Keith Boykin Poem for the Millennium March

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Keith Boykin Poem

A Keith Boykin Poem.

Settle in because what’s coming next is no regular verse. It’s an outpouring from the heart, a rallying cry from a soul who’s seen and felt it all, and an anthem that unites voices often silenced. It’s penned by Keith Boykin, a master of words, a champion of equality, and a spirit unbroken.

It’s raw, it’s real, it’s about a journey that isn’t always smooth. So strap in and join us as we dive into a poem that isn’t just words on a page, but a heartbeat echoing across the ages.

Poem by Keith Boykin

I Speak Today
As One Black Gay Man

I Speak Because
Barbara Jordan
Langston Hughes, and
The Reverend James Cleveland
could not speak

I Speak for myself,
but I also speak for my uncle,
a black gay man
who could not be here
because he was murdered in his own bedroom

I speak to stop the violence
from Wyoming to Alabama
and all points in between,
and yes, in Texas and New York as well

I Speak to tell
George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani
not to pack your bags for Washington
because you will not be living here next year

I Speak knowing that
the right-wing may vilify me,
closeted gay men may deny me
and religious demagogues may decry me

I Speak to tell Jesse Helms,
and Trent Lott,
and Strom Thurmond,
your days of division are numbered

I Speak Because
two homosexuals who share their lives together
deserve at least the same rights
as two heterosexual strangers who met last night on prime time TV

I Speak Because
James Baldwin
Lorraine Hansberry
Bayard Rustin
Audre Lorde
Glen Burke
Simon Nkoli, and
Bessie Smith
could not be here

I Speak as a member of the family
because there are problems in the family
that cannot be healed
by sweeping them under the sterilized, sanitized rug
of homogenized homosexuality

I Speak Because
Martin Luther King
and Huey Newton
would support my cause

I Speak To Resist
the commercialization
and commodification
of a mainstream “gay lifestyle”
that enriches a privileged few
and impoverishes the masses
with a bankrupt culture of uniformity

I Speak Because
Alain Locke
Joe Beam
Essex Hemphill
Mickey Fleming
Greg Hutchings
Assoto Saint
Craig Harris, and
Alvin Ailey
could not be here

I Speak Because
two people sitting in a hotel room
should not be able to dictate
the entire lesbigaytrans agenda

I Speak Because
Sojourner Truth
Harriet Tubman
Malcolm X, and
Frederick Douglass
have taught me the value of struggle

I Speak Because
our community has a right to know
how decisions are made,
and a responsibility
to hold our leaders accountable

I Speak Because
Patrick Kelly
Willi Smith
Joan Fountain
Countee Cullen
Josephine Baker
Mel Boozer, and
Marlon Riggs
could not be here

I Speak So that
my silence will not be interpreted as complicity,
my concerns not discarded dismissively,
and my thoughts not represented simplistically

I Speak Because
Coretta Scott King
Cornel West
Jesse Jackson, and
Nelson Mandela
have uplifted me

I Speak because
my sheroes and heroes
and other good people of conscience
have chosen not to speak

I Speak to give voice
to their concerns

I Speak because,
like Fannie Lou Hamer,
I’m sick and tired
of being sick and tired

I Speak to remind you, and myself, that I can
hold my lover’s hand
in Anacostia or Harlem or South Central or Oakland
if I choose to,
and I am not always found
in Dupont Circle or Christopher Street
or Santa Monica Boulevard
or the Castro

I Speak to Honor
Me’Shell Ndege’Ocello
Ruth Ellis
Jewelle Gomez
Ruth Waters
Carl Bean
E. Lynn Harris
George Bellinger
Marjorie Hill
Carlene Cheatam
Maurice Franklin
Kofi Adoma, and
Peter Gomes
For Blazing A Path
In which I could follow

I Speak Because
not all blacks are straight,
and not all gays are white

I Speak to Honor
Mandy Carter
Nadine Smith
Cleo Manago
Barbara Smith
James Earl Hardy
Phill Wilson
Ron Simmons
Alvin Quamina, and
Kevin McGruder

I Speak so that you will ask
why these people are not on this stage

I Speak to Honor
Bill T. Jones
Ken Reeves
George C. Wolfe
Alice Walker
June Jordan. and
Phill Reed

I Speak So that
the presence of people of color
will not be tokenized
and the absence of people of color
will not be trivialized

I Speak to Honor
Sabrina Sojourner
Samuel Delany
Angela Davis
Jaye Davidson
Cheryl Clarke, and
Nona Hendryx

I Speak to Enter These Names
indelibly in the record books
of this gathering

I Speak Because
Audre Lorde warns that
my silence will not protect me
any more from the anti-gay forces
than it will from the anti-black forces

I Speak to stand up
for the millions
of brothas and sistahs
whose area codes do not begin
with 202, 212, 213, or 415

I Speak Because
AIDS is not over,
in America or Africa,
despite what the privileged elite may write,
that people of color are at greater risk than ever,
and that now is not the time to turn our backs on this disease

I Speak so that
black gays and lesbians
can create our own organizations
to support our own needs
without having to answer the tired old question
why are we “separating ourselves?”

