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27 comments | Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This post is a departure from what I usually write and was inspired by a section from Terrance Dean's new memoir "Hiding In Hip-Hop". I finished the book a few days ago in preparation for my upcoming interview and I could not shake this story. Thanks for the advanced copy Makeda.

One could argue that Kenny Greene(pictured center) died years before he took his last breath on October 1, 2001 at age 32. As the lead singer of the 90's R&B group INTRO, Kenny wooed female fans with his sultry voice and stunning good looks. He penned many of the group's signature songs like "Come Inside" and "Let Me Be The One" as well as created number one singles for a then unknown Mary J. Blige as well as Tevin Campbell, Will Smith, and Jason Weaver. He shared the 1994 ASCAP award for songwriter of the year with Dave "Jam" Hall and superstar producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

But what fans didn't know was that Kenny Greene was bisexual and dying from AIDS. The closet that Kenny Greene was forced to live in in the early 90's and the secrecy and shame surrounding his sexuality and debilitating health would prove to be as detrimental if not worse than the disease itself.

I was a pre-teen at the height of INTRO's success and couldn't recall much about the group, so I searched the internet for as much information as I could find. The infamous interview from Greene's death bed to Sister 2 Sister Magazine editor Jamie Foster Brown and an op-ed by friend and Girlfriends actress Jill Marie Jones provided the most insight.

The events leading up to his tragic death and the silence from the music industry and the black community following his death was shameful. I'd like to believe the black community and the music industry has made progress, but have we?

I recommend that you read the short interview here before you proceed.

Jill Marie Sums It All Up:

Still Thinking About The Relevance of Kenny Greene's Life & Death-An Excerpt

In July of 2001, Kenny Greene came out as a man who had been living a life as a bisexual. It was important for him to do so because he had been irresponsible and the pressure to be a straight man in the alpha-male world of being a black man and a R&B singer was enormous. He didn’t want to allow the pressures and hate that goes on toward gay and bisexual men in the R&B world to go on in secret. It was important to him to make sure that people understood that what they see isn’t necessarily who the artist is.

I'm not excusing Kenny's actions, but it must have been excruciating. Let us remember that this was the early 90's, pre-Ellen, pre-Will and Grace, before Greg Louganis came out, before Melissa Etheridge was a household name, before the countless gay-themed movies, Queer as Folk , and Rupert Everett and George Michael came out (officially).

And in the black context it was before Dwight Ewell's gay militant in Chasing Amy or Michael Boatman's Carter on Spin City . Why do I say that? Well think of other prominent black gay actors or characters in the media. There aren't any. And Ewell and Boatman aren’t even gay.

The black population is overwhelmingly Puritanical, due almost entirely to the Big Brother like presence (and importance) of the church in our history and culture. Black people are frighteningly homophobic mostly because black masculinity in this country has historically been linked to his ability to procreate. The more women a black man got pregnant the more valuable he was to the master and the economy of this country. Sexuality and virility in black men is intrinsically linked to economics. But more interestingly, our Puritanical pariah-like faith is a direct response to our oppressors who said one thing in the name of God and did the exact opposite. For black people, it wasn’t about lip service but real spirituality and faith. And while that is changing, the mindset prevails.

Kenny Greene was in a high profile position where he was making very erotic and sensual music and if the public knew it could have been about a man, it would have sent shockwaves through the black community...in a way that we may not be ready to deal with. This is inexcusable. In my mind, a population still persecuted should not persecute another, but I’m smart enough to know it is not that simple. The bottom line is Kenny Greene’s music was damn good and no one in our community could have dealt with the ramifications of intense sexual and emotional bonds between men. And since he was bisexual, the not knowing would have made it worse. We like our demons and hatred clear-cut in America. Context is just too much for our minds. He’d have been run out of the industry.

Read the entire article here


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

darian, unfortunately, I see NO progress for black gay/bisexual men from Kenny Greene's death to now. Terrance Dean's book, whatever it's artistic merit, is proof of it.

By the way, darian, what did you think of Dean's book? Some people are trashing him and his book because he didn't name names. Can we expect a review of the book from you?

May 28, 2008 4:14 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...


I'm trying my best to hold in my thoughts about the book for another couple of weeks. You'll know really soon. I've got something special planned so stay tuned.


May 28, 2008 8:53 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Where is the evidence that "downlow" men are responsible for the AIDS epidemic; and where do we get this notion that "coming out" prevents the spread of AIDS?

Maybe if black women would shun the prison-types then they would not be so exposed to the AIDS virus.

With black sexual behavior typified by 70% out-of-wedlock births, what else do you expect?

I reject this nonsense that says that down-low men are at risk because they are in the closet; or the idea that coming out of the closet will lower their risk of getting AIDS.

May 28, 2008 3:32 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

For example, down-low men are loathe to admit that they have sex with men.
Obviously then a high number of the MSM with AIDS are admittedly gay.

How would full acceptance lead to better sexual behavior?

May 28, 2008 3:35 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Getting an ASCAP Award aint no big deal. ASCAP is a company that treats its black employees like garbage. My female cousin had to sue their azzez for discrimination.

I use love love me some Intro back in the early 90's. "Let me be the one" and "Love Thang" were my songs.

Too bad things ended up the way it did for Kenny.

May 28, 2008 3:56 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

@ anonymous 12:02 AM:

Maybe if black women would shun the prison-types then they would not be so exposed to the AIDS virus.

was this your opinion? or were you trying to state some type of fact? just trying to get a basis for your statement...thanks

May 29, 2008 7:17 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Selene: I am not anonymous 12:02 am.

An article written by Richard Morin that appeared in the March 9, 2006 issue of the WASHINGTON POST newspaper entitled "Answer to AIDS Mystery Found Behind Bars" addresses your question.

I copied and pasted the article below:

"It is one of the most puzzling mysteries of the AIDS epidemic: Why did blacks, in little more than a dozen years, become nine times as likely as whites to contract a disease once associated almost exclusively with gay white men?

Two researchers say they found the answer in an unlikely place: prison.

Blacks and AIDS
Roughly similar rates to those of whites for men and women.

• Black men are seven times as likely as white men to develop AIDS.
• Black women are 19 times as likely as white women.

[About This Column
Richard Morin is a senior editor at the Pew Research Center and former polling director at The Washington Post. For more about these and other studies, go to the Pew Research Center Web site.]

Rucker C. Johnson and Steven Raphael of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley analyzed census data and a federal database containing detailed information on about 850,000 men and women who contracted AIDS between 1982 and 1996.

They discovered that the surge in black AIDS patients -- particularly women -- since the early 1980s closely tracked the increase in the proportion of black men in America's prisons, which by the 1990s had become vast reservoirs of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The percentage of prisoners who were black increased from 40 percent in 1982 to well over half in 1996, according to government data. At the same time, get-tough sentencing policies more than doubled the prison population, producing even more infected black men who passed the disease on to black women after they were released.

So powerful is the relationship between race, prison and AIDS that it almost completely explains why half of all new AIDS patients in 2002 were African Americans even though only 12 percent of the population is black; in 1982, African Americans made up less than a quarter of new AIDS cases. The link remained strong even after researchers controlled for factors associated with AIDS, including the use of crack cocaine, Raphael said.

Part of the reason for the rapid spread of AIDS among African Americans is that so many black men spend time behind bars, Johnson said. About one out of 12 black men are in jail or prison, compared with one in 100 white men; at current rates, a third of all black males born today will do time.

What explains the black-white prison gap? Raphael said the question is beyond the scope of the study, but other researchers point to poverty, a lack of opportunities, racism in the criminal justice system and the lure of the "thug life."

Whatever the cause, the AIDS gap is not going away. Other studies suggest that half of all prisoners engage in homosexual sex. But safe-sex programs, key to controlling AIDS in the gay community, are unwelcome inside prison walls.

