Sunday, January 13, 2008

Senator Barack Obama, America's Media Black Out and Fear of a Black Planet!

Senator Barack Obama, America's Media Black Out and Fear of a Black Planet

Written by Cleo Manago


America has always been a peculiar place to live for a thinking person. For instance, it purports to be a democracy, yet it was built on a particularly cruel brand of slavery, oppression and genocide. Chapter four of its ‘Declaration of Independence’ states that all men are created equal. Yet, women are not mentioned at all, and Black people – at its inception – were deemed to be less than human. I realize that at this point in history, many view these as resolved issues, better left in the past. Even at present day, the United States is still a peculiar place to live for a thinking person. For example, currently, Barack Obama, a man with a Black African father is running for president of the United States. This is occurring while the American media is still severely racist.

While a “Black” Obama is running for president, African American perspectives on this issue have been all but absent from prime-time television. Logically, Blacks would be increasingly intrigued by Obama’s campaign, especially after his Iowa win! Yet, Black voices have rarely been among the popular pundit discussions that followed. It is true that on a daily basis we can observe Black news anchors delivering scripted coverage on the election. The likes of Anderson Cooper, Larry King nor Dan Rather, for example, have voices determined by a script. These high profile White male icons can and do articulate their spin on political issues during their own popular television shows. What Black person in America can say the same? Not one.

Let’s face it! free, self-determined [unscripted] speech, during prime-time television hours - is not had by Black people in America. Prime time is 6:00 to10:00 p.m. in Eastern and Pacific time zones and 7:00 - 11:00 p.m., in the Central and Mountain time zones. These times zones represent when television networks, e.g. ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN, have the most viewers. For example, Tavis Smiley’s show is broadcast around or after midnight on PBS. The prime-time media and news reporting landscape, where non-scripted speech can occur, is [still] exceedingly White. This has always been true; but that Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama - a man with a Black African father - has forged a viable presidential campaign makes this fact particularly ironic. Particularly to those that think.

There are no persons of Black/African American descent who are long-term fixtures in prime-time media with the privilege of free, impromptu expression! The last Black person to literally take that license was rapper Kanye West, in 2005. West was being urged by NBC to read a scripted commentary – for a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser. Instead, he displayed rarely seen Black male courage, and blurted, “[President] George Bush doesn't care about Black people!” The following day, the same 95% White panel of pundits, from CNN to all the major television affiliates, made attempts at strategically downplaying this historically unusual (and embarrassing) occurrence.

Is Obama’s purpose to heal America’s post-slavery racial woundS, or to deflect Black ideas of retribution?
As Americans observe Barack Obama’s now White-Iowa-acceptable bid for the White house, the Black community needs to be in dialogue about this (we likely are, off camera). This writer is concerned that some may be too [stunned and] enthused by that this man “of color” could become president (we definitely aren’t use to this). We may be going into a state of shock and delusional self-hypnosis. Blacks may be convincing themselves that Barack Obama’s being in the White house would mean one of us, the descendants of former slaves and Jim Crow, will finally make it to the presidency.

The fact of the matter is Barack Obama’s presidency would create opportunity for America to have its first Black First-Lady, Michelle Obama, who is the descendant of American chattel slavery. This is not Barack Obama’s history, and White America is fully aware of this! Obama is not necessarily seen by Whites (or by this writer, who is Black) as the potential African American president. Obama is half-White and half Kenyan, not half African American. The New York Times, among other mainstream newspapers, all have referred to Barack Obama as the biracial presidential hopeful. Barack Obama’s mother is a White American, and his father an African from Kenya. That he is not [just] Black or African American may partly explain his win in Iowa, a 90% White state.

Fear of a Black Planet:

Historically, in this country, up until now, many among Whites - particularly those directly in power - have feared strong, independent or influential Black or African American leadership. African American male leadership, in particular, has always been resisted, marginalized, assassinated, incarcerated or vilified. This done in an attempt to keep the Black masses intimidated, distrusting of each other and/or otherwise occupied. Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Huey Newton and the Black Panthers, among others, and more recently H. Rap Brown and Minister Louis Farrakhan and Reverend Al Sharpton have dealt with the wrath of White fear of Black power (and retribution) in America (in this writer’s career he has dealt with this too). When Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton ran for president, to eclipse the message of their brilliant platforms, especially Sharpton’s, they [too] dealt with perpetual attacks on their character. Not even George W. Bush - a straight-up liar and lawbreaker - now in the White House - ever had to deal with this harassment.

In 1988 (when Jesse Jackson and Lenora Fulani ran for president), and again in 2004, when people, mostly White people, actively fantasized about General Colin Powell running for president, I made a prediction. I predicted that when and if a “Black” person did become president, either they would look White, or be half White. This, because of a need among Whites to both defect the reality of ripe racism in America (and their resulting privilege) with the right ”Black” person running as president. It would be important to ensure that this person have enough White identification (and historic Black American disassociation) to make Whites feel comfortable.

This reminds me of an actual experience I had as an undergraduate student in San Francisco. I worked with an ultra-leftist organization. Their office was actively multi-cultural, with people of African decent, Latino, Asian, and of course European descent as well. What stood out for me was that all of the “Black” people working there were African, from Africa: Kenya, South Africa or Cuba and South America.

Except for me, and clearly that was an experiment, none of the Black people there were descendants of chattel slavery or oppression in America. After developing an association with one of the White women who ran the organization, I learned from her what I figured was true: that Whites, including industrial strength liberal or radical types, feel less intimidated by, guilty or self conscious around “Blacks” from other countries. Because the festering ‘America Enslaved Blacks Holocaust - elephant in the room’ wound is not there, but the appearance of Black inclusivity is. They prefer to fill their quota of Black people with biracial [half-White/half Black] people, Black people from other countries, effeminate Black gay identified males or Black interracialist (Blacks who prefer Whites as intimate partners). “Black” people in these categories are considered less likely to initiate or intensely spark challenging conversations about race or racism. Their objective is to avoid the resurrection of White guilt, or re-exposure of White destruction, cruelty, injustice and [especially] privilege.

San Francisco happens to be a city that finally had its first Black mayor last term, Willie Brown. (Interestingly enough, Brown, while being politically brilliant – is pro-Black.) This too, in my estimate, was an experiment. Now that the experiment is over, the city is now back under it’s almost 100% non-Black, mostly White control. San Francisco now faces a major decline in Black residents.


This writer believes that recent history (including that there are still no independent, self-determined Black voices on prime-time television) indicates that there is fear among Whites of an influential Black person, especially male, swaying the Black masses to exact retribution on Whites. Obama’s popularity among some Whites may embody that agenda.

I am not suggesting that we challenge Mr. Barack’s bid for the White house, or that we not support him. I will be voting for him my self. That will be my experiment. Yet, I believe it is important that we are clear on Barack Obama’s relationship to who are now called African Americans, and that history. If Barack Obama is the next president of the United States, and it is possible he will be, this may be the beginnings of a new American aesthetic. But, it won’t necessarily be on terms that heal or transform Black American wounds, or make up for hundreds of years of particularly brutal enslavement and racism in America.

If Barack Obama wins, will he really be America’s first “African American” president, or the convenient arrival of a half-White “Black” presidential symbol to deflect White fear of Black retribution in America?

Cleo Manago

Cleo Manago is a noted “social architect” and essayist, a behavioral health strategist, founder of AmASSI National Health and Cultural Centers, and founder of the Black Men's Xchange (BMX)

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Inspired by Terry McMillan and that the man who supposedly had gotten her her groove, really preferred the grove of another man, it appears that BET plans to get more mileage out of the “Brothers On The Down Low” hype. It appears that it is not enough that the topic has already haunted Black psyches for over 5 years now and has increased Black male and female trust anxieties. BET will air their documentary on this matter March 28, 2006. On the surface it already looks sketchy: There will be no expertise on the issue of Black male sexuality and the dimensionality of behavior and identity involved. Commentators include a Black gay identifying interracialist (a Black person exclusively into Whites for relationships) who runs a makeshift though highly profiled Black AIDS conglomerate; an Atlanta minister with a Black gay identified church, and an exceptionally brilliant Clinical Psychologist, though she is not an expert on Black male sexuality regarding so-called “DL” Black men (I have worked specifically with and researched this diverse population for over two decades, before it became chic). It does have the markings of being another Black male defiling episode of destructive propaganda.

In response to a BET press release about the show, concerned it may impact how Black homosexual males are perceived again, a minor amount of outcry has crept across the internet. Included has been talk about boycotting BET's latest tendency to destroy Black minds and imagery, and taint America’s point of view. But, if things pan out as they typically do, a minor amount of outcry in a sea of compromised, scared or distracted Black folks, no recognized resistance will occur. Then in a couple of months it will seemingly blow over, and another opportunity to powerfully challenge a prime-time Black insult will be stored in the canon of other 'if-I-woulda-shouldas' taking up unprecious space in the impotent Black complaints file. But this begs the question, one implied by the JL King's "DL" hype: Are most Black males punk faggots?

When one person, especially male, especially a Black male insults or attacks another, often if the one attacked does not defend himself he is seen as a punk bitch. Using that equation, a non response by Black males to the media's most recent assault, overall, could appear to be a punk reaction. If most Black males are not punks, where is the evidence?

When Black people, especially men, become powerful, and begin to unlearn the symptoms of post traumatic slave syndrome (PTSS), recover from intergenerational racism resistance fatigue (IRRF), support each other toward that end, and stop falling for ineffective distractions like gay-identity, interracial partnerships (or the avoidance of intimacy with other Black people), corporate approval, Euro-Christianity (this is our main sleeping pill), sex addiction and other substance based anesthesia (escape), internalized white supremacy, self-hate and self concept disorientation, and replace it all with courage, mental health therapy, critical thinking, a plan of action and ’’balls’’ - our condition will change.

A Black person, especially a male who has succumbed to all listed and has not revived is seen as a ''fag.'' And that’s a lot of ''fags.'' Black people react to Black male ''faggottry'' (the apparent lack of community beneficial Black male power, presence and advocacy) because of being humiliated about the compromise of the Black male (the symptomologies presented in a recent NY Times article on the 'Deepening Plight of Black men'). Subconsciously, instinctly and situationally, many Black folks fear that most Black men are losers and ''fags'' (not meaning just homosexual, that's just an easy excuse, but compromised by the American experience, socially/institutionally/culturally constructed Black male inadequacy). In general the resistance to same gender loving (SGL) women is a reaction to the existence of a Black woman who doesn't need or want a [Black] man - even more humiliation for the Black male (in his heterosexual eyes). Religion (with all its severe hypocrisy) is the excuse and the filter Black humiliation and anxiety typically comes through. But behind this dramatic veil is the turmoil of a community reeling from the 500 year old compromise of its manhood, its self control, its sense of self. And that is not a completely irrational state in a society, America, that has always had a patriarchal disposition.

It seems that Black people are too emotionally and psychologically ill-equipped right now to face what is really bothering us. As Terry McMillan was ill-equipped to face that, as an older (than the guy she was eying) woman facing loneliness - due to the compromise of so many Black males - she seduced a ‘’cute’’ (to somebody), young homosexual Black male. Something, financially, she could afford to do. It is sad, tragic madness, and BET will magnify it all, as directed by their opportunistic White Viacom owners, and American hegemony. Clearly they are not bothered by Black, especially male, dysfunction. As is the expectation, Black folks will get caught up in the stuff, yet, again, and not deal with the underlining issues that manifests the whole phenomenon – Black men so-called on the “DL” and otherwise.

Most of the overt outcry about the “DL” has come from Black gay identifying males. Same gender loving (SGL) and heterosexual Black folks, especially men (for once) need to unite on this, and stop the avoidance, the ''bitching'' and moaning about old and worsening problems, and construct a concrete solution. On the SGL tip, Brothers running around calling themselves gay, ridiculing the equally oppressed Black community and attempting to align with gay identity to complain about so-called Black "homophobia" is just the opposite of what needs to be done toward resurrecting ourselves our manhood. When we become men, we won't have to be concerned about BET or the "Down Low." Our community is waiting.

I'm down!

Cleo Manago

P.S. Who is not only down, but doing something about it. The revolution will not be televised though, especially by BET, because the goal is that Blacks stay hypnotized and stuck on petty and divisive bulls@it, while the world turns around and sometimes on us.

The Speech That Did Happen

Tuesday, Novemeber 8, 2005 (original posting date)

October 15th, 2005 was a historic day for same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual Black folks, and the Black community. We were embraced, affirmed and heard on that day. For the first time in Black history an SGL/bisexual organization (the Black Men's Xchange [BMX]) was invited to present our voice to an international African descended audience.

When Minister Louis Farrakhan and Millions More Movement (MMM) organizers decided to make this year’s march more diverse, to include homosexual members of the Black collective, we were confident BMX would be invited. BMX, an independent, national organization conceived for the empowerment, affirmation, education and healing of SGL/bisexual Black males and allies, heads toward two decades of influential work. BMX is known among west coast members of the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a “unique,” progressive Black community organization. In 1998 NOI members at Mosque #27 in Los Angeles collaborated with BMX to sponsor a debate on “Homosexuality in the Black Community.” At the time the NOI’s intentions were to put the “abominations” in their place, publicly. What occurred instead was a Black affirming lesson they would never forget, on the presence of homosexuals and bisexuals throughout the Diaspora and Black history. BMX won that debate.

This year, starting as early as June 2005 BMX members in New York/Harlem became actively involved in MMM local organizing efforts. It was then that discussion about BMX’s MMM involvement began. In August BMX’s role was solidified. In September radio personality Bob Law - head of the New York State MMM executive committee - came to BMX personally to confirm what was already known. BMX would definitely be representing SGL, gay-identified and bisexual Black folks at the historic MMM march on the DC mall.

At an October 5th MMM Washington D.C. press conference, Akbar Muhammad, international representative for the NOI, announced that the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) would represent [Black sexual minorities] at the MMM march October 15th. The announcement came in response to “gay representative” questions by a few people in attendance who were gay-identified and or who represented "Black gay" organizations funded by the White gay 'Human Rights Campaign (HRC).' In reaction, the "Black" HRC funded organization reported to the White gay press that BMX was “separatist” and "not acceptable." Following this attack they began a gay media campaign to create dissension, empathy for them and coerce MMM organizers to make another choice. This included submitting a list of 10 other speaker possibilities, and setting up numerous meetings and a ‘photo op’ with NOI staff and Farrakhan. Though MMM organizers had already established that BMX founder Cleo Manago would speak, on the morning of the march, at 8:00 a.m. a desperate move was made by the leader of the HRC funded “Black” gay group. In a disrespectful, last stitch effort to speak, he attempted to crash the MMM march. When this was not successful he spearheaded a deceptive media campaign, claiming to have been snubbed at the last minute. He opportunistically took full advantage of the ignorance of his constituency, and of the racist biases in the media that had already resulted in total disinterest among the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan and BMX members to even address the press.

To bolster belief in their deception as a MMM victim, they released a speech called, “The Speech That Didn’t Happen.” Below is ‘The Speech That Did Happen’ (delivered in excerpt, due to time constraints). It affirms Black same-gender-loving (SGL) people, unifying the Black family, SGL Sisters, Black manhood concerns, and nurturing diverse Black children.

Related links:

My Full Millions More Movement Rally Speech 10-15-2005

My Full Millions More Movement Rally Speech 10-15-2005

I represented the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX), an organization affirming, educating and unifying same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual people of African descent, and the Black community at-large.

Welcome family. I don’t have sufficient time to properly thank my parents, family, friends, supporters, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, The Black Men’s Xchange and community. Neither can I fully address the issues of Black manhood disorientation, the repression of homosexual and bisexual Black people and its relationship to a Black manhood resurrection agenda. I speak in honor of the victims of Katrina, and my recently deceased, beloved friend and BMX member, LeRoy Whitfield.

As we plan for the political and economic strengthening of our communities, so that the framework is not vulnerable to inter-group conflict, we have to take care of our people, because, movements are made up of people. Parallel to the Minister’s brilliant MMM plan I suggest that there be mental health and restoration intervention for Black people, because many of us need it. We need cultural affirmation courses, because many of us do not know who we are. We need healing opportunities particular to the Black experience that explicitly acknowledge our diversity, which includes same-gender-loving Sisters and Brothers, non-religious folks, powerful women, people who are differently-abled physically, and others loyal to Black unity, life and success.

That I’m up here, a same-gender-loving Brother, indicates that there is great possibility that this can happen. Mind you, I’ve been called a Black nationalist most of my life. Most recently – a separatist, by the gay community. There are some, among Blacks, especially among those who identify as gay, who believe that White people are more tolerant of homosexuality than Blacks; that Blacks in particular are hell on homosexuals. Yet, material truth contradicts this premise. Brutal attacks on Black homosexuals by Blacks do occur (especially between Black homosexuals). But outside of this sub-culture, violent attacks that lead to death or disfigurement are very rare in Black communities, nationally. Most brutal or deadly attacks on homosexuals occur among Whites. And their victims have included Black, White, and Latino homosexuals and transgendered people.

Black community attacks tend to be emotional. The tendency to hear males constantly referring to each other as punks, sissies, the B-word and fags is higher among Black males than in most other groups. These terms along with any direct critiques of homosexuality, can make Black homosexuals and bisexuals feel painfully self-conscious, judged, afraid and violently oppressed. Especially if their family is so-called Christian (I’ll explain so-called Christian later), includes a father who is angrily insecure about his manhood or sexuality; or there’s a mother who is angry at the missing father, or where family members are adamant or abusive in their disapproval Yet, typically, in the Black community when the words punk, sissy, the B-word or fag are used, they may or may not be referencing the subject’s sexuality or so-called sexual preference. But what is ALWAYS being gauged with these words is the level of manhood. These words aim to establish that some one ain’t representing as a Black “man.”

The fact is, in most cases hardly anyone involved in this name-calling is really a man. I’ll also address that later.

Acquiring a semblance of manhood, even if superficial, has particular importance to the only male in America who was shipped here, raped of his culture and manhood, and not allowed to be a man for almost 400 years, either by law or treatment. Our obsession and anxiety about manhood is a justifiable, historically rooted concern between Black people who are fearful of Black manhood-lessness. The acculturated symptoms of not having functional Black manhood access, determination or freedom up until maybe a decade ago has had a disfiguring impact on the Black male psyche, how he sees himself, how he’s seen, behaves and, in many cases is treated.

Like any viciously violated human being, even if he or she finally does gain physical freedom, if that freedom does not include culturally and experientially tailored mental health or restoration opportunities, the psychological impact of the wound lingers. And if that wound among Black males – for example - is never addressed, or is addressed improperly for several generations, dysfunctional male behavior can be mistaken for culture, tradition and as normal. In America, not only have Black males’ deep wounding not been attended to, we still experience perpetual symbolic and actual threats to our manhood, e.g. police brutality, (witness the most recent brutal attack in New Orleans), that we don’t know our history, and there is still no prime-time powerful Black male voice with an independent, non-scripted opinion. (Prime-time means before 11 p.m., before you get sleepy).

Our anxiety about homosexuality, especially Black male homosexuality is grounded in a Black fear or presumed realization of ultimate Black male desecration. But, how many Black men are not desecrated, regardless of sexuality? Negative reactions to same-gender-loving women often result from a males’ resentment that he doesn’t have consensual sexual access to her.

