LIFE

 28  MAR K.A. Simpson

7 DAY OF SELF ISOLATING
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The public has been advised to avoid all unnecessary social contact and travel, and are urged not to congregate in places with large numbers, including pubs, clubs, restaurants and fitness facilities as well as to avoid gatherings with family and friends.

The measures are intended to help stem the spread of the virus and could be made much more stringent should the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise.

If you are currently self-isolating, here are some activities you could undertake to keep yourself entertained amid the ongoing pandemic.

THROW YOUR OWN FILM FESTIVAL

Who says you need to be in the same place to enjoy a film together? Technology has already addressed this, and there’s never been a better time to take advantage, especially since most of us are stuck in the house. Netflix has introduced Netflix Party, which allows users to link up with friends and host long-distance movie nights.

If you have the account that has changed the way that we spend our downtime and chill, I have the perfect three pieces of cinematic artistry that will bolster your spirits, tickle your soul and scratch that deep itch that we all need to take care during times like these.

Here are our three top suggestions of flix to binge:

DAY 1 Pose

DAY 2 Self Made 

DAY 3 Moonlight

DAY 4  / GET OUT & GET ACTIVE 

While the government has advised against going to the gym, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid exercise altogether. If you are self-isolating, there are a wealth of fitness videos online that you could try, including yoga and Pilates, or simply set yourself a routine to work through every day to ensure you keep moving. Or, on the good days, you can get out and run or walk, taking in some of the most beautiful parts of the city. 

 

One of the most majestic natural run/wal courses that I routinely make a habit of visiting is, what I call, the 3-Bridged Trifecta. Beginning in Covington and moving East, the adventure starts off with a trekk comprising a jaunt across the 4th Street Bridge. The bridge’s pedestrian walkway conveniently connects to the run/walk path which runs along the flood wall and runs right smack dab into the area’s iconic Purple People Bridge, crossing the Ohio River. Once in Cincinnati, travel west along Mehring Way, traversing Sawyer Point and Smale Park and traveling back across the river using the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Three bridges, three cities and three times more likely of making your day manageable. 

 

DAY 5 - TAKE A FREE ONLINE CLASS

 

Online learning is one of the great ways to spend your time in self-isolation. More and more companies and creatives are unlocking their online courses, offering them for free to everyone stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Over the last few weeks, local artist Chad Turner, has been giving free art classes through Facebook Live

 

If art just is not your thing, check out the website of the Kenton County Public Library and sign up for Gale Courses, a free online platform where you can take personal and professional development courses for free.  Anything from Accounting to Writing and Publishing can be learned...but only if you have a KCPL library card. If you don’t, check your local library system for similar offerings. 

DAY 6  / Begin to Launch Your Business Idea 

Many of us have a business idea lingering in the back of our minds. With us being on lock down for the foreseeable future and may have a little more time on our hands, it could be a good time to take a look at that idea, flesh it out and look at ways of making it come to reality. If you need help getting to the next level, local businesses like SparkLight Creative Group. A small personal and professional development company, are available to hold virtual consulting with people just like you who want to start a business but don’t know where to begin. Also, the guys over at MORTAR have had huge success taking small business from concept to design. 

DAY 7  / Stay Social...Virtually 

A safe space for our community has been realized through the Cincinnati chapter  Black Bear Brotherhood, a group of body-positive gay men of color creating a safe space in a world that sometimes does not feel so safe.

“The Black Bear Brotherhood was actually started from a former Facebook group [which] simply called for gay black men of size to fellowship, support, and congregate in a safe place,” says Anthony Jackson, one of the group’s organizers. “As we grew, we found that younger black men needed this same support.”

Over the past few months, the group has been meeting  weekly on Thursday nights from 9p.m.–midnight at Arts’ on the Ave located at 2141 Central Ave. Because of the self isolation efforts, the group has formed some innovative ways to stay connected. Find out more on their Facebook page.  

