Book event commemorates late gay author’s work

Friends and colleagues of the late black gay author Joseph Beam gathered last Saturday to commemorate the writer and activist’s legacy with a special book signing of a new anthology that celebrates his life and work.

“Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call,” by Charles Stephens and Steven G. Fullwood, contains personal narratives, critical essays, poetry, interviews and other writings of Beam, who died in 1988.

Beam was a regular contributor to PGN. His 1980 book, “In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology,” was one of the first collections of stories that contained gay black characters.

“‘In the Life’ was a groundbreaking anthology because it provided a venue for black gay writers to express our ideas and share our stories in a way that had never happened before,” said Guy Weston, who worked with Beam and was in attendance at the book signing. “At that time, we didn’t have TV shows with black gay characters and there weren’t many stories, or prominent black gay people in politics or religion.”

Beam also worked at Giovanni’s Room and was a fixture in the LGBT community at the time, said Weston.

About 50 people attended the event, which provided an opportunity for old friends to reconnect and discuss issues related to Beam’s work.

“The event went very well. It was a reunion of various gay people from the ’80s and ’90s. Some of us hadn’t seen each other in years. Personally, it was very powerful in that regard,” Weston said. “It gave us the opportunity to have a discussion about issues related to black gay activism and the gay and gay-black communities.”

Weston said recent events like the church shooting in South Carolina were contrasted against victories like marriage equality.

“Multiple communities intersect and we appreciate all of the issues. We have to find a way to work together to advance all of them,” Weston said.

“Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call” is available at veepress.com.