elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Blackberri (born May 31, 1945)

Born in 1945 as Charles Timothy Ashmore, Blackberri is a singer, composer, poet, photographer, and political activist. He is of mixed origins and started is career as gospel singer. He came out to his mother when he was a teenager and his mother accepted his being gay. After going into the armed services, he stopped singing gospel, but he returned to music in 1967. He then attended the University of Arizona but left for the Bay Area of California before completing his degree due to the homophobia and racism he experienced at the university.

By the late 1970s, he had become an icon of San Francisco's burgeoning gay community; in 1979, his songs were included on Walls to Roses, an album devoted to the antisexist men's movement, and in 1981, his album Finally was released. Blackberri's film credits include an appearance in the 1977 documentary Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives and the use of his music in Isaac Julien's Looking for Langston (1989), a poetic meditation on Langston Hughes, and in Marlon Riggs's Tongues Untied (1991). His writings have appeared in anthologies including The Road Before Us (1991) and in journals including BLK and Fag Rag.

In recent years, although Blackberri has continued to perform, he has devoted much of his time to the AIDS-related causes and organizations, including the Black Brothers Esteem Program at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center, also in San Francisco. In 2002, he was honored at the San Francisco Candlelight Vigil with a Lifetime Achievement AIDS Hero Award.

Today, Blackberri is a priest of Lucumi, or babalorisha: he first became seriously involved in this spiritual tradition in 1984 and was initiated in Oriente, Cuba, in 2000. For a number of years, he belonged to a Yoruba household in the Bay Area. He arrived at a crossroads, however, where he felt that he was no longer "growing spiritually." In 1995, he decided to visit Cuba with Queers for Cuba, a Bay Area-based organization. There, he "met Oshun, who blessed [him] in a lot of ways."

Blackberri has visited Cuba seven times since 1995. On each of these visits, he has experienced a spiritual epiphany. This was the chief reason he ultimately decided to undergo initiation in Cuba: "That's where I feel most strongly connected to spirit."

Blackberri once said: "I think we choose [to be queer] as a part of our destiny, because of the things we have to teach other people about themselves, about life."

Source: Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African Inspired Traditions in the Americas by Randy P. Conner

Blackberri, 2001, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123730)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African Inspired Traditions in the Americas by Randy P. Conner
Hardcover: 408 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 5, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1560233508
ISBN-13: 978-1560233503
Amazon: Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African Inspired Traditions in the Americas

What roles do queer and transgender people play in the African diasporic religions? Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African-Inspired Traditions in the Americas is a groundbreaking scholarly exploration of this long-neglected subject. It offers clear insight into the complex dynamics of gender and sexual orientation, humans and deities, and race and ethnicity, within these richly nuanced spiritual practices.

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions explores the ways in which gender complexity and same-sex intimacy are integral to the primary beliefs and practices of these faiths. It begins with a comprehensive overview of Vodou, Santeria, and other African-based religions. The second section includes extensive, revealing interviews with practitioners who offer insight into the intersection of their beliefs, their sexual orientation, and their gender identity. Finally, it provides a powerful analysis of the ways these traditions have inspired artists, musicians, and writers such as Audre Lorde, as well as informative interviews with the artists themselves.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/1520648.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: author: blackberri, particular voices

  • Bil Wright

    Bil Wright is an award-winning novelist and playwright. His novels include Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (Lambda Literary Award and American Library…

  • Jonathan Ned Katz (born 1938)

    Jonathan Ned Katz (born 1938) is an American historian of human sexuality who has focused on same-sex attraction and changes in the social…

  • Bill T. Jones, Arnie Zane & Bjorn Amelan

    Bill T. Jones (born February 15, 1952) is an American artistic director, choreographer and dancer. Jones has received numerous awards for his work…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded