[Colored photo of the author]
I dedicate this work to an African slave boy named Tobias. I also generated my perceived image of Tobias to another California death row artist named Robert Dunson, and Robert brought the image to life, inspiring me to make Tobias's image the centerpiece of our LGBTQ spirituality group membership card.
Like most lil' black boys in America, we found Tobias while looking at something else. Yes, a story about the New Netherlands about 1647. Yes, I just said circa 1647.
Although the original story was "The Tale of Harmen Meynedertz van den Bogert in the era, of a territory we now know as New York, I kept noticing how Harmen was running away from being put in prison for committing sodomy with his African slave Tobias. At least twice, Harmen was put in prison and he escaped each time. Tobias was either waiting for him or escaping with Harmen. Not typical "slave behavior."
The story goes on to state that Harmen and Tobias escaped again for a third time, fleeing to the Mohawk Valley due to Harmen being the first white man allowed to cross into the Mohawk Valley. The tribe ironically allowed a special place within their culture for what we know now as "gay people," calling them "two spirits" in 1647.
The Dutch chased Harmen and Tobias in the Mohawk Valley of Big Nose Mountain and a battle took place. Some Mohawk storehouses were burned before Harmen "and Tobias" were taken into custody for the third escape. The Mohawks sued the Dutch after learning of the white man's laws and collected damages. Let it be known that one of Harmen's many professions was law, and wow.
I'm focusing on this third escape because, while fleeing across the icy surface of the Hudson near the present day I-90 bridge, Harmen fell through the ice and drowned. According to the story—good story, by the way—this Harmen cat predates the term multitasking.
However, nothing is written about what happened to Tobias. So I searched my own spirit for the best possible answer. I envision Tobias returning to the Mohawk Tribe that fought with him and Harmen against the Dutch. I can see Tobias living out the rest of his life among the "two spirits" only to be discovered as perhaps the first LGBTQ African slave on record in a land that would later become the United States. Another wow.
So to lil' black boys today from the innercity streets of America, in Tobias, we are able to find ourselves in history. Living a life of being hunted, incarcerated, fighting for freedom, being fostered, and cared for by those with the heart to embrace us as we are, and survivors yet unaccounted for in our own stories, forgotten by our own—until we stumble upon discovering ourselves, by ourselves, and each other.
I dedicate this work to every uncounted and forgotten Tobias, from Africa to the innercity streets of America. Every year I choose a day to celebrate Tobias, my African LBGTQ ancestor, by dressing in all white clothing or in my true nakedness. I invite someone to eat, enjoy a movie, spoken word, and raps, and singing, or reciting introspective poetry that is ethnographic in content. Dance and just be.
I cut my hair into a fro-hawk style to recognize the Mohawk tribe that embraced a white man and his African slave boy and/or lover without sexual orientation discrimination.
And now the perceived image of Tobias is now the face of the historical-first-ever California condemned LGBTQ spirituality group, a group that produces The Sound Mind Streamer for the spiritual edification of the most underserved prison subculture communities, where every day is Tobias Day.
From victim to victor, I am Tobias. We are Tobias. Discovering each other again.
Today marks my eighth year of cutting another version of ethnographic stylings of the "fro-hawk" into my hair.
I've seen other Africans in this hairstyle. I can't wait until all of my hair is totally gray so I can really rock it in winter. I do this one time every year. I invite you to join us in our new tradition of honor, love, and unity.
Year one: adorn frohawk for 24 hours and cut to a new journey. Second year: adorn frohawk for 48 hours and cut to a new journey. Third year, three days. Fourth year, four days. And so on—until your forever.
Today ends the eighth day. At midnight, I cut to a new journey—to invite us all to look for each other, find each other, find and care for each other, and lead each other by the creation of new ideas and actions that encourage us all to think for ourselves, provide for each other, forgive those who cause us harm, and fight for our right of universal nature to exist as we are, in our own space, open to each other.
2019 may 5
2019 apr 4
2019 mar 23
2018 nov 7
2018 oct 31
2018 aug 11