By Panther Daddy
While many of us have “Netflix and Chill” evenings, I tend to have “Hulu and Hunker down” nights.
Those are the evenings I turn off all extraneous devices and focus my attention on catching up on TV shows I miss during the week. One of my more favorites is the show, “Blackish.” It’s about a well-placed black family that is trying to navigate the tricky waters of assimilation and remaining true to their identity as black folks.
There are three generations living under the same roof, each with their own perceptions of what it means to be a person of color in a community where they are the anomaly. Each episode relates to some aspect of black culture that, given the family’s new reality, the task is to figure out how to blend the old with the new and make the situation workable.
One episode that caught my attention was about the importance of the barber shop in the black community.
As related by the main character and my own experience, the barbershop in the black community is more than just a place to have your hair did, it is also a cornerstone in building a sense of community and continuity. You find out who is sick, who got married, had a baby, got a new job or any assortment of information about community members. More importantly, it is a place where younger members of the community get information and a better sense of the history of the black community. Through storytelling, the games of checkers and chess and the endless cast of characters that sit in or behind the chairs, history is passed on to future generations.
Separating fact from fiction is a part of the process, but more importantly, it is a place where black folks can be with others who not only look like them but it’s also a place where they can be themselves. It is an institution that even with the racial strides made, still remains relevant to the identity of a race of people. Perhaps the gay community, including us kinksters, can take a page from this playbook and use it to assist us as we struggle with our new found freedoms and assimilation into the larger culture.
Lately, I’ve read numerous feeds about how many of the mainstay institutions of our community are disappearing, all in the name of progress. From bars to bookstores, the cornerstones of our community are being turned into store fronts, coffee bars, restaurants, upscale housing or are now becoming officially, “mixed” spaces.
Even more interesting is the dichotomy of responses from the different generations. The younger generation believes this is a good thing, since we are now assimilated and those places are deemed irrelevant and no longer necessary and in the long run, make us look bad to the larger society. The more seasoned members of our community are mourning the loss of our identity as a community and are concerned that with the disappearance of these cultural icons, our history and sense of continuity are being erased at the cost of acceptance and assimilation.
The black community has been navigating the choppy waters of assimilation and inclusion for hundreds of years. Especially since the enactment of the Civil Rights act of 1964, the black community has seen how costly assimilation can be to the individual and the community as a whole. However, even with assimilation, the black community has worked to maintain its identity and spirit without having to give up the institutions and cultural icons.
The black community hasn’t deemed black bars as irrelevant because of the ability to mix. Additionally, there are black restaurants, black churches, black social clubs all designed to provide support to its community members. In fact, these institutions are a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of black people and reinforce the importance of maintaining and passing the culture along to future generations.
As we, the LGBTQI community (including Kinksters), move forward with our new found freedoms, perhaps taking the time to sit and dialogue with those who have already experienced the newness of freedom and have managed to thrive and still be authentic, would be to our benefit. Where we are now isn’t where we will be in 10, 20 or 50 years and learning the gifts and pitfalls from those who are further along on this road will be to everyone’s advantage.
My hope is we will begin to understand that distancing ourselves from our past and our history is an irrelevant belief that no longer has a place or power in our community.
Email Ron Clemons, aka Panther Daddy, at [email protected]
March 12 – Leather/Fetish Day at Argos Bar, hosted by Miami Valley Bears and Leathermen, 10 p.m. Argos Bar, Dayton, Ohio, www.facebook.com/events/1100512533303980/
March 19 – CLAW-Imagination, A night of Fantasy and Fetish hosted by SCORPIUS of Cincinnati, 10 p.m., On Broadway Bar, Cincinnati, Ohio, www.facebook.com/events/921032464671435/