This is an essay I wrote for a scholarship that I'm applying for. I'm trying to raise the funds to study in London and to release my album and sustain it with the necessary marketing. I didn't expect the writing to take this direction but it spilled forth from my bowels and I could not contain it. This is that essay written June 19th, 2020:
" As a tall, Brown skinned Puerto Rican, to come out as having same-sex attractions in a Caribbean family that is part of a deeply religious faith group was the kiss of death. From a very early age I felt different. I didn’t interact with the other kids the way I saw them interact and I was high functioning and highly curious. I was taken advantage of sexually when I was about six or seven and that experience shattered my innocence before I even knew what puberty meant.
My dad was a strong, domineering Alpha type from Cameroon and my mother was the healer and homemaker from Puerto Rico. My older sister had a normal childhood and, like any family, we had our problems. As I got older, to my great surprise, people started pairing off and calling each other “Boyfriend” and “Girlfriend”. I didn’t understand these labels and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to to simply “figure it out.”
There was one girl I liked. Her name was Shanay and she was very pretty. She had light brown skin and her ears were cute. She wore earrings and I complimented her on them. I believe we were in middle school. I was the gentle, sweet type and an overflowing (overwhelming depending on who you ask) cauldron of bubbling joy. I was just a happy kid. I didn’t know what a Black person was and certainly didn’t know what a White was beyond one of the options I was given when painting in my arts and crafts class.
Growing up in a stringent church teaches you a lot of good things. Discipline. Faith. Temperance. Longsuffering. Unfortunately, it also teaches intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, and snobbery. Of course, one’s enjoyment of faith is greatly multiplied when the person in question is “normal” by societal standards and knows when and where to toe the line. However, for the poor, unfortunate deviants as myself who had a predisposition they couldn’t pray, fast, or fake away, church was a facade where sinful, arrogant people dressed nicely and sprayed odious amounts of perfume on high heels to outdo each other in the name of One who didn’t even have a mattress to lay His little head.
Later in life, after decades of trying to conform and be part of the norm, I noticed I became erratic and plagued with incurable sadness. I simply did not know how to be “Normal”. I had no idea what it was to always have the right answer in a conversation. I didn’t know how to have “swag” “charisma” or “stoicism” to sway both men and women and make them want to follow you. I didn’t know how to be myself.
I knew others in the church who were also part of the LGBTQIA+ community but were terrified to come out and say anything. We were like lepers who were made to feel ashamed and cursed because of our leprosy. I would cry with endless tears before God on my knees and even went without eating for three days and three nights on several occasions with the elders of the church beseeching God to take the gay away. I would have done convulsive shock treatment if it meant I could be “Normal”.
The problem with making your child feel “different” or “weird” is that they internalize not fitting in. They convince themselves that since they can’t operate and react the way other kids do that they are fundamentally broken. They assume that something is wrong with them which is wrong with no one else and that mindset damages that child, that teen, that young adult, that man, that woman, until the habit of brokenness becomes inseparable from their identity. Such people can still be highly successful in business, in finance, in the arts (especially the arts where such types thrive) in politics, and in business.
At a certain age, in the teens and twenties, and especially in the identity crisis of the thirties and forties, many consider themselves too different to ever change. They look at their harrowing, ever-shifting past, the blockades, the challenges, and for those who are people of color especially, they know that they can never change the color of their skin. Some resolve to be celibate for life and become priests, nuns, gurus, monks, or some other religious practitioner. Some take a nose dive into drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and medicate their pain away until they’ve erased the memory and the mind which contains it permanently. Many become homeless and live in hopelessness they just can’t shake.
Others accept their weakness, weep uncontrollably, pull the trigger and leave a letter for the whole world to know the why. I have considered all of these options at one time or another over my short lifespan of thirty-one years feeling, living, and experiencing reality through the lens of an “other”.
However, one day I saw a man who looked like me, spoke like me, reflected like me, he was temperate, and refined and he won the presidency for the United States of America. Something in my depth shifted softly. “If he can, I can too” became my mantra. I tried three different startups and failed miserably. “If he can, I can too”. I lost $10,000 in my third startup attempt and became a byword and embarrassment in the community that had supported me.. “If he can, I can too”. I decided to go back to University at age twenty-five to pursue music. They asked me how I was going to pay my bills with a music degree.“If he can, I can too”.
