Well, another year has come and gone. And what can be said about the year that bought us The Ice Bucket Challenge, Lumberjack Beards and The Battle of Celebrity Silicone Parts. 2014 cemented history for some and unraveled it for others. We watched the product of racism grow into an epidemic of police brutality and learned a lot more about ourselves than we wanted to know. So, let's jump right in and do a recap!
Politics is one of those subjects that we are told never to discuss at a dinner party, but this year I don't think any of us could escape this topic. In the United States, President Obama had a roller coaster ride that I don't think any otter president has ever had to face. His uphill battle with the Republicans just got nastier as they continued to be "The Party Of No". It amazed me that their hatred for the firstb black president would drive them to put in place rezoning laws to secure the elections later in the year. Republicans cunningly said "no" to many ideas just to later blame Obama for things not getting done. This hatred and racism would spill into other areas later in the year.
Here in Toronto, we started out the year with Mayor Rob Ford being defiant by not stepping down after admitting that he smoked crack. His arrogance would make him believe that he would win the next election. But as my grandmother used to say….."God don't like ugly (and he ain't too fond of pretty either)." Health issues would eventually take him out of the mayoral race and have his brother take his place in the running. But the folks with common sense had the good taste to send the message to the Ford brothers that they were not welcome in City Hall anymore. And although the gay community was really hoping that Olivia Chow would have been our next mayor, the inner core of downtown could not out vote the conservative suburbs and John Tory was voted in.
2014 could be described as history repeating itself. With the re-election of President Obama came more racial divide in the world. Remember….what happens over here effects over there. In his first term, the Republicans accused him of going on an Apology Tour through Europe. But Obama realized that in order to fix the US's standing in Europe, he had to repair relationships. Recently he began speaking about fixing things with Cuba. As an American (especially from Florida), I was surprised when I came to Canada and saw commercials for vacationing in Havana. This would never happen in the states. But with the Democrats' big loss in the Senate election this year, Obama lost any power in Congress. And try as he might to reach out to work with the Republicans……they are not having it.
The Ebola Crisis, Russia, North Korea, the Israeli-Palestine Conflict, the missing Malaysia aircraft, Healthcare Enrollment, "The Interview"……..whatever Obama said or did was not good enough or was not soon enough. But I guess the Republicans were not counting on him to remain so level-headed. Just once I wanted him to explode and show full anger for all the shit that he has had to endure as the first black president. But he knows that he has to remain focused and stay on course. When it is all said in done after he leaves office, his legacy will out live the assholes who tried to sabotage him every step of the way. Let's just hope that Hillary Clinton really does throw her hat in the ring for the 2016 election (I want to see the US make history again as Bill Clinton becomes the First Husband). So far, the Republicans have not presented a viable candidate.
Unfortunately for Obama, his presidency has brought up the old "Jim Crow" mentality. Just as the US took two steps forward, bias crimes and hatred slowly started to rise and knocked us four steps back. We are still recovering from the Zimmerman Verdict. Paula Deen and Duck Dynasty are still on the air (and I just got back from a trip to Florida where I was surprised by how many Redneck reality shows are in production). Chick-fil-a became the fast-food headquarters for homophobia while some gays tried to turn the situation into black people and the n-word situation nothing changed.
In July, I heard a report about a mentally challenged black man named Milton Hall being shot 46 times in Detroit. And then we watched on YouTube as Eric Garner died in a police choke hold because it was believed that he was selling loose cigarettes (known as a "lousy" on the streets) on Staten Island. Shortly after that came the news of Michael Brown being shot and left in the street in Ferguson. The reports of 12 year old Tamir Rice being shot and killed by police in Cleveland left me stunned. Earlier in February, I wrote a blog called "Hunting Season Is Open In The U.S." which talked about the rise of hate crimes against black youth. Little did I know that this blog would become a prelude to a summer of killings by the police. And all of these shootings would open a huge debate about what is excessive force. Of course we want to support the law enforcement officers who are really out there to protect our communities, but something has to be done about the percentage of cops who are hunting down people of color while the judicial system seems to not be holding them accountable. Yes….there are bad people and bad cops. Out of all the names I mentioned above, there were no cigarettes found on Eric Garner. The rest had probable cause to be stopped…..but not killed.
With the rise of cyber-bullying, teen suicide is slowly becoming common place. Many deaths happened in 2014 (including the death of Bill Cosby's image). And although we lost quite a few celebrities and icons this year (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Jan Hooks, Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee, Casey Kasem, Shirley Temple) there was one particular non-celebrity death that struck me really hard. It was the suicide of 16 year old Sergio Urrego. His story really got me because he did not kill himself because of bullying by classmates. No…he killed himself because of the faculty at his Catholic School in Colombia found a photo on his cellphone of him kissing his boyfriend and began harassing them both. Forcing the boyfriend to out himself to his parents about his sexuality then forcing him out of the school. Then they went as far as not releasing Sergio's records so he could not transfer to another school. The poor child posted the lyrics and the YouTube clip of Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Cruel World" on his facebook page on August 4th and then killed himself.
