Voyeurs from Ty's . NYC Gay Pride Parade . 114 Christopher Street . Greenwich Village . New York City, NY . Sunday afternoon, 25 June 2006 . Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography
YOU CAN'T COME IN
After the NYC Gay Pride Parade
Ty's . Sunday night, 25 June 2006
It was, perhaps, at around 10:30 on Sunday night. I had spent much of the day from 10:30 am until late afternoon / early evening photographing, recording, documenting and capturing the NYC Gay Pride celebration in Greenwich Village. It had been a long, long, long day for me. The weekend before, I had spent in South Boston VA documenting the Juneteenth Celebration at Berry Hill Plantation as well as the Historic South Boston Virginia. And two weekends before had documented Washington DC's two day Capital Pride celebration, the Parade on Saturday and Festival on Sunday.
My trip to NYC was to have served several purposes. One of which was to "let my hair down". The last time that I documented the NYC Gay Pride was in 1997 when I had traveled to NYC to document Betty Shabazz's funeral in Harlem and, instead, spent the day in the Village photographing the 1997 NYC Gay Pride.
In a yet to be completed photo essay that I would begin to write, some years ago, pertaining the 27 June 1997 trip to NYC I begin by inquiring if the reader had seen the episode of Troy Donahue that featured Betty Shabazz and several KKK members discussing the issue of race mixing. During the episode Shabazz reiterated several times that it was not that she was against integration, but, that it had been her observation, from an historic perspective, that when whites mixed or integrated with people of color that it was more about control and destruction.
During the episode a gay black man who was in the company of his gay white lover, stood up and confronted Shabazz, saying something to the effect that 'times have changed' and that he had many relationships with white men and that he did not understand nor agree with what she was talking about.
She said, "... you will come to understand, precisely,. what I'm talking about,' when as an older gay black you'll come to realize that each of these gay white lovers that you lived your life with, were secretly dismanteling you. And, conspiring against you with you own people. Who, by the way, will respect your gay white lover for more than they would ever respect you gay black ass.
This is something that I have spoken of in my writings as a form of social conditioning.
Later that evening, 27 June 1997, when dropping in at the Rawhide which is where I would meet up with a white guy who at the time was having a similar discussion with his black friend that other gay white men have had with me. We decided to leave together and take a cab to an apartment that he shared with his sister on the upper west or east side. Having already mentioned, at Rawhide, that I had come to NYC to capture the Betty Shabazz Funeral but insted had spent the afternoon in the Village photographing the NYC 1997 Gay Pride he and I would spend much the evening discussing racism and integration. And, of course, partying and having sex.
Not unlike the gay black man who stood on stage, beside his white lover, I, too, in years past had defended my white counter parts saying 'the times are diferent now.'
However, just a few years after the Troy Donahue episode and certainly by the time that Betty Shabazz would die I had come realize and understand exactly what she had meant. Which may explain why I took the train to NYC on 27 June 1997 to document her funeral
And when I visit Chelsea, in NYC now, nothing is more apparent to me that what she expressed. As was the case, in June 1997, which was something that the white guy that I met and I discussed in the taxi ride to his apartment. And, as he would say, Harlem is a great example of what you'll talking about. Which is not exactly what I am talking about. And something that I will explain later.
In 1979 I would visit Chelsea for the first time with my best friend, Frank, who was an Italian from Long Island. We had been best friends since we first met in the fall of 1973 at the U of Maryland. During which time there was not ever a day that I did not experience racsim. A fact that he would often mention to and, of course, witness with me. And, yet, I was always very popular, well received and managed to get into places that many blacks could not. That does not mean that I did not expereince racism, just that I seem to have an air or aura about me. Not unlike the air or aura that I still now exhibit and one that was so pronounced on Sunday, 25 June 2006 during the NYC Gay Pride Parade.
So, please, do not presume that I was able to get into places because of my close relationships with Frank and the other whites and/or acquaintances that I have had relationships with. Because, and as this essay will shed light on when many of these people associated with or accompanied me, they actually were setting the ground work for me to not be accepted nor allowed to return to places that I visited or frequented. Or lived. Or worked.
This is what Betty Shabazz was talking about. And, it is something, that I talk about in my writings. Loud and clear.
An historic photo exhibition at the Sumner School Museum in Washington DC that took place from January - 11 June 2006 was entitled "PRIDE: Party of Protest". My photography, coined as PROTEST PHOTOGRAPHY, speaks to that very premise, as I use my photography and my writings as weapons against the racism that I have experienced as gay black man who intergrated with white men. I speak about not being welcomed at the DC Eagle in the same way that I was not welcomed at The Rawhide.
My reasons visiting The Rawhide were not unlike why I attempted to Ty's. It's about the music. Years ago, Ty's had a juke box but would also play dj mixes when the box was not playing. Rawhide plays dj mixes, which is why I go there. A reason why I visit most bars has to do with the music. Or videos. On Saturday nights, I would sometimes bar hop. First at the former Boots & Saddles, then NYC Eagle and Rawhide. At each of these establishments I was made to feel 'not welcomed' which I will explan later.
After photographing the PRIDE all day I wanted to relax a bit, enjoy the festivities and, just perhaps, meet someone. Since ty's had been one of my hang outs when I lived in NYC in the 80's I thought that I would stop in. And then stop back by Boots & Saddles, before heading over to Splash, to dance.
Let me reiterate. When, during the 80's that I visited Ty's, it then too had the reputation of being racist to blacks. But, like I said, it has never been something I have let stopped me from going anywhere. Nor from doing what I wanted to do. While I may would have found some of the patrons attractive, I can not recall ever leaving with anyone from Ty's.
I do remember, however, one or two people who had seen me in Ty's, later approaching me in the street inquiring if I would like to get with them. It took little for me to understand that they did not want their white friends, at Ty's, to know that they and I got together.
I was really tired and no mood for any busllshit. Especially the kind of bullshit that, as a black gay man I have had to confront. I walked to the entrance of Ty's stepped up onto step to go inside and 'NY looking man with a beared' (there are so many such clones) put his hand up and said 'you can't come in here'. in away that, as a black man, that I have heard many times before.
I said 'Excuse me!". Realizing that I was not going to step down, he said 'let me see your id!' I said, OK, Fine. Though I'm sure the ID thing may have been a practiced institutionalized for the huge crowds at Gay Pride even though, my DC license show that I am 52, I could tell that he had no intentions of letting me. Being black and everything.
Though he pretended to look at my id, he handed it back to me saying 'I can't let you in'
Looking him 'dead in his eyes' I'd inquire "Do you know who I am?" You do not want to make that mistake.
He said, 'No, I do not know who you are.' I said, OK, I'm Elvert Xavier Barnes, the photographer and photojournalist.'
He then looked more closely at my license and said, OK you can go in.
Not to be disrespectful nor with attitude, looking inside and seeing how large a crowd it was and knowing it would be difficult for me to get through the line, I said 'thank you, but forget about, it.
I walked up Christopher Street, and could not believe what I had just experienced. And, yet, reflecting on my experiences all of that day when photographing the NYC Gay Pride as well as my experiences in NYC in recent years, I could not help but reflect on what Betty Shabazz had said and my photo essay from the NYC 1997 Gay Pride Parade.
Let me reiterate, and not unlike I have always been, with or without Frank, I've always been able to get into places and do much of what I set out to do, inspite of the racism.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION . 25 June 2006
Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography