So I was at this event last night and it felt so unreal….the Strange Fruit book release party to be exact. It was more of a reunion than anything. Our group literally published a book through email while we were scattered across the country. We were finally able to come together and celebrate the fruits of our labor Saturday night. Despite the numerous hugs, smiles and photo-ops, I felt the most comfortable in the arms of my best friend, who is the reason I came into the collective in the first place.
I first met him when I was a sophomore at Hampton. I was highly intrigued by his poetic style and his attention to controversial detail. We met on the waterfront and shared poetry…and we’ve been inseparable ever since. At the time, he was my first gay friend (and I was still “straight” lol). He was outspoken and always knew how to make me laugh. When I told him about my “bicuriosity,” he encouraged me to broaden my horizons (mind you, this is the same guy who willingly gave my number to my first girl).
We’ve both come into our own after three years. I’ve seen him sparingly throughout the past two years since he transferred, but we’ve gotten considerably closer within these past several months. I’m helping him edit his future book and online blogs as a side hustle, and I can always depend on his critical eye to break down as well as challenge my writing. It’s amazing how he’s transformed into the artist he is today. He is fearless, which is the main trait I’ve always admired about him.
So back to the unforgettable event. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many amazing poets and spoken word artists in one setting. This wasn’t a typical open mic night. Various ideas, environments, and atmospheres were shared between the performers and the audience. The place was packed and filled with fellow supporters. It’s definitely a night I’ll never forget, but I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if he wasn’t there.
I was friendly with the rest of the group, but it didn’t really go past that. He and I were always close, and we probably could’ve been mistaken for a couple if it wasn’t for his performance. He never ceases to move me. He commands attention and addresses the issues that most just sweep under the rug. I’m glad he did his “gay don’t run in the black community” poem. People needed to hear it (including my dad, who was in attendance). I was expecting my parents to tear him apart when we got back to the hotel, but they decided to keep their comments to themselves I guess. As the only other queer artist of the group, I relate to him so much. Even though gay men have it significantly harder, I share some of the same struggles. We connect so effortlessly. A local reporter even commented on our “canoodling” afterwards, which made me laugh.
When I first got to the event, I was stressed out. I was the last one to get there and DC traffic was a mess. Because of time constraints, I was unable to perform and I almost felt invisible with how things were planned. I was at a low point. Between laying my head against him and watching the performances, I was compelled to capture this moment beyond pictures. I took a bookmark next to me and started writing on the back of it….
“Despite all these names, you are my family. I love you. ❤ Shawnon”
We shared an embrace as poetry whispered through our ears. I’ll never be able to get that night out of my head.
Love comes in so many different forms, and I am so lucky to have someone who loves me and is willing to encourage me to become a better writer. His faith in me means more than words can say.