On Saturday March 16th, I was glad to be part of a co-book reading with Abdul-Aliy Muhammad called “Nurturing a Queer Self-Love: A Public Reading of Two New Self-Published Books” at the West Philadelphia Paul Robeson House. Abdul-Aliy and I have survived a lot as two OUT Black queer individuals who are using books to deconstruct hegemony. Abdul-Aliy read from his book collection of poetry entitled A Flower Left to Wilt. I read for the first time in Philadelphia, from my book entitled Pauline Hopkins and Advocacy Journalism.
In his foreword, Abdul-Aliy writes that they (Abdul-Aliy uses they/them pronouns) subscribe to the philosophy of radical transparency: “pushing myself to embrace the most hidden parts of my identity in service of freeing myself of the shame and guilt I experience attached to my sexuality, gender performance and HIV positive status” (6).
I believe part of what motivated me to write my first published book is the way Hopkins freed herself of the shame and guilt she experienced for allowing herself, as she writes in her 1905 letter to William Monroe Trotter, to be bribed out of her “race principles.” I compare this to the ways in which I allow myself to let the mainstream industries bribe me out of my own identity. Like Abdul-Aliy, I have work to do in ridding myself of the shame and guilt. I was so glad after we read that Abdul-Aliy proposed we sit in a circle.
I was so enamored and attracted to this concept within my bourgeois upbringing, that I researched her, this letter and wrote an in-depth reading of her fiction. What Abdul-Aliy is doing in freeing himself of the shame and guilt, is what I am trying to do in shedding the standards that traditional academia wants me to follow.
It is akin to what Abdul-Aliy writes in the last lines of his poem “Monument”: “can I move a little, am I destined for this spot? / Standing here unable to fulfill myself for you: I am rigid.”
I am exploring the concept of what another self-published scholar, Dr. Tony Martin, meant when he wrote about the adjective integrationist in his books, especially his book about the U.N.I.A. called Race First. While studying Martin’s work for an edited collection I am now writing an Introduction for, I see the ways in which the behavior of integrationists truly prevent what Abdul-Aliy describes as “radical transparency” which is truly how we will be free and, as James Baldwin said in The Fire Next Time, “ring down the curtain on the American Dream.”
This is what Pauline Hopkins’s work was about when she celebrated the work of John Brown in her third novel, that I write about, in my fourth chapter. This is what Paul Robeson’s work was about when he celebrated the work of John Brown in the pages of the Freedom periodical. Thanks to Ms. Vernoca Michael of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance for the support of our work. Thanks to Russell Shoatz III for designing the black banner with my logo. And thanks to Christian Hayden for the photos.