There is a need for a voice that is unapologetic yet sincere, relatable yet personal. Son of Baldwin fills this void. As the top writer in topics concerning BlackLivesMatter, Racism and Politics on his online platform medium.com, he takes us into a world of truth that’s pretty difficult to escape. He says, “if there’s anything I learned about the Internet and social media, lies travel much faster and much farther than the truth.”
Son of Baldwin serves candidness with stories like one entitled “I’m Terrified to Tell You that I’m a Rape Survivor Because I’m Afraid You’re Going to Judge Me Negatively, Deny My Experience, and Care More About Not Having Your Favorite Celebrities Interrogated or Your Entertainment Disrupted, but I’m Going to Take a Chance and Tell You Anyway.” He tells it like it is, has been and always should be.
In the words of the late, great James Baldwin: “You write in order to change the world… if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”
What’s the meaning behind your pseudonym, Son of Baldwin?
The pseudonym “Son of Baldwin” speaks to writer/activist James Baldwin’s call to “find him in the wreckage” and continue ancestral tradition of activism, anger, art, criticism, disturbance, identity, joy, love, outrage, politics, reconciliation, and sexuality from the perspective of a black queer man. In many ways, Son of Baldwin is a direct tribute to James Baldwin while, simultaneously, forging its own, distinct path.
Toni Morrison says, “I’m writing for black people… I don’t have to apologize.” For whom are you writing? What is your ideal audience?
I don’t think I’m actually speaking “for” anyone. Rather, I think I’m speaking to and with black queer people first, foremost, and primarily. I like the idea of having conversations, rather than me separating myself from the group and claiming to speak on their behalf. Sure, I may start and lead these conversations. I may be the one asking the first question, but I’d like to think that I’m seated at the circle rather than standing in the center of it, if that makes any sense.
Your writing is based heavily on self-reflection and experiential accounts. How do you find a neutral balance between subjective and objective writing.
Honestly, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “objective writing.” I think we tend to mistake lack of emotion or passion, or the attempt to remove oneself from the narrative, as objectivity. Even items that merely catalog data are subjective. Whenever and wherever there is a human being involved in creating anything, whether it be writing or some other artifact, I believe the product is inherently subjective.
Additionally, there are things that I have absolutely no interest in attempting to be objective about. Bigotry is chief among those things. I think part of the reason we are in the state of messiness that we are currently in comes from this notion that bigotry and anti-bigotry are equally moral and valid propositions. I find such beliefs inherently flawed and designed to maintain the most evil aspects of the status quo. So, I’m less interested in “balance” than I am articulating truths as I experience them. From my perspective, “balance” has become euphemism for legitimizing bigotry.
How (or has) your language changed or become more charged since the rise of our new President?
The first thing that has changed is that I’ve developed a desire to not to give that man any more of my energy. I won’t even say his name. I believe he is a parasite that feeds off of even our disgust of him. So, instead, I will focus on how to counteract the bigoted policies, of him and his cabal, which are surely coming, rather than waste time being outraged at every unbelievably vile word that comes out of his mouth, which I think is a purposeful distraction designed to keep up occupied and offended while his demons do their dirty work as our heads are turned.
What has been the experience of having your own following as a writer?
It’s been interesting. On the one hand, I’ve received a great deal of support and I think I’ve been able to improve my skills as a writer after receiving constructive criticism from readers. On the other hand, you become a target of other people’s distortions, falsehoods, hostility, insecurities, and misconceptions. And if there’s anything I learned about the Internet and social media, lies travel much faster and much farther than the truth. So the experience of having an online following as a writer has definitely been a case of being willing to take the dirty with the dope.
In her essay, Flibbertigibbet in a White Room / Competencies, Simone White wrote, “It is total bullshit to enjoy being in a social or creative community that is segregated the way poetry is segregated.” Does your own work lead you toward or away from segregation?
This question makes me think about the necessity for safer spaces. I believe marginalized peoples need and deserve spaces unavailable to the dominant cultures and dominant peoples, spaces where we can exhale, laugh, relax, ruminate, be artistic, dance, argue, plan, strategize, commune, love, and think. In that sense, I think segregation is important. Integration comes at a great price and usually involves the dominant culture dominating, appropriating, and erasing not only our contributions, but also doing those things to us. A peculiar kind of integration leads to genocide–whether emotional, physical, psychological, or spiritual. There is a point of view that demands we remain in dialogue with people who despise us as a means to, I’m not sure, change their minds, maybe? Convince them of our humanity? Reach a “compromise”? I’m not interested in any of that. It’s not my job to convince people of the self-evident. My job is to move them out of the way if they refuse to acknowledge it. So I guess my work leads me toward segregation. And I’m not mad at that. My grandfather, who died in 2014 at the age of 96, told me that during segregation, the black community he came from was whole and thriving. He said it wasn’t until integration that things, literally, fall apart. I believe him.
What (or who) has inspired your love for the written word?
My father, who passed away many years ago, bought me my very first comic book when I was four years old. I’ve been reading and collecting comic books ever since. Reading those comic books led me to want to write stories of my own. I was compelled to write as a child who was bullied for being black and queer. Writing was an escape from brutality. Additionally, reading my Aunt Jandel’s poetry as a pre-teen also made me want to write. It wasn’t until I encountered Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, however, that I thought that I could cultivate my talent for writing as art. Morrison and Baldwin are the bar that I reach for every time I write. I can’t say if I’ll ever reach them, but I’m going to forever try.
How do you use your platform to promote positivity in a time where rapists and police officers are habitually avoiding jail time.
I think underlying much of what we discuss at Son of Baldwin is the idea that as long as we have breath, we have an opportunity to effect positive change. Even when things seem hopeless, at least one of us has within us a solution that merely needs supporters. The most difficult part of the work is remaining hopeful, I think. And I can’t say that I always am. I’m not always hopeful, in fact. I’m not always positive. But being alive gives me at least the chance to dare.
What is your ultimate goal as Son of Baldwin? What’s next on the table?
I’d love to develop Son of Baldwin into its own, self-sustaining entity, outside of social media, on its own platform, similar to what Awesomely Luvvie has done with her property, but with a focus on black queer matters. I’d love to be able to bring on/pay a staff of moderators and writers and artists and thinkers to develop content with the expressed purpose of helping to achieve black queer liberation. I’m going to try to make that happen, but it’s slow going because I work a full-time job (I have bills to pay! LOL!) and I’m also working on my own, personal work. I just finished my first novel and I’m in the process of meeting with literary agents. And I also started working on the second novel. So it’s all just a matter of managing/finding the time.
What advice do you have to those whose rainbow is not enuf?
Shout out to the genius Ntozake Shange!
Keep in mind that there are colors in the rainbow that we cannot perceive with the five senses and so it is important to develop those other, less utilized tools, to help us through: blood memory is one; discernment is another. One of the things I’ve recently discerned is that the entire American identity is sculpted from the idea that who we intrinsically are as human beings is insufficient, that we are incomplete without some material thing, many material things that must be continuously purchased, to define us and make us whole. The first bit of advice would be this: Try to remember that even though the entire world is positioned to make you believe the opposite, you are, alone, because you exist, enuf. And your job is to pass that message on to some other person who feels erroneously incomplete, until it is finally, by everyone, believed.