Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview with an Icon: Mike Ruiz

Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity (thanks Bebe!) to attend Mike Ruiz's t-shirt release party at TAGG in Manhattan. Mike has designed a new line of amazing t-shirts with a truly spectacular purpose: to raise money for the Ali Forney Center--a portion of the proceeds from each t-shirt sale goes to support the center. Founded in 2002, the Ali Forney Center provides a safe, dignified and nurturing environment where LGBT homeless young people can begin putting their lives back together. This partnership between Mike Ruiz and Ali Forney is why I reached out, with the support of my pal Jose, and asked Mike if he would provide an interview to My Feet Only Walk Forward. Thank you Mike, Martin and the rest of your amazing team for taking the time to make this interview happen.

Interview with an Icon: Mike Ruiz

Thank you for agreeing to provide an interview to My Feet Only Walk Forward. As a long time advocate for homeless youth, particularly the overwhelming and out of proportion percentage of homeless and precariously housed youth that are LGBT, I am very appreciative of your work and support of the Ali Forney Center. On a personal note, I am a fan of your brilliant photography, and I am appreciative of the role you play in supporting our community.

On to the questions:

1) Talk to me about your new t-shirt project. How did it come about? Who designed the shirts? What's the backstory?

I've always taken an unconventional approach to my work as an artist, and the concept behind my t-shirt line is no different. As my public profile continues to expand, I realize the value of being able to tap into my celebrity to drive a return on investment. Tying my philanthropic interests with my professional world, allows me to monetize and raise capital for charity. That is my motivation behind creating the line in the first place--which I designed myself.

I'm happy to say that the tees have created quite a stir. They're becoming a part of pop culture, as many of the celebrities I photograph having been supporting my cause by buying and wearing the tees. A portion of the proceeds benefit The Ali Forney Center; an organization that helps homeless LGBTQ youth.

2) Why is it important for you to give back to the community? How does this work connect with your own personal history and interests?

My inate sense of social responsibility is what drives me to give back to the community. I find it very gratifying to know that I am able to make a difference and possibly give someone the opportunity to make their life a little bit better. Growing up on the fringes of society, as an overweight, ethnic and gay boy in a blue collar suburb of Montreal, opened my eyes to what it means to live without hope. Luckily, I was able to tap into something within myself that spoke to something bigger than my life and surroundings as a child. It is my overarching optimism that I hope will rub off on others.

3) Lady Gaga just announced a $1,000,000 gift to support at-risk teens in New York City, you are doing this amazing project to support the Ali Forney Center, Andy Bell recently re-recorded an Erasure hit with all the proceeds going to support the Hetrick-Martin Institute, has there been any discussion amongst your network of engaged celebrities about coordinating efforts for a broader impact?

I think of Gaga a heroine and renaissance woman. The fact that she made such a generous monetary gift is quite laudable but my admiration for her is that she lives her truth and shares it with the world. As a result, she is touching countless disenfranchised people, who otherwise, would not have a voice. It is her selflessness which really amazes me. Andy Bell and others like him are further proof that there's a lot of good people in this world. Hopefully, the trend will continue gaining momentum, where more and more individuals will continue coming forward--speaking to all forms of injustice and make a broader and positive impact on our world.

My circle of friends are of the same mindset as me. Those with the financial means are either currently contributing or have been giving for quite some time now--both publicly and anonymously. Still others give their time as volunteers. In any case, I believe that we all gravitate toward each other because of this particular commonality. Right now, I am in the process of working with a few friends on an important project that will give greater exposure and speak to our pride and our efforts to level the playing field in terms of equality. Unfortunately, I can't say much else right now, so as to not compromise this group effort. Suffice it to say I am honored to be a part of this particular project

4) You are an icon whose appeal crosses all sorts of demographics, but I have been to numerous of your parties and there are many young, fashionable, gay men that idolize you and your work and hope to follow in your footsteps. What is the impact of your charitable work you'd like to see on this young party crew?

