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read_me.gif Southern Voice Washington Blade

Interviewing Stanley Bennett Clay, Pt. II

Pride and black gay culture

by j. brotherlove


One of the things that drew me to Stanley Bennett Clay’s Looker was the fact that it was written by an out, black gay man who is older than the majority of writers in his genre. While a lot of focus in black gay writing is on the down low, coming out and how to find a man, Clay uses those issues as backdrops with a mature aesthetic.

In Part 2 of my interview with Clay we discuss the complexity of black gay culture, legendary icons Hemphill, Nugent and Riggs, and what’s next for the man of many talents. Be sure to read Part 1.

Looker is a comprehensive yet subtle commentary on black gay culture. If you could add anything else to the story, what topic would you address?

I don’t know if I would add anything else to this particular story. The black gay culture is such a marvelously fascinating thing. It can’t be captured in one book; not in a hundred books. I could write books for the rest of my life and would only scratch the surface with regards to the intricacies of who we are as black gay people. Hell, we haven’t been able to scratch the surface with regards to who we are as black people. Let alone black and gay people.

But the thing that keeps me going, that keeps all of our writers in our community going is that our story is a never ending one. I am constantly amazed, bewildered and dumbfounded by our magnificence, our “cunundrumy”, our perplexity. There is certainly nothing basic about being black. And gay on top of that? Hey, if I weren’t black and gay, maybe I’d be jealous too. The specialness of being black and gay is as special as being that baby in the basket on the Nile taken in to Pharaoh’s house only to use all God gave him to save his people. We’re the babies in the basket on the Nile.

I recently watched Isaac Julien’s groundbreaking Looking For Langston again. What do you think Essex Hemphill, Bruce Nugent or Marlon Riggs would say about the current state of black gay, artistic expression?

I think that they would be amazed and somewhat stupefied. I spent a lot of time with Essex and Marlon back in the day. I’m going to say this, though many my not like it, but back in the day, the 70’s, the 80’s, the only black gay authors that were being published were those who wrote books about making their white lovers accept them. Now I have nothing against interracial relationships, but white publishers totally controlled the industry and they would not publish anything that had to do with black-on-black love. In fact, the very idea that A statement like "Black on black love is a revolutionary thing" became a mantra is insulting to me. All I’ve known all my life is black on black love. But then again, maybe we are to blame. When you’re living a good life, there is that tendency to be complacent.

When life is good, which it is for most of us, there is nothing to complain about, and we are rendered mute. The squeaky door does indeed get the oil. But I digress. Thank God for E. Lynn Harris and James Earl Hardy who championed black on black same gender love. Thank God for Cleo Manago who, politically, championed black-on-black love way before it was fashionable. Black on black Love is so mellow that sometimes it just doesn’t get the attention that black-on-black hate gets.

You recently screened the film adaptation of your play Ritual as well as received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oakland Black LBGT Film Festival. How was that experience?

Actually I’m leaving for Oakland tomorrow for the ceremony. It is humbling, to say the least. I live my life, trying to do the right thing, honoring my parents, appreciating the 35 year friendship that I have with my two best friends, loving my lover unselfishly and putting his needs before mine because my love for his happiness and well-being is indeed my need, worshiping my loving God in my home mostly and with others in a house of worship if I choose to not when I’m compelled to, and loving me. I always go back to that saying, "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Well everything is predicated on how you love yourself, isn’t it?

You are truly a man of many talents. What is your favorite form of creative expression?

All of my talents are my children, and thusly, I love them equally. I don’t take blessings lightly. By virtue of the fact that I’ve been able to write books, music, films, direct, produce, publish, and play the piano by ear without any formal training, I mean, I have a high school diploma for God’s sake, that’s all, sort of took me aback back in the day. It really scared me that things were so easy for me. So I eventually just relaxed and relished in the blessings. I learned a long time ago to be appreciative of the gifts, to be humbled by them, to use them for the good of all humanity. That I was born black, gay and left-handed is merely the icing on the cake. I am very special. As are we all.

What’s next for Stanley Bennett Clay?

Writing some more books, writing some more music, getting back on stage as an actor again, drinking some California Chardonney with my fabulous crazy neighbors Wendy, Robert, Derrin, and Myron, and layin’ up with my man. Like Archbishop Carl Bean says, "God is love, and love is for everyone."

pub: 09/13/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 5 | subscribe

Great, great interview J!

Thanks JW!

Brotherlove, Do you have any idea of how much I love you right now? Oh, thank you. Thank you a million times over again and again and again for this interview.

Stanly Bennett Clay, I just love you!

THANK YOU!!!! :-)

Great interview! We excerpted this on LifeLube ( and linked back to you for the rest. Thanks for this! Love Stanley!

5. Kevin

I agree with the above posters. This was an excellent interview of the author.

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