The sudden death of beloved gay author E. Lynn Harris on July 23rd of a heart attack may have separated him physically from those who loved him, but his spirit lives on, as shown by the huge turnout of friends and fans present at a recent tribute over Pride weekend in Atlanta.
Project Q Atlanta reports:
Several local authors joined friends and family of Harris in remembering the best-selling author, delivering personal anecdotes and poignant stories of their interactions with Harris. Speakers included Laura Gilmore, Harris’ longtime assistant, and his favorite aunt, Jesse Phillips. Gay artists Duncan Teague(pictured- bottom left) opened the evening and local gay authors J.L. King and Christopher Beckwith also talked about Harris.
The event on Sunday is one of two tributes to Harris. On Sept. 22, the national tour to promote “Mama Dearest”, (Harris' soon to be released final novel) kicks off at Outwrite.
Harris' Aunt Jesse Phillips, affectionately referred to as "Aunt G" remembered her nephew in a beautiful interview with Essence.com shortly after his passing. When asked how his family dealt with Harris' sexual orientation and the subject matter of his books she had this to say:
Every time he wrote a book I'd go and buy 10 to 12 of them to support him I knew that he was gay before he told me because I could tell by his mannerisms but it didn't make me love him any less. When he was about 14 or 15, he confided in me that he was gay and it was just between the two of us. I kept his secret. I don't think he ever sat down with my sister and told her the way he did with me, but she accepted him just the same.He told me," I thought I could pray everything away even my sexuality but I can't.: Then he said that he knew I didn't' like the idea of him being gay but the fact was if he never had sex again in his life, he'd still be gay.
I remember he wrote something he told me in conversation once about his sexuality he said, "This is not something I choose to be. In fact, I don't know any Black man in his right mind who would choose to be Black and gay. This is not a choice." It wasn't until the third book that he finally admitted that one of those characters was based on him. One time someone at his book signings suggested that he was gay because he didn't have a strong father figure in his life because his parents divorced when he was 12 and he said that my husband, his Uncle Charles was his father figure. We had a lot of interesting and long conversations.
Watch a past tribute to E. Lynn Harris at The National Black Arts Festival here.
Photos via Project Q Atlanta