I am flattered that I'm considered an "icon". I think that I am merely a conduit to impart a message of hope and serve as a means of inspiration for others to tap into their own resources.
That said, it would be awesome to inspire the next generation to pass along the value of giving back. It's the most efficient way I can think of to help humanity to continually improve upon its condition.

5) What other causes are near and dear to your heart and how do you support those issues?

Aside from the Ali Forney Center, I'm a great proponent of The Trevor Project, GMHC, GLAAD, Live Out Loud and a myriad of others. I donate my time and artwork to these organizations in the hope ofcraising money for their causes. I also speak frequently at schools and colleges and conduct workshops to share my experiences in a practical environment.

6) Finally, where can folks buy your t-shirts? And where can people find out more about the exciting projects you might be working on next?

For more details about me and my projects, visit:

My t-shirts are available online through the e-tailer Peppermint Park. For purchases, go to:

In New York, the tees are also available at "TAGG", 720 Ninth Avenue and soon will be carried at "Any Old Iron" at 149 Orchard Street!

Thank you Mike for all of your work and your commitment to our community.

Mike Ruiz is a world-renowned photographer, who also happens to be a TV personality, former model, actor and director. Mike's lens has done a whole lot of zooming in and zooming out, while the world keeps a keen focus on his high-impact, surreal brand of celebrity and fashion photography.

Throughout it all, Mike's hard work, dedication and passion behind the camera gives him the opportunity to bring his message of hope to the forefront of all his efforts. Mike has a true sense of social responsibility and is always intent on giving back to the community. Among the countless organizations he supports, are GMHC, The Trevor Project, Housing Works, It Gets Better Campaign, Living Out Loud, Project Angel Food, GLAAD, and is on he honorary board of “Let There Be Hope” research foundation. He has gone so far as to create a t-shirt line that helps raise funds and awareness for The Ali Forney Center. Mike is also the communications consultant on The Men’s Sexual Health Project  36:00:00 for NYU School of Medicine. Mike is also a recurring motivational speaker at New York University, the Art Center College of Design, Brooklyn International High School and the College of Design in Sacramento.

In addition to his advertising and celebrity clients, Mike Ruiz has branched out as a director. He has produced music videos for artists, such as Vanessa Williams, Kelly Rowland, Jody Watley, Kristine W., Shontelle among others. Mike has also appeared on several reality shows. Such shows include Kathy Griffin's: My Life on the D-List; America's Next top Model and RuPaul's Drag Race, where he appears as a celebrity photographer and guest judge. He also rounded out the panel of expert judges on the third season of Canada's Next Top Model. Most recently, Mike is on the hit reality series, The A-List: New York, giving viewers a peek at his picture perfect LIFE...what's next on Mike's list? That is anybody's guess--but you can be sure there will be plenty more to come!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lady Gaga, The Robin Hood Foundation, and the Hetrick-Martin Institute

Hey my friends! Take a minute to read this and cast your vote many many many times. I am a member of the Young Professionals Council of the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Please support our young people!

Lady Gaga and Robin Hood Foundation: $1 Million for NYC Youth

VOTE for HMI to win $500,000!

Starting today and continuing through 6:00 am eastern standard time Friday, May 6th vote for HMI to win $500,000!

In a historic initiative, LGBTQ activist and ground-breaking artist Lady Gaga has partnered with the Robin Hood Foundation to launch an interactive contest through Facebook, of which Hetrick-Martin is a principal partner!

Lady Gaga and Robin Hood are partnering to donate $1 million between five New York City-based youth services charities. Awards will be split determined by an online vote present on Lady Gaga’s Facebook page. The group receiving the most votes will win $500,000. The winner will be revealed on May 9th at Robin Hood’s annual gala.

This contest affords Hetrick-Martin the ability to provide counseling to more LGBTQ youth and their families, clothe more homeless LGBTQ youth from our onsite Pantry, administer more free HIV tests, and serve more meals in the Café. With young people coming out earlier than ever before, the need for our unique services has increased at an unprecedented rate.

To vote you must have a Facebook account. Voting is easy:
Step 1 Go to Lady Gaga’s Facebook page by clicking here
Step 2 Click “I Like” to be able to vote
Step 3 Click on the Vote tab and choose The Hetrick-Martin Institute
Step 4 Click on the submit tab to cast your vote

You can vote as many times as you want!

