— Vega, 'Brothers Loving Brothers'
What a year 2020 has been. As I sit in solitude contemplating the last 12 months — 10 of those in isolation — I am saddened by the devastation of Covid-19 and the loss of 300,000 Americans and counting. The immense catastrophe this pandemic is having on the Black community at every intersection — especially my own.
And while I am triggered by the similarities that this virus has to the AIDS Crisis of the ‘80s, as a Black gay man who is HIV+, I soldier on. You see, that is the only option because it is part of the Black struggle. I say this because I come from a legacy of courageous, creative and politically and socially conscious Black gay men who believed in pushing back against oppression, built communities to support their own, and took trauma and created magic.
Honoring Essex Hemphill and Joseph Beam who gathered Black gay writers in the anthology Brother to Brother to “tell the story that laughs and cries and sings and celebrates” of Black gay men in the wake of the AIDS crisis, we present the Native Son 101.
The Native Son 101 is a list in alphabetical order of the Black gay/queer men who made an impact in our community and in the world in 2020. These are the Brothers who pushed through one of the most horrific years in history and made a difference, created something new, and broke barriers. It is 101 because we believe that the extra person in our community can create change. It’s also a double entendres because this is a lesson in the beauty, boldness and brilliance of Black gay/queer men.
2020 was also the 65th Anniversary of James Baldwin’s Notes Of A Native Son which is the inspiration for the Native Son movement, community and platform. It’s no coincidence that Baldwin used his voice and visibility to call out systemic and structural racism, challenge white supremacy, and read with a tongue as sharp as a sword.
“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.” — James Baldwin
In this moment of profound darkness and racial reckoning, it is affirming and empowering to see the light of so many Black gay/queer men shining so bright.
Love + Light, EW
Illustrations by CJ Robinson
Writing by Juan Michael Porter II
Special thanks to Kiwan Anderson, Ricky Day, Cordey Lash, Reginald Nash, Ryan Staley, Yvonne McNair, Steven Psyllos