I saw this President get an HIV test with his wife in South Africa. I had never gotten one though I was very promiscuous, desperate for the feeling of love and acceptance. “If he can, I can too.” I was told my sexual habits made me a high risk for STDs and they recommended a commitment to protection by condoms and one monogamous partner. “If he can, I can too.” In university I had a buddy I met who I fell in love with after we’d become best friends. “If he can, I can too.” I graduated at the top of my class and toured in an Emmy winning group, won an artist-in-residence, and was cast in a Disney movie. “If he can, I can too.”
I was betrayed by an old best friend and became homeless when he encouraged my ex-boyfriend to press charges against me which led to my not being able to find work. “If he can, I can too.” I couldn’t find work so I did AirBNB in my section-8 government subsidized home and the same old best friend who betrayed my trust told my property management company what I was doing to survive and I got evicted after living there ten years. “If he can, I can too.” I moved in with a Patron of the Arts who’d heard me sing on Youtube and decided that was enough evidence of my character to welcome me to live with here on two separate occasions for over two years without charging me a dime. “If he can, I can too.”
The coronavirus struck and the commercial work, theatre performances, TV pilot, and Opera work that I’d secured all went down the drain and my burgeoning income failed. “If he can, I can too.” In the coronavirus crisis I decided to undertake what I’d put off for fifteen years and I learned how to accompany myself on piano singing my original songs. “If he can, I can too.” I started reading books every morning because leaders are readers and I plan to own my own company one day. “If he can, I can too.” I was accepted into a short-term program at the Guildhall School of Music for 2020/2021 in London, a city which I’d visited in 2018 and fell in love with. “If he can, I can too.”
During the mind altering self-isolation experience of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown the government passes the CARES act and most people receive a stimulus and a boost of funds to the unemployed. “If he can, I can too.” I decide to use the isolation and the newfound time to detail my experiences, my growth, my journey, my pain, and my change in an album whose name is yet to be revealed (If he can, I can too.)
Using stimulus funds I hire no less than twelve creative types representing eight countries and four continents to create a masterworkto be released with a global marketing strategy spanning over one year. (If he can, I can too.) I hire a Grammy winning group to feature on the album while Covid-19 forces stadiums, concert halls, and storefronts closed. “If he can, I can too.” I balance trying to fundraise to study, work, and continue the marketing effort for my upcoming album and the world waits to see what will happen with this amazing creation that all the world helped create, with every continent represented. If he can, I can too.
This, therefore, leads me to pitch the following idea: an album based on change, on male identity, on male vulnerability, of gender roles, of ethnic roles. The album is being marketed by the same marketing firm that marketed Journey, Cher, and Stevie Wonder in their developing days and we have secured a Recording Academy member to submit the album to the Grammys in 2021.
The goal would be for the album to be listened to remotely via online meeting platforms (like a study group) and discussed intently with the goal of finding common ground among opposing sides. When I was a kid we did Bible studies and book readings breaking down what we were reading. I propose that this album be analyzed in the same way as I perceive that it will provoke necessary conversation. The intent is that it would guide us toward a solution that works for all of America’s children of every nation, color, and creed. The riots, the racism, the institutional abuse of people of color must end. We propose a beginning to that end with a solution by the people and not borne of the media or the politicians who benefit from racial divides in America.
One album. Seven Songs. Eight Countries represented. Fifteen (and counting) beautiful human spirits from across the world. One Goal. Tangible peace. Mutual Love. Intentional healing. Synergy across the nations.
Should I be selected as the winner of the Pitch Your Idea Scholarship, I would use it to help pay for my tuition in London and complete my album to prepare it for ubiquitous placement to begin the international conversation of where we’re going as a country, as a Continent, as a World ravaged by war and colonialism forced to reckon with and adapt to a changing tide.
In this new reality, everyone can win. The first step is to stand together."