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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
click here to read Part 3
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
Four of Four Installments--
This interview was first published in 1975 by Hera
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.]
Yes, billing myself as a Black Lesbian poet does turn some people off, but I have to be honest. If I just said that I was a Black poet, then certain people would come expecting a certain thing. Then they would hear Lesbian poetry and it would upset or frighten them. If I just billed myself as a Feminist poet then there are going to be people who are going to be upset about the Lesbianism and by the Black poetry that I write. Since I am all of those things, I want to have it all out fron so when people come they'll know exactly what's going to be there. Because I can't lie about what's coming, you know? That to me is even worse than not saying anything at all.
Of course, I've got a lot of flack about that. I've been told that it would be better for me personally if I didn't mention that I was Gay: that my career would probably be a lot further than it is because a lot of the major publishers are scared to death of that, and that I won't get a lot of readings at the unviersities because of that. But I can't get away from that. You know, I have a whole section of poems that are blatantly Gay.
And I resent people who are out there performing and not owning up to the fact that they're Gay. Because what it does is that is keeps people from being aware of just how many Gay people there are in this country, and where they are, and how they're in parts of everybody's life. I think that probably most of the people in this country work with some Gay person.
I think that if more people knew how many of their friends were, in fact, Gay, their consciousness would be raised. I mean, nobody's even trying to do that. I've heard of too many people -- prominent people--who are supposed to be faggots or dykes, and they ain't saying nothing, you know! That blows me out!
As a child in Texas, our newspaper boy was a faggot and he was killed by other kids in the community. They beat him up one night and threw him in front of a car. And everybody shook their heads and said how sad it was, but before then everybody had talked about how strange he was. So those kids were able to get away with killing him because the community just felt that it was sad, but he was a faggot, right?
I think that if there had been more Gay people out there saying, "We are Gay and we're not going to tolerate this stuff, he would never have been stopped on the streets and beat up. You see, because there are so few others out there, he was a target.
Of course, I know
how it is; I know people can lose their jobs behind this, but I think
that people are always going to lose their jobs behind it unless more
people start coming out. You know, when they start getting those laws
changed so that you cannot get fired because you're Gay, then they won't
have to worry about being in the closet.
But somebody's gotta make that step. Somebody's gotta stand up and say, 'Here I am!'
In the foreward to her last book, Parker wrote: The tragedy of Jonestown occured in 1978. It is amazing to me that we have not demanded a better explanation of what happened. As I travel and talk with people, I find that most of them do not believe what they are told... I must ask the question: If 900 white people had gone to a country with a Black minister and 'commited suicide,' would we have accepted the answers so easily?
Pat Parker was a poet who asked the important questions. Now that voice is no longer with us. But her work will live on:
My lover is a woman
then/ i never think
From Pit Stop, the
women's press collective, (c) 1973 by Pat Parker
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