Collector Shares SBC Article on Bawabu, SGL Symbol

3 09 2010

A local Philadelphia collector of Black LGBT history shared a copy of an article in SBC Magazine on the Bawabu. The Bawabu was first displayed June 28, 1998 at a community debate of homosexuality in the Black community in Los Angeles, CA.

Olu Kwasi Osei created the symbol to reflect the “self-identification of Afrika-centered Black conscious homosexuals.”

The article reports that there were brochures at the event that described the symbol and its purpose. I would love to get a copy of one of those brochures!

The brochure described that “the word Bawabu is taken from the Kiswahili language and means “gatekeeper”, and that it pays “homage to our same-gender-loving ancestry”.

Same Gender Loving “ancestors were honored or recognized by their societies as being the ‘gatekeepers’ to the ethereal world. It was believed that this spiritual world could be entered through a series of doors or ‘gates.’ The unique ability to grant entrance into the spiritual world was derived in part, from the ‘gatekeepers’ sexual orientation.”

Article by Leland Gale for SBC Magazine, Dec. 1999

The article notes that Olu, the creator, “forbids” any organization using lesbian and gay in its name from using the symbol, “or the reference to they symbol as the ‘Black gay and lesbian symbol.’

Still, this is an important part of “our” history and worthy of sharing.

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Two Great Local Archival Finds: Mox Nix, and Convo with Original West Setter

3 09 2010

This week, I had the most fortunate opportunity to interact with two men in Philadelphia. Each provided great details about Philadelphia’s early Black LGBT community.

Community members preparing to leave for Mox Nix's annual Halloween Party

Gary Q. Hines, host of The Catacombs online radio show, first told me about the first collector and his collection of five photo albums depicting notable Philadelphia socialites and images from the Mox Nix organization. Mox Nix provided a social outlet geared towards Black men and women of Philadelphia’s LGBT community. There are a lot of people in the photographs who we were unable to identify (sounds like its time to organize an “Archive Viewing Social”).

He tells me that when he was growing up, the original owner of the albums would tell him stories and experiences about the community. After the owner of the albums died, this collector went to his home to collect these important relics from the trash. Without judgment, the family of the owner possibly did not understand the significance.

This collector also has early photographs and books that first depicted black gay-oriented porn in 1970s. He even has an almost complete collection of Black Inches, and other magazines geared to Black LGBT communities throughout the US: Kick, Clique, SBC, as well as others). I actually held a Sierra Domino photo of the 1970s, as well as correspondences from the photographer and this collector. He also collects baseball cards.

The second great find of the week included a telephone conversation with one of two living members of The West Set. While going through the personal collections of Tyrone Smith, I noticed that one of the West Set members served on the Board of Directors of an early HIV/AIDS service organization in Philadelphia. Smith confirmed that this member was still living, and within two hours arranged a phone call. Gerald J. Lewis confirmed important information about the composition of the group, and the origins of the group’s name. He told me that he first got involved at Lincoln University, and that that is where the connections were first made.

In a few weeks, I will post an interview with Lewis, as he’s agreed to sit down and talk and share other items that he has featuring members of the West Set. I hope to also share more of the collection from the first collector. I AM EXCITED.

If you haven’t, please check out the online exhibit of The West Set posted on this blog; and if you’ve viewed if previously, new information and photos have been added.

I believe that history is a connection/collection of stories from those in a network. The more I do this work, I am thrilled to see networks of stories crossing and intersecting. In this way, we are all connected. I thank Gary Q. Hines and Tyrone Smith for adding these important contributions to our history.

The Archivists Society encourages your participation and sharing.