Only, every now and then do we see great examples of Black manhood. Kanye West recently slipped in some Black manhood and opinion on “prime-time” television. And of course, when it was noticed, he was instantly censored. Though America is supposed to be a democracy, Black manhood ain’t allowed. Another young Black man is cartoonist Aaron McGruder, with his bold comic strip, The Boondocks. He and Kanye are among very few young Black men who have gotten away with exhibiting spurts of Black manhood, when it was needed (and it is always needed). Kanye also recently talked about having been called a momma’s boy, because he loved his momma, and had taken on some of her traits. As a result, he was called sissie, fag and punk. Over time, before discovering his manhood, he mimicked his abusers and would verbally bash others perceived or known to be homosexual. Then, his love for his same-gender-loving cousin kicked in, and he became man enough to apologize, and stop the abuse of people, Black people perceived or known to be homosexual.

Our communities are filled with mythologies: That manhood is an outfit, determined by what you wear (sagging pants), what you call your self (gangsta, thug, heterosexual, nigga) and by how much sex you have. But none of this really makes a man! It’s crucial we understand that all the time many Black males put into acting like, appearing like and claiming to be men, has gotten in the way of many of us ever becoming men.

 Let me explain man to you, more specifically what a man is: The male species of the human family; a post pubescent male whose life consists of strengthening, sustaining and nurturing the legacy, life span, power, “health” and prosperity of his tribe/people/community.

 “A Black male defender, protector, supporter of the Black collective.” Dr. Frances Cress Welsing

No matter how much you sag your pants, your income, your sexuality, your low voice, your artificial gangsta status, the length of your locs – if you are not doing what was just described as a man – you are not a man.

America does have Black men, but they are not allowed to be seen. There was once a Black male, who by chance, despite being a comedian, grew up into a Black man right before our eyes. He had a very popular late night talk show, the most successful one to date. It was called “The Arsenio Hall Show.” He, bless his heart, actually thought that because the show was named after him, that it was really his show. But it wasn’t. Unbeknownst to him, after a while, he began allowing Black men and women on his show – un-edited. The non-Black people whose show it really was became concerned. In a very rare moment of Black manhood, he invited one of the most powerful Black men of our time on his show – the Honorable Min. Louis Farrakhan - un edited. To Arsenio’s surprise, that was the beginning of his end. His show was soon cancelled. Neither he nor Min. Farrakhan have been seen unedited on a popular television show since.

For the record, my background is in cultural anthropology, community mental health and pubic health. I am the founder and CEO of the AmASSI Community Health & Cultural Centers – with projects in LA, Harlem, Alanta, GA and South Africa. We have several phone numbers, but the most memorable one is (take it down) – 1-800-STOP-HIV. Despite AmASSI’s being one of the most successful centers for Black people in the country you may never have heard of it, because it’s run by a Black Man. A same-gender-loving Black man – and that’s not allowed! But I’m here, at the invitation, as selected by my community, The Black Men’s Xchange (an organization affirming, educating and unifying same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual people of African descent, and the Black community at-large), and by people close to the minister. Speaking of AIDS, another reason we as a people must talk across our differences is because HIV/AIDS has a predominantly Black male, female and child’s face. Still, it’s primary sufferers are same-gender-loving males.

Briefly, I want to share some considerations regarding our diverse children. Children come here in most cases already primed to be who they will be. So, the best way a parent or guardian can help make sure their children, if born healthy, will have good mental health, will prosper and grow up to be men and women, first you have to love them. If you don’t know how to love, and many of us don’t, go get some help, and learn. Read Iyanla. Provide your child with skills, be a good role model as a woman, or as a man, create practical boundaries (don’t hit; love and respect your Black self; love your people, but in some cases at a distance - and explain why; and be a decent person.) Allow them to understand that this is a society entrenched with racism and sexism and oppressive attitudes toward human differences. So, when they see imbalances and the mistreatment of people based on these differences, they don’t get confused.

If, from observation, you believe your child may be a homosexual, because of instinct or choices you see them make (for example, a young girl is more masculine than you would like, a boy more feminine), don’t disfigure them emotionally. Don’t defensively and brutally use so-called Christianity as a weapon to convince them of what else to be. Remember what Christ would do, if nothing else. (That many of us forget is what I meant earlier by so-called Christianity.)

Regardless of your own biases and preferences for your children, help make sure they don’t hate themselves so much they grow up to become an enemy of the Black community. This is very common, and the gay community takes advantage of this. Help them not to spend so much time questioning their worth that they allow themselves to be at-risk for HIV, or run to the White, often racist gay community for shelter, so they don’t commit suicide, self–destruct or wind up physically or mentally dead. You have to love this child – for the rest of your life.

