I've always admired and respected the activism of Jasmyne Cannick, however I have not always agreed with her. But this time my sister is dead on with her response to the New York Blade's editorial questioning GLAAD's decision to condemn Shirley Q. Liquor.
The following is written by Jasmyne Cannick and can be read on jasmynecannick.com :
Just when I thought it was safe to close up shop for the weekend and getready for the Oscars, the New York Blade, a gay newspaper, publishes an editorial entitled "GLAAD's New Act," questioning GLAAD's recent statements regarding Shirley Q. Liquor. And at the risk of never being published by the Blade again, I have something to say to them.
The problem as the Blade sees it, is that the mission of GLAAD is to see to the images of the LGBT community in the media. After applauding GLAAD president Neil Giuliano for taking a stand against racism, in the very next paragraph they questioned though whether or not the Shirley Q. Liquor incident has risen to the level of visibility that warranted them to issue a statement in the first place.
So which is it? Either you're happy they took a stand or you're not is the way that I see it. Regarding the strength or visibility as they referred to it of the campaign against Shirley Q. Liquor.
During the height of the Liquor campaign I went on the Michael Signorile Show on Sirius OutQ, this after doing a dozen or so national Black radio shows mind you, including the Bev Smith Show and the Al Sharpton Show. And among my many pet peeves with this particular interview, including the fact that Michael said the "N" word on air and I had to tell him that as a white man that wasn't advisable under any context, Michael said to me that because GLAAD issued a statement criticizing Liquor that it really launched the campaign. I had to politely correct him and explain that the gay community, namely the more progressive white gay community, was just getting on board but that the Black media had been driving this campaign from day one with reports daily on American Urban Radio Network, XM station The Power 169, Radio One stations, BET.com, BlackAmericaWeb.com, and of course the Electronic Urban Report, Eurweb.com.
My point was that long before GLAAD decided to get involved and do the right thing, Blacks all over the country had been mobilized and were speaking up and out about the Liquor show. As a matter of fact, I give credit to the success of the show cancellations to the Black media and Black people for calling, faxing, and emailing the club's. That's how the shows were shut down, not because of GLAAD's press release.
My point regarding the Blade editorial questioning the visibility of the Liquor controversy is that it may not have been on their gaydar but it was front and center in Black America, a place many white gays don't often go. And had they taken the time to Google Shirley Q. Liquor's name under News, they might have been able to see the various Black newspapers and Internet
sites that reported on it before asking a question that in my opinion reeks of white superiority.
Regarding the mission of GLAAD.
The mission of GLAAD says that they are "dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation." Last time I checked, gay did not mean white. And while it's hard to tell sometimes with what we see in the media, this is a point that must be driven home.
Do you know why GLAAD created a People of Color Media Program focusing, for the most part, on Spanish language media and as they put it, Communities of African Descent (i.e. Blacks)?
Here's a hint.
It wasn't because they wanted to. No. It was because of the ferocious criticism they had been receiving (and continue to receive) from Latino and Black gays. Not so much from the Latino's anymore I suspect given the incredible amount of resources they have put into their Spanish language program, including the creation of separate media award categories to make sure that they are represented. It's the "Communities of African Descent" Program that's very questionable these days.
But back to the question of why their People of Color Program was created. GLAAD wanted to reach out and try to squelch a lot of the criticism it was facing from people like you and me. They thought by doing this they could easily point to the resources from their over $10 million budget and say "hey, we're doing something for you people."
But it isn't that easy.
A Communities of African Descent People of Color Program that in my opinion for the most part is dormant and invisible on all fronts, doesn't mean that GLAAD can't be asked to take up issues considered to be important to the people that they claim to represent, Black gays (i.e. Paris Hilton, Shirley Q. Liquor). The same-gender loving community was absolutely warranted in their request for GLAAD to issue a statement.
Fact, Charles Knipp is a self described white gay man.
Fact, Knipp's character Shirley Q. Liquor is a Black woman.
Fact, white gay men and women for the most part make up the majority of
Knipp's audiences all over the country.
Fact, this issue was being played out on the media, maybe not media GLAAD
was aware of, but it was being talked about.
So let's put it all together and see what we get.
White + gay + male + promoting negative stereotypes of Black women + media =
The idea that somehow GLAAD strayed from it's mission by criticizing Knipp's Shirley Q. Liquor character is preposterous. Like I said earlier, they should have been jumped on this bandwagon and spared us all a lot of late night blogging sessions. And it's not only GLAAD, HRC, and the Task Force should have issued statements as well.
The editorial then goes on to say, "Knipp's performances across the country, including New York City, have been met with outrage and protests, often resulting in shows being canceled. This is understandable since the Shirley Q. Liquor character is built on controversial images many consider racist and offensive. But it is possible for an artist or performer to use such
loaded images and stereotypes to uncover truths."
Let me help the Blade out here.
No, it is not possible for Charles Knipp, a white man, to help heal years of mistreatment and racism at the hands of his people by putting on a wig, speaking Ebonics, and in blackface.
Can't get much clearer and concise than that, but I'll try.
There is nothing remotely uplifting about Knipp's act and I wish people
would stop defending his character with the tired argument that he's trying
to heal the nation.
The only thing Knipp is trying to heal is the hole in his pocket from all of the money he makes off of degrading Black people.
To the Blade: What is uplifting and truthful about a woman with 19 kids, who doesn't know who the father of her children is, and names them after sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea?
Too hard for you, try this one. What is uplifting about mocking a holiday that many Blacks celebrate and consider sacred?
What the Blade fails to realize is that all of the so-called gay organizations that claim to represent and work for all in the gay community are officially on notice. They are on notice that they don't set the agenda for us as Black gay folks, we set the agenda. We had 20 years of them setting the agenda and what did we get?
Last year, we got a Black gay man still not buried after nearly a month of lying around the morgue even though his very life is the reason why some of these organizations are in existence today. We got a 29-year-old Black man dead on his birthday after being brutally attacked in what was obviously a hate crime, and even though his name was Michael, the last name wasn't Shepard and he wasn't from Laramie so his death went unnoticed by the so-called gay community. That's what we got.
But not in 2007 and not on my watch.
Shirley Q. Liquor is just the beginning. All of this putting our images on your website and marketing materials so that you look diverse, knowing good and damn well that you're not, is over. If you want to truly represent all of us, and since you refuse to give the Black gay organizations the chance to do it by out bidding them every time, then you will be held accountable.
The Shirley Q. Liquor controversy is a perfect example of accountability. It may not have resonated with the white gay donors of GLAAD, but it resonated with the Black gay constituents of GLAAD which successfully lobbied GLAAD to issue a statement.
Get over it and on to the next, because chances are there will be something else.
P.S. And don't worry, we're holding the Black civil rights groups
Right on Jasmyne ! Right On !