army of sparkle (sparkle_shortz) wrote in postqueer,
army of sparkle

I'm happy, I'm carefree, and I'm gay

If that headline sounds familiar to you, you may have heard Carl Bean's cult classic Motown single "I Was Born this Way," a gay protest disco anthem from 1979 that is still loved by disco and deep house heads today. It's a great slice of history that was just re-released on CD. Here's an article on a talk that was given by an NYU prof about the song and disco's significance generally as a cultural force.

Queer Awareness Month Opens with Lerner Reception (Columbia Spectator)

New York University professor and author Jason King spoke last night in the Lerner Party Space in the opening reception for Queer Awareness Month 2005, organized jointly by Columbia’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Columbia Queer Alliance.

King, the associate chair of the Recorded Music Department at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a contributing writer for magazines such as Vibe and The Village Voice, spoke about Carl Bean's 1979 disco anthem, "I Was Born This Way," now recognized as a landmark in the black queer movement.

King traced the history of this obscure gay protest song in the context of disco, which he called the "genre of music that had brought blacks, women, and gays to the forefront of our cultural imagination." Despite progress in the area of gay rights, he noted, challenges remain for gay artists of color.

"Record companies feel that marketing an openly gay singer is a risky venture," King said. "There hasn’t been a groundswell of community support ... we, as a community, have to come together to support this work."

The reception was the first in a month of activities designed to raise awareness of queer issues. A free kickoff party will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 10 p.m. in the basement of Lerner.-Lydia DePillis

The incredibly gay West End Records (history here, founder's book here) has just reissued it. I promise a CD single exists because I have it, but all I can find on their website is downloads so you might want to check back. Also, the CD has terrible packaging with a rainbow flag baby, but I promise you this is soulful gospel-tinged disco, not twink/raver type stuff (no offense if that is what you're into).

The singer Carl Bean went on to do AIDS activism and to found a church:
from Essence:
Bishop Carl Bean: ministry for all
Essence, June, 1994 by Veronica Chambers

On Jefferson Boulevard in South Central L.A., a beautiful multi-colored mural covers the wall of a small, unobtrusive building. "Love is for Everyone" is the message emblazoned for all to read. Inside, Bishop Carl Bean, D.M., and his staff are doing that rare thing: practicing what they preach. For almost ten years, they've been running two concurrent projects: the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) and the Unity Fellowship Church for Black gays and lesbians.

The church began as a Bible-study group in the home of one Black woman. "We started in Sister Tripp's dining room in late 1985," says Bean, smiling, "It was all done in the African-American community." Bean, raised an ardent churchgoer in Baltimore, remembers, "I had all that support. I felt so loved, so connected to my people." However, once he came out to his family and friends, Bean was shunned by the church. He attempted suicide and was sent away for psychological evolution. Even through all this, he says, "The love of God was real. I never believed that Jesus hated who I was."

It is his belief that God is not homophobic that inspired Bean to start the Unity Fellowship Church and then to embrace African-Americans living with AIDS through MAP, which is now the largest African-American AIDS agency in the country. There are now Unity Fellowship churches in New York, Detroit and Washington, D.C. Now, as Bean sits and talks, the room occasionally shakes with the aftershocks of the L.A. earthquake. He is unshaken; after all, he's been shaking things up for years. He also believes that his extraordinary success is divinely inspired. Says Bishop Bean, "God keeps blessing the work."

x-posted to sparkle_shortz, inspired by koaloha

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