Blessed Assurance and All God’s Children

Question 2
That extra information provided changes how I think about Hughes’s story “Blessed Assurance”  a lot. As someone who has very little experience with religion (other than the one night a year at a congregational church on Christmas eve) I did not know the story that the song was referring to. It now makes much more sense that it was upsetting Delly’s father John. John was having a very hard time accepting his son for who he was, so seeing him sing the song about the possibility only gay people in the Bible must have been shocking. I think that in general, I would have a better understanding of the readings with religious symbols or religious topics if I had a better understanding of the Bible. Having not been to Church much growing up, most of what I read about religion is new to me.

Question 3
All God’s Children provides context to the intersectionality in the Black culture. It shows how it is possible to be Black, gay and religious. Those things have had a complicated relationship in the past and the people in the film are explaining how the Bible says to love everyone, not just straight people. “Blessed Assurance” by Langston Hughes shows a different side of Black sexuality. In All God’s Children, every parent that talked about their child’s sexuality was very supportive. They talked about how they love their child no matter what and they are just the same as everyone else. In the story by Hughes, the father John is having a difficult time with his son sexuality. The form of All God’s Children works really well for me. I like that there we got to see the different stories of people experience of intersectionality in the church intertwined with the gospel singing.

Facing Homophobia with Love

The main argument of the chapter titled “Homophobia and Heterosexism in the Black Church and Community” by Kelly Brown Douglas is that homophobia is a subject that the Black community must confront. Douglas argues that virtual silence “has characterized the Black community’s consideration of gay and lesbian sexuality” (Douglas 997) .However, she also argues that the Black community is not more homophobic than the rest of society, this idea is only asserted due to the Black church’s history of oppression and exploitation by white people that simply makes Black homophobia appear more passionate and tenacious. She claims that in society, the Bible is often used, even by non-religious people, as “a tool for censoring a group of people, in this case, gay men and lesbians” (Douglas 999) even though the Bible itself does not present a very clear position on homosexuality. In my opinion, one of the most powerful parts of this chapter was when Douglas asserted that, “With such a history of the Bible being used against them, it seems abhorrent for Black people to be so steadfast in their use of the Bible against other Black persons, in this case, gay men and lesbians” (Douglas 1000). I think this argument is powerful because it is so accurate and heart wrenching that I think it might be able to change certain people’s minds regarding homosexuality. To be even more helpful and encouraging, she suggests how Black biblical scholars might go about this, “In drawing attention to this “tradition of terror,” these scholars must prompt Black people to make the connections between the way the Bible was used by Whites to terrorize them and the manner in which Black people use it to terrorize gay and lesbian persons” (Douglas 1005). She is very clever in not encouraging religious Black people to listen to the Bible or White people and instead encouraging religious Black people to ask if their way of religion is supporting the life and freedom of ALL Black people. I also really liked the point Douglas made about how claiming that homosexuality is a white disease erases the existence and denies the humanity of so many Black women and men. Overall, I really liked how she explained why certain prejudices exist: “In a society where privilege is accorded on the basis of race, gender, and sexual preference, heterosexual privilege is virtually the only privilege that Black people-especially Black woman-can claim in order to move to the center” (Douglas 1012) but still didn’t excuse these prejudices in the Black community.

In terms of the short story Blessed Assurance, the fact that Dr. Manley Jaxon writes and dedicates an anthem to Delmar based on a queer character in the Bible makes the story even more powerful. I think it is very interesting that Langton Hughes weaves so many queer references into this short story, even naming the director after a transgender musician. I really like the way he did this because it is a slight enough nod that only people involved in queer culture would understand. Although a tension is alluded to between Delmar and the director, the fact that the anthem he had Delmar perform was based on a same-sex relationship from the scriptures solidifies the queerness in this story. Although there is a queer love story hidden behind all the homophobia of the narrator, it must be acknowledged that John is actually trying to figure out who the homosexuality came from in their family, to place the blame on someone. As if homosexuality is genetic. He also has very strict ideas on masculinity that it seems almost no son could fit into perfectly.

Ruth Down, Naomi to Go

Learning of the interpretations of the story of Ruth and Naomi in the bible the song written by the choir director takes a different meaning. Initially when reading the story, I thought that maybe the comment made by John was a reference to a potential relationship but the story from the bible makes it much clearer. The idea of cleaving oneself from society and norms for love appears to be a very real aspect to this story. Lyrically, it makes a lot of sense, the song mentions leaving and following a person. Perhaps this is a reference to the choir director following Delly to Paris and them being able to live a much freer life there. Ruth and Naomi left and were able to live full lives without the norms of the time just as Delly and the director should.
John seems to not approve of this. Despite the fact that Delly is the best singer many of the parishioners have ever heard, John does not enjoy the fact his son is no longer interested in sports or the things that he wishes him to be. His comment of “one down, one to go,” makes a lot of sense because he sees the director and his son in some sort of unholy bond and he wishes his son would faint to stop his embarrassment. This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

Perception Drives What You See

Prompt Two
To begin with, it is interesting that despite the hints at Delmar’s “effeminacy,” there is no explicit indication that he is actually gay. The story is simply John’s perceptions of what a man should and shouldn’t do, which is, as it stands, a construct purely in John’s mind. While it can be inferred, or assumed, Delmar could very well be heterosexual and simply blur the boundaries between the gender roles society believes are “normal” because he is comfortable with himself.

