This was written a few nights after the event happened in 2020. It’s pretty raw, looking back at it 3 years later, but I’m going to leave it raw. Anything else wouldn’t be honest. (5/17/2023)
#BlackLivesMatter— At the end of my statement there are Columbus area black artists to follow, and a long list of video links to the Columbus Police using violence on Peaceful Protesters. #WeBearWitness
Normally I do joyful paintings about queer heroes and monsters, about large hairy men in love, or portraits of friends and family, but last Friday, protests for racial justice began in Columbus, Ohio during a worldwide pandemic. The combination of these two things prevented me from participating in the protest, as I’m immuno-compromised. And so, like for the last two and a half months, I was sheltering in place but watching the videos of my friends and fellow Columbus-residents as their peaceful protests were met with violent, overreactive police retribution. They were sprayed, gassed, shot at, beaten, arrested during a peaceful protest meant to highlight the problem with police brutality. Well, nothing highlights police brutality like more police brutality.
For one protester who made a video, there was a moment all the violence started: when a police officer socked a protester. When the protesters objected to being assaulted by shouting, they were all sprayed with pepper spray. (Bryan Battle Jr video is also linked below)
Video after video surface from the #columbusprotest showing the Columbus Police using excessive force and assaulting citizens of Columbus (whose taxes pay for police and whose right it is to protest injustice–and whose taxes pay out the settlements in law suits made against the police.)
Infuriated by the videos and my inability to be there to support the movement, I did what I could. I took a screenshot of the video and created this painting.
Yes, it’s remarkably well-produced and edited. It’s funny, and it’s poignant, deeply moving at times.
The Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters accomplishes these things because it’s doing everything so differently than other ghost hunter shows.
They aren’t reacting to a disturbance or a sighting. The ghost hunters don’t (so far) go to a place because they’ve been called by folks disturbed by ghost activity. They are seeking out where they believe queers would have gone in cities and rural areas. Theatres, prisons, convents.
The goal is not to get the ghost on tape, or to prove that ghosts exist. The show takes as a premise that ghosts exist. Their goal: to provide a safe space for queer ghosts to talk about what it was like living queer in different moments of history.
They’re looking for QUEER ghosts specifically. Their focus drives their narrative. They are looking to bring a safe community to a group of queers who can’t move out of their places to find other queers. ( It’s not like ghosts can pack up and go to San Francisco or Greenwich Village.) The show’s aim is to chat amiably with queer ghosts who may not have had anyone to talk to in their lives about being queer.
All of the ghost hunters fall on the Queer spectrum: genderfluid, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, pansexual, even a bear. 🙂 This is about diversity in the cast as well as diversity in the ghosts, but they are talking about LGBT issues.
This is MORE than just ghost hunting: it is an examination of the history of LGBT people and, in some ways, how people lived, hid, coped with being queer in different places. In that, it is a reflection–and a chance–for people to talk about what it is to live as queer in any time.
I would love to start teaching an afterschool program for teens to write science fiction and fantasy. I have often taught this at a local school library–with snacks–once a week for high school students. If you know of a way to contact or approach Dayton/Vandalia area high schools, or program coordinators at high schools, let me know. I’d love to be able to offer these classes again.
If you’re in Ohio, there’s a new workshop of Writing Faith starting up at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton. A collaboration with First