Gomez was raised by her great grandmother, Grace, who was born on Indian land in Iowa to an African American mother and Ioway father. Grace returned to New England before she was fourteen when her father died and was married to John E. Morandus, a Wampanoag and descendant of Massasoit, the sachem for whom Massachusetts was named. (Picture: Outside of 25 Van Ness after the 5:17 AM celebration. Gomez's outfit was hand made by Dark Garden in Hayes Valley, Photo Credit: S. Page-Ritchie, Copyright: Gomez/Sabin)
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s she was shaped socially and politically by the close family ties with her great grandmother, Grace and grandmother Lydia. Their history of independence as well as marginalization in an African American community are referenced throughout her work. "Grace A." from the collection Don't Explain is an early example. During her high school and college years Gomez was involved with Black political and social movements which is reflected in much of her writing. Subsequent years in New York City she spent in Black theatre including work with the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop and many years as a stage manager for off Broadway productions.
Jewelle Gomez (b. 1948) is an American author, poet, critic and playwright. Diane Sabin (b. 1952) has been a lesbian feminist activist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Diane Sabin, left, kisses her partner Jewelle Gomez, right after hearing the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriages outside the court house in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 15, 2008. In a monumental victory for the gay rights movement, the California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/ Tony Avelar) Photo: Tony Avelar / SF.
Cheryl Clarke and Jewelle Gomez, 1987, by Robert Giard
During this time she became involved in lesbian feminist activism and magazine publication. She was a member of the CONDITIONS, a lesbian feminist literary magazine. More of Gomez's recent writing has begun to reflect her Native American (Ioway, Wampanoag) heritage.
Gomez is the author of seven books, including the double Lambda Literary Award winning novel The Gilda Stories (Firebrand Books, 1991) . This novel has been in print since 1991 and reframes the traditional vampire mythology, taking a lesbian feminist perspective, is an adventure about an escaped slave who comes of age over two hundred years. According to scholar Elyce Rae Helford, "Each stage of Gilda's personal voyage is also a study of life as part of multiple communities, all at the margins of mainstream white middle-class America."
She also authored the theatrical adaptation of her novel Bones and Ash which in 1996 toured thirteen U.S. cities performed by the Urban Bush Women Company. The book, which remains in print, was also issued by the Quality Paperback Book Club in an edition including the play.
Her other books include Don't Explain, a collection of short fiction; 43 Septembers, a collection of personal/political essays; and Oral Tradition: Selected Poems Old and New.
Her fiction and poetry is included in over one hundred anthologies including the first anthology of Black speculative fiction, Dark Matter: A Century of African American Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree R. Thomas; Home Girls: a Black feminist Anthology from Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and Best American Poetry of 2001 edited by Robert Hass.
Gomez has written literary and film criticism for numerous publications including The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. Magazine and Black Scholar.
She's been interviewed in periodicals and journals over the past twenty-five years including a September 1993 Advocate article where writer Victoria Brownworth discussed her writing origins and political interests. In the Journal of Lesbian Studies (Vol. 5, #3) she was interviewed for an article entitled "Funding Lesbian Activism," which linked her career in philanthropy with her political roots. She's also interviewed in the 1999 film produced for Public Television, After Stonewall, directed by John Scagliotti.
Her newest work includes a forthcoming comic novel, Televised, recounting the lives of survivors of the Black Nationalist movement, which was excerpted in the anthology Gumbo. edited by Marita Golden and E. Lyn Harris.
She authored a play about James Baldwin in 2010 in collaboration with Harry Waters Jr., an actor and professor in the theatre department at MacAlester College. Readings have been held in San Francisco at Intersection for the Arts at a seminar on Baldwin at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, at the Yellow Springs Writers Workshop in Ohio, AfroSolo Festival and the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival. Gomez and Waters were interviewed on the public radio program Fresh Fruit on KFAI by host Dixie Trechel in 2008. The segment also includes two short readings from the script.
Gomez was on the original staff of Say Brother (now Basic Black), one of the first weekly Black television shows (WGBH-TV Boston, 1968), and was on the founding board of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 1984.
She also served on the early boards of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation and the Open Meadows Foundation, both devoted to funding women's organizations and activities. She's been a member of the board of the Cornell University Human Sexuality Archives and the advisory board of the James Hormel LGBT Center of the main San Francisco Public Library. She was a member of the loose-knit philanthropic collective founded in San Francisco in 1998 called 100 Lesbians and Our Friends. The group, co-founded by Andrea Gillespie and Diane Sabin, was designed to educate lesbians who were culturally miseducated—as women—about the use of money and benefits of philanthropy. The philosophy of making "stretch gifts" (not reducing contributions already being made) to lesbian groups and projects raised more than $200,000 in two years.
She was a commencement speaker at the University of California at Los Angeles Queer Commencement and acted as a keynote speaker twice for Gay Pride in New York City and as a host for Pride San Francisco.
