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.
At the beginning of June, I learned that The Counter Narrative Project was centering their “I WILL BE HEARD” National Day of Action on honoring the legacy of a brilliant man by the name of Craig G. Harris. In learning of Craig’s legacy as a “pro-feminist, Afrocentric, gay male writer, community activist, and health educator,” I found myself connecting to a spirit who, much like myself was passionate, poised and determined. One of the things I was immediately drawn to about him was his ferocity. What I read told me of a young black gay man who was passionate, intelligent and extremely driven, who was also plagued by a host of personal and professional challenges.
Thanks to The Counter Narrative Project and info they provided about Craig, I had a framework for what I wanted to say though our Brave Soul Collective (BSC) theatrical production, which would be presented later that month. As I went about the frightening work of being alone in my head with my thoughts and fears, I was inspired by Craig’s example and his story as someone who for his 33 year on this earth, LIVED - fully, proudly, and unapologetically. That alone would have been enough to make this a poignant and memorable encounter. Then the plot thickened…
A week later, I was sharing with friend and mentor, Michael Sainte-Andress (whom I l refer to as “Micci”) that I was working on this project and that a brilliant black gay man by the name of Craig G. Harris was the catalyst for a lot of what we were doing with this project.
As soon as I spoke Craig’s name, Micci gasped out loud and went on to explain to me that Craig was a dear friend of his whom he had known and been very close to for years. He also shared that Craig had transitioned on his birthday, November 26th, 1991.
Fast forward to the evening of Tuesday June 27th, 2017, as we were about to begin our BSC show, “EXPOSURE”, Micci came backstage and handed me a copy of an essay written by Craig entitled, “I’m Going to Go Out Like a Fucking Meteor”. He said that ever since our previous conversation, he had been desperately trying to locate this essay which he felt was very important for me to read. Minutes before starting our show, Micci’s act of placing that document in my hands provided a surge of positive energy which I’m convinced made all the difference in how that evening played out.
A month later, when I read Craig’s deeply personal testimony, I felt charged, frightened, encouraged, sad, and ultimately inspired. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to reach out, hold his hand and thank him for paving the way for me to be here. He was a maverick who lived life on his own terms, cared deeply about the needs of others, especially his fellow black and brown people who had largely been ignored in many ways. He had a fire inside him that I recognized and a sadness that I knew all too well as my own.
In reading Craig’s essay published just months before his passing in 1991, I was overcome with emotion because I felt like I was reading pages from my own life’s diary. While some of his experiences were not akin to my own, many others were SO spot on that it was flat out jarring, to say the least. The challenges around maintaining financial stability, intimacy, identity and racial discord were all extremely familiar to me. Prior to June 2017, I thought I knew a lot about my black gay brethren who came before me, but after discovering Craig’s story, I found that I still had a lot more to learn.
The process of producing our BSC show (in honor of Craig’s memory) was a rewarding experience that I will never ever forget, primarily because of how much it affirmed for me that I am and have been living my life on purpose. Even though that fact often gets lost in the jumble of all that comes with being black, gay, male, HIV positive and an artist, I’m grateful for sacred reminders such as my recent discovery of Craig G. Harris’ rich and beautiful legacy.
Thanks to trailblazers like Essex, Joseph, Assotto, Marlon, and now Craig…who all lived out loud in their truth(s), I’ve now been given even more reason to love and celebrate all who I am.
Monte J. Wolfe is a trained actor, singer, songwriter, playwright, director and producer who graduated from Howard University in 1999 with a BFA in Theatre Arts Administration. He is the Founder, Artistic, and Managing Director of Brave Soul Collective, an arts, education, and outreach organization with a focus on HIV/AIDS, and issues affecting the lives of LGBTQ people, through the performing and healing arts. He currently resides in Washington, DC where he has lived and worked professionally since 1995.