I’m not suggesting that you buy ‘how to’ books on homosexuality for your child. Trust me, if they are loved and affirmed, and not traumatized they will seek what they need. Stop wasting time emotionally disfiguring them with religion. Go to many churches Black churches, look at the pulpit or the choir, and all with eyes and ears can see that prayer did not make the homosexuals go away! It may have multiplied them.

Just love them, provide direction, give them confidence as Black human beings, actively teach them to avoid internalized oppression as Black and male, Black and female as Black and possibly same-gender-loving.

My goal today was not to tell you how to think, but to invite you to think.

I love you family. I can be reached at 1-800-STOP-HIV or

Thank you

Cleo Manago
Founder/National Organizer Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) –East/West/South
1-213-923-7260 – e-mail

CEO/Founder AmASSI Community Health & Cultural Centers–East/West/South/South Africa

Black Same-Gender-Love, Represented At Historic ‘Millions More Movement’ Podium

OCTOBER 15, 2005 (original posting date)

This years’ ‘Millions More Movement (MMM)’ rally, held October 15, 2005, on the National Mall in Washington D.C. was historic for same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual members of the Black community, and the community at-large. At the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, I had the honor of addressing the massive crowd, specifically, as a same-gender-loving (SGL) man of African descent. Flanked by John-Martin Green and Leo Singleton - two leaders of the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) in New York City - proudly, I represented the organization.

From the momentous MMM podium, eagerly, I shared BMX’s purpose: to affirm, unify and educate SGL people, and a diverse Black community. My words included, “As we plan for the political and economic strengthening of our communities, so that the framework is not vulnerable to inter-group conflict, we have to take care of our people. Because, movements are made up of people. Parallel to the Minister’s brilliant MMM plan I suggest that there be mental health and restoration intervention for Black people. Because many of us need it. We need cultural affirmation courses. Because many of us do not know who we are. We need healing opportunities particular to the Black experience that explicitly acknowledge our diversity, which would include same-gender-loving Sisters and Brothers, non-religious folks, powerful women, people who are differently-abled physically, and others loyal to Black unity, life and success.”

I went on to discuss the importance of acknowledging and affirming SGL and bisexual folks as part of the healing necessary for the Black family. I was able to express more, but of course, with over one hundred speakers a head of me, my presentation was short. I had planned to discuss SGL Sisters, Black masculinity conflict, ways of resolving HIV/AIDS, the importance of nurturing Black children and allowing them to blossom into who they really are – including when they are same-gender-loving. There was not enough time.

At my closing, as I bid the audience affection and respect, in response I received rousing applause and love. Upon leaving the platform we were mobbed with accolades including from Dr. Maulana Karenga (the creator of Kwanzaa), Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and Kwame M. Kilpatrick Mayor of Detroit, and various members of the Nation of Islam. Responses included, “Thank you Brother. You gave me something important to think about,” and “That was powerful, man. Keep up the great work, and thank you for presenting.”

Throughout the day all I received was positive energy. A particularly moving moment was when I came upon a crowd of Brothers and Sisters clad in beautiful Black BMX T-shirts. These were BMX members, and heterosexual allies, who had taken a chartered bus to the event. They had gathered together in front of the stage, in support of my presentation.

We were all proud. Brothers and Sisters from the crowd, some mothers or fathers with children approached our group to congratulate us, and congratulate me on my talk. Also wonderful was the pride-filled and dignified smiles on the faces of BMX members and allies who realized that all approaching us clearly knew we were homosexual and bisexual men. And this did not prevent us from being embraced. Heterosexual and SGL individuals, couples, family members and the press requested to take pictures with us. And we did. Never once were we knowingly disrespected, or frowned upon.

This time, a decade after I was originally scheduled to speak at the first Million Man March, Millions More Movement organizers had actively sought the involvement of same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual Black people. But it was important to the Nation of Islam (NOI) that everyone invited also affirmed Black people culturally, politically, behaviorally and intellectually. With this in mind, Minister Louis Farrakhan, as advised by powerful people within his organization, chose the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) to represent at the historic event.

All things are possible with Black people, through love, cultural resonance and a respectful approach to our challenging issues. Most importantly, ‘Self-Love Is Its Own Reward.’

Cleo Manago
Founder/National Organizer
Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) –East/West/South
1-213-923-7260 – e-mail

CEO/Founder AmASSI Community Health & Cultural Centers–East/West/South/South Africa

Rev. Al Sharpton Pledges Fight Against Homophobia Among Blacks!!

Friday, August 12th, 2005 (original posting date)

YOU MAY WANT TO READ THE ARTICLE AT THE BOTTOM FIRST, BEFORE READING MY COMMENTS BELOW regarding the 'Sharpton against "Homophobia" issue: Sharpton needs to becareful. Instead of the (possible) whole-hearted support of "gayness," he should consider spear heading some community dialogue on the issue - at least in addition. Some of what appears as anti-homosexual attitudes, particularly in Black communities (including the church), is a justifiable, if not dysfunctionally expressed, concern about the possible symptoms of micro and macro oppression and repression on Black males historically. Manhood anxieties and Black male compromise concerns are deeply connected to these sometimes badly and/or abusively expressed attitudes. Which contributes to why there is so much inner-group vicious oppression between[Black] homosexuals too, which does the same level of harm if not more than so-called "homophobia" from outside.

