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Race, LGBTQ Identity and the Gift of Poetry

I've lived in California for almost 20 years, but visit my family in Texas several times a year. I recently traveled back home for my baby brother's wedding, and to Florida for personal vacation time. I am often asked, "What was it like growing up in Texas?" The query is usually in the context of racial or LGBTQ discrimination. I have always appreciated the political environment of California and the willingness to openly discuss race and LGBTQ identity, which were considered either unpleasant, or taboo discussions, when I was growing up in Dallas. However, I can sincerely say I experience discrimination in California on race and LGBTQ fronts quite often, and I don't just mean systemic forms of discrimination, I mean open hateful comments. This year, in 2019, I have been called both a "faggot," and "nigger" within steps of my work and home in San Francisco. In Texas, racially charged comments happened less often because the communities tend to live in their segregated corners, I had to confront more-so issues concerned with who I was attracted to. To be clear, I am not advocating racial segregation, but offering that my experience living as a black, gay man shifts according to the place and time, and much more nuanced than some people assume based on where I am from. On this trip alone within San Francisco, Dallas, Captiva Island, I engaged in animated discussions with Uber and cab drivers, family members, and fellow passengers waiting on the tarmac from each place. All spoke of their experiences regarding race or LGBTQ, and each tale had an element in which the individual's experience (physical or political threat; freedom; discrimination) shifted according to their physical place within urban space, and the time of day.

So when I travel, I am mindful of these shifts and the nuanced forms of discrimination I may encounter. I think about how my separate communities exist in the context of urban space, place, and time. To get out of my own head, I like to read, and journey into the mind of another. While traveling to Texas and Florida, I completed a book of poetry by Charif Shanahan, Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, which explores themes on intersectional racial, and gay identity and how these identities affect relationships with ourselves and others. I often read poetry while traveling, enjoying the shifts in rhythm as the author bares their truth. Shanahan does not disappoint. Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing is not only a collection of dynamic, skillfully written poems, it is a journal to the development of a human soul. The words and imagery reflect the "otherness" lived by people who are not members of dominate social culture based on physical characteristics, and the unwelcome challenge when physical characteristics crosscut our distorted racial view of humanity. "Black" is not easily defined, not here in the United States, or anywhere in the world, but the confines of blackness are clearer. Shanahan gives the reader a lens into the world as he discovers blackness within himself, and the negative space left by those who attempt to deny the confines of blackness placed upon them, while living within its cages.

I certainly enjoy a heartfelt read and I highly suggest you take time to look at the "others" point of view through art. Emotionally triggering and nuanced concepts such as race and sexuality are ripe for exploration through art mediums of all kinds, and I especially enjoyed this journey in poetry while contemplating my own experiences with race, and LGBTQ identity. Thank you Charif Shanahan for sharing your soul with us.

Brave artists who expose themselves for the world to see inspires my own work as I explore similar themes of race and sexuality. Please sign up at to receive notifications if you would like to read more blogs like these, comments are welcome. View my gallery of photography at Please follow @pr3creativity

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