She and her partner, Dr. Diane Sabin, were among the litigants against the state of California suing for the right to legal marriage. The case was brought to the courts by the City Attorney of San Francisco, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. She has written extensively about gay rights since the 1980s, including articles on equal marriage in Ms. Magazine and has been quoted extensively during the court case. In May 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the litigants, allowing marriage between same-sex couples in the state of California. Such ceremonies may legally begin after thirty days, which allow municipalities to make administrative changes. They were among 18,000 couples married in California before the anti-equal marriage proposition (Prop 8) came before the California voters and was passed by a narrow margin on November 4, 2008.
Formerly the executive director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University, she has also had a long career in philanthropy. She was the director of Cultural Equity Grants at the San Francisco Arts Commission and the director of the Literature Program for the New York State Council on the Arts.
She has presented lectures and taught at numerous institutions of higher learning including San Francisco State University, Hunter College, Rutgers University, New College of California, Grinnell College, San Diego City College, The Ohio State University and the University of Washington (Seattle). She is the former director of the Literature Program at the New York State Council on the Arts and of Cultural Equity Grants at the San Francisco Arts Commission. She also served as executive director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University.
She is currently employed as Director of Grants and Community Initiatives for Horizons Foundation, the oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender foundation in the US. She serves as the President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission.
Diane A. Sabin (born 1952) was born in New York City and has been a lesbian feminist activist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her early work was in production of lesbian musical performers as well as the Pride stages in San Francisco. She founded a successful community clinic in the Castro district of San Francisco called Sabin Chiropractic. She does activist work to improve the health of lesbians and the LGBT community through representation in the larger health care institutions and research.
Raised in a suburb of Chicago Dr. Sabin attended the University of Redlands in southern California. She spent some years in Boston, Massachusetts during the blossoming lesbian feminist movement at the time that the oft-quoted Combahee Collective was in formation.
After moving to the Bay Area and before becoming a chiropractor, she produced events in San Francisco including the tour of "Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women" based on the collection of well-known poet and activist, Cheryl Clarke. This production was produced in collaboration with two local lesbians of color, Sharon Page Ritchie and Cara Vaugh. She was also responsible for the production of the early San Francisco Pride Stage in the 1980s.
She maintained a chiropractic practice in the Castro for more than 15 years where she developed a community-based private clinic.
The group 100 Lesbians and Our Friends held periodic meetings modeled after lesbian pot luck or CR groups, designed to re-educate women about the power of philanthropic giving. The philosophy was that girls are miseducated about their relationship to money from early youth and needed to rethink how they used their economic power and how they might support each other.
Sabin is currently the executive director of The Lesbian Health & Research Center at University of California in San Francisco. She directs programs working in collaboration with community organizations that develop information about and educate communities about the health of lesbians, bisexual and transgender women. She is also the administrative director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF.
She and her partner, Jewelle Gomez, along with 12 other gay couples became part of a law suit against the State of California in 2004. The suit asking for the right to marry. The complainants are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.
About the lawsuit's significance Sabin said in the San Francisco Daily Journal (3.4.08), a legal periodical: "I think we live in a place where a lot of change is initiated. I think this is a very elemental place. ..it's simply about ending discrimination."
Jewelle Gomez by Robert Giard
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)
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: Firebrand Books; 2 edition (2005)
Amazon: The Gilda Stories
The Gilda Stories is an elegant, sensual, and natural vampire fantasy. Time-traveling from Southern slavery in 1850 to environmental devastation 200 years later, Gilda is the quintessential outsider seeking community. Jewelle Gomez combines a natural flair for storyteller with an ability to weave tapestries of personality that grab the mind's imagination and won't let go. A memorable story, deftly told. -- Midwest Book Review
Don't Explain: Short Fiction by Jewelle Gomez
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Firebrand Books (May 1, 1998)
Amazon: Don't Explain: Short Fiction
Seven traditional short stories, a fantasy novella and a new story about the black lesbian vampire Gilda (introduced in Gomez's Lambda Award-winning novel The Gilda Stories) make up this sexy, eclectic collection. Often set in the Boston area, the more traditional stories feature women (usually of color, usually lesbian) brought together by friendship or desire. In the title story, a Boston waitress in the 1950s gets to serve her idol, Billie Holiday, then later bonds with a potential new lover over their mutual admiration for the singer. In "Water With the Wine," a 50-year-old African American academic confides in her "high femme, straight girl" best friend when a tryst with a younger, white student turns into love. The SF novella "Lynx and Strand" depicts a future government that "monitors every nuance of public social interaction" and the lengths to which a bisexual ad-woman and her "empath" lover must go to escape it. In "Houston," a Gilda story, the vampire meets the witch Archelina and acquires a male companion. Fluidly written and briskly paced, even when they seem little more than erotic sketches, these stories demonstrate an impressive, wide-ranging imagination. Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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