A donation of this amount can have a tremendous impact on HMI and the work we do providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth to achieve their full potential.

How you can help:
VOTE for HMI, and vote frequently! Remember you can vote as many times as you want.
Forward this Facebook link to your friends, family and colleagues.
Post on your Facebook page, forward to your friends and Tweet about it.

To learn more about The Hetrick-Martin Institute, or to make a donation, please visit

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Loving and Letting Go

So, last summer my best friend, who happened to be a former boyfriend that I loved with all my heart, committed suicide. He had been in a sad place for a while, though, like most of us living through our own trials, what he saw as the things standing in his way, those things weighing on his spirit, were not as great as they felt to him. When he failed to achieve a goal he set out to do, the failure tore at him. He became a failure rather than having simply not had the resources, at the time, to do what he had set out to do. In the end, he could no longer see what everyone else could see: he was a beautiful and brilliant man that loved others and lifted others up in a way that I am not sure I am even capable of approximating. When Chris loved you, you knew what it was to have someone believe in you, totally, without compromise. He laughed at the silly and stupid masks we put on and, despite how good we thought we were at applying masks and cover up, he saw right on through it and loved what was underneath selflessly and absolutely. How could you not feel beautiful when someone loved you that way? With Chris loving me, slowly, I began to see past the face in the mirror...that distorted image of childhood trauma and low that face that Chris saw. I caught glimpses of another Brandon...and when I couldn't see him...or believe in him...Chris believed enough for the both of us.

I know, though, that when I am in a place where it is hard to keep moving forward because everything feels heavy and hard, until I am able to find a vantage point that will truly let me put what I'm going through into perspective, all the love in the world isn't going to do it for me. What love does is give me strength to draw on to maybe take one more step. There were times when Chris was the love that got me through. Chris gave me the gift of allowing me to love him through hard times in the past. But last Summer, one night in July, my love wasn't enough. The last time I talked to him, the night before he died, he called me, and when I answered, he started crying and said, before hanging up the phone, that it was too hard for him to hear my voice. I know now that it wasn't Chris that called me that night. He may have dialed the number, but when I answered the phone, it was his mask that answered. It was the voice of what he perceived as his failures that shut down my beautiful Chris and plugged up his ears.

I didn't know that would be our last conversation. If I'd had even the tiniest moment of precognition, I would have kept him on the phone. I would have called him back, and if he didn't answer, I would have filled up his voicemail box with messages of love. And when the mailbox filled up, I would have texted him. I would have sent him silly pictures and inappropriate comments. I would have reminded him of all the awesome, stupid, happy, sad memories I have of our friendship. I would have filled up his inbox with anything and everything to try and shout down and crowd out those voices whispering ugly and hateful words into his spirit. And, if necessary, I would have called anyone within a 100 mile radius and had them drive to his house and held him until I could get to him myself. I would have rode Mimzy to Virginia if that is the only way that I'd had to get down there.

But, I didn't know that it was our last conversation, and less than twelve hours later, he was gone. When his boyfriend, who was staying with us that weekend, called to tell me, I didn't believe him at first. I actually thought that his boyfriend, also named Chris, must have misunderstood whatever message he'd gotten, but since he was obviously upset, I went into business mode, told him I would be back to the apartment shortly, and then hung up the phone. When I got back to the apartment, I sat, quietly, without saying much. I am not going at crying in front of other people, and Chris was in crisis, and if anything I am fucking amazing in crisis (so much so that I don't understand how to live outside of crisis mode...a fucked up way of being that keeps me in a cycle of always run back to what feels comfortable no matter how stupid it may be to do so). Though I may have had a calm face on the outside, in the inside, the whole time that I was trying to be present for Chris the Boyfriend, I was screaming inside. In fact, it got so bad that when tears started to come, I clamped down on them with a tremendous mental force because I knew that if I let the tears start that the screaming wouldn't just be inside, it would have be real. If I'd started screaming out what I was feeling, I am not sure when I would have been able to stop it. I was so sad and so angry. I wanted to go to Virginia and kick Chris' body until I could lift my leg anymore. I wanted to punch him in the face for being so fucking dumb and selfish. I wanted to take off of my belt and beat him until my arm cramped up for thinking that it was easier to pick up a gun than the phone. And once I had exhausted myself and rested, I wanted to find his parents and beat the shit out of them as well for not seeing how badly he was hurting and put his ass in a mental ward if that's what it would have taken. I wanted to find anyone that had ever hurt Chris and made him believe that those voices inside of him were telling the goddamn truth. Then I wanted to find God and kick the shit out of him too.