John’s perception of Delmar and everything around him created the space for his homophobia, including the case of the song Dr. Jaxon wrote. John internally thinks that the solo lead should have been a woman’s part, but Dr. Jaxon gives the excuse that “no one else can do it justice” and “the girls in the ensemble really have no projection.” But it is unlikely that the story of Ruth would have been taught to the church as a homosexual story. It simply would have been another Bible story to John. Furthermore, when describing Delmar’s singing voice, John repeatedly references Sam Cooke. If John perceived Delmar’s voice to be masculine enough, his issue fell into the intertextuality of Delly’s previous actions as well as the fact that a woman was at the heart of the story being told.

Prompt Three
I found the documentary intriguing and heartwarming. Getting to hear the stories of black gay and lesbian religious leaders, as well as their parents, was mildly comforting. Particularly the section where the parents were discussing their children who passed from HIV/AIDS.

Coming out to my parents was not nearly that wholesome or warm and accepting, and is one of the many things that drove me away from religion. Hearing someone, especially someone close to you, justify their hatred of part of who you are using a book that cannot be verified as fact can often drive a wedge between you. Particularly when that person claims to love you. So it makes me happy that not all Black LGBT+ people have lost their faith because of the way other people have treated them

Queer People of Color Pride Flag

POST A RESPONSE BY THURSDAY (TOMORROW!) BETWEEN 9:45 and 11:05 am!

No need to comment on classmates’s posts here online but be sure to post your own  response to TWO of the prompts below by Thursday between 9:45 am and 11:05 am! Give your one post a clever title and add images or links.  No new reading or viewing for now!!!! Do work on your next essay due Nov 6.  Log in to our Teams class on Thursday if you’d like to talk to others about your paper topic.  There may be classmates there ready to chat!!!!

CHOOSE ANY TWO OF THESE PROMPTS

1.)Using any terms/definitions that could be helpful, state Kelly Brown Douglas’s primary argument/thesis.  Then, ask yourselves:  What evidence in her article do you find most compelling and why?  What evidence doesn’t quite work for you – and why?

2.)How does the following info. complicate/enhance your reading of Hughes’s tale?  (Refer to specific lines/phrases/structural elements of Hughes’s tale and their pg #s when you answer)

While the father obsesses over what he considers his son’s obvious effeminacy, things come to a head when the director, a Dr. Manley Jaxon, writes and dedicates an original anthem to Delmar based on the story of Ruth in the Bible.  Those of us with a queer eye for the bible know that some theologians now consider the story of Ruth and Naomi to be one of a few same-sex relationships remotely possible in the scriptures.  Those of us with a working knowledge of black same-gender history will also recognize the peculiar spelling of the doctor’s last name as that of Frankie (Half-Pint) Jaxon, a transgendered musician of the 20’s and 30’s.

The bible story they musically reenact establishes Ruth as Jesus’s ancestor through her celebrated relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth and Naomi simultaneously lose their husbands to some unnamed catastrophe and,according to Hebrew law and custom, are expected to separate and find new husbands to support them. However, instead of moving back into her father’s house until she can remarry, Ruth defies tradition by moving with Naomi to Bethlehem and supporting her “better than seven sons” (4:15). Her loyalty is considered exemplary because she chose to leave the family, culture, and religion of her birth for Naomi. The verb used to describe Ruth’s attachment,”to cleave,” is the same one used to refer to the matrimonial bond in Genesis (72).Ruth pleads, “entreat me not to leave thee … for where you go, I will go … your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” This moment is heralded as the greatest proof of Ruth’s love and devotion towards Naomi and her Hebrew God.

3.)What thoughts do you have about the form or content of the documentary film?  Or both the film and content!!!!

Another Strange Land: Downpour off Cape Hatteras (March, 1864)

Aaron Coleman’s dissection of this shipwreck and the way he not only describes it but, but places the reader within the environment is impressive. Detail by detail he crafts an image and a sensory experience that is very personal and close to him as his ancestor had to survive the trials he describes. The vivid colors, textures, and all over situation that he created feels very alive and real. The resilience and strong spirit he displays is representative of the fighting spirit his ancestor carried, but also the strength that he carries too. The strength to keep fighting and not surrender your spirt or determination even when in one of the hardest situations in history, and on a sinking ship.

