Film / TV

brother to brother, a heart to hart

December 17, 2018
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There is a body count for our liberation.

A week ago, I awoke with a furrowed brow and prepared a morning cup of tea. “Kevin Hart steps down from the Oscars.” Wait. Just less than twelve hours ago I was laughing along to Wendy Williams’ banter in an interview with Ice Cube where they celebrated Kevin Hart’s latest feat. That night, I was plenty happy for this poor, Black kid from Philly, but this morning, before the sun grazed my face, I was floored. This feat would mark another triumph in his career from the ‘hood to selling out Madison Square Garden more than once over. And now, the Oscars? He’d soon follow in the glory of past hosts, the famed EGOT, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock. There was no time to think about it; I was immediately confused, disappointed, and dissatisfied with a PR statement that didn’t encompass the larger narrative.

Kevin Hart, you fell on a sword and you didn’t need to.

You needed you there. We needed you there. I needed you there. Poor kids needed you there. LGBTQ kids needed you there. Hollywood needed you there, hosting the Oscars while standing in your truth and evolution. You’re a heterosexual man from Philly and I’m a gay man from Compton, and perhaps, that burden to be a model and definition is unfair, but you are. Not long ago you made very public apologies to your wife for a transgression of yours that fell into the public eye. You were human and your public allowed you to be human. You asked for forgiveness from your fans. You asked for forgiveness from your family. And it was given. Because you were human.

In those early interviews before your ascent, you spoke of beaming at your first six-figure television deal, but your agent turned down the offer and got you a larger deal because, while it was more money than you’d ever known, he was longer in the tooth and knew you were given a raw deal because you were ignorant to the industry – and Black. Those days are behind you. You are no longer a pauper. Money is no longer funny and change surely ain’t strange. In fact, you don’t have to host the Oscars, if we’re being honest. Yet, I wondered if this fiasco and very deep Twitter wound occurred before your multi-million dollar, international fame, would you have pulled up the bootstraps and still hosted the show? This is not a crucifixion, but redemption road. Or rather, as Sonia Sanchez once spoke to an audience in Harlem, “We help to heal each other with our tongues.”

There is a body count for our liberation.

Have you watched, not heard, Logic’s,”1-800-273-8255?” Have you sat alone, in a cab, in your bed, on the tarmac on your private jet and watched the video? You need to watch it. Everyone needs to watch it. Have you read Darnell Moore’s, No Ashes in the Fire? Moore recounts the closeness of death as he walked along New Jersey streets accosted by a group of boys taunting and dehumanizing his existence with a barrage of homophobic slurs. One of his assailants held matches while pouring gasoline all over Moore’s body. His Aunt Barbara, walking home, saw this and saved him. The boys tried to strike a match and set him on fire, but the wind held his fate at bay, and so did Aunt Barbara. But providence does not always intervene for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. As Moore wrote: “There was no sacrifice to burn that day. No ashes to be collected. No traces of life to be discarded.” Not that day, but what about today? While your comments may stem from your pre-evolution, there’s still a young, LGBTQ kid out there trying to dodge the fire. And she needed the apology far more than the discomfort of what it would feel like in you giving it.

There is a body count for our liberation.

Drumming up an apology can’t compare to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters who live in these beautiful, but endangered bodies, every day. This is “movement work” and it is messy work. Your apology statement is not a sign of weakness, defeat, or exhaustion from explaining yourself, but it is a continued conversation about visibility and protection. Your apology is redemption and a continued reminder that you stand with us and with your own children no matter their sexual identities.

As the gendered, the raced, and the queer, it is paradoxical that we all consume culture that is anti-us, homophobic or even misogynistic, yet still supporting those artists, chalking it up as “entertainment.” Then, what is the social responsibility of the artist in knowing that his wealth is inextricably linked to the pockets of those fans who douse him in adulation? Being LGBTQ is not entertainment; it is a lived existence with high costs and emotional labor. I don’t know what ultimately caused you to abandon this charge as host and I do believe it was a hard decision, but was it a necessary one?

You say to us to live, love, and laugh. You say to us that you don’t want to be a distraction, so recant and revise your statement, get on The Academy stage and be an ally, or rather an accomplice — for us.

Marcus Anthony Brock is a PhD Candidate and college professor of African American literature at Sarah Lawrence College. He also teaches literature on race, gender, and media at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Marymount Manhattan College while caught up in an Afrofuture Renaissance. Questing for change. Questing for liberation.