God Hates?

Ellen DeGeneres Kicks Off Duracell/Toys For Tots Initiative

Ellen DeGeneres…media titan…not God.

“To every person who is dealing with the homosexual spirit, that has it, I love you and God loves you but God hates the sin in you and me. Anything that is against the nature of God.” – Kim Burrell, singer banned from appearing on Ellen Degeneres’ show.

“God hates…”

“God hates…”

God hates?

No wonder God loses so many fans.
I do not personally know the “nature of God”
And therefore, I cannot know what is
“Against the nature of God”
How do you know?
Why did God whisper in your ear,
That he “hates the sin in you and me”
And forget to whisper in mine?
I don’t think God is the one who hates,
Only people hate…
“God hates fags”
Says the Westboro Baptist Church.
“God hates Jews”
Say the Nazis.
“God hates Western education”
Says Boko Haram.
No, God does not hate,
People hate.
People make God a scapegoat,
An excuse for their fear and ignorance
A crutch to feel alive
In places that are dying from human denial of life
Where they seek a real solution to their pain.
This is what drives people to put
Vicious human words in the mouth of God
And fatal action in his hands
None of which are as deadly as saying “but”
After the words “I love you”.
Do not tell me that “God hates the sin in you and me”
Because regardless of what you call God or sin,
I will always be the embodiment of unbridled, unstoppable,
Totally unconditional love.

god

Morgan Freeman…awesome actor…also not God.

What Does It Mean to Be White?

This is anothe post from my Critical Whiteness Studies class.

the neoabolitionist

Is not this the record of present America? Is not this its headlong progress? Are we not coming more and more, day by day, to making the statement “I am white,” the one fundamental tenet of our practical morality? Only when this basic, iron rule is involved is our defense of right nation-wide and prompt. Murder may swagger, theft may rule and prostitution may flourish and the nation gives but spasmodic, intermittent and lukewarm attention. But let the murderer be black or the thief brown or the violator of womanhood have a drop of Negro blood, and the righteousness of the indignation sweeps the world. Nor would this fact make the indignation less justifiable did not we all know that it was blackness that was condemned and not crime. – W.E.B. DuBois – The Souls of White Folk (1920)

I’ve been accused at various points through my life of being…

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A Rhodes by Any Other Name…

From my other blog All Out Adam….thoughts on the continuing journey of an LGBT man of color.

All Out Adam

“I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence…If there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible…”

– Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902)

I will undoubtedly incur some wrath, disappointment and confusion for this post. It may seem uncharacteristically negative in some ways; please remember that I am too on a journey.

Colin Walmsley (who lists himself as “Rhodes Scholar, researcher, writer, explorer”) recently published a blog post on Huffington Post: “The Queers Left Behind: How LGBT Assimilation Is Hurting Our Community’s Most Vulnerable” in which…

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The Persistent Racism of Theological Schools

I look at this article and I gather great hope because of the questions it raises. It makes me ask these questions of my current academic home (The Pacific School of Religion) and my previous one (Starr King School for the Ministry.) It also makes me ask these questions outside of the academy and in government and commerce? Check our Part II as well!

Our Lucha

GraduationAcademic departments of religion lack faculty of color not because they have difficulty finding any; but simply, they lack the will to hire any. If you are considering attending a theological school that does not have core professors (as oppose to adjuncts) who are from multiple communities of color, or simply has the one or two tokens, then seek another school. If the faculty fails to represent the diversity of the population, then that school – even if it claims to be among the Ivies – lacks academic excellence and rigor.

Since childhood, those of us who resided in the underside of history have been taught to see and interpret reality through the eyes of the dominant culture, specifically white, heterosexual, middle-upper class, patriarchal eyes. Scholars of color in general, Latino/as in particular, are usually kept at bay from contributing to the construction of how we perceive reality. Just look…

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Being ‘Just Black’

Beautiful insight from my beautiful friend Jai Lobo! Please read!

Jairo Lobo

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This morning I wrote an article in Dutch and after seeing the reactions and how often it was shared, I realized that it was also internationally relevant. Here is the English translation:

Among all the ‘us’ against ‘them’ discussions, lately I have been feeling rather displaced in the Netherlands. The prevailing general opinion seems to be that the starting point for dealing with one another is that there are people who are ‘from here’ (the white ones) and people who are ‘not from here’. Those are the immigrants and they are black. Native Dutch equals white and immigrant equals black. Even the people who take a stand against racism and segregation seem to do this based on the distinction between us and them. ‘Equal opportunity’ is created for ‘them’ (case in point: me). And that is exactly where the shoe pinches: the fact that (based on skin color) we have first determined…

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A Lesson in Figure Skating and Black Men

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Squaw Valley…and my off ice spiral.

Dear Robert Samuels of the Washington Post,

Although I appreciate the observations in your recent article “I’m black.  I’m a guy. And I’m obsessed with figure skating” – Washington Post Online, January 30, and I also appreciate how challenging it is to be a man of color working for the Post, your perspective as a black man loving figure skating is neither newsworthy nor unique. You are definitely not the first black man to be a fan of figure skating.  In fact, in addition to other black men being fans, there have been and continue to be black men and women actually in the sport.  But I have to also realize that you, along with many others may not be aware of the depth and breadth of the history of blacks in figure skating in America.  So, with all good intentions, here are a few of my own observations as a fan for over 45 years.

Today, in Culver City Californa, an era comes to an end.  On February 2, 2014, Culver City Ice Arena will close.  Along with it, the dreams of many a child who usually wouldn’t have access to even knowing about skating of any kind.  I discovered Culver City Ice when I moved to Los Angeles in 2000.  I had started skating (as an adult) while living in Toronto in 1996 and had managed to keep up the sport.  My first impression of Culver City Ice was that it was run down (the ice had a distinct dip toward one end.) But there was a charm that is summed up by the “Sweetheart of the Ice” sculpture that adorns the roof and by the warmth of the instructors, some who had been teaching there since its opening in 1962.  The other thing that spoke to me were how many kids of color were on the ice.  It was the first time in all of my years of following figure skating that I had seen that many kids of color on the ice.  One of the first people I met was Catherine Machado, US National Bronze medalist (1955, 1956) as well as the first Latina national champion (Junior, 1954.)  She was funny and wry and so unassuming, I didn’t realize her history.  I remember her telling me that one reason she loved this rink was that, although she loved all her students, Culver City attracted the kids who looked and sounded like her and it was important for them to see a role model.  But I digress…

Culver City Ice was not only where I first landed an axel jump (thank you Gary Visconti) but where I met Atoy Wilson, the first African American National Champion (Novice, 1966) and the first African American to skate in the National Championships (1965) and former star of Ice Follies, Holiday on Ice and numerous appearances on television.  He introduced me to a world of black figure skaters who to this day continue to be sidelined by a sport that is plagued by both racism and economic elitism.  Through him, I learned about and was fortunate to meet incredible athletes: Franklyn Singley, Sheliah Crisp, Derrick Delmore, Aaron Parchem, Andrea Gardiner, Rohene Ward, just to name a few…not to mention legendary figures like Debi Thomas, Richard Ewell and  Tai Babilonia. These skaters, represent some of the most phenomenal talent to ever land on the ice.  At a 2002 gala in Cleveland, I saw them perform spins and jumps that don’t even have names in the mainstream sport; I witnessed a level of athleticism and artistry with these skaters that puts anything that most of our national competitors do to a sorry shame; and I encountered a passion for the sport that transcended the cultural barriers that were routinely put in their way by “the establishment.”

The most important introduction, however, that came to me from Culver City Ice Arena was my introduction to Mabel Fairbanks.  Fairbanks was a black skater and coach who came up in a time when it was impossible to be a black woman and be a skater, let alone a black woman from Jacksonville, Florida. Arriving in New York City in the 1930’s, she saw figure skating, most notably the movie “One In a Million” with Sonja Henie, and was hooked.  Although she was most likely in her early 20’s when she started, she found a way to teach herself and wangle lessons with then US Champion Maribel Vinson Owen and eventually create small ice shows around herself in Harlem using all local children as talent.  After some important publicity in New York, the prospect of a movie career called her to Hollywood, but due to racism and questionable management, it was not to be so.  But this didn’t stop Mabel.  She began performing a “tank show” (small patch of portable ice), created an international tour with skaters of color and most importantly started coaching.  She worked with the children of many celebrities through the 1950’s and eventually went on to coach Atoy Wilson who I mentioned above.  She was the reason he broke the color barriers at both the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club and US Figure Skating Nationals.  It was around this same time that she looked at a little white boy and a little Filipino/black girl and said something to the effect of “I think they would make a nice pair” and put Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia on the ice together.  Needless to say, the rest is World Champion history.  Due to her failing health at that time, I only had the chance to speak directly to Mabel briefly on the telephone, but I will never forget her delicate and determined voice even in illness saying how important it was to make sure that ALL the skaters get a chance.  She died in 2001.

I could go on, but there is a more important element to this story.  I started by saying that with Culver City Ice closing, so are the hopes and dreams of many skaters who won’t have access to the sport of skating whether that be figure skating or hockey.  Most of those kids are of color…and most of them don’t know the depth of the history of skaters of color outside of those of Japanese, Korean and Chinese decent (all of whom are phenomenally talented and deserve all the praise they get…Mirai Nagasu!)  Culver City Ice is on the border of several poor communities where one of the only low cost fun family, teen activities is ice skating.  What a loss.  I remember being a child in New York City after seeing Peggy Fleming skate at the Olympics and wanting more than anything to “do that.” My parents indulged me briefly by taking me to the Sky Rink once, but it was too far away and too costly. The message was clear.  Little boys…particularly little black boys, don’t figure skate.  How lucky the kids of Culver City have been, to skate in the home of the All Year Figure Skating Club in a place that was easy to get to on a bike or by bus.  There might have been some little black boy skating there thinking “I’m going to be the one to stand on the top of the Olympic podium.” Now we will never know.

With Peggy Fleming in 2011

With Peggy Fleming in 2011

While I was at Culver City, not only did I have the chance to skate with National Champion, Gary Visconti and Olympic Champion Bob Paul, but I had the chance as a former Broadway dancer to share my love and knowledge of dance with a few young skaters of color.  I am insanely proud that I had the chance to work with the young Tetona Jackson who later went on to be the first to portray Disney’s first black princess, Tiana, in Disney on Ice.  The legacy of black and brown skaters continues even today despite the barriers that remain both through finance and through the limited vision of many judges and coaches in the sport.

So, Mr. Samuels, again, I support you as being passionate about the sport of figure skating.  So am I.  So are all the people I mentioned above.  So are many, many other people, men and women, boys and girls, all of them people of color in this country and abroad…and all of us are considered outsiders.  Our voices have been crying into the wind and being unheard for years.  They de-fund our learn to skate programs, they keep us off the podium (or at the very least off the top spot…hello Surya Bonaly!) and they close our rinks.  The real story here is not about a black guy who likes to watch figure skating.  The real story is about all of the black guys who have been shut out of being on the podium or even in the competition throughout the history of the sport.  Let’s hear about that huh?

A Love Letter to That 60’s Boy Dancer

This is a love letter to Bobby.  No, not Bobby Kennedy, Bobby Brown or even Robby Williams…Bobby Banas.  You probably don’t know his name.  But you probably know his work, particularly if you are a fan of old musicals.  I had a beautiful reminder yesterday morning about a huge part of my past that I rarely take the time to really hold on to and appreciate.  Dance.

My friend Mimi Quillin posted a clip from the 1963 Judy Garland Show of a dance called the “Nitty Gritty.”  In it you see your typical 1960’s dancers for the most part (women with beehive hairdo’s lacquered into place, flirty chiffon skirts and heels…gentlemen in skinny tuxedos.)  They are performing a dance that has shades of the Frug and the Mashed Potato and they are dancing with great reserve…except for one.  This one male dancer is letting his head fly about, his back slip and his hips literally wiggle (gasp!)  The camera moves in for a closeup and the expression on his face says,”I could care less that I’m on national TV, I’m just dancing for me, baby”…wheeeee!

That is Bobby Banas.

Why am I writing a love letter to a 1960’s dancer?  Because, quite simply, when I was a little boy, I wanted to be him.  Other little boys wanted to be astronauts and policemen (it was the 60’s and 70’s) but I wanted to point my toes and stretch my legs and make beautiful shapes with my body.  What’s wrong with that?  According to the world at that time: everything.  Officially, I was a little boy in the 70’s and despite the whole free love, peace, hippies, Black Power and any host of other liberation movements that gave rise to the age of disco…boys still didn’t have hips, and definitely wouldn’t or shouldn’t wiggle them if they did.  The message was very clear that ideally, I should probably stop wiggling my hips by the time I was 10, despite the best efforts of John Travolta to change a generation.  Alas, by the time I was 11, I was still wiggling.

