My Intergenerational, Interracial Relationship
by Robert Graham
People always want to have discussions about the subtleties of interracial relationships or intergenerational relationships. No one ever discusses the dynamics of intergenerational and interracial relationships. This is my experience being in an intergenerational interracial relationship. Every relationship is different; this is my personal experience.
The one problem I’ve had to deal with in the past were older white men who felt as though they had to provide and protect me. I’m not sure if they had some guilt trying to make up for racial oppression, if they just saw me as a child who couldn’t take care of himself, or they could have a control complex. Remember, there are some racist white men who love being with black men, and vice versa.
If the two involved in the relationship are of two different cultures and generations, there tends to be an extra layer to consider. Someone of a different generation will have different life experiences and possible life goals. Even simple everyday items, such as tastes in music, movies, television shows, political/social involvement, travel interest, and slang, can create friction. On the other hand, being with someone of a different generation can give you a different viewpoint.
I’ve been with my husband for 13 years, married for two years. There is a 22 year difference between us. I will be honest, the age difference has not caused any issues in our relationship. The bottom line is that any relationship can work if you share some common interest, as well as relationship and life goals.
Wilmington Manor Tells Story of an Interracial
Same-Sex Relationship during the Civil War Era
By Tim Wilson
First-time novelist Dr. James E. Laws, Jr., (pictured right) of Washington, DC has written an incredibly engaging and moving story of “historical fiction” — with fictional characters set within the backdrop of actual events in history before, during and after the Civil War. He will be in Denver, CO, Feb. 22-25, 2018 to promote his new book, Wilmington Manor.
James and his partner Brad Green, a 30-year member of Black and White Men Together, presented an in-depth workshop at the 2017 NABWMT Convention in Ft. Lauderdale, where I bought a copy of Wilmington Manor.
The many fully developed characters, who seem so real and alive as to jump off the pages, and their interwoven stories were so personally compelling to me that I read the entire book in just two sittings. That workshop, and even more so reading the book itself, inspired me to organize some events here in Denver where I live, in order to create new audiences for this wonderful book and its author. I encourage other members and/or chapters of BMWT/MACT to do the same, to support two of our own! I would be happy to talk about how to do this with anyone interested (firstname.lastname@example.org).
From the book’s back cover:
“Secrets, like bindweed ready to choke verbena, lie coiled beneath the surface of Wilmington Manor, threatening all who call the place home. Wilmington Manor dares to expose one of history’s untold love stories. When Andrew, Wilmington’s heir, is forced to return home to take over the family business [plantation] after graduating from Virginia Military Institute, he purchases Edward, a slave. The two begin a journey into the truly forbidden, developing a relationship that could result in arrest and death. In the face of this danger, they must also confront entanglements with Andrew’s social climbing mother, vindictive sister, senile father, the Civil War, and Edward’s desire for freedom. They cling to threads of hope offered by voodoo spells cast by an enslaved priestess, understanding offered from the madame of a high-end bordello, and the dim promise of escape on the Underground Railroad. The price of freedom is high and may ultimately result in isolation.”
A native of Covington, VA, James has more than 30 years of experience in education, working at the local, state and federal levels. He has worked in administration and leadership, taught at colleges and universities, and served on the Richmond, VA School Board. He taught Sociology of Racism at Virginia Commonwealth University for 10 years and has also taught at Mary Washington, George Mason and Virginia State Universities. Self-published in May 2017, Wilmington Manor explores the same-sex interracial relationship between a young white plantation owner and a black male slave in the Confederate state of Virginia during the Civil War.
James took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions for members of NABWMT:
Tim Wilson: When did you first have the idea for Wilmington Manor, and what was the inspiration for it?
James E. Laws: I first had the idea to tell this type of love story around the time that DNA testing confirmed the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemmings. Those of us in the African-American community know very well that those relationships happened between the white male plantation owners and black female slaves, so I thought it was important to tell the story about interracial same-sex relationships that also took place at that time.
TW: How long did you spend researching the historical background of the story, and how long did it take you to actually write the book?
JEL: I spent a lot of time at the Library of Congress. The Virginia Historical Society, museums in Richmond and the Archives Department at Virginia Military Institute were also a tremendous help. The Battle of Chancellorsville is the topic that required the most research; I did a lot of reading just about that one battle. The entire process took 11 years, but keep in mind that I did this in my spare time.
TW: What was your process for writing this book? It’s your first novel, so how did you approach this project?
JEL: I had an idea for the main characters, Andrew and Edward, and I also knew there would
be an antagonist sister named Anna. I took that and just started writing the first few chapters. The other characters seemed to come to me. After I finished the first draft, I put together a focus group of five friends. I made sure the group was diverse (gay, straight, black, white, male, female). They gave me good feedback, and I continued to add to the story. At that time the book was only about 100 pages (8½ x 11); the final product is over 400. The idea of the voodoo priestess did not come
to me until well after the first draft. There were lots of re-writes. I’m very fortunate to have a good friend, David Robbins, a professional writer who was instrumental in giving feedback and serving
as a mentor.
