endured. The fight for understanding. The world is (somewhat) past the idea of being different, “Born This Way” is a song that details WHY the difference. Great article Myles.

  • J.Carter

    Awesome article!! I agree on so many different levels, that maybe the black gay community has “arrived” in a sense. While not being represented how many of us would like, we are still represented. There are some cultures, i.e. Native Americans, who can barely obtain air time on The National Geographic or History channels. I would have to say that a misrepresentation, is better than no representation at all. Once again to reiterate your point, as you put it, “we’re not all high-heel wearing, finger snapping know-it-alls” but there are many in the black gay community and an audience who loves to see that. In total I loved the article, WE WERE BORN THIS WAY BABY!! Can’t wait to read more!!

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  • Antonious

    This was written beautifully. You said a lot but it really brings the issues home. We need to have more discussions to help find our beat. We have to find our own like back in the day with “I Will Survive” or “I’m Coming Out.”