Writer, deejay, and Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at NYU, Mister Khary Polk will be in Berlin for the rest of the summer finishing his dissertation on the travels of African American soldiers around the world. Here's his take:
A good friend of mine believes Berlin’s denizens dream of New York City while New York’s queers dream of Berlin. With this in mind, I’d have to say my own dreams for Pride 2010 exist somewhere in the space between two of my favorite YouTube video clips featuring the recent political activism of queer theorist Judith Butler in Germany and the bodies of black Californians dancing their asses off to Jimi Hendrix circa 1973.
Earlier this month, Judith Butler shocked the city of Berlin (and the larger queer world) by declining an award for civil courage given to her by the organizers of the Christopher Street Day Parade during Berlin’s Gay Pride. Arguing that the event had become too commercial, Butler said—in German, boo—that the award would be better served recognizing organizations that expressly and unabashedly fought for the rights of immigrants, queers of color, and trans folk in Germany, including GLADT, LesMigraS, SUSPECT, and ReachOut. Watching the clip, I became incredibly moved by the crowd’s cheers as Judy enumerated the challenges that continue to face queer people of all stripes throughout our world.
The second clip in question is a video and music mash up of the Jimi Hendrix/Curtis Knight song “Happy Birthday” layered over footage of black people dancing taken from the film Wattstax (1973). Originally conceived as a concert film commemorating the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Wattstax became, in the words of director Mel Stuart, “a deeper reflection of the black experience.” While Hendrix never actually played at Wattstax, I find something so moving in this fusion of song and video, a two-minute tour de force where Afros and booties groove unrepentantly, necks pop and bodies run and come together in celebration of a life that had ended only three years earlier.
As different as these two clips may seem to some people, together they articulate perhaps the fullest expression of pride I’ve ever felt as a person who happens to be black; as a man who happens to be gay; and as a human who feels blessed to be both.
Critique is rarely ever easy to give or receive, and good people shouldn’t have to go to war over Gaza, Gaga or gay marriage. Yet there are times when offense must be taken. After that, let’s hug it out on the dance floor. Because if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.