So, instead of doing all of that drama...I did what I do best. I stuffed all of my emotions deep deep deep down, labeled the box I put them in, and then tucked them into the deep freezer. Nothing like unresolved emotional issues ;-).

Fast forward to recently. Chris and I met in rehab. We both (him past tense struggled, me present tense struggle) with addiction. So, when I started going back to the fellowship of which we were both members, I spent most of my first meeting not thinking about my own shit...but remembering Chris. I remembered all of the love and encouragement he gave me when we were both starting out on this path together. And then came the survivor's guilt....but mostly...I just remembered him and let the memories run one into the other, which, would have been awesome, except one of my visions of Hell is breaking down crying, seemingly spontaneously, in front of 200 some odd folks in one room. I have a hard enough time crying by myself, at home, in the middle of the night, with the shades pulled and the lights off. Though the feelings aren't as overwhelming now, every time I walk into one of those rooms and sit down, Chris is right there and all of the sadness and love for him is right there too.

Today, when I was having coffee with Mark, with whom I usually attend meetings, I told him about Chris and who Chris had been, how he'd died, and what he meant to me. I told him about Honey Bun and how amazing she is and that she is thinking about going to Heaven soon. He listened. He heard me. I kept from completely crying, but a few tears leaked out, but Mark gave me permission to cry, which is a gift that I appreciate though I sure as Hell wasn't about to break down in the middle of Chelsea on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon with half the gays in the city rolling through to get a non-fat skim milk light mocha coconut banana dark roast espresso latte americano frappe-gay-cino.

But it did help me realize that I still had some things I needed to let myself work through where Chris is related. It helped me admit and own that I have grief that I need to let go so that it doesn't continue to be something I use any means necessary to escape from...and I realized that if I told him that Honey Bun maybe leaving soon, if I asked for support now, that maybe when it's her time...I can let myself feel what I need to feel and then let those feelings go so that they do not become another excuse to self-medicate and numb myself. Especially since once that old bird is dead and has the ability to pop in whenever the Hell she feels like it, I am afraid that she would show up, switch in hand, and whoop my ass if I self-medicated to deal with her passing. I can hear her now, "Dumb ass know better...and since you want to act simple...I am going to simply whoop your little black butt until the dumb is all beaten off of it."

Aright, I have half a dozen or more friends coming over in three hours for Easter dinner, and I have a mess of greens sitting by the sink that aren't going to cook themselves, so I better have at it. It's Easter, and Easter is about family, so I thought I had to make sure that Chris, my family, was remembered today. Love you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Make that Change

Today, I changed my phone number.

It may not sound like much but it is a big deal. It's a huge deal, actually.

Minnesotans are the masters of passive aggressive behavior in all of its myriad incarnations. Indeed, we raise passive aggressiveness to a fine art.

I've written before about my struggle to stay the hell away from crystal meth. Addiction is a sneaky son-of-a-bastard, and the mind of one battling addiction is about as simple as chaos theory or finding a Fibonacci sequence in a fractal. My recent battle has not been without its set backs but compared to where I was a few months ago, the momentary setbacks that occur now and again are aberrations instead of impending patterns of doom.

For a queer man dealing with meth addiction, there are two great electronic enemies that can lead one quickly back to using: the computer (specifically online cruising sex sites) and cell phones. Let me be clear that I am not judging cruising sites. In fact, I think sex cruising sites are pretty damn awesome tools for negotiating consensual sex of all types and varieties if the person accessing the sites is able to maintain his boundaries and, in the case of addicts, is secure enough in his recovery to maintain a healthy distance from those that combine recreational sex and drug use. At this particular point in my recovery process, I am a long long way away from being able to safely access cruising sites. And, frankly, that is not really a problem. My cell phone, however, has been.

The cell phone is the other big electronic enemy, and it can be for many reasons. For those that have SmartPhones, the sex cruising sites are readily accessible, in fact, several of them have apps for both Android and the iPhone. For me, that isn't the problem. My problem is and has been the fact that when I am in a good place, I do the sensible thing and go through my phone and erase the phone numbers of folks with whom I have used or that I know use. That's a no brainer.

Here is where the passive aggressive piece comes in.

I learned long ago that I can make myself feel all good and shiny by deleting the numbers in my phone, all the while knowing that deleting the numbers is actually fairly useless, because I know that as long as the phone number itself stays the same, eventually, SOMEONE will text. Dealers are savvy, and if they haven't heard from a former client for a time, they are sure to check in. And folks with whom you may have connected in the past are likely to text or call at the most vulnerable of times. In fact, I have gotten into more trouble with my sobriety from former dealers or tricks texting or emailing at a time when I am emotionally vulnerable or, my other danger time, feeling extremely happy and content (nothing like a little self sabotage!) than from anything else. In fact, I can remember only a couple of times where I actually made a decisions to go out and use, tracked down a dealer, etc. All the other dumb moments came courtesy of a little electronic ditty announcing the arrival of an email, text, or phone call.

I have a kazillion times made the statement to myself or to David that I am going to change my phone number. I even got as far once as calling AT&T, but when they told me that they were out of 646 numbers, but I could keep my 646 if I went into the store, I hung up and never made the trip the six blocks to make the change in person. Besides that one aborted half attempt, I generally have talked myself out of it using every possible excuse from laziness (who wants to go through their contact list and text or call everyone to announce the change) or I decide that I can't possibly change my number because I am waiting for a call back from a job, or it was just posted on a flyer, or it's listed in this or that place and I might miss something important in the lag time between when I get my new number and when I can get it out into the world. Never mind that I almost NEVER get phone calls (texts are my main form of communication), and never mind that almost everyone that has my cell number also has my email address and/or is connected to my Facebook account. So, really, it's not like we are living in 1992 with a landline, no caller ID, using TelNet and the Gopher, and still hearing recordings when calling to order a pizza about rotary dial versus pulse dial phones.

I totally just dated myself. Yes boys and girls...there was a time before the 3G network...called the Pre-iPad Age when typewriters roamed the Earth and men and women wrote letters using paper, pens, and the U.S. Postal Service, the electronic version of Battleship was state of the art gaming, and the only thing an Apple computer was good for was playing Oregon Trail.

Ahhh the good old days. There is a dissertation just waiting to be written about the impact of the Internet age on addiction, sexual negotiation, HIV/AIDS, and the death of the club scene. Ohhhhh Gender and Women's Studies at the U of MN................

Oops...I got distracted...back to the point.

Today, I struck my inner addict a mighty blow. A blessing of having lost/destroyed two iPhones in recent months as well as having my computer hacked and crashed is that I lost my iPhone back ups. Most of the naughty numbers were permanently removed during that process. I triple checked my phone today to make sure that no borderline or possibly icky numbers remained anywhere in it, and then I called Apple and made the number change. The sweet woman on the phone took 15 minutes to FIND me a 646 number (after first telling me that they were all gone, then saying I would have a 347 number, then telling me THOSE were all gone, and I would have a 201 number--who ever heard of a 201 number?---she disappeared and when she returned she had a shiny new 646 number for me. She had to manually look through a spread sheet of phone numbers that (wait for it) are not listed in numerical order. Ummm. Duh. But I was very happy that she took the time to ease my transition a little by keeping me in the same phone number clan.

So, while for most folks, the act of changing a phone number is no big thing...for is letting go of another way that my tricky tricky brain has used to maintain connections to a part of my life that I am trying to let go. They say its progress not perfection, which is basically a sucker punch to the face for this overachieving perfectionist, but learning to forgive myself and give myself the space to make mistakes and then LEARN FROM THEM is all part of this process of leaving behind those things that once served a purpose but now serve only to keep me from being the human being that I was put on this Earth to be.

Thanks to all of those folks that have loved me enough that I had the strength of spirit to pick up the phone and make that change today. I know that I have a stupidly ridiculous long ass way to go...but I am starting to believe that I might actually get there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fuck Cancer or Why Death is Stupid

PLEASE NOTE....THIS BLOG IS A PURE VENT/RANT. Proceed at your own risk.

Let's do a quick recap.

My cousin Jim died from leukemia in September 2008
My friend/mother of choice Mrs. Mona Harris died of colon cancer in 2009
My best friend Chris killed himself last summer
My beloved friend Tiffany died from a sudden heart attack at the ripe old age of maybe 43 last fall.
My Honey Bun (Aunt Sis) is dying from bone cancer and has been in and out of intensive care for the last month.

I am so fucking sick and tired of death and I have a special hatred of cancer. I get that death is a part of life. I understand and believe that this life is only part of our spiritual journey. I understand that everything, including myself, will die one day.

Fuck philosophy and all that esoteric go into the light bullshit. I want my friends and family in THIS life. Thank you very much. God has enough folks to entertain him and can hold off on collecting any more folks that I love for the next 50 years or so. Is that selfish? HELL YES!

I mean come on. Really come on. My Honey Bun has lived a full and beautiful life. That woman survived the segregated South and raised three beautiful children AND, when my Dad's Mama died at the age of 31 from leukemia, she and my great-granny raised my Dad. Until this bone cancer really started to affect her, Honey Bun was still cleaning houses to pay her bills. That woman has earned an easy retirement full of joy and the love of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and her great-nieces and nephews. She should be sitting on her front porch in Ronceverte, WV drinking little glasses of wine or mason jars of blackberry brandy and telling us all stories about her life, embarrassing stories about our parents, and reminding us of how much beauty there is in our history despite the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

That woman should get to die peacefully without pain at around the age of 115...and until then she should be physically fit and living her life on her own terms just the way she always has. Let her drop dead because her heart is so full of joy it can't handle it anymore and stops beating.

The same goes for Mrs. Harris, Chris, Tiffany, and Jim. Bring them back and let them have the love and joy that they deserved! BRING THEM BACK RIGHT NOW (but not as zombies...that wouldn't be right). Stupid fucking Lazarus got to come back to life, and he didn't do shit to earn that.

I am just tired of death and pissed off by it. None of these people have left this life or are leaving this life because it was their time. They are leaving it because some asshole corporation spent years dumping toxins into the atmosphere and water and their bodies couldn't resist it. Chris is the exception, but don't get me started on the stigma of mental health, HIV and addiction, his death was just as unnatural as all the others. And Tiffany was a black woman in America...enough said.

I am tired of folks sending me pat sayings and religious bullshit about folks having moved on to glory. Yes. I understand that. I know that they are all happy, and I know my Honey Bun is going to have the biggest damn mansion of all when she gets to Heaven, her traveling shoes are going to be Manolo Blahnik's and her robe is going to be made by Elie Tahari. Great. Lovely. She's earned it. But that doesn't do a damn thing for those of us left behind.

And, newsflash, DEATH IS PERSONAL!


No one gets to negate my pain or sadness because his or her pain or sadness is greater. My mourning does not take away from, detract from, or lessen anyone else's.

I blame Nurse Jackie for this blog. That damn show is amazing, and the actors should all win Emmy's...and then they should hand them to me, so I can beat them all to death for making me cry. Those deaths would be justified. Just saying.

Anyway...there was no point to this blog entry besides venting some shit out. I feel much better now. Thank you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The 2011 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry

Dear Friends:

I am happy to announce the call for submissions for the second year of the Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry.

The Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry will be awarded to a poet that demonstrates the power of spoken word to address issues of class, sexuality and race in a way that transcends rhetoric and creates movement.

The winner will receive $300, and the winning poem will be published at My Feet Only Walk Forward ( Two honorable mentions will also be named.

The winner of the 2010 Carey Prize was Saymoukda Vongsay, who has also generously volunteered to make a donation in support of this year's prize.

I welcome other donations in support of the prize. If donations come in that exceed the prize total, I will increase the prize amount. There are very very very few prizes that support the work of spoken word artists, and I hope you will consider making a contribution. Donations can be made at the address provided below. Please make checks payable to David Berube (this is so that ya'll don't think I am trying to keep the moola for myself!).

About the Prize:

Alfred C. Carey was a hard working man from Northern Minnesota. He worked in construction, specifically roofing, while raising a family of 8, including three children not biologically his own. He represented a series of beautiful and sometimes hard contradictions in race, class, and history. He also, without a vocabulary around race and sexuality, accepted all of his children and grandchildren for who they were without judgment. This award is named in the honor of my grandfather who died in 1997.


You may submit up to three poems no longer than a combined total of six pages double spaced.

You may also submit audio recordings in CD format. The recordings should not exceed 9 minutes in length.

Along with your submission please include a cover page that states your: Name, Address, Telephone Number, Email Address, Website Address, and a brief biography of no more than 6 sentences.


Authors retain all copyright to their works, and if you would like samples returned, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Make submissions to:

Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry
c/o Brandon Lacy Campos
462 W. 52nd Street #3N
New York, NY 10019

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Addiction, HIV, and the Healing that We Need: A Community Call to Action

Let me go on ahead and give a testimonial up in this piece for a minute. I am a recovering meth addict. And while there was an element early on, back in the late 90s, when I was bedazzled by the glam party boys at the club, my meth addiction had nothing to do with that. Meth came later, post HIV, and my meth addiction had everything to do with the mind blowing numbing power of the drug, the power of the drug to let me feel beautiful, wanted, loved, in control, powerful...for as long as the high lasted, I was Superman and all the bull shit of the world just bounced off of my chest.

Let me preach on this for a minute. I know you all are the choir but sometimes the choir needs to hear the sermon too. When you grow up a man of color in a country that is designed to shut you up and, if it can't, lock you away...when you come out in a queer community where, at least where I was from, you are told to your face, “'re cute...but I don't do black/brown/not-white,”....when you are targeted and tokenized...when you are outside peeking in....any thing that resembles a key or a pathway to acceptance becomes very attractive and BECAUSE we did not then and still do not love each other deeply, fearlessly, strongly, toughly, wholly enough...we do not give ourselves nor those that are coming after us the spiritual or communal strength to love themselves despite what the world or anyone in it has to say about the matter.

If we want to see an end to the spread of HIV, if we want to see the end of addiction, if we want to see beautiful brown, black, red, and yellow men loving each other wholly, beautifully, powerfully, then we need find a way to build each other up spiritually and communally...all the prevention messages in the world don't mean SHIT without the work to heal the wounds that most of us are born with....I knew all about condoms and how to protect myself from HIV. But when faced with a moment (even illusory) of feeling whole, wanted, loved, and accepted....I was wiling to give up just about anything to have that moment.

This isn't about some "gay party and sex" ethos. That idea is dismissive and simplistic. It is also a shiny, pretty masquerade masking what's really going on beneath the surface. What's really going on underneath is a world, despite the GLAAD Media Awards, despite Ricky Martin coming out, despite Ugly Betty and Will & Grace, despite gay cruises and gay carnivals, despite the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the right to mimic failed heterosexual relationship structures as evinced through state sponsored marriage, despite a welcoming church here and there, despite “It Gets Better,” and despite all the superficial bullshit where queer people, queer people of color and especially genderqueer and trans people of color are targeted, wounded, hurting, marginalized, isolated and struggling--at least for a good chunk of their first two decades of life. And, my friends, don't get it twisted, each and every one of us knows that what happens to us in the first 20 years of life is most likely what we are going to spend the last 60 years of our lives trying to heal...if we have the privilege to do so and if we live long enough.

So, when I read half-assed assertions about what is REALLY needed to curb meth addiction, when I read folks that have never struggled with addiction coming up with the same old tired solutions to dynamic issues of mental health and spiritual wounding, I really want to start screaming. The fact is that the solution to meth addiction is not MORE FEAR. It is not MORE JUDGMENT. It is not MORE SHAME. It is not simplistic answers to a complicated problem. And there is no single solution for an addiction and a wounding that is absolutely personal. When one goes into the emergency room with chest pains, the doctor doesn't apply the same diagnostic and healing plan that she gave to the patient just before you with chest pain. Your healing path is personal and specific to the nuances that are you. Some of the techniques applied may be universal, but the situations of each surgery are unique and require specialized care. The same is true of addiction, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

With all my heart, I wish that the moment any queer and/or trans person of color turned 18---before we send them out into the adult world--, they were whisked off to a magical queer camp where for a year they are given the tools and the love, and lots and lots and lots of therapy, to start undoing the hurt that they have already, inevitably, received.

So let me ask you to join me in figuring out a real solution. I am going to talk to my friend Maurice Jamal, the folks at the Audre Lorde Project and a couple of other folks and see if we can pull together a series of long term discussions in queer/trans communities of color, with queer/trans people of color, facilitated by queer/trans people of color, to try and find long term solutions not to addiction but to the root causes that lead to addiction. HIV and Addiction are symptoms. The symptoms need to be addressed but until the underlying wound is healed, no matter how much love and support is thrown at the symptoms, they are going to keep returning. I, for one, am tired of the symptoms. I am ready for healing---and I can't do it by myself.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Aries Birthdays!

Good lord almighty. Nine months ago this weekend, about 2/3rds of my friend's parents were knocking boots and making babies. Last night I had five birthday party invitations and I knew of seven birthday parties taking place in various spots in New York City. The ungodly reality of the subway in New York on the weekend is that at any given time about half of the trains aren't running due to "track and service upgrades," so for any party not taking place in Manhattan, I was able to decline and blame it on the MTA. In fact, one party that I am really sad to have missed, my friend and co-NYAC board member Tanya Paperny's, sounded like it was going to be an amazing artistic and debaucherous romp of an evening. Unfortunately, it was going to be an hour both ways to and from the party, and with a number of parties taking place last night, I just couldn't do it. Or, to be more realistic, if I took my ass on an hour train ride to the outskirts of Brooklyn there was no way in Hell that I was coming back in time for anything except to take my ass to bed.

By luck and great fortune, three groups of my friends, all independent of one another, converged for post-birthday party cocktails at G Lounge in Chelsea. Though there are nearly 9 million people living in New York (exactly 4,783,1232 of them are queer), it is a small city sometimes. After hitting up my gal pal Briana's super fab 30th shin dig at Bourbon Street near my apartment, I joined the group convergence down at G Lounge.

It was pretty much my most fun evening out since moving to New York. I got to see some amazing good people (Kirk, La Marr, Barbie, and Tim to name a few!) and I met a number of other great folks between the two spots. Not going to lie, I made out with a couple of folks last night....and I was glad to have done it. The energy was amazing, and it was one of those moments in life when good people intersect with you, and the chemistry was such that a little lip action was a celebration of the spirit of the moment (as well as being pure carnal deliciousness). In fact, I am super excited to get to know better a couple of the folks I met last night.

I was supposed to meet up with my friend Kenyon and his people in town from New Orleans, but time got away from me, and I knew that if I hit another club, I would be in rough shape today. I stuck to wine last night, and I also made sure to eat and pace myself. Even with all of that, I woke up this morning saying, "John Dillinger tote bags!" After which I projectile vomited the combination of two pizza slices and a bowl of Basic Four with soy milk that I ate right before going to bed. It was the food and not a hangover that caused the vomitaring, but it wasn't cute. And now I really have to do laundry ;-)

Anywho...all's quiet on the Westside this afternoon. David and Mimzy are in Connecticut so that Mimzy can have her follow up cooter examination at the vet, and I am indulging my new addiction: Pocket Frogs. Thanks for an awesome evening last night New York City.