Essex Hemphill at CLAGS

Essex Hemphill, author of Ceremonies and editor of Brother to Brother, came to New York City in early March from his one-year residence at the Getty Center in Los Angeles to serve on the jury CLAGS convened to choose its first two Rockefeller Humanities Fellows. On March 5, the evening before the jury was to meet, Hemphill put us further in his debt by presenting, in the Third Floor Studio of the Graduate School, “Living the Word: An Intimate Evening with Essex Hemphill.” Free to the public, the event drew an enthusiastic response, a number of those in attendance later commenting that the evening was among the most moving and stimulating of recent years. Hemphill’s eloquent, passionate presentation was further highlighted toward the end of the evening by a spontaneous, four-way discussion among him and three members of the audience, Assotto Saint, bell hooks, and Robert Reid Pharr, over the meaning of “home” to gay African Americans. The startling, frank exchange over the extent and meaning of “homophobia” in the black world proved a riveting close to an exceptional evening.