...another parent is burying their offspring. It seems such a terrible terrible thing.
About a week ago, terrible news rippled through the Crackbook community; that one of my HighSchool family had passed on. I didn't recognize the name at all, but I was saddened by the realization that the person was younger than I am. By a few years.
I realized after a bit he was someone who's path I had crossed... and recently. I even had a photo of him that I had taken at one of our Reunion Chorus' rehearsal. A handsome man with a beautiful voice, he'd sung with our Reunion Chorus a few weeks ago, and after the show as I gathered my things and walked off stage I'd seen him backstage. He flashed me a huge smile.
But then it rippled through the community that he was our respected leader's "boo" and my heart broke. So I went to the musical service tonight... largely because we were asked to sing there. But I was glad, because I wanted to be able to give our leader some support.
The service--billed as a "musical memorial" with the funeral being the next day--was out in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, a place mostly unfamiliar to me. I found my way out there, meeting Shoefly on a subway platform to drop off the Sun and Moon. In Brooklyn two hours later, I ran into another chorus member as we came up the subway steps. We walked to the church together.
The church-- a Baptist Tabernacle--had a very plain, white front and appeared to house a small storefront church. But when you walked in through the front door it opened up into a cavernous space, complete with huge stage and crystal chandeliers. I mean huge. And the place was packed. Turns out the place used to be a movie theater way back in the day.
The music... I couldn't describe the music. You had to have been there. And the man had sung with everyone... kept in touch with everyone... and they all turned out to see him home. Some big name stars too. Our chorus sang "The Lord's Prayer" to honor him and out of the audience came alumni from the school... including an actress currently starring in an off-Broadway musical... to sing with us. It gave you goosebumps. It made you want to jump up and down. It made you want to cry... for the loss of someone loved so much, but it filled you with joy, too.
I looked around... many many many gay men and women... and it made me think about the relationship between the gay community and African American Baptist churches. There has always been the tradition of openly-gay-but-not folk in the church. All through high school as I participated in the chorus, sang with them, traveled throughout the city with them... we always knew who was gay. No one ever said. But no one ever hid, either.
So it strikes me as a tad hypocritical when churches... particularly Baptist churches, talk about the Prop 8 issue, and that marriage should be between men and women.
I wrote about my own struggle and my own feelings about that issue elsewhere on this blog. I still think about it, about what the definition of "marriage" means to me. And I still think that traditionally, its between men and women. But at the same time it broke my heart to know how much our chorus leader is suffering with the loss of his love, his "roommate". And I think it's ridiculous that no one could openly say "I'm so sorry". Yet everyone did. I think it completely unfair that whatever life these men shared is over, done... as if it never existed as far as the rest of the world is concerned. And I do think that needs to change...
I hugged him hard, our chorus leader. He was so strong tonight, the music holding him together. But I had spoken with someone earlier in the week who said he was simply broken; he couldn't stop crying.
The young man who passed, his father called up his son's "friend" and said "I don't care what you all say, I don't care what you think... this man was my son's best friend..." and we all clapped.
It was some kind of evening... for me it's turned into early morning and the world prepares to watch the funeral of Michael Jackson. But I'll be thinking of other folk out there in Bed Stuy...