My parents tried to embrace my wiggling by pointing me toward great black male dancers (Arthur Mitchell, Alvin Ailey, Geoffrey Holder) but I knew that they were hoping I would outgrow this fantasy and settle into wanting to change the world as a lawyer…or at least something with a good stable income.  I accepted their desire and outwardly focused my dance ambitions on the most regal and noble art of the ballet.  But what they didn’t know is that my ballet fixation was a clever rouse; in my heart, I really wanted to be one of those dancer boys on TV or in the movies…like Bobby Banas.  I had seen the movie Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine and the Rich Man’s Frug became my life ambition.  But how does one tell one’s parents that not only do you want to be a dancer, but you really want to be that third dancer from the left who has just a little bit more spice and body English than the others.

Bobby Banas’ career is amazing.  He danced with Marilyn Monroe (she kisses him at the end of the opening number of Let’s Make Love), Ann Margret and Debbie Reynolds, in movies like The Unsinkable Molly Brown and the Holy Grail of Hollywood Musicals, West Side Story.  He was a Jet.  He was sexy.  He was strong.  He was impish and Puck-like; an unpredictable beatnick in a world of dance that was careening toward the great cliff of the 1970’s when the great movie musical would go out of vogue.  He wasn’t in front like Russ Tamblyn, Elliot Feld or George Chakiris, but he had just that right kind of quirky freedom that made you look, more than once.  He is part of a generation of dancers who did the hard work of the movie musicals.  They made the impossible choreography of Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Gene Kelly, Onna White look not only easy, but fun.  I can only imagine choreographers seeing him come on to the set, looking at his elfin face and feeling his raw energy and saying, yes, yes, please make my dance look much better than I could ever have imagined.

I was very, very lucky.  I had enough talent to be able to pursue the whole ballet thing and get a good foundation.  It was good enough foundation for me to eventually drop ballet altogether and focus on musical theater, but not before taking class with people like Bobby Blankshine and Michael Vernon where I danced (poorly) alongside the likes of people like a retired but still magical Allegra Kent.  Although I happily left 180 degree turnout and stretching my feet for a better pointe, I will always be grateful for the discipline that ballet gave me.

But why a love letter to Bobby Banas?  I guess its a bit like those boys who watched Joe Namath or Doug Flutie or Willy Mays.  Not only did I want to be part of that club, I learned an important lesson about my masculinity by watching dancers like him.  I learned that it was good to be able to express myself physically with joy and not violence;  I learned that my wiggle had nothing to do with my sexuality.  I learned that I had value and uniqueness that no one could take away from me.  In my pursuit of dance, I gained an appreciation for my body as an instrument that required constant and loving care, from the food I put into it to the way I trained it, to the things I asked it to do.  I also gained appreciation for those who came before me and achieved much, much more than I did working with the greats.  My chance encounters taking class with or meeting people like George Chakiris, Suzanne Charney, Donna McKechnie and others were moments of touching greatness that I will never forget.  There is a wonderful You Tube channel out there, Dancers Over 40 (http://www.youtube.com/user/dancersover40)  where you can see some of the great dancers from “back in the day” remembering their early careers and the spectacular times in which they lived and created great work.  The were and still are incredible

But I write a love letter, primarily because my dancing didn’t just stay my dancing.  It became life experiences on Broadway and abroad; it became a career in the fitness industry including my appearance in P90X; most importantly, as I’ve grown out of the body that could do 10 Russian splits, it became perspective on the changes that we go through in life, both physically and emotionally and has given me a foundation for my path as a minister that lets me respect the beauty that once was and the beauty that one becomes.

I can think of no greater gift than to give a little boy the freedom and encouragement to dance.  Even today, boys aren’t encouraged to move their bodies in ways that aren’t goal driven.  Why must a little boy run toward something, or faster than someone?  Why do we ask young men to be able to push someone over, hit harder than and be strongest?  Let boys move just for the sheer joy of moving.  Somewhere in that boy who can bench 250 and can knock down a line of defensive linemen on the football field, there might just be a man who would rather be doing something else altogether…he might actually want to wiggle instead.  And because of that wiggle, he might just turn out to be as remarkable, inspired and inspiring as someone like Bobby Banas was to me.

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