I Speak because your priorities
are not always our priorities,
but all of our priorities are important
and should not be casually dismissed

I Speak because
affirmative action
and racial profiling
are part of my agenda

I Speak so that
a black family can get a home loan
and a black man can simply get home,
alone, without getting arrested

I Speak Because
I cannot stand the word “queer”
and feel excluded from the word “gay”

I Speak so that black leaders
will not forget us
and gay leaders
will finally learn to work with us

I Speak so that
white gays
and straight blacks
will no longer make decisions
that affect us
without including us

I Speak in a culture
that devalues our love
to say that the act of self-love
is an act of revolution in itself

I Speak to declare
that black men loving black men
is no longer a revolutionary act
but an everyday thing

I Speak to tell you
that I refuse to be
the only black person
in any meeting,
at any time,
at any point
ever again

I Speak so I can get a taxicab
not just when I leave this stage,
but when I leave the White House
or leave your house, after a fabulous affair,
or any house on any street,
that I will not be judged by the color of my skin

I speak because
Alice Walker reminds me
that no person is your friend
who demands your silence
or denies your right to grow

I Speak because
nobody else can speak for me
but me

I Speak to help
repair the breach
that has divided us
black from white
straight from gay
male from female

I Speak to help
repair the breach
that has excluded the voices
of youth and seniors,
the poor and middle class,
bisexuals, and transgendered people,
people with disabilities,
and all people of color

I Speak with hope
because Dr. King reminds me
that only when it is dark enough
can you see the stars

I Speak So that
Dennis Rodman can wear a wedding dress,
that Carl Lewis can pose in track shorts and high heels,
and that Little Richard can simply be himself

I Speak so that
the famous rappers and runners and writers
and Hip Hop heroes
on the DL
may one day decide
to speak as well

I Speak So that
all black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered teenagers
will one day be allowed
to live peaceably in their own family homes

I Speak Because
we must broaden the movement
to see the intersection of
race, gender, class, religion, sexuality, and ethnicity

I Speak not to get
my place at the table
but to demand a whole new table arrangement
that welcomes all those who have been excluded

I Speak not to gain privilege
but to challenge the whole concept
of privilege itself

I Speak to Invoke the Lessons of
Rodney King,
Abner Louima,
Amadou Diallo
James Byrd, and
Patrick Dorismond
lest they be forgotten
or thought to pertain strictly
to some other march

I Speak because
we cannot prevail
against the Prop 22s
if we do not also fight
the Prop 187s and Prop 209s

I Speak because
June Jordan tells me
that freedom is indivisible
or it is nothing at all
besides sloganeer-ing
and temporary,
and short-lived
advancement for a few

I Speak to Say, unequivocally, once and for all,
that blacks and gays are not the same,
that racism is not the same as homophobia,
and that the civil rights struggles are not identical

I Speak Because
it matters not
which group is most oppressed,
or which was first oppressed,
or whether they are identically oppressed.
What matters is that no group or class of people
should be oppressed

I Speak to remind you
that this march will soon be forgotten
if we do not take action
in our own lives
in our own communities

I Speak in the hope
that this gathering
will not become
just another circuit party
and that real people
may learn real lessons here

I Speak to shine the light
in Internet chat rooms,
online clubs,
glbpoc listserves,
and lgbt email chains

I Speak Because
the personal is political
every time we are not ashamed,
to go beyond our boundaries,
to express our love,
to come out,
to volunteer,
to make a donation,
to write a letter,
to forward an email,
to register to vote,
or simply to speak

Finally, I Speak to offer a choice
between fear and love

I Speak Because
fear is negativity,

I Speak Because
love is positivity,

I Speak Because
fear is unnatural and learned
and love is natural and innate

I Speak so that
my faith may be used as a tool for love,
and not a weapon of hate

I Speak because
I refuse to worship
at the altar
of religious bigotry
and self-righteous piety

I Speak to Pray
for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell
that they may learn
the true meaning of unconditional love

I Speak so that
one more black gay man or woman may find the courage
to rise up in church today and challenge a minister
who spews out the vicious bile of religious-based homophobia

I Speak so that
Angie and Debbie
and Alveda and Reggie
may one day understand
that God is love
and love is for everyone

I Speak because
I have no power to make these dreams happen
unless someone, somewhere hears these words as her own
and decides to act

I Speak
as a proud African-American
Christian-identified man
unashamed of who I am
unwilling to be divided into identity camps, and
unbowed by the demons of hatred that would incite me
to fear instead of love.

I speak because Audre Lorde tells me,
“When I dare to be powerful,
to use my strength in the service of my vision,
then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

I Speak Today
As One Proud Black Gay Man

Also Read: Homophobia in the Black Community: The Ultimate Guide!

Keith Boykin is the former Executive Director of the National Black Gay & Lesbian Leadership Forum. Author of 6 books such as: “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America” and “Respecting the Soul”. Former White House aide. NBJC co-founder. TV Political Commentator. Film/TV producer. Dartmouth College and Harvard Law alum.

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Serwaa, a gifted storyteller with a knack for uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her words dance across pages, painting vibrant narratives on culture, human rights, and everything in between. While she's not weaving tales, you'll find her playing the cello or planning her next globetrotting adventure. You might say she's a bit of a 'renaissance woman' - but she'd just call it 'embracing her curiosity'!