On the heels of a lovely BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA and a bittersweet THANKSGIVING, I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster. From day-to-day – since last weekend – it’s been quite a ride. I’ll just reflect on what I can recall.
Early in the week, I had the chance to hit Jay Z’s club 40/40 for friend Nelson Boyce’s birthday party. He’s an exec at Nickelodeon’s tween brand N. He’s a great character of guy and I’m happy to know him through my “amazing grace” Nichole. Nelson and his wife Michelle are New Rochelle-ites, like my Nichole. With that, I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know some of her closest friends, like the guest of honor, Monica (pictured with me) & Brian; & Miss Cynthia. I invited my friend Carl Nelson to join me. He’s what I call a platonic boo as sometimes even I want someone – a social escort -- on my arm for companionship and interaction, even though there’s no hanky-panky. We all laughed and chatted as light bites were passed around Jay’s room, one of the V.I.P. spaces upstairs. And most importantly, Nelson had a great time as folks cheered him on. Though black doesn’t crack (and he’s looking good), he spoke jokingly of how each of us may be responsible for the little bits of gray that are beginning to grow onto his crown.
Well, I mentioned last week about the late, great Gerald Boyd, who was the highest ranking editor of color at the New York Times. His widow Robin Stone is a dear friend. I wanted to simply be there for her. I got the chance to be a difference inside of some components she needed for the funeral and the memorial. I initially wasn’t supposed to be in town for the memorial (as I had an assignment in Louisiana), but scheduling would change and allow me to be in place for both services, which were sad, but very inspiring as the cream of the journalism crop gathered to pay their respects. Most impressive at the funeral was Gerald and Robin’s son, 10-year-old Zach who gave a speech that made us all cry alongside smiling. Death continues to be a part of life. For me, in losing a mom in my early ‘20s, I find myself a little strange in wanting to be there for folks who lose their loved ones, but conjuring up the pain from my own losses at the same time. Feedback of all feedback in the way of love and kindness showed up when Robin asked me to ride in one of the six family cars that they had in place to commute people from the Boyd home to the church, then to the cemetery followed by a repast at soul food giant Sylvia’s. I was touched. Meanwhile, the memorial (which was open to the public), brought in 500 or more of Gerald Boyd’s friends, family, and colleagues. It was held at the Schomberg Museum in Harlem and was very much a “family reunion” for those of us who have volunteered with the New York Association of Black Journalists over the years. So great to hug these folks with whom I’ve organized dinners and panels and programs… one more time. Tomorrow isn’t promised. What a treat to see them all again.
On the heels of that very long Wednesday (of the funeral), I previously committed to attend the Emery Awards, which honor people who support LGBTQ youth. The event is put on by the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which is the umbrella to the Harvey Milk High School I attended last week on the eve of Thanksgiving. Executive Director David Mensah graciously gave me two tickets to enjoy the event. I took another platonic boo Frankie Edozien, who is founder of the African Magazine and a city hall reporter. Many of the staff and kids came up and greeted me warmly from having read the write-up I did on them here in THE LIFE OF RILEY. I appreciated that feedback. But I also got a kick out of seeing some of my favorite gays and gay supporters. Former “Oz” actor who played the priest, B.D. WONG (pictured with Frankie and me), for example, was in the house. And I got to dance with him a little bit. Margaret Cho was the host and very irreverent and funny about ‘the gays’. Whoopi Goldberg opened the night, questioning the producers on why they wrote the word “bling” for her – the black woman – to say. Funny! Also there, Kimora Lee Simmons, who I’ve interviewed before and have had the chance to know socially (along with her ex-husband Russell Simmons). She presented an award to a brilliant young man named Luna Luis Ortiz, who is a photography teacher at Harvey Milk, his alma mater. The 30-something too has been HIV + for over 20 years (having contracted it as a teen). With that and the powerful choices he’s made for his life, he is a role model for all young people and makes sure to use his art and gifts to help kids learn more about the disease and its impact on them (whether they are HIV+ or not). His work has been therapeutic to many young LGBTQ kids around town and has generated some amazing artwork and photography. After Kimora did her presentation, some “voguers” from the school came out and did a fierce “overture” for his runway to the podium. Just a lovely and lively moment for the evening, which also featured other performances of song, dance, and drama from the high schoolers. And they were just loving being in the light and receiving the standing ovations for their awesome performances. Darryl Stephens and Doug Spearman, Noah and Chase from “Noah’s Arc” were there to present an award to LOGO, which as of last Wednesday had yet to renew “Noah’s Arc”. They say the decision is coming in a few weeks. I hope it gets picked up. This last season, the second for the series, was just too exciting and short for me. Kimora also played “auctioneer” alongside Margaret Cho and came into the audience to shame some of the “big willies and willie-menias” into bidding on some pricey fare. Nothing less than $6,000 was sold. But a man at my table bid on something – I think being able to design your own pair of Levi’s jeans – for $12,000. Lots of deep pockets that benefited the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which raised $1,000,000 dollars towards its programs. Go to www.hmi.org/ for more information.