Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween in the Hood

Sigma Chi at John's Hopkins University has been suspended by the school and its national governing body for throwing a weekend "Halloween in the Hood" party that some are calling racist. On Sunday, three members of the frat attended a Black Student Union meeting and "... claimed they didn't understand why we were upset, why it was offensive," said Black Student Union member Chrisina Chapman.

At the start of our sophmore year at the University of Maryland, in the fall of 1974, and though I had no interest in fraternities at the urgence of my best friend Frank Gramarossa, an Italian from Elmont, Long Island, I would begin to hang out with some of the frats on campus who, at the time, were considering me as a pledge. The first black pledge to be more accurate.

There were many reasons why I never considered joining any fraternity. Black or white. One of which was as an openly gay black male I simply never had the need to try and fit into anyone's theme. And I certainly was not into the partying, drinking nor drugging that came along with frat life. That does not mean that I was not able to associate and socialize with those who did. My motto has always been 'Live and let live!'.

And the more I associated with the various fraternities including Delta Tau Delta which is where Frank, at the time, was pledging the more that I knew that it was not something for me. Frank, however, was very different and was fully engrossed in the frat scene. Since he and I were extremely close so at his urgence I agreed to pledge with him as my big brother. But not for long.

When reading through the news articles regarding activities associated with the Sigma Chi's Halloween in the Hood event I remembered haunting experiences that I had had as the first black pledge at the University of Maryland's Delta Tau Delta fraternity. And while Frank understood why I did not complete the pledging process I got the exact same reaction from most whites in the spring of 1975 as did the Black Student Union members when on Sunday Sigma Chi members said that "they didn't understand why [blacks] were upset, and why it was offensive!".

Perhaps, if at the time, when Frank, Mark, Jimmy and I would drive down to the Pier 9 on Saturday nights that, unlike they, I did not have to present two ids ... just maybe I would not have been so upset or offended. But, affected!

In my "Halloween 2003" DC Indymedia featured article I shed light on the fact that as a 50 year old gay black man "Halloween does not mean to me what it means to my white counter part." And each time, over the years, that I would comment to my white friends that I was offended or affected by their mistreatment of and discrimination against me they pretended 'not to understand.'

In the process of my 1 November 2006 Near Southeast DC Redevelopment photowalk when taking pictures at the corner of First and L streets, in SE, of the future site of 100 M Street a handsome white man pulled up beside me, in a fancy car, and ask if I knew where 14th Street was. Saying that that there are 14th Streets in each quadrant I'd inquire if it was a house or an office building that he was looking for. After some discussion he said that he was going to meet a friend who was a drug dealer. Which is what I had already thought to be the case.

I then directed him toward to 14th Street SE. Saying once there 'the folks' would know where he should go.' Not so many years ago, it was not uncommon for white guys to approach me in the exact same way. Not only in fancy cars in the street but on my job and at bars as well.

And, as time would pass, when I'd ask that they not approach me in such a manner, since when they did horrific things would happen to me, they'd respond that they did not understand why I was offended.

Just before pulling off, in his fancy car, there was a brief moment that, in years past, others would have then inquired if I knew where he could "fetch ...". And for a brief moment I would then reflect that had it been a different time or a different day and if my past experiences had been what they had been ... it is quite possible that the handsome white man may would have enticed me enough to celebrate Halloween in the Hood!.

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