“…many…faltering [white] agencies…rushed to bolster…’funding credibility’ using a…minority oriented venture (instead of creating their own internal ethnic targeted components…”
Trouble In Black Paradise Chapter 15: A Demon Lurking In The Closet Of Mainstream Gay Organizing, pages 310 and 311.
Greetings charged-up readers!
Trouble in Black Paradise finds an uncharacteristic warrior rejecting institutional status-quo.
A clinician actually fighting for America’s ultimate underdogs—as his academic “focus”—immediately grabbed my attention. I got the reference from Mary Ratcliff of SF Bay View Newspaper; he’s briefly visiting San Francisco. Intrigue absolutely flared, I’d never heard of him, but seeing his focus gave me chills—this area of research and “approach” is right down my alley!
In my experience a professional climbing scholarly ranks affirming Blacks (forging roads for society’s “most oppressed”) and suddenly surfacing here—who incorporates much of my very own tried-and-true, multi-pronged model for social transformational change—is extremely rare. I knew right then we must meet hoping neither would be disappointed.
Dr. Jonathan Lassiter, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Here from June 12th thru July 21st, he’s enrolled in the Visiting Professor’s Program at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at UCSF.
Stated is that he’s a polymath (an expert in a significant number of subjects) he’s a critical thinker and notably a healer; to him “breaking down” mental health dynamics for the average person’s easier understanding (and practical life improvement use) is paramount—it’s a key prong on our shared model.
Dr. Lassiter has co-edited a new book with Dr. Lourdes Dolores Follins titled, “Black LGBT Health in the United States: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” His research and courses taught at Muhlenberg highlight this subject as the crux—added is the pivotal component of “spirituality.” For these authors it’s extremely personal.
Both Dr.’s strive to end a travesty: “Most research on Black LGBT folk has been done by people who are neither Black nor LGBT.” The book is an anthology addressing nearly two dozen physical and mental health issues—“giving unprecedented voice” to established and aspiring Black clinicians who’re LGBT themselves—determined to “humanize” their kindred. The Preface states (unsurprisingly) there were no previous books “specifically about LGBT healthcare”—still a shocking thought.
And for sadly predictable reasons (i.e. academia’s restrictions, generational loss, etc…) voices from contributing veteran LGBT survivors “over fifty”—like myself—and trans women are missing.
Topics include “For Us, By Us: A Manifesto of Black SGL [Same Gender Loving] and Trans Health, by Dr. Lassiter”; “Balancing Act: Identity Management and Mental Health among Black LBT Women, by Siobhan Brooks”; and “Status Quo: Intersectionality Theory, Afrocentric Paradigm and Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Gay and Bisexual African American Men, by Dante’ D. Bryant.”
Those familiar with my work know an unflinching cry: while Blacks in general are the most oppressed and broken segment, Black gays and lesbians are crunched under again—making Black LGBT spectrums America’s ultimate underdogs. Lassiter bears this out stating Black LGBT members are dehumanized by the Black mainstream (and white gay community—the dominant source of LGBT services); we’re subjected to layered marginalization in all their avenues of communal expression and validation—made isolated and socially invisible.
Conversely he honors our resilience and self-determination rejecting that boxed-in, exclusion abuse (SF Bay View National Black Newspaper publishing my hard-hitting work is a cutting-edge marvel).
For me aside from standard HIV matters, what Lassiter implies here is that a multitude of additional “physical and mental” health issues are tied directly to social oppression—clearly distinct from basic medical challenges.
They’re civically linked “conditions”—ones I’ve long highlighted and addressed: organizing with the late Ron Grayson and Black Gay Men’s Coalition for Human Rights in 1980’s LA I co facilitated a men’s Social Therapy Group—unraveling oppression’s effects.
Reformist veterans’ harp about disenfranchisement’s worst byproduct: underdogs at rock bottom attacking each other, ignoring seriously overlapping issues—all miss the shining light of humanity’s age-old tools. Black mainstream reality clearly merges this Dr.’s “Intersection”—the spectrum on which we all fall.