 
ENTERTAINMENT

 19  FEB K.A. Simpson

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To some it may not be a huge surprise that books occupy a very special place in my existence and, if I am telling the truth,  there are days when I prefer reading a good story rather than interacting with people. For me, reading isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way to escape reality without really going anywhere. 


Growing up in urban Northern Kentucky, books provided the much needed break from reality needed by many young Black kids questioning their sexuality and helped me to envision characters that looked and felt like me in a world of LGBTQ character-less themes.


My world was expanded when I finally found those gems of literary magic that grew to be a source of validation and connection in my burgeoning gay world. They were ponds of knowledge where I could learn more about LGBTQ experiences. They provided characters I could relate to since their experiences were so much like my own.


Throughout the years, I have amassed a large collection of favorites that have shaped my gay and fiction existance. I have compiled a list of my 10 personal favorites which I return to time 

and time again. I do not argue that these novels represent the absolute best in just Black LGBTQ fiction, and some are outside of the genre all together but I believe they are novels that every gay man can connect with on a deeply kismet level.

#10 - Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris

Harris gets mad props from me on this one for first self-publishing this book in 1991 and then banging out a wide release deal in 1994. Similar to my own life in the mid and late 1990’s the book trails the story of  Raymond Tyler’s coming of age as he faces the realities of being Black and gay….but without being a successful law student and having a beautiful girlfriend, a wide range of career options and the sexual relationship with his best friend. 

 

This book was the first gay themed books I read as a closeted military intelligence non-commissioned officer during Don't Ask Don't Tell and I came upon this book purely by accident, in a time when many stories were dominated by white characters. For me, and many others, the book added a much-needed voice to the gay African American experience; making paramount the intersectional prejudice faced by many Black gay men within both the white and Black communities.

#9 - Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson

I first was introduced to this book while in the military stationed in Monterey, California, very close to the prison Soledad where the book was written. It was an inmate, who happened to be my uncle, who wrote me a letter suggesting I

read the book.  

 

Soledad Brother is a collection of Jackson’s letters from prison and is an outspoken condemnation of racism and white supremacy in the USA. Jackson’s letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that still fills Black men today in USA’s prisons.

#8 - Chronicles of a Boy Misunderstood by K.A. Simpson

I wouldn't be a true author if I didn't put one of my own books on the list. 

 

Set mostly in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, I wrote this eye-opening look into the life of Black gay men. Using historical fiction, fantasy and mystery as a medium, I wanted to make sure that each story spoke freely about what it was like growing up as a Black gay man and how those experiences dictate how hard and long we love. The four stories span centuries and  boldly address controversial issues under specific topics including slavery, love, class, social status, racism and the LGBTQ community, spanning decades, while unraveling an untold secret.

#7 - Children of the Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Diversity in science fiction and fantasy literature has long been almost non-existent especially when we observe the lack of minorities in science fiction and fantasy within mainstream literature.

 

The novel is set in the land of Orïsha, where King Saran has committed an act of genocide, murdering all the adult Maji (gifted human beings with supernatural powers), and, therefore, effectively wiping all the magic out of the land. But things change when the child of a Maji finds a powerful magical scroll used as a guide to restore magic and peace to all of Orïsha.

 

This novel is a MUST read but I must also warn you that you will cry a few times in the novel – so be prepared.

#6 - Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved, has been loved for describing a Black culture born out of a dehumanising period of slavery just after the Civil War. I’ve always been a fan and feel that Morrison’s narrative tells of Black culture being built on the horrors of the past and it has shaped contemporary Black culture in a positive way.

Published in 1987, Beloved is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that recounts how those who survived slavery healed themselves from a tragic occurrence of infanticide based on the true story of a Northern Kentucky slave named Margaret Garner.

#5 - Kindred by Octavia Butler

I first read this book in college and quickly saw how Butler broke new ground in science fiction with this piece. Kindred took the science fiction world by storm  featuring race, sex, power and humanity and tells the story of a Black woman who must travel back in time in order to save her own life by saving a white, slaveholding ancestor. 

#4 - The Vast Fields of Ordinary

One cannot appreciate gay Black fiction without digesting so called gay normative prose. Which is why I picked this one for the list of MUST reads. 