Loss of the U.S.S. Monitor, off Cape Hatteras, North ...

The memories he recalls upon and the power and strength he pulls from such as David, as a soldier, as a free man demonstrates the narrators unwillingness to go into the light, to surrender his freedom and everything he has fought for to take control of his body and his life.

Violent Exploits

American Football was very interesting to me. The line “I wanted to be a trophy before I wanted to be a man” hits at a point seldom made in American sports. Especially at the professional level, the vast majority of team owners are white and the vast majority of players are black. The men that play for these owners are often sought after like trophies and seen as simply a means to an end.
The other aspect of this poem that I found very interesting was the usage of violence. Football is an extremely violent sport that encourages a lack of humanity. Many players struggle with having an on field persona of violence and having an off field persona of something different. I think Coleman is dead on in that many players cannot turn off their violent tendencies and open their heart to anything. The exploitation and corruption of these men is not spoken about very often but this poem does it extremley well.

Religion in “A Fire She Loved”

In the poem  “A Fire She Loved”, Aaron Coleman depicts a woman getting drunk on whiskey and reflecting back to her job of feeding people. Coleman shows that this woman prioritizes drinking as it was “Heavier and warmer than the feel on her face of the oven” and that she had no regrets doing it. A third element of this poem is religion. Even though she has been out of church for a long time, she still reflects back to God when she sings under her breath. This woman’s relationship with Alcohol, Baking and Religion are on three different levels. Her relationship with Whiskey is the strongest of them all, she loved drinking and prioritizes it over anything since she wonders why she baked instead of why she drank. When it comes to baking, she is a good one. However, she wonders why she kept on feeding so many people on her own. Her relationship with religion is extremely weak as described in the poem in a couple of short lines, she hasn’t been in church for a long time yet she sings spirituals with a really low voice. This shows how this women is not as proud with her religion life as she is with Whiskey.

Drunk woman - cartoon nun lady vector illustration.

Spanish Translation with Aaron Coleman

I first learned about the art of translation from working under Prof. Bourne. I think Coleman described my understanding of it well. It’s that he could walk away from a translation more easily than his own work because the words are already there. He is just trying to reconfigure them. It was also interesting to hear him talk about the balance between rhyme scheme and form versus meaning.

Hearing Coleman talk about how he really just fell into studying Spanish was fascinating too. He just worked very hard with the encouragement of past teachers at his back to learn the language until he ecame sufficient for communication and he loved the doors that it opened. I guess that’s the thing about learning new languages, being able to talk to more people on subjects that previously would have been off the table.

The: (Pained but Apparently Necessary?) Trophy Man

After attending the Poetry Reading by Aaron Coleman, I was intrigued by a multitude of things and greatly moved by his readings of his poetry. Prior to hearing him read them, it was slightly difficult for me to fully connect to his writings, I deeply wanted to know the tones, the emphasis, the slight elevations in pitch that came with every word, line and punctuation mark. I knew that there was a powerful message within each line of poetry, but I needed to hear what came between the lines to completely resonate with the works, and for those reasons I am so grateful that I got to attend such a great event.

Upon my first read and even more as I listened to Coleman, a poem that resonated with me was “Viciousness In Ends”.  I remember being immediately struck by the line, “because we swore a man is born where he breaks”. I thought about how concepts of masculinity are outlined by violence and roughness, showcased in the poem by references to boxing and BB guns. Coleman discussed in the talk how the palindrome structure used in the poem references the feeling of being trapped that comes with masculinity, and I feel like as a reader I got the same feeling of trapped-ness in the poem “American Football” with Coleman’s description of the football helmet as [caging his] face, and [hugging his] skull. These lines feel constricting and uncomfortable. Much like the cyclical nature of toxic masculinity, especially for men who may not fit the status quo of what the expectations masculinity are. In “Viciousness In Ends” the lines “swing harder” gave feelings of instruction, indicating that these notions of masculinity are ones that are taught and inherited through means of observation rather than naturally occurring in society. In “American Dream” the lines, “I know the boy I am” and “We reset and collide” insinuate a knowledge of what it means to be masculine and a duty to uphold it, with Coleman going on to describes a boy “zagging lines, side to side as if his life depends on it.” The reader also sees a steady conflation of pain and masculinity in each poems, ranging from blood in the mouth and sweltering blows in “Viciousness in the Ends” and ringing ears and dizziness in “American Dream”, illustrating how the tie to masculinity can be degrading to both the mental and physical body.  

I think the same overarching concepts that I got from Coleman’s poems can be easily applied to behavior we see in black male figures in our films. We see that each of the male figures masculinity styles either are products of their environments like The Young Intellectual, Duff and Malcom X, or are becoming products of their environments like James, with each of the types of masculinities observed in the films having elements of pain in them. Through both poems, I feel like Coleman illustrates well the relationship between environmental influence and masculinity.