The LGBT Health & Development Program

E. Patrick Johnson – Sweet Tea

Posted on January 25th, 2011 by Alex Coello in Video. No Comments

How do gay black men survive life in Dublin, Ga., Jasper, Texas, Hickory, N.C. and other places big and small in America’s South? The answers to this and other questions asked of 70 gay, African American men living in the South by a Northwestern University professor are the basis of “Sweet Tea,” a book and performance.

The IMPACT team attended a performance of Sweet Tea and then interviewed E. Patrick. In our interview he shares some of the messages and stories from the performance.

“Black queer life in the South has gone largely undocumented,” says E. Patrick Johnson, the Northwestern Professor of African American Studies who conducted his face-to-face interviews between August 2004 and September 2005. “Histories of gay life have focused on urban areas on the east and west coasts, perhaps because the South is perceived as an inhospitable place for gays generally,” he says. “Sweet Tea” will be the first book-length study to look specifically at gay black men living south of the Mason-Dixon line and is, in part, Johnson’s attempt to debunk that perception.

“Black queers are an important piece of the patchwork quilt that is the diverse and perverse social fabric of Southern living,” says Johnson, a self-identified “Southern expatriate” raised in North Carolina’s western foothills.

Johnson’s interview subjects range in age from 19 to 94 and represent at least one gay black man from every former slave-holding state. From corporate executive to drag queen, minister to hairdresser and architect to nurse, they inhabit large cities and small towns and are sometimes and sometimes not openly gay.

Buy the Sweet Tea book

Learn more about E. Patrick Johnson here

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