I do believe spirituality joined with psychotherapy is the most powerful transformational tool and it appears that Dr. Lassiter agrees—“evidence based” psychotherapy is the cornerstone of his teaching and consultations. It lit the heart of our discussion—but I’ll get to that.
Spirituality is examined as an ultimate conduit addressing social justice—timeless issues: police murdering unarmed folks; a horrendous President Elect revitalizing architects of white privilege and prioritizing the rich—leaving masses on a bombed out physical and mental health terrain. It’s explored to impact rising casualties of social corruption—stagnation, the apathetic, the socially lethargic; even educate the dastardly—to change varied hearts and minds.
The Dr. is a noted choreographer: dance synchronized in educational force—the spiritual nexus of traditional African and global pre colonial societies—a thing I’ve gained powerful organizing and mind stimulus results with.
Now all this is well and good on paper, but will I find yet another case of well cloaked status-quo (“revolution” dissolving in person)—just “too good to be true?”
Dr. Lassiter is young, early in his post doctorate—but I’m an alumnus of 1970’s San Diego State, majoring in Graphic Arts and English—not Psychology; a warhorse from the Old School of stating gutbucket social reality unapologetically—and yes like a polymath, long of tooth researching many subjects, organizing in multiple overlapping social trenches.
My Old School term is “Renaissance Man.”
I’ve three clear “coming out” phases: the 1960’s launched my “down home” Afro celebration and social repair work—rejecting stuffy clinical formality; Buddhism soon shattered my colonial religious indoctrination, freeing views that could now see outside the West’s violently commanding hierarchy machine—the East’s vast human potential perspective clearly pairing Afro-spirituality; and I sexually “came out” pre AIDS, already involved in Black urban and gay organizing.
I’m labeled the radical one—who ripped into bureaucrats and clinicians at San Francisco’s 2009 and 2016 Black Summits on AIDS—sponsored by our Health Department; white based civic institutions housing Black efforts all but cried about HIV nationally wreaking havoc—including within this so-called “Mecca”—Blacks absolutely worse than ever (while other groups improve).
Afterwards I wrote a four part article substantially exposing this avoidable, unacceptable debacle—to enlighten those perplexed clinicians (and for public posterity). Being one of the few Black and gay “pre AIDS” pioneers who’s still around—actually invested in healing and restoring “communities” beyond ladder climbing (or mere novelty)—I’d find meeting an avowed system shaker fascinating indeed!
He said “call me Jonathan,” when we shook hands—I felt like I was invited to the kitchen table.
In one of UCSF’s sparkling new Mission Bay Medical Facilities we hunkered into a relaxed exchange. Yes, he had read my brief bio.
My advanced question: did he know of any national, self-determined Black AIDS agencies still operating autonomously? Besides standard government (or community) sponsors do any Black facilities independently set agendas—really calling the shots?
“Flash!” Knowing where I was headed—and what I feared—the answer was simply no. He knows of no Black led HIV services that aren’t off-shoots of governments—or satellites from white gay based establishments.
Here’s buried history:
1980’s pioneer white gay agencies (and other rarely involved entities) were sued by minority advocates for extreme neglect: suddenly all mainstream services had to show proof of clinical outreach to minorities to get HIV funding. Simultaneously I co founded San Diego’s P.O.C.A.S.E. (People Of Color AIDS Survival Effort) Task Force; LA’s Rev. Carl Bean had founded the Minority AIDS Project, etc…pushing for sustainable, independently run minority institutions—for obvious reasons.
Now, here’s another disastrous layer of regress, but I didn’t belabor it. I then laid down a card:
Colonial, or “radicalized” Christianity as an all encompassing religious force, sits at the heart of imploding, self-sabotaging Afro culture. Afro-America’s “object of worship” is not Joshua’s (or, Christ’s) original intent, but instead this: America’s cosmetic industry, narcissism, isolationist material wealth and colonial warlord brutality—demonstrated by unbridled Black-on-Black violence.
This and but a few brief sentences more assessing the landscape confirmed a rarity—Jonathan and I are on the same page. We moved beyond an unsure dance to the full-flavored nitty-gritty: Black social repair is our priority within this storm’s many tentacles; the dialogue teapot poured—centered on “spirituality.”
Interviewed I’m questioned on spirituality related to “social justice”: it’s definition, whether it’s truly effective and worth the effort; on how it can be applied to “drop-out” casualties of politic corruption, even hardcore separatists (or diplomatically raise Black consciousness amid delicate, murky cultural dynamics) etc…Do I have proof?
My simplified take: spirituality itself addresses all varied life “forms” operating or situated in the environment in which we live. “Life force” is the energy housed in us (and all “forms”)—also permeating that total environment.
“Spiritual” simply is the essence threading “life force”—a switch operating the “force’s” cause that maintains (and enhances) its highest adaptable growth effect (potential)—so that “life” thrives within a dangerously challenging environment. A practical key: an inner spiritual “switch” absolutely does respond to an environment’s spiritual action (it’s testable)—whether deeply buried inside, or severely derailed.
“Religion” is a system structured to employ a subjective spiritual (or ideological) “belief”—or rule.
I’ve written about a derailed Afro-America’s “religious” problem: “radicalized” Christianity pulverizes spirituality’s “switch”; twisting common sense (making “outsiders” disposable) subverting one’s allegiance to protecting humanity, including oneself—co-opting societies into religiously guarding corrupted colonial systems. Adherents inadvertently “worship” white politic—not a saving Grace; Blacks themselves guaranteeing their overall “populace” never thrives.
Hence, abolitionists said: “You cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools!”
Spirituality in its proven “artistic element” (utilizing the African model) rallied San Diego’s defiantly oblivious social units to P.O.C.A.S.E. thru my rousing Ndaba performance—putting HIV awareness, treatment and prevention action on that city’s minority health services map! I’m confident Jonathan’s had similar results.
We crammed a bit more in the time we had, barely cracking the surface. Jonathan feels Black justice advocates coalescing “nationally”—which I profess is imperative—will more quickly materialize (considering social media’s advent). I have severe doubts: Black brokenness and disconnect is too far gone to see this tool utilized beyond piecemeal (and cosmetics)—without a rigorous, explicitly targeted national unity campaign. Vital and effective tools already exist that Blacks disgracefully sidestep (one being Black LGBT leadership).
He addressed today’s rising Black Psychology “star’s” window-dressing progressiveness—still mired in homophobic trappings. And how disappointing: Jonathan’s never heard of the late Dr. Charles Thomas—legendary social builder known as America’s “Father of Black Psychology” (before being “murdered mysteriously” I’d brought him in as a P.O.C.A.S.E. advisor). Excluding Dr. Thomas’ trailblazing legacy from Black Psychology courses shows Black regress disaster actively rotting “higher education” branches.
It makes Jonathan’s work all the more audacious, critical—and pioneer.
Progress does translate into furthering our own exchange—beyond brief novelty drop-in sessions: Blacks must pool every available proven (and novice) Black resource—beyond pop culture celebrity bedazzlement. Jonathan acknowledged he’ll stay in touch, excitedly embracing a copy of my own book Trouble In Black Paradise: a landmark chronicle of modern Black LGBT leadership at the crossroads where the religious East, West, the Civil Rights Movement and timeless gay history crash into the 21st century.
No time to expand upon Black and gay “fuzzy leadership”—or homophobia reports in some Black Lives Matter chapters; ancestral neglect; vanishing Black institutions (no SF Black LGBT communal depth “moving-and-shaking”); L.A.’s Minority AIDS Project that may survive; or Black “self-hatred” in LGBT folk—trickiness raising Afro “consciousness” amid white cosmetic gay worship—and the like.
Spiritual legend says unexpected warriors will and do arise—here, Dr. Jonathan Lassiter, PhD has arrived!