In fact, "it's illegal to distribute condoms in prisons in all but one state" because lawmakers fear it would encourage gay sex, Johnson said."

May 29, 2008 9:49 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Selene: This is anonymous 5-29-08 6:19 PM again:

Read Keith Boykin's book "Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies and Denial in Black America".

In his book, Keith uses the latest (as of 2005 when his book was published) statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to debunk the myth that most HIV/AIDS infections in black women are caused by "down low" men. According to CDC stats, only a small number of HIV infections in black women were caused by down-low men.

I also want to remind you that no black woman should EVER AGAIN (at least not until a cure for HIV/AIDS is found) have unprotected intercourse with a man whose HIV status she does not know FOR A FACT. The only way she can know 'for a fact' is that they both get tested together, get their results together and share their results with each other. A black woman is engaging in extremely risky behavior if she does business ANY other way. It's up to black women to protect themselves.


May 29, 2008 11:08 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

@ elg...

okay...i'm learning something here :-)

now my question is:
can brothers in prison be categorized as "down low?" i don't know...are there different types, categories or whatever (or at least in the minds of some people)? men in prison don't fit some of the definitions of what the DL is?

and i agree that it is up to black women to protect themselves, but in the pursuit of honest and open relationships, do partners have a responsibility to reveal their status (in particular if it is positive)? i kind of think it is a two way street...but that may just be my utopian view of things.

and i'm going to order that book this weekend (since you have told me twice :-)

May 29, 2008 1:35 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I appreciate Kenny so much as an artist, but I agree, that if it were known that he was bi, he wouldn've shunned. I have no issue with Gays or Lesbians, however I am not AT ALL a supporter to those who live a bi-sexual lifestyle. More often than not, their is an extreme deceit that comes along with that, that endangers the lives of so many unsuspecting women.

May 30, 2008 11:03 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Selene: This is anonymous/elg again:

The article I copied and pasted for you (see above, anonymous 5-29-08, 6:19 PM) reveals that half of all prisoners engage in homosexual sex. It also says that "safe-sex" programs are FORBIDDEN inside prison walls and that it's ILLEGAL to distribute condoms in prisons in EVERY state except one.

The article does not mention this but prisoners are tested for infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, when they ENTER the prison system. They are NOT tested for HIV/AIDS, in most states, when they are RELEASED from prison. This means that if a convict's HIV status was negative when he entered prison but changed from negative to positive while he was there, he WOULD NOT KNOW IT upon his release. He cannot share information with his partner he doesn't have.

Anonymous 5-29-08, 12:02 AM was correct, if perhaps somewhat crude, when he (or she) commented that "maybe if black women would shun the prison-types then they would not be so exposed to the AIDS virus".

This is the age of AIDS people. It's not going away anytime soon. Get used to it!

Know your HIV status AND your sex partner's. Practice "safe sex". Use a condom. People should stop blaming others and take control of their lives, and bodies, like RESPONSIBLE ADULTS are supposed to.

May 30, 2008 2:29 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

@ elg:
the reason i asked if [some] men in prison could be considered down low is because when they get out, they go back to having [sexual] relationships with women, dismissing whatever took place in prison as not making them gay (or however they chose to categorize it). is that not how some people define down-low activity: in one environment a man has sex with another man, but in a different environment they try to give the impression that they are heterosexual?

so that's why i asked if men in prison who engage in homosexual activity could be considered on the DL once they get out...how many of those men would honestly identify themselves as gay or bi? and do they continue in the homosexual activity/relationships once they are released?

and i like how you said RESPONSIBLE ADULTS because that puts both people (man/man, woman/man, woman/woman) in the position to think about their behavior.

May 30, 2008 6:06 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I love Kenny!! I had the biggest crush on him.

When I heard he had died of AIDS, I was so sad. I had no idea then that he was poz or gay.

May 31, 2008 1:07 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

WOW! How interesting.

I wonder how many other stories are out there, that we (the public) had no knowledge of...


