The much-anticipated new anthology For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough will be released online Wednesday August 8 and in bookstores August 13. The collection is edited by Keith Boykin, the New York Times bestselling author and television commentator.
For Colored Boys collects the writings of more than three dozen Black gay and transgender voices who are media personalities, scholars, activists and other thought leaders. The book was launched last summer in the wake of numerous “young Black men literally committing suicide in the silence of their own communities,” Boykin told EBONY. “The anthology was inspired by the tragic stories of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Jaheem Herrera, Raymond Chase and Joseph Jefferson.”
Those names are probably not familiar to most readers. The first two were 11-year-old boys who took their own lives after relentless anti-gay bullying in 2009. The latter two were openly gay college students who committed suicide in late 2010. Chase and Jefferson’s deaths happened around the same time as the tragic case of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old gay college student who jumped to his death in September 2010. Clementi’s case received international attention and sparked the “It Gets Better” project. The book title was literally ripped from the headlines—and an obvious homage to Ntozake Shange’s iconic 1974 choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf, later adapted for the screen by Tyler Perry.
“The implication was that the lives of Black men were not worthy of news coverage,” said Boykin, a former aide to President Clinton. “Not to take anything away from Tyler but our society often ignores the pain and suffering experienced by Black men.”
“That was the point of Beyond the Down Low,” adds Boykin, referring to his critically-acclaimed 2005 bestseller. “It was so easy to demonize Black men as these horrible villains who were spreading AIDS to innocent people. But nobody ever asked how those black men became HIV infected in the first place.”
The book publication is timely. A survey released in June found a shocking 43 percent of Black gay youth have considered or attempted suicide. Almost one in ten have been sexually or physically abused.
“We received hundreds of submissions,” Boykin told EBONY. “What surprised me was that so many people were bullied by their own family members. Do parents realize what a damaging impact their words and actions can have on a child at a very early age? Hopefully parents will read the book and see what their sons are saying to them.”
The anthology includes 44 essays, stories and poems from 42 authors. “The contributors’ ages range from 23 to 63. We have at least 5 writers in their 20s,” added Boykin.
Many contributors are familiar names in pop culture, the e-telligentsia and literati. They include this writer; celebrated B-Boy Blues author James Earl Hardy; RuPaul’s Drag Race star Jessica Wild; writers Kenyon Farrow, L. Michael Gipson, Alphonso Morgan, Rob Smith, Kevin E. Tayor, Tim’m West and Nathan H. Williams; poet Emanuel Xavier; media personality and EBONY columnist B. Scott; HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. David Malebranche; former NFL player Wade Davis and former basketball players DeMarco Majors and Will Sheridan. The contributing editors are La Marr Bruce, Clay Cane, Mark Corece and Frank Roberts.
The collection has the potential to equal or perhaps even surpass the impact of Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, the now-classic 1991 anthology edited by the late Joseph Beam and Essex Hemphill. That anthology included a contribution from HIV/AIDS activist Ron Simmons, who worked on Hemphill’s iconic film Tongues Untied. Simmons also contributed to For Colored Boys.
The young authors included in For Colored Boys say it was important for them to speak out. “I’ve been open about my life for nearly a decade and each day is an opportunity to come out,” 26-year-old White House Special Assistant Jamal Brown told EBONY. The Dartmouth grad was named to the OUT 100 in 2008. “Hopefully I can inspire someone who is being shamed by their peers and doesn’t have the space to live their life truly free.”
“Maya Angelou once told me that, young Black people ‘are better than we think we are’,” David Bridgeforth told EBONY. The 24-year-old is the editor and publisher of DBQ Magazine. “Hopefully Black gay youth can see themselves in my story or any other story in this book. It’s important for them to know that they are celebrated, loved and valued.”
Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News and NBC, and his writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Check out his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter: @RodMcCullom.