That some in the community are concerned, and have strong reactions to"gayness" can be a result of ignorance about sexual differences, a side-effect of Black male/manhood humiliation (i.e. 50% of Black males inNYC are unemployed) and the still under addressed issue of [homo]sexual abuse experienced by some of our young males. This issue of gayness and homosexuality is under addressed, particularly in Black communities. Sharpton, just willy-nilly advocating acceptance of"gayness" with no evident expertise on this issue may affirm white gays,who don't even need Sharpton, and Blacks adapting that culture. But it won't necessarily induce healing, awareness and understanding in a 'yet to rationally and collectively address the topic' Black community.Watch out Sharpton! Just advocating a fight against "homophobia" without community dialogue and engagement is a mistake, particularly in the Black community. I can be reached at 213-923-7260. To read article on the first-ever Black community debate/discussion on homosexuality

Cleo ManagoFounder/Organizer - Black Men's Xchange (BMX) New York212/330-7660The mission of Black Men’s Xchange is to affirm, educate, unify, and promote health and critical thinking among Black males diverse in sexuality, class, culture and philosophy. (ARTICLE)August 3, 2005 > New York > Sharpton Pledges Fight Against Homophobia Among BlacksSharpton Pledges Fight Against Homophobia Among BlacksBY JAMAL WATSONAugust 3, 2005

At a gathering last week at the West Village apartment of a gay rightsactivist, Allen Roskoff, the Reverend Al Sharpton took to the floor and launched an initiative likely to make some of his most loyal supporters uncomfortable.Rev. Sharpton has pledged to jumpstart a grassroots movement that would address the issue of homophobia in the black community. That problem has undoubtedly contributed to the epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS cases among African-Americans, particularly black women. Rev. Sharpton's strongest detractors, to be sure, will be black preachers who remain in denial, even as the deadly disease claims the lives of those who sit in their pews week after week.

The failure by the black religious community to tackle homophobia within its ranks has been a travesty and has further undermined the black clergy's efforts to become leading moral voices when it comes to eliminating "isms."Black clerics must stop ignoring the reality that the black community they claim to represent includes gay men and lesbians, many of whom spend years in hiding because they fear their lifestyle will be considered morally and socially unacceptable."There is latent homophobia in our community," Rev. Sharpton said.

Al Sharpton was the only presidential candidate last year who unapologetically supported gay marriage, surprising critics who have tried to label him as a one-issue activist. He forcefully spoke out against the Bush administration - in alliance withsome black preachers - when it threatened last year to support aconstitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage."They tried to say that being gay is a sin, and I said that adultery is a sin," Rev. Sharpton said. "Adultery is responsible for breaking up more marriages, but do we put that in the Constitution? It's absurd."All the talk about preventing gay people from being able to marry one another had the effect of bolstering homophobic views.

Tragically, the discourse failed to deal with the staggering HIV/AIDS infection rates in the black community, which have gone unnoticed and unaddressed by thegeneral public. Rev. Sharpton's initiative is being coordinated by his associate MarjorieFields-Harris, executive director of the National Action Network - the civil rights organization founded in 1991 by Rev. Sharpton. It will include forums at public schools and churches aimed at educating the black community about AIDS and the dangers of homophobia. Rev. Sharpton said he plans to launch public-service announcements on black radio and to make the issue central to his civil-rights work in the upcoming year. For Rev. Sharpton, the issue is a personal one.His mentor, Bayard Rustin, a leading figure in the civil rights movement, was targeted by the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover because he was gay. Time after time, Hoover threatened to "out" the leader who was one of the coordinatorsof the 1963 March on Washington and a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.King maintained an alliance and friendship with Rustin, though other black ministers in King's camp urged that Rustin be kicked out of the movement. Rev. Sharpton, who marched in the Gay Pride Parade this year for the first time, is perhaps the very person who can make a dent in the rampant homophobic views so entrenched in the African-American community. Over thepast 20 years, he has emerged as a credible civil rights leader who has atrack record of bringing African-Americans together.

My time with Luther Vandross. ‘Waiting For [Self] Love’

Tuesday, July 5, 2005 (original posting date)

I first met Luther Vandross when he lived in Los Angeles. At the time I had an apartment near the Santa Monica Pier. Around the corner was a live music spot called ‘At My Place.’

One evening friends and I went there to see David Lasley perform. (David Lasley is a very gifted singer/songwriter. Anita Baker’s ‘You Bring Me Joy’ and Chaka Khan’s ‘Roll Me Through The Rushes,’ among many beautiful songs, were written by Lasley.) That night, as usual ‘At My Place’ was packed. When locating our seats, I noticed Luther sitting at a table next to ours. He was glowing a little, still in his prime and just beginning to thin down in size. With Luther was Kevin Owens (one of his background singers) and Sam Harris (a white, multiple winner on ‘Star Search,’ known for his dramatic, throaty renditions of Black music classics.)

