|Left to right: Marc Lamont Hill, R. L’Heureux Lewis, Cleo Manago, Esther Armah and Bishop John L. Selders Jr.|
New York – When Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) National joined forces with the National Action Network and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to present the community forum I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity in the Black Community this past July, everyone in attendance intuitively knew that it would be a paradigm shifting juncture. What unfolded that sweltering day in Harlem, NY inspired BMX founder and CEO, Cleo Manago, to produce a thought-provoking educational film that would resonate beyond the participants in that room.
With a panel helmed by Rev. Al Sharpton; “Our World with Black Enterprise” television host, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill; R. L’Heureux Lewis; WBAI‘s Esther Armah; Bishop John L. Selders Jr. and social architect and filmmaker Cleo Manago, the conversation occasionally took heated turns and emotions were tapped. Ultimately love and respect reigned as those in attendance pushed boundaries to explore the topic of sexual diversity among Black men, and delved into issues surrounding homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, manhood and the Black community.
“I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity” is the educational short film born from that affair. Produced and recently released by a team headed by Cleo Manago, “I AM A MAN” captures the fire of not only that particular evening, but ensconces it with riveting footage that conveys eye opening details about the path and perils of Black male sexuality in America and Africa. Explosive, thought provoking and myth shattering, the short delves deep into the roots of perpetuated Black anxieties about same gender loving love, addressing issues of cultural affirmation, societal isolation, black self concept and religious conditioning.
Opening with footage of Arsenio Hall’s controversial hosting of Minister Louis Farrakhan on his show, “I AM A MAN” directly confronts society’s fear and covert emasculation of the Black male persona. The 36-minute short covers a spectrum of societal factions, including the raging hyper masculinity evidenced in today’s hip-hop movement. In addition, Uganda’s obsession with an anti-homosexuality campaign is uncovered for its religious agenda with white Christianity roots, while the Black church is also unmasked for its hypocrisy. A highlight of the film is archival footage of historical Harlem Renaissance icon James Baldwin, discussing his position as a Black man in America.
“‘I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity’ is not just a film. It’s a movement,” reveals Cleo Manago. “With the recent turn of events, be it CNN’s Don Lemon’s coming out, or comedian Tracy Morgan being taken to task for his perceived homophobic commentary, Black manhood has shown itself to be multifaceted. It’s a subject matter that stares us right in the face and is not going anywhere. Our film is a springboard for further discussion and analysis. Our intent is to not only open minds but open hearts as well, because bottom line, the agenda is love and community well-being.”
“I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity” is available for online viewing at https://vimeo.com/27859721. Connect with Manago, view the film’s trailer and leave your thoughts about the film on the Facebook page “I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity” by Cleo Manago (https://www.facebook.com/I-AM-A-MAN-Black-Manhood-Sexual-Diversity-by-Cleo-Manago).” For private organizational screenings and discussions, contact Cleo Manago at BMX National at [email protected]