 

The story is a typical gay coming-of-age read that follows Dade's last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade's shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away.

 

It's funny how falling in love helps you come out of the closet, which is what happened to Dade when he meets Pablo and ignites a ruthless passion.

#3 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Taking class into consideration with ethnicity seems to be a strange and varied thing. But sometimes it has to be done in order to see the entire picture of class and equity structure and class and situation in life and it's never more present than in  Harry Potter’s last installation.

#2 - Feminist Queer Crip by Alison Kafer

If you've ever read Kafer you know first hand that she  makes the reader reimagine a different future for disability and disabled bodies and makes you realize how easily us able-bodied folks think of the future and time. Kafer rejects the idea of disability as a pre-determined limitation and shows theories, movements, and identities that are typically discussed in silos while envisioning broader possibilities for crip futures and feminist/queer/crip alliances. This bold book goes against the grain of normalization and promotes a political framework for a more just world.

#1 - Giovonni's Room by James Baldwin

This book was a game changer in 1956, because it was one of the first mainstream novels in America to deal directly with gay themes. The story centers on the life of David, a young American man living in Paris who begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. 

 

It's still regarded as a masterpiece within the gay genre and appears on virtually every list of must-read LGBTQ books. 

 

What I loved about this book was its frank portrayal of same-sex love, the novel was highly controversial when it was first published. What I also love about the book was its timeless themes and that it defied possibility. Originally the book was refused publication arguing it would destroy his career. As a Black writer in the pre-civil rights era, Baldwin’s management was fearful a novel about homosexual romance would ostracize both Black and white communities. 

 

Regardless of the social changes between the 1950s and today, the novel is one of the most accurate portrayals of being gay in a hetero-normative world. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
LIFE

 01  JAN K.A. Simpson

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Can you move through the region and remember moments, know of places that, on the surface don’t seem gay, but is really entrenched with gay undertones? 

 

There are things that Cincinnati has produced and events which took place in the city, throughout its 232 year history that meet this criteria, leaving a finite mark. A ferris wheel. A bridge between the North and the South. A tornado reeking havoc in the city's urban core. A streetcar ballot pass—or fail. The rising river banks. The cries of protestors during a civil unrest. 

 

To kick off our inaugural article, we have patched together these 10 items of Cincinnati lore that sets this area apart and may, or may not, be just a little bit gay.

#10 - 98 Degrees

Jeff Timmons and Nick Lachey never seemed to have a problem taking their shirt off onstage and during photo shoots while sharing lead singing duties with for the 90's boy band 98 Degrees whose members all hailed from Cincinnati. 

 

Though this genre of boy band clamored on to success by rattling the pre-pubescent cages of teenage girls, they group could not dismiss the revue received from gay audiences. Yep, I was a member of said group, spreading my own teen crush syndrome to Shah, Boys II Men and NSync. Surprisingly, BackStreet Boys didn't make my list, despite obvious reasons.

#9 - School for the Creative and Performing Arts

“I’m sick of hiding out in my own mind. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to find someone like me, like myself and hold them. There has to be more people who feel this way...like I do...trying to reach out.” 

 

This quote was taken from the the book, Chronicles of a Boy Misunderstood, spoken by Anthony, a fictional Black character a few months after his high school graduation; right before he comes out to his mother over the phone. 

 

High school can be a challenging time for most teens. It can be even more so for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, especially when that student is a lover of the arts. 

 

Founded in 1973, Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) became the first school in the country to combine a full range of arts studies with a complete college-preparatory academic program for elementary through high school students. 

 

Famous graduates include Kiki Payne, Rocky Carroll, Carmen Electra, Sara Jessica Parker and the aforementioned members of the boy band 98 Degrees. Also during the 2008-09 and 2009–10 school years, the school was featured in the MTV reality series Taking the Stage, filmed at the school and starring SCPA students. 

 

I bet Anthony would have loved to have gone to this school.

#8 - Michael Monks 

Early in 2019, Cincinnati's NPR affiliate, WVXU reached across the river to poach a new host for its daily Cincinnati Edition radio show. 

 

Northern Kentuckian Michael Monks brought, to the normally Cincinnati-centric broadcast a broad range of experience stemming from his role as founder, publisher, editor, and chief reporter for Northern Kentucky's River City News. And, in 2015, Monks merged with CKNY Scene and launched UNITE Cincinnati, at the time, the city’s only magazine targeting the gay community, in an area considered one of the safest cities for gays in the country. 

 

In speaking with Michael Chanek news resources targeting Cincinnati's gay community has been far and few between. 

 

"When I arrived here in Cincinnati - there was the "Yellow Page" published by Clarence Graves. After it went defunct, the mid 80s and early 90s saw first the GayBeat (published by Josh Thomas and Ed Hicks) but after a conflict of sorts, they spit. GayBeat continued with Josh and Ed created the Gay Noveau."

 

Monks brought back to Cincinnati the gay mag in a post-Obama society....and we are continuing what he started.

#7 - Zac Efron as Ted Bundy 

Having major motion films filmed here in Cincinnati is nothing new. From the beginning when Rain Man and, one of my personal favorites, Harlem Nights, highlighted how this area could be translated into 1930's New York City just as easily as showing its present day self. 

 

It may be why Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the 2019 crime thriller film about the life of serial killer Ted Bundy played by hottie Zac Efron was filmed here. Now, truth be told, Zac was turning gay heads way before this bio pic, especially when Lee Daniels stripped him down to his skivvies for the thriller The Paperboy or when he tapped dance in our hearts in The High School Musical.

 

Zac Efron, tight bell-bottomed jeans and a Northern Kentucky backdrop all saddled together helps get this movie on the list.

#6 - Chris Seelbach & Tamaya Dennard

During the summer of 2011, I visited a pop-up  pool party in the middle of Over-the-Rhine. There was a plastic-lined dumpster filled to the brim with water and Speedo clad men jump in in and around it. 

 

The pseudo pool party was a campaign fundraiser for Chris Seelbach, the now Cincinnati City Council member who was then running for his first term. 

 

Seelbach made history later that year when he became the first openly gay politician elected to the Cincinnati City Council. On May 20, 2013 the White House named Seelbach a national Harvey Milk "Champion of Change" for his commitment to equality and public service.

 

Winning additional terms on City Council, Seelbach, in 2017 Tamaya Dennard, who is openly gay, joined  Seelbach when she won a seat of her own on the City Council.

#5 - WKRP in Cincinnati

Traditionally a fly over city in the modern era, Cincinnati began to again receive notoriety with this four-season sitcom about a rowdy radio show staff charged with pumping out Top 40 rock in, of all places, Cincinnati. 

 

I was only a toddler during the show's fourth and final season, so most of my memories were from reruns. I remember being transported into the magic box of moving pictures every time that iconic Tyler Davidson Fountain appeared, because, for the very first time, I saw something appear on that box, that I'd seen in real life. 

 

It wasn't until a few years later that realized that my mom would laugh so much harder at the things Venus Flytrap would say who seemed to only be there to show up his white co-workers as either painfully unhip or racist. Really...how much did the shows producers expect to get out of a character with the name of an insect eating plant?

#4 - Central Parkway YMCA

Cruisy gym which sees action during non-peak hours of use. Weekday evenings and weekend day seem best. Guys get it on 

in the steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and the showers.

 

This is the profile given to Cincinnati YMCA Central Parkway location by Cruising Gays: City Hook Guide. 

 

In the 40 years since the Village People released “YMCA,” the song has become a cultural touchstone: a gay anthem famous for its innuendos and double entendres about young, fit men “having a good time." Here in Cincinnati, that song was represented with out Central Parkway YMCA and how that song "happened" in between its walls; especially since a big way that we express ourselves in the gay community is through innuendo bringing to light how queerness has long existed in random with pop culture.