TW: I noticed that your home town of Covington, VA, is included in the Civil War action of the book? How personal is Wilmington Manor?
JEL: Parts of it are personal in that I have some very interesting names in my family on both my paternal and maternal sides — for example, Georgie is the name of my maternal grandmother, and Virgie is the name of my paternal grandmother, and Hurley, Theopolus and Ryland are names of uncles. These names and others appear in the book. Since I’m from a very beautiful part of Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains, I wanted to incorporate something about the city into the book. There
is one interesting point that I discovered when doing my research about graduation ceremonies at Virginia Military Institute: I have my main character graduating in the class of 1856, and when I looked at the actual list of VMI graduates from that year, there was someone from Covington in the class, so I incorporated that person into the story and made him a friend to my character.
TW: What is your hope in writing and publishing this book?
JEL: I hope the book highlights three areas. First, I wanted to tell the interracial love story be-tween the two lead males. I wanted it to be a love story, not a sex story. Second, I hope to highlight the topic of mental illness and depression among slaves. We hear about the devastating physical impact America’s system of slavery had on slaves, but we rarely talk about the emotional impact it had on slaves and their descendants. And third, I hope to dispel some of the stereotypes about slaves being very devoted to their owners even when they were mistreated. The slaves presented in Wilmington Manor are not overly rebellious, but they do retaliate in their own ways, especially the voodoo priestess.
The Tattered Cover Bookstore LoDo, 1628 - 16th Street in downtown Denver, will host James during Black History Month for a reading and book signing on Thurs., Feb. 22 @7 pm. The Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality, 1400 Williams Street in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, will host James and his partner Brad
for a larger, special event on Fri., Feb. 23 @7 pm, including a reception afterward.
James is also a trained baritone who has sung recitals at the White House in Washington, DC and at the home of the Ambassador of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. He will sing at the 10:30 am Sunday service at the Althea Center on Feb. 25. For additional information: email@example.com
[This article was written Jan. 28, 2018 for the quarterly newsletter of the National Association of Black and White Men Together.]
NABWMT: It’s About Our Relationships
by Co-Chair Gavin Morrow Hall
• Relationship: The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
• Interpersonal Relationship: A strong, deep, or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring
I like these two definitions of relationships. They speak to me and to why I joined Black and White Men Together when I was 20 and why I have remained in NABWMT for 35 years.
Former IABWMT Co-Chair (we were the International Association back then) Charles Stewart led the very first BWMT event that I attended. It was a BWMT-Los Angeles “Rap” session and the topic was about fighting racism within the gay community. More than anything else the concept of not just being with a group of gay men but being with a group of gay men that were not only talking about racism, but were actively organizing to confront racism, drew me in and I felt instantly connected to the group.
What I recall from those early days of the organization were the many stories people told about theirs and other relationships. I heard stories of people finding and loosing love in the organization. People who were in monogamous, open and polyamorous relationships. People who were looking for new friends, people who were looking for new sex partners. It seemed to my young eyes that the possibilities for new and different type’s relationships were endless.
I have witnessed many types of relationships over the years and have seen what the power of relationships can mean in people’s lives. It has been in the relationships that we have developed with each other that has challenged, nurtured and sustained us over the years.
Many call our National Convention their gay family reunion. That’s a remarkable statement—that the bonds and relationships we have formed have led us to think of NABWMT as our family. It is the relationships we have built that keep us coming back.
Like any relationship there have been challenges. Over the years, NABWMT has been challenged by what to call ourselves, what should be the direction of the organization. We were challenged as to who and what we want to be. These challenges have sometimes led to passionate arguments, fights, resentments and hostilities, not unlike our own birth families. Yet through it all, it is not those challenges that have defined our relationships. Our relationships have been defined by love for each other and a commitment to the shared values of making the world a more just and equitable place.
It was because of our relationships, our love, and our commitment, that we endured what became our biggest challenge—HIV. NABWMT’s response to the epidemic brought out the very best in our relationships. It was because of our relationships that we were able to galvanize people across the country to take action and to save lives.
In 2018 our relationships continue to be challenged. After an expansion period of recognition, rights and respect, people of color, gays and lesbians, the poor and immigrants are increasingly being singled out for discrimination from the highest echelons of government. How will NABWMT survive these threats? What will NABWMT’s response be to these new affronts?
We will survive the only way we know how. We will survive by building relationships together. Together we will build relationships with other individuals and organizations. Together we will stand united to fight social injustice. Together we will stand with immigrants. Together we will stand with the poor. Together we will stand with other LGBT organizations. Together we will support each other and take our relationships to new heights.