I was a professional musician at the time. A few of my peers were also hanging out that night. Some of L.A.’s best showed up for David. Soon, it got around the place that “Luffah” was in the house. Like me, most of my peers were extremely impressed with Luther as a creative musical force. Not only was Luther a ‘sangin’ fool’ (the very best male of his era), but, from album one his brilliance was accompanied by some of the baddest musicians on the New York scene, e.g. Marcus Miller, and Yogi Horton.

Being in close proximity to Luther and his friends I could hear their conversation. They were talking about how “fabulous” David’s show was going to be. All three men “carried on” with a very familiar sense of wit, using colloquialisms known mostly in Black homosexual circles. At the table, on the other side, were some fellow musicians from the L.A. scene. Impressed that it was Luther Vandross, at every possible moment, discretely they would sneak a glance at the musical marvel.Watching Luther casually interact with his friends, one of the L.A. musicians said, “Hey man, I think that Brother is gay!” “Naw, man. Not singing like that,” another said. “I’m serious man. Just look at him, and how he’s acting. I think he is." said the initiator of the topic. Irritated, I turned around and asked, “What if he is?” Stunned, the one who started the conversation said. ”It ain’t no thang to me. I’m a man. It’s just that….” Interrupting, I look him right in his eyes, and ask, “It’s just that what?” While he searched for words, I asked, "Are you an admirer of his music, his singing?” "Hell yeah, the boy is baad!" he said. “Then that’s all that matters. Unless you trying to get with him,” I remarked. His friends look at him and laugh. Uncomfortably he giggled saying, "Naw man, it ain’t like that. You see [pausing for drama, pointing at his chest] I’m a man.” I responded, “So is Luther, a man you greatly admirer. A dynamic man. Get over yourself, bruh.” I turned back around to my seat. They kept talking. But while that guy did lay off Luther, I noticed that he continued to stare. Many people did. After all, it was Luther Vandross!

Later, after catching Luther’s attention, I leaned in close to shake his hand and said, “Hi. I’m Cleo Manago, I play bass. I’m looking forward to David’s show. Are you enjoying life on the west coast?” “Nice to meet you Cleo. It’s fabulous here. I love the weather. Meet my friends.” He introduced me to Kevin Owens and Sam Harris. Soon after that, the show began, and we enjoyed it. I would run into Luther on a few occasions. Once backstage at the “Patti Labelle Show” (In the 1980’s for a very short time Labelle had a television show.) I also had the pleasure of attending a dinner party at Luther’s amazing home in Beverly Hills. It was during that experience when I had the opportunity to really observe and engage Vandross. He was a mixture of things. He was gracious, kind and always making funny remarks. For example, the meal Vandross provided was a sumptuous assortment of delectable African American cuisine (AKA "soul food" dishes) . After they prayed, the guests (a predominately Black mixture of famous singers and actors, musicians and Vandross’ mother and family) thanked Vandross for the meal. Following a bashful smile, Vandross exclaimed, “Dig in yawl. Just don’t waste no juice from the greens or no mac and cheese on my fabulous carpet. It takes time to clean those girls.” After some belly laughing we commenced to eating. When Luther and I talked, just he and I in his music room, I began to notice more closely very familiar traits so many ordinary and extraordinary Black people have. Here was a wealthy, celebrated and highly respected [Black, male] performer, who was very conscientious about his looks, his weight, his hair and his [beautiful] dark complexion. Badly, he wanted cross-over pop success ("pop" is a code word for "white"). He was obsessed with how people looked, and deeply envious of and physically attracted to the opposite of what he was, the opposite of dark, and of wooly, African hair. He was also very lonely and isolated (as a result, soon after, he would sell his 5 million dollar mansion and move back east). Even with all his fame and fortune he was pained by what he didn’t have; the acceptance of a pop audience, a personal love to call his own, a smaller waist line, and a different physical presentation. I was amazed (but not shocked) to observe Luther’s anguish. I enjoyed being in the presence of this legendary Brother. Along with the joy of that experience was the affirmation of something painful, that Black low self concept has to be eradicated. We have to co-create a community where Black people rarely succumb to the myth of their lack of beauty. We have to co-create sacred, self love and restoration spaces to help Sisters and Brothers to love them selves in their own image. So that the next Luther Vandross is allowed simply to relish in their genius and face the world with clarity and in celebration of whom they really are.In honor of Luther David Lasley has placed a song on his website written and performed by he and Luther called "Too Much Commotion Not Enough Emotion." On this demo recording, along with David, you also get a rare glimpse into hearing just how brilliant Luther was. Even in performance on a demo recording. Ronzoni Vandross: 1951 - 2005Be well,
Cleo Manago