This is the danger of allowing religion into politics. People kill in the name of religion. And now people are killing themselves because of religion. And with idiots like Andrew Caldwell proclaiming that he is not gay no more and dancing around with the holy spirit on YouTube, it's hard to believe that in this same year Pope Francis in the vatican declared that "homosexuals need to be welcomed…..and have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community." But the majority of black churches are not following the Pope's words. In the communities of color, there remains homophobia (which is completely silly because there are plenty of gay people in the church). When will everyone understand that we are not free until everyone is free. It is hard to break down the years of institutionalized hatred, racism and homophobia. We must first look at ourselves and ask the question…."how would I like to be treated?"
Another topic that has risen since the summer is the appropriation of black culture. One of the great things about the United States is the concept of making something out of nothing. Ideas being turned into reality fuel the imagination and the economy. So, the concept of Hip Hop and Ballroom Culture being repackaged and marketing under white artists has come under fire. Since the Eric Garner choke-hold, many of the black community have asked where is the outrage from folks like Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, & Iggy Azalea. And it seems that since Iggy's sales have been through the roof and she has been deemed the new Elvis of Urban Music, she has been the subject of complaints. Rivals Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks have voiced their distain for the gal from down under. Because I am leery of most things I read nowadays on the internet, I don't know what to believe about Iggy. I like her music and her flow, but is she really stealing thunder from other black artists? I mean….Kendrick Lamar seems to have moved on since the Grammy's. And it's funny that we haven't heard very much from Macklemore since all his accolades. The argument is that "everybody wants to be black to sell records", but when it comes down to actually being down for the cause of fighting for justice no one is around. Don't use our music and culture for record sells and then turn your back on us when we need your voices as much as ever. And don't think because you adopt black children that it gives you card blanche to say the word "nigger"….I'm talking to you Madonna. Even though you are about to drop your new album, I haven't forgotten your Instagram comment on your son, Rocco back in January.
And the continuation of ballroom culture appropriation continues as many gay white men love to ki-ki and duck walk to RuPaul's "Sissy Thbt Walk" (which is another kind of appropriation since Ru was never a ballroom kid either). But the funny thing is watching "Paris Is Burning" and seeing all the appropriation of the 80s rich Republican Culture as they aspire to be all the things they watched on "Dynasty". And today's Kardashians don't help either. Getting rich off of poor people's lust for power and fame. So, who's wrong and who's right. Should we take this opportunity to adapt and accept each other's culture instead of pitting black women against white gay men? I mean….we can all be "Gone With The Wind Fabulous" if that's what we aspire to be.
So, as this year comes to a close I am grateful for a few things. One of the things I am most proud of for 2014 is that I received the 2013-2014 "Friends Of The Foundation Award" from the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation
for my fundraisers, POZ-TO and SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER. My husband and I have worked really hard to create a space for the HIV+ Community and raising awareness. My "HIV/AIDS IS EVERYONE'S BUSINESS" Campaign has brought a lot of people together to raise their voices in the fight. And we celebrated our second year anniversary of the POZ-TO event on World AIDS Day (December 1st). Another is the sense of community that rallied together to help me after my bicycle accident in October that left me with a fractured cheekbone and jaw accompanied with a chipped tooth. It was amazing to see how many people cared and came out to perform, donate and support me in my time of need.
I am also grateful for reconnecting with my family. I know too many gay people who do not have the support of their biological family (and there is nothing wrong with our adopted family, but there is something really special about being connected to those who are in our blood line). And lastly, I am forever grateful for my loving husband, John Richard Allan. I have never met anyone who has understood me or supported me as much as this man. I am truly blessed.
I don't know what 2015 will hold. But I do know that our conversations and debates about justice and racism will probably be more intense until we change some laws and outlooks in the United States. I know that Bill Cosby needs to address all of the rape accusations against him. It's tough watching the death of another black man. I know that not all cops are bad. I know that not all black youth are bad. I know that shooting police officers just because they are cops is not going to help the solution of fixing what is wrong with the relationship between communities of colour and the law enforcement. I know that there are still good people out there who are working to make their immediate worlds better (and honestly….that's all we can do on a personal level). I know that if you can't see past the bubble you live in, you are not going to go very far in life. And as for me….I am looking forward to seeing what else I can do to make my immediate world a better place.