June 01, 2008 1:47 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Selene: This is Anonymous/elg once again:

I don't know what you're asking. Are you blaming the HIV/AIDS crisis in black communities solely on "down-low" men? There's NO evidence to support that view. This is supported by the Center for Disease Control.

A report came out a few weeks ago that showed almost HALF of black teenage girls in America have a sexually transmitted disease? I also read in a recent issue of Essence magazine (either the issue that's out now or the one just before)that HALF of black women in America have Herpes! Whose fault is it that these girls and women made bad choices they didn't have to make?

Those teenage black girls with STDs COULD have made different choices and not ended up with a STD. Those black women with Herpes could have made different choices and not ended up with an STD they will have for the rest of their lives.

Black women should relate to a potential sex partner AS IF he is HIV positive until she finds out FOR A FACT that he is not. Do you agree with this? If the answer is yes, then why all the questions about what is, or is not, a down-low man? Unsafe sex practices, not down-low men per se, cause HIV infections as well as other STDs.

Some years ago, I made a decision to not have sex. This period lasted for about six years. It was a peaceful time. I didn't have to worry about what diseases someone had or didn't have. After I began to feel better about myself AND my ability to protect myself (I realized my HIV status was TOTALLY in my hands and no one else), I gradually began "dating" again. I had choices. You have choices. It's up to you whether you make good ones or bad ones.

If you are so concerned about the possibility of having sex with a "down-low" man, and obviously you are, the only thing I can tell you is to practice celibacy from now on out. That way, you will know for sure that you are not having sex with a bisexual man. Again, the choice is yours.

June 03, 2008 11:05 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I must comment on what I have read here.
The issue of down-low mn and the HIV/AIDS virus is very complicated. People tend to make the assumption that gay men are the source for the large numbers of infected people. The real issue with the down-low phenon(as per research I found for a college paper did), men are the DL are just that Down Low, not being honest about their sexuality. The problem with protection arises from the fact that in order for a DL man to use a condom during sex with another man, he has to admit to himself that he is having sex with another, in effect making him gay or bisexual. By not using a condom, it is not "really having sex",which in rational thought makes no sense but if you are already ling to yourself it becomes easier to continue it.
Now to address the issue that someone commented on "all of thes women with STD's should have thought about it first." As we all know you can get STD'S and STI's even when using condoms. And that you dont have to be sleepng around to get it. The reason women represent such a large percentage of HIV/AIDS is because it is easier for women to contract the virus. It is transmittied through mucus membranes and since we have more, and biggest mucus membrane, whch is penetrated during vaginal sex, we are at higher risk.
As for people who engage in anal sex (male and female) are at an even higher risk. According to the CDC people who are penetrated during anal sex are more likely to get HIV from an infected than during any other type of sex.

June 20, 2008 5:55 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Today is such a sad day for me. I loved Intro so much and I will always love Kenny.
I was saddened to find out today that the remaining members will be touring and recording with a new member. I wish they would have formed a new group and called it something else. Kenny can't be replaced IMO. He was the heart and soul of Intro and it saddens me to this day that this talented human being has never been recognized. It also bothers me that they are just now speaking on his passing after all these years now that theya re ready to get back in the public eye.

Too many people remember him as the "gay" singer that died from AIDS when there was so much more to him.

Sadly we have not come much further in the black community. My son came out to me a few years ago and it has hurt my soul everyday to think how many people see this beautiful person and turn their nose up at him without even knowing a damn thing about him. I can only hope that there will be a day when who someone loves is of no concern to anyone. Sadly I feel like that day will never come.

July 22, 2008 10:34 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Hi, Darian.

Thanks so ever much for getting more comments on Kenny G-Love Greene. Eventhough, Kenny had a different life style I could care less. Kenny's talent is why I write comments to Epinions.com my sign in name is arttee/sparkle that I post at the end of my comments. I really appreciate the comments from both Buddy and Jeff. I was kind of disappointed with Jeff comments and probably wanted to slap him, but I have to remember [free speech] and not get upset.
The group as a whole was strong, but Kenny [that voice] to this day his songs still rings in my head.
I have 3 groups that I love the most....Intro/Bernard Wright and 4Him [christian group]. I guess because all there songs have a meaning that's positive. Some songs not all have a negative meaning and I just tune it out.

