In the early 1990s, the Postmodern African Homosexuals (PAH) performance group, better known as Pomo Afro Homos—Djola Branner, Brian Freeman, and Eric Gupta—fueled puritanical Republican Senator Jesse Helms’s efforts to dismantle the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). North Carolina’s 1991 Black Theatre Festival rejected the troupe as well.
A generation later, Twin Cities Black Pride (TCBP) is reviving PAH’s unapologetic comedy Fierce Love: Stories From Black Gay Life.
Branner reflects, “Fierce Love continued the conversation which filmmaker Marlon Riggs started with Tongues Untied . Pomo Afro Homos picked up where he left off by commenting on popular images of black men in mainstream, LGBT, and African-American communities, and drawing from autobiographical experience. We embodied three-dimensional representations of ourselves, and found humor, of course—and sadness and anger and fear—and celebrated our own lives.”
Another 1990s theater icon, Harry Waters Jr., played the original Belize in the Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Now in the director’s chair with Fierce Love, Waters has had to educate his seven young actors about vanished symbols—like bandanas.
Waters shares, “In the original, the ‘reclaiming’ of the power of the bandana colors was primarily about the red bandanas: fuck me. But when you move it to around your neck or head, it is celebrating the stories of grandfathers and working mothers sweating to make a difference. In our production, Kevin Moore, AKA KAOZ612—icon of the Hip-Hop movement—has rewritten and once again reclaimed the commentary on sexual practices, hustling, history, and compulsion through the use of 21st-Century Hip-Hop.”
TCBP organizer Earnest Simpkins points out, “In the Twin Cities, no space exists in which black gay men can just be. Instead, we find ourselves struggling with being ‘too black’ in this space, or ‘too gay’ for this space, or not black or gay enough. As a result, we have taught ourselves how to compartmentalize our identities in order to cope with this reality. Fierce Love introduces a new reality.”
Simpkins adds that all races and orientations are welcome to attend.
Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life
Pillsbury House Theatre
3501 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls.