U group fights stereotypes on stage

“Fierce Love: Stories on Black Gay Life” will be performed on Saturday.

Raya Zimmerman

Tired of media that stigmatize black gay men, a new University of Minnesota student group wants to expose their real identities through a media piece of their own.
Saturday night, a group of nine men will take the stage to perform âÄúFierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life,âÄù which will explore the racial and sexual identities of black gay men by unveiling challenges they face in society.
One of the student group sponsors of the play, Tongues Untied, was created last semester because there was no space for gay people of color to come together. Jason Jackson and Cortez Riley, both seniors, decided to create it as a fusion of the Queer Student Cultural Center and the Black Student Union.
The group promotes the understandings of diverse perspectives and GLBTQ people of color at the University. âÄúFierce LoveâÄù will be its first big production outside of twice-monthly discussion groups.
Jackson, co-producer of the play with Cortez, said it is more socially accepted for white men to come out.
âÄúYou have to constantly fight,âÄù Jackson said. âÄúI have to work a lot harder to prove myself.âÄù
He said he didnâÄôt blame people for not understanding his race and sexuality but said some people donâÄôt realize their privileges.
Jackson said the play tackles the stereotype that black gay men are âÄúflamboyant, shallow and flighty.âÄù
âÄú[People] assume the worst,âÄù Jackson said. âÄúGirls think IâÄôm going to hit on their boyfriends.âÄù
Ross Neely, program coordinator and administrative specialist in the GLBTA programs office, said mainstream media paints black gay men as violators of both race and gender norms.
âÄúThe authentic voices and meanings of black gay men are often not what is represented,âÄù Neely said. âÄúIt is someone elseâÄôs framework for how they want to portray black gay men but not black gay menâÄôs own, self-determined agenda.âÄù
Riley said the play will be âÄúpowerfulâÄù for those very reasons.
âÄúThis is a situation where weâÄôre controlling the images of us,âÄù Riley said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to be telling some of our own stories.âÄù
Madison Taylor-Hayden, treasurer for the QSCC, said she hopes the play will generate conversations about homosexual people of color because, she said, the campus and city are predominantly white, and voices of color arenâÄôt often heard.
Last year, the play was performed for the first time since the early 1990s in Pillsbury Hall through Twin Cities Black Pride, a local GLBT rights organization. This yearâÄôs production features the same director but different cast members made up of students and community members.
It has its roots in San Francisco, where the Pomo Afro Homos (Post Modern African-American Homosexuals) started the theater company to give meaning to the voice of black gay men.
Brian Freeman, one of the original Pomo Afro Homos, said the play âÄúhopefully carries the history, the humor, the truths and a transcendent human experience,âÄù according to a December news release from Fahari Arts Institute, a Dallas-based arts center.