Anyway, thanks so much for the up to date Intro news. I just wanted to know were his 2 groups members there for him, no matter what the illness.
Also, read the poem I put on line, I hope his 2 group members could read it. It's my tribute to Kenny and the group.

Peace and Love,

July 30, 2008 8:44 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Nobody was listening to Intro when I first picked up their CD. NOBODY!!! I still sing their songs to this day and have bought both of their albums on tape and CD several times! I was the first person in Phoenix I know to even listen to their stuff. I got everyone else I know to listen to it though they occasionally played the slow songs at the clubs - Roxy, Jockey Club... Hollah!

July 04, 2009 1:52 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I just found out today (1-6-10) that one of my favorite male vocalists of the 90's, Kenny Greene, has passed on to the after-life due to complications from AIDS. I'm so devastated. Havin' a glass of wine and shedding some tears for you Kenny. I have CONSISTENTLY played your music for years because your vocals touched my soul. Matter of fact, listening to you right now....RIP talented brotha....

January 08, 2010 3:40 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Kenny Green has been an a big influence in my life. When i heard he passed away i was so devastated and cried a lot, i missed him so much. His songs gives me hope and strength as when am feeling down all i had to do is gey my INTRO cd on and am back on my feet. Am sad that you had to go so soon but God knows best. You will always be in my heart. Rest in peace my brother, much love.

Fitzroy Elvey

December 10, 2010 3:02 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I KNEW Kenny Greene and I can say that He didn't die years before his actual death. I agree that he could have done more and because of his gifting he had the potential to leave a greater legacy. What Kenny deposited before he left this realm is much more important than opinions of his past life. Kenny was a giver and if you spent any time working with him, you would know this. What he imparted spiritually to those teens in last chance programs in Alabama and to us his real Family and true friends is a treasure and memory worth embracing.

September 04, 2011 8:57 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...


January 13, 2012 1:48 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I really am in awe of the love and respect that has been displayed for the dearly departed KG. Despite, rather in spite of his immense talent and wonderful spirit, judgement calls. Who are we to judge anyone based on their sexuality? I doubt if he intentionally infected anyone or harmed a partner. He was a great artist and person and I.am sad that the industry wasn't more empathetic to his situation. There are plenty of positive closeted industry ppl, trust. Perhaps they were afraid of being exposed if they openly supported Kenny. Who knows? All i know is that he left a huge legacy in his short-lived career that will not be replaced or forgotten. Peace

January 15, 2012 5:16 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Kenny also served his country in the United States Army and his talent will never be forgotten in the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg area. A tribute, national recognition such as a book and movie about his life would educate and empower others about his accomplishments during his short time on earth. I would like to see the music industry give Kenny the respect and recognition that he truly deserves. Kenny has written songs that are truly classics.


June 11, 2012 1:33 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Kenny was a living legend. His voice, his music is timeless perfection and never fails to give me goose bumps and make me feel alive. Such a waste to lose him so young and not have the gift of his unique talent. His voice 'is' INTRO, nothing like it. RIP Kenny!! you inspire me everyday

February 26, 2013 1:38 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I was a young girl during the height of Intros career, but even still I understood good music...this group was definitely one of a kind. Now in the year of 2015 being an older woman now I realize I was apart of a timeless generation, of r n b etc. Still loving that unique sound of Intro. Curious to know what happened to the group I proceeded to search. To find out the lead singer is dead & the cause of death. It makes me feel some type of way, sad for a tremendous lose, heart felt for the rest of the group. And as a fan I feel like a betrayal, dishonesty. But as it was stated...you cant go off of what you see, how someone looks. You just never know the secrets.

June 03, 2015 8:10 PM


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