#3 - Procter & Gamble

Finding its beginning in Cincinnati and headquartered here, Procter & Gamble, or P&G, is on the forefront of this continued wave of marketing to the gay community. P&G is a cautious advertiser. And as one of the country's largest, it has a lot of clout. So when it does something drastic with its advertising dollars, other companies pay attention. So its decision to pull its advertising on nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger's TV show after protests over remarks that offended gays and lesbians was an eye opener on many fronts. It was not only a significant acknowledgement of the economic power and voice of the nation's gay community, but also of the decisions that television executives must now consider when delivering programs in a more competitive TV world.

Because of P&G’s alliance with the gay community, many conservative groups have called for a boycott of the company's products. There were reports that two influential conservative Christian groups were calling for a boycott of two best-selling products of P&G to protest a statement on the company's internal website that opposes a local statute to exempt gays and lesbians from special civil rights protection. The group's contention was that the company is implicitly supporting same-sex marriage.

My study of economics has taught me to be inherently weary of the proceedings of large corporations such as P&G. Most big businesses have continuously hurt the American people by outsourcing jobs to foreign lands and have a history of exploiting foreign labor. But I do have to put me stamp of approval of the non-lethargic way that P&G has repeatedly stood its ground on issues concerning the gay and lesbian community.

Buy P&G and buy big. (Although they could cut the price a bit of their razors)

#2 - Tyler Davidson Fountain

The stoic Tyler Davidson Fountain, also known as the Genius of Water, planted on Fountain Square since 1871 and has come to be one of Cincinnati's most recognizable monuments. Some would go as far as to call it Cincinnati's mascot. 

 

Henry Probasco, Davidson's brother-in-law and employee amassed a small fortune from running a hardware business and commissioned the fountain in memory of his fallen friend.

 

Some best friends take each other out for dinner on their birthday. Others buy tickets to see a show together or give some other modest gift in celebration. Probasco, however, isn't a typical best bud. Having built a Queen City bromance for the ages, Probasco's gift to his best friend was dedicating that historic fountain in Davidson's name to the city that helped build their unbelievable wealth. While many today may not know who they are, they've undoubtedly heard their names if they've spent any time in Cincinnati.

 

Poet Walt Whitman's 1860 "Calamus" poems as a sort of coming-out letter, filled with lines like these: “The one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night, 

In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined toward me, And his arm lay lightly around my breast -- And that night I was happy.”

 

During the mid to late 1800’s there was a visible increase in homosexuality, mainly in men and especially but not exclusively intellectuals or highly educated people as a group, especially those who possess culture and political influence. Private male homosexual acts were not shunned as much until 1885, when gay sex behind closed doors was made a criminal offense. 

Makes you think how close Davidson and Probasco really were.

#1 - Mark Mallory 

In October 2013, Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory delivered his final state of the city speech. Mallory led the way by being the first Black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, as opposed to the other three other Black mayors who were chosen by the City Council.

 

Mallory boldly began the process of bringing the streetcar to the city AND was unapologetically one of nine big-city mayors who established July 15 as Social Media Giving Day which encouraged citizens to support their favorite charities through social media

 

During his last state of the city address, Mallory summed up outstanding accomplishments of downtown revitalization, lower crime rates, and prior year’s World Choir Games.

 

Prior to his time as Cincinnati mayor, he served in the Ohio State legislature and was the only Southwest Ohio delegate to vote against controversial legislation to ban same-sex marriages.

 

Throughout his time as mayor, rumors swirled saying the Mallory was playing for our team. According to a popular website that measures a celebrities likeliness of being gay, 73% of respondents say that Mallory is gay. 

 

Mallory is gay. Mallory is not gay. It does not matter. What I'm really crushing on are his baseball skills. Back in 2007, Mallory threw what is considered one of the worst ceremonial first pitches in Cincinnati baseball history at the Reds’ opening day match-up against the Chicago Cubs.

 

Completely missing former Reds player Eric Davis the, the ball’s intended receiver, by landing halfway between first base and home plate. 

 

The pitch received national media attention. It gained Mallory invites to Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, throwing Cincinnati into the national spotlight.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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