My favorite part of preparing Kool-Aid as a child was watching the sugar dissolve. I would fill the pitcher with water, not quite to the rim. I would rip the packet open and pour my preferred flavor into the water. Then, I would add the sugar. The sugar was the most important step to ensure the drink was refreshing and sweet, not strong and bitter. In childhood, I had a few moments where I experienced Kool-Aid with not enough sugar or no sugar at all. The taste was bitter and strong. My young mind would ask when, “Is this what Kool-Aid really is? This bitter and disgusting liquid only made edible by copious amounts of sugar?” Not the most sophisticated thought, but strong enough to haunt my adolescent self. I started to wonder was I finding delight in the actual powder that I was unleashing into the water called Kool-Aid or was I just simply just a slave to sugar?
February 28, 2018 – Atlanta, GA – The Counter Narrative Project (CNP) Atlanta-based Mobilization Director, Johnnie Ray Kornegay, III, has been featured among the South’s top queer artists in the third physical edition of WUSSY Magazine, a Southern LGBTQ multimedia platform. Kornegay and three of his selected photographic works are prominently featured in WUSSY's “Sex Issue” alongside over 30 other queer Southern artists. The edition, available now through WussyMag.com, serves as both Kornegay’s artistic debut in a print publication and the first time his work will have international exposure through the magazine’s global distribution channels.
White supremacist rhetoric, easily accessed via media and literature, told him that none of these realities belong to him, but instead are the fault of marginalized people—and, perhaps, that even if he doesn’t know those challenges well, that he is susceptible to them so long as those marginalized people have any access, power or identity whatsoever. He was told and chose to believe the only way to gain a happy state of being is by accessing power through hatred, although his gender and race grants him immeasurable amounts of power simply by existing. And this was easier than working through life, loving through life, forgiving through life, or being accountable through life.
Oprah was my first taste of possibility. I could not have been older than nine years of age; witnessing her with a microphone and holding the attention of a large audience inspired something in me. The arrogance of youth overcame me, and I thought to myself, that should be me. I had things to say. I deserve eyeballs and ears of the public for forty-five minutes a day with advertisement for toothpaste and cleaning supplies running in between. As my youthful entitlement matured into a more socially accepted adult anxiety, I still look positively at that moment of possibility. I also think critically about what made that moment of possibility possible.
As you move forward, it’s gonna be a challenging walk, filled with bumps, bruises, scars, tears, hiccups, and awakenings. You are magical, powerful, and beautiful...even if you can’t see it right now. You are an alchemist. You are resilient. Fear is just an illusion. It’s gonna seem insurmountable at times, but it’s transient...like most of everything in life, EXCEPT LOVE.
There was a murder in Atascocita, Texas on Sunday night. Devon Wade was killed by his partner Mario Williams. The police reports say there were two arguments. One resulted in Williams asking Wade to leave. Williams obliged. The second, and final argument, also concluded with Wade asking Williams to leave. He did leave through the back door, but not before delivering two bullets to his romantic partner’s head. Wade’s twin brother was found holding him, begging someone to call for help. It was, unfortunately, too late. Devon Wade had died. And in a way, I’m sure Mario Williams is now dead too.
The possibilities that Knight birthed just by being willing to be seen is unable to be articulated or measured because you can't measure the importance of the moment when an artist witnesses something that affirms the possibility of their dream being reality. You can't articulate what it means to be of this transgressive space that is black gay men refusing to be hidden. You can only acknowledge it.
My name is Johnnie Ray Kornegay III, and I am the Network and Mobilization Director for The Counter Narrative Project. I’m happy to be here tonight to celebrate Pride and the local LGBTQ community with the help of American Express. As Pride kicks off, we are honored to be working alongside Amex, a company that has long stood behind the LGBTQ community, to raise awareness and funding for those who need it most.
After years in therapy and unpacking a lot of what’s at the root of my issues around self-worth, I’ve accepted that is that a lot of this stuff will most likely be with me for the rest of my life. So I've committed myself to working as hard as I can on paying attention to what goes on inside my mind as it pertains to my self-worth and how much I weigh on any given day.
As a black gay man, I’ve always been in search of a historical roadmap of who I am through learning about the lives of those who came before me. Discovering the works of other black gay writers and activists years ago helped me in unimaginable ways.
Earlier this year, I came to learn things about myself which can only be described as transformative. Before June, the name Craig G. Harris had no significance at all but by June 27th, 2017, all of that had changed forever.
I am a black gay man from the South. I came of age in the 90s and early-2000s. Like most of my generation, those of us in the gap between Generation X and Y, I grew up with a vague notion of what it meant to be gay, and none of what it meant to be both black and gay.
At the time of writing this, it has been 7 days since I met author and activist James Baldwin, albeit posthumously via a screening of the Raoul Peck-directed documentary I Am Not Your Negro. The film is based on an unfinished manuscript Baldwin penned discussing his thoughts on and relationships with three Civil Rights icons: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. Groundbreaking playwright Lorraine Hansberry is also referenced in the film, through Baldwin’s own words, of course. As narrator, Samuel L. Jackson wields his commanding voice to reanimate Baldwin’s.
In the mid-1980s Duncan Teague and other Atlanta black LGBT folks called a meeting in his living room to respond to the HIV epidemic and to increase the Atlanta organizing in the black LGBT communities. At the time the effect of HIV on the black community did not receive the needed public attention. In our communities, in our night clubs, and in our organizations, we knew and cared for the people being impacted. Teague understood intimately how this was changing black LGBT life, and he stepped up as a leader. That meeting contributed to the birthing of the African American Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AALGA). This meeting also helped set the stage for a lifetime of service and advocacy for our communities.
In December, 2016, I visited Jackson, Mississippi for the first time. In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign reported that Jackson had the fourth highest rate of HIV infections in the country. I wanted to learn more about the city and HIV activism there. I also wanted to learn ways we could assist and possibly participate in activities. I had several meetings while visiting including an inspired conversation about what a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) weekend of events could look like with My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK). I was grateful to get the call for Counter Narrative Project to thought partner and come in to participate in a weekend of events for NBHAAD.
How do we manufacture joy? This became the question as I boarded the plane.
The news of Michael Johnson’s conviction reversal gives a glimpse of hope that lawmakers and those who preside over these cases understand the need to review antiquated HIV criminalization laws, which disproportionately affect Black people. I hope Michael feels the community rallying behind him to assist in making his release from prison is permanent.