Famous gay blacks: Celebrating their achievements

As a nation, we're learning to become more tolerant and understanding: not only with race and socioeconomic differences, but also differences in sexual orientation. To that end, many black achievers, who have done great things in a variety of fields, are now being celebrated for their work, and not for how they lived their private lives.

Here's a list of black performers, sports personalities, authors and artists recognized for their talent, while often openly announcing to the world who and what they were:

Josephine Baker was he first African American to take a major movie role, Zouzou, and the inspiration for untold throngs of other artists.

André Leon Talley  is the man who knows fashion better than anyone; he's made a name for himself as "The Fashion Editor" over the decades.

James Baldwin was a noted author and playwright; his first novel was Go Tell it on the Mountain. He became a civil rights icon in his own right.

Wanda Sykes is noted as one of the funniest comediennes in the world. Wanda is enjoying tremendous success due to her sharp wit and sense of humor.

Sheryl Swoopes is a former WNBA player who was so good at the game to be called the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball.

Minister Carolyn Mobley is an ordained minister in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and has also been a church pastor, and called a gifted church leader.

Everett Lynn Harris was a bestselling author with ten novels in a row to hit the NY Times Best Seller list.

Alvin Ailey: We are all familiar with the dance company that this trailblazer established. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater lives on today and tours the world.

Lorraine Hansberry is another prestigious playwright on our list. Hansberry penned A Raisin in the Sun.

Langston Hughes is commonly thought to have been a closeted gay man. He stands as the greatest black poet ever.

The Culture of Comfort Food

Comfort food is a cunning phrase. The very utterance gives deference to both emotional and physical reaction. The “comfort” part could be the anticipation of an unknown taste or the memory of the known. The reaction can be mental nirvana, salivation, dilated pupils, or something attune to a swoon. So, it’s no wonder that the promise of Six Cheese Macaroni and Cheese invokes both memories of summer’s at grandma’s house and that little home cooking bistro spot off-campus during undergrad.

The “food” part is where it gets interesting. Palate, climate, personal finances, religion, or geography could determine what foods comfort any one person at any given time. Ice cream or gelato? Brick oven pizza or chicken and dressing? Jambalaya or beef stew? The choices of a career woman in the Deep South wearing a polyester-blend pantsuit in July will be quite different than the same vacationing off Cape Hatteras.

The website Chow.com recently offered a Slow Simmered Beef Stew recipe that the Hob Nob Drive Test Kitchens replicated. (Of course, we tweaked it a bit by adding pearl onions, using homemade chicken and beef stock and simmering it in the oven in a Le Creuset stock pot for 2 1/2 hours.) Served with the most amazing Sour Crème Biscuits, warm 7-Up Pound cake, and a bottle of Cupcake's Red Velvet Merlot, well -- there was plenty of comfort for a cold, blistery day.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watch as principals in the project lift shovels Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, to mark the ground-breaking of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. From left are Richard Parsons, co-chair of the museum's council; Patty Stonesifer of the Smithsonian Board of Regents; former first lady Laura Bush; Wayne Clough, Smithsonian Institution secretary; Lonnie Bunch, museum director; and Richard Kurin, Smithsonian undersecretary for history, art and culture (AP Photo)

In 2003, the National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as part of the Smithsonian by an act of Congress, and in 2006 the board voted to build a full-fledged museum for this branch. Beginning in 2015, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture will be open to the public – presenting the singular national exhibition to document and display African American culture.

The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture promises to literally tell our story through its many exhibits and educational tools. Though not many years away, this institution has indeed been a long time in the offing: as the only exhibitions that were to be found (focusing exclusively on black culture and history) were local (often under-funded) independent exhibits. These were usually the result of African Americans who were committed to keeping our history alive (like the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit).

Because of these very same visionaries, in the space of two years from now, we will have the very first national culture and history center at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in the beautiful capital of our nation. –mark anderson

Gordon Parks in L.A. (Lower Alabama)

A new generation of film aficionado was introduced to the character of Shaft when Sam Jackson starred in the 2003 re-make. While it was a fresh attempt at modern storytelling, the film didn’t quite have the same intensity or ‘storytelling without words’ feel that the original had. What was missing? The touch of famed photographer Gordon Parks.

Had Parks’ not been acclaimed as a photographer, acquiring the sometimes burdensome ‘first’ title of anything may have been daunting. Not so for Parks, the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie, The Learning Tree. Parks also wrote the score and screenplay.  His next film, Shaft, was a major box office hit and was one of the highest grossing films in 1971. Starring the testosterone laden Richard Roundtree in the title role of detective John Shaft, Isacc Hayes’s theme song for the film won an Oscar.

A native of Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born November 30, 1912. After the death of his mother, Sarah, Parks left his father, Jackson, to tend their vegetable farm and began a journey of a lifetime to explore the world. He was 14 years old.

While still in his mid-20’s, Joe Louis’ wife, Marva, admired Parks’ fashion photography. Relocating to Chicago, Parks worked intermittently for several government agencies documenting by camera migrant workers and veterans. This was interspersed with work for Vogue and Life magazines. He had a distinct eye for the subject, forcing the viewer to see its very element or the beauty of the matter. Parks would seek that beauty in the ugliest of situations as if he was determined to show the world that there is grace in nearly all creation. Such was the case when he spent time traveling the deep South in the mid-1950’s. Parks’ work assigned humanity and dignity to those subjected to segregation and Jim Crow.

At segregated water fountain. Mobile, 1956.

Untitled. Mobile, 1956.

Outside looking in. Mobile, 1956.

Untitled. Shady Grove, 1956.

Black schoolroom. Shady Grove, 1956.

Atlanta air terminal. 1956.

Recommended Reading

A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks & forward by Wing Young Huie (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2010)

Half-Past Autumn by Gordon Parks (Bulfinch, 1998)

Field of Vision: The Photographs of Gordon Parks (Library of Congress, 2011)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Robert Battle triumphs, Renee Robinson retires

It's Robert Battle's second season as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT). He says it has been an exciting role following in the footsteps of Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita.

Battle gave up his own dance company, named after himself, to oversee a legacy and a repertory filled with other's creations – while incorporating a few of his own.

Sixteeen-year Alvin Ailey dance veteran Briana Reed recently tells HobNob Drive about her experience working for Battle, a fellow Florida native.

"The dance world is so small that many people know each other. We also attended Juilliard and he choreographed my senior project that I needed to graduate. It’s really interesting that I work for him. He’s great, fun, gregarious and easygoing. He’s always giving you something to work for without too much micromanaging. He allows you to make your own decisions."

While AAADT is flourishing in its second season of new leadership, 31-year dance veteran Renee Robinson is planning retirement and making her final bow. Recruited by Ailey himself, Robinson's leadership and fortitude will be missed.

Reed offers, "Mr. Ailey hired her when she was 18. She’s been like a mother to us. She passes many of the things she learned from Mr. Ailey on to us. She’s generous and someone to strive to be like instead of getting caught up in your talent."

Click here for more information on the AAADT North American tour.

The African American - Irish Connection

The town of Moneygall, Ireland anxiously awaits a visit from its most famous son: President Barack H. Obama. Fleeing the historic famine of Ireland, his great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, boarded a ship in Liverpool, England. He arrived in New York City in 1850 with several family members. Like many African Americans, the President shares an ancestry that is often overlooked despite having a history that Frederick Douglass spoke out for. Freed slaves of African descent and Irish immigrants were relegated to the same low rungs of America’s social strata in the early-to-mid 1800’s. In port cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia, survival meant that these two groups often lived and worked together. The passage of time saw the Irish embrace the political machinery of their new country and as they became skilled in trades formally relegated to African Americans –blacksmith, carpenters, bakers and bricklayers. The first labor unions were formed, but African Americans were excluded. The Civil War was a tipping point in the fragile relations between these two groups. Irish unrest gave way to riots when they could not buy their way out of the military service of the north and were forced to fight for an ideology that protected people of color – their chief competitors in the labor market. The resulting riots were a pivotal scene in Martin Scorcese’s film Gangs of New York.

MIT for…Free

Pedigree and student loan servitude are no longer the deciding factors for acquiring knowledge and curriculum-based classroom experiences. With online college class portal Coursera, attending some of the best colleges and universities from around the world is now actionable regardless of finances or location. Coursera offers classes from 33 top-ranked schools. Anyone, anywhere has the opportunity to take courses from schools like Stanford, Duke, Caltech, Wesleyan, John Hopkins, Rice, Berklee College of Music, Hebrew University (Jerusalem), and the University of Melbourne. Watching the future unfold is no longer and option. Find an easy chair, grab the laptop, and participate in making the world the place you envision.

Brooklyn with Talib Kweli

Host of No Reservations recently sat down with emcee Talib Kweli. The two discuss about Brooklyn, gentrification, and how hip-hop fashion has changed over the years. And as Kweli says, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe

Beautiful diaspora of the African woman. 


Mickalene Thomas's Origin of the Universe is the first major solo museum exhibition for this highly acclaimed multi-media artist. The exhibit includes some of Thomas’ most notable decorative portrait paintings as well as a new body of work that explores landscapes and interiors. The exhibition also features a mural in the entrance way, a debut film about the artist’s mother, and an installation of interior settings that are furnished similarly to the scenes present in her paintings and photographs.


Origin of the Universe opened September 28th at the Brooklyn Museum .

Chanel Rising

Chanel Rising on Nowness.com.

Chanel Iman: From Runway To Stripper Pole

Chanel Iman shows off her new hobby to the world. Luckily when the leggy beauty revealed to photographer Dusan Reljin that she recently took up pole dancing, he and his wife had the good sense to capture Chanel’s new hobby on film for NOWNESS. Showing off her super sexy pole dancing skills there’s more stripping, glitter, and rock ‘n roll in these 2 minutes than in a runway show by The Blonds. The video was very fun and artsy.