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here to read commentary on Anita Cornwell
Read an excerpt of Anita Cornwell's groundbreaking book,
Black Lesbian in White America
More work by Anita--site map
Anita Cornwell was in her forties by the time second wave feminism arrived in the mid-1960s. She soon became one of the few black lesbians in the United States who were living out, speaking out, and writing out. Her pioneering book Black Lesbian in White America published in 1983 by Naiad Press.
-- Black Lesbian Poet Radical Pioneer readings/appearances of Movement in Black
interviewed by Anita Cornwell--
click here to read Part 1
click here to read Part 2
Editor's Note: I had the oppor-tunity to see Pat Parker give a powerful peformance with her Movement in Black performance troupe in the late 80s on the main stage at the New England Women's Musical Retreat (NEWMR) Soon after that she died at at age of 45.
The following bio is from Matt & Andre Koymasky's web site "The Living Room" about famouse GLTB people.
Educator and writer
Three of Four Installments--
During a nation-wide reading tour in the spring of 1975, Pat Parker came to Philadelphia with her manager, Ann Bernard, where I first met them. They drove up from Washington, DC, on a hot summer-like Friday afternoon in mid-May and went directly to the Alexandria Book Store where Pat Parker was to read that evening. They were due back in Washington early the following day as Parker had a radio interview scheduled that afternoon and another reading that night.
The three of us arrived in Washington on Saturday afternoon too late for Parker's radio interview. But, as exhausted as she was, she consented to give me the first of two interviews before resting up for her reading that night to an overflow crowd that heard her read from her two books, Child of Myself and Pit Stop (both published by The Women's Press Collective in Oakland, CA), and she also read from work scheduled for her third book. The reading and the interviews took place at the large house on Maryland Avenue in the Northeast where Parker and Bernard also stayed.
[Editor's note: The following section is written in the words of Pat Parker talking to Anita Cornwell about her life-coming of age as a writer and as a lesbian. This is part one of four sections. Be sure to return next month to amusejanetmason.com for the next segment.]
Ann was a bass player when I met her. She was into playing her music a lot. She had also been working for an insurance company for five years. She'd go to work and then come home and then she would jam-she would practice for four or five hours. And then she would go and jam with other musicians in addition to a few gigs that she would do on Sundays. Her world was totally in music, and I came in and totally disrupted the hell out of her life.
The first thing she did was to quit working for the insurance company, which I was hot for. And somehow she thought that would give her more time; more time for all the stuff that she wanted to do. But now she's found that with the schedule that I'm running, there's even less time. Then she got into managing me, which she wanted to do-it was a voluntary thing that she wanted to do. I told her it was insane because I know the kind of work it takes to do something like that. Yes, a lot of writers have agents, but the role that she's doing is not the role of an agent; this is something different. I know a whole lot of agents, but like I say, that's a different role. What I need is someone to manage me. I have a lot of problems with people calling about readings and getting them set up, because I'll say yes to almost anything.
The arrangement that I have with Ann is that she gets twenty percent of my earnings, and that's of all the things that she's involved in doing. Like the setting up not only of the readings but things like the Pitt program-all those things that she arranges and sets up, no matter what it is. Whereas agents deal with readings and they deal with publications, and I think they get about ten percent, and fifteen percent for readings.
But in reality Ann gets more like a hundred percent, because all of the money goes to her and then whatever we have to spend money on, she does it because I'm horrible with money. Which is another reason why I definitely need to have somebody who can deal with that. It works; it works very well. And it's freed a lot of time for me in terms of getting into my studio. And it's taken a lot of emotional pressures off me in terms of finding myself doing a reading that I didn't want to do.
No, Ann isn't bothered by the fact that her music has been put aside for the time being, which surprises me. I went through some changes over that because, like I told her, 'You've got to keep your own things together, or you'll build up resentment because you're not doing what you want to do.' But she's figured out what she wants to do with her music. She decided that wanted a vacation from it. Now when she starts to do it again, we'll have to deal with setting up something different. Maybe I'll have to hire someone else to do what she's doing now which to me is fine.
How did this tour come about? Well, I know some poets who have done this before such as Judy Grahn and Susan Griffin. And I thought about it and have often said that once I got to the point where I was really confident in my work, I was going to do it. Especially, I wanted to go to New York and those places because it's important. I mean, it's important in terms of my career as a writer. So a couple of years ago, I felt I was ready, and then it was simply a question of getting money together.
I did a poetry in the school thing at the end of last year, and got some bread together. Ann wanted to come, and she had bread together from something else. Then the Press Collective also wanted me to make this tour, so they put up a certain amount. And we took off.
The Press Collective and Ann coordinated the places that we were going to and did the time thing, which is why when people ask me where I'm going next, I say 'I don't know!' Most of the arrangements were done by contacting women's centers and women's bookstores. And usually there was some person in the town that somebody had dealings with before and that person was used to coordinating the thing from that end.
Judy Grahn and I
have talked about doing another tour together next year, which would make
it easier as we wouldn't have to read as much as we would have to do invidually.
Then I would really like to cover some of the places that I won't get
to this time such as the smaller communities because the women there are
This interview was first published in 1975 by Hera
Return to amusejanetmason.com next month to read the next installment