This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my friend, the media artist and activist who creates magical experiences, Quito Zeigler, from their longer rumination, “Elegy from a Queendom that Never Became,” about a gallery of photographs culled from the Visual AIDS artists’ registry.

untitled (Melissa Xtravaganza), 1992, Luna Luis Ortiz, gelatin silver print, 20×16

“Why can’t ghosts tell stories? All of these images were taken before 2000 and tap into the magic and creativity of queer life at the time.

Quentin Crisp, 1997, TRET Tierney, Polaroid pictures, 11×8.5

Coming of age in the early 90s, it never occurred to me that queerness was a sexy, available community or lifestyle. I was taught that to be gay meant dying of AIDS. Considering the sex-positive radical queertopia I now reside in as an adult, that death threat may actually have held some truth.

Who DO we want to be when we grow up? Who did THEY want to be? If they hadn’t been decimated by the plague, would we, their descendants, be different, more humble? Did we inherit their angry vagabond spirits when they left this earth just as we were arriving? And if so, how can we honor their lives and their deaths, so future generations can just keep exploring?

untitled , 1985, Tim Greathouse, gelatin silver print , 7×5,

The problem with images is that they don’t have a voice. I can see the makeup and shy confidence, feel the awkwardness and exhilaration. But I want more: I want to hear the stories, and to learn from the wisdom they were able to accumulate.

Instead I can only just look, and wonder.”

The Kiss from Ginger Heaven, NYC, 1993, Jorge Veras

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I recently received an unexpected but timely invitation (from editor Catherine Halley) to write an article for JSTOR Daily.  Her email request arrived when indeed I had something pressing I wanted to say. I was not sure I could say it, or that the time was right, or what the ramifications of my writing it would be, but I did very much want to think critically (and in public) about why I wasn’t watching the viral live feed videos of black death that began circulating and multiplying last week.

With Halley’s close help, and that of many friends and colleagues, that article was published today: How Do I (Not) Look: Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death. My writing, and thinking, occurred in conversation, actual and in my head, with a great many friends and scholars who I’d like to point to here, in no particular order and most likely forgetting some, less for reasons of intellectual property and more to name that my/our understanding of momentous social, technological, personal mayhem and change occurs in communities of care and practice and thought: Natalie Bookchin, Gabrielle Foreman, Robert Reid-Pharr, Cheryl Dunye, Kemi Ilenanmi, Alisa Lebow, Jenny Terry, Roopali Mukherjee, Marta Zarzycka, Jen Malkowski, Lisa Cartwright, Marita Sturken, Nick Mirzoeff, Patty Zimmermann, Sam Gregory,  Deirdre Boyle, Safiya Noble, LaCharles Ward, Ellen Scott, bell hooks, Paola Bacchetta, Tina Campt,  Inderpal Grewal,  Caren Kaplan, Minoo Moallem, Susan Sontag, Henry Jenkins, Sherri Williams, Jodi Dean, Michael Gillespie, Stephen Winter, Theodore Kerr and Diamond Reynolds.

I write in honor of Reynold’s work and in the name of our shared witnessing of the death of Philando Castile and so many others.

I am sure my friends and colleagues above will not agree with all of my thoughts on this volatile and horrible matter, nor would I want them to, but I do hope they will understand how critical their voices (and long term work on issues of violence, visibility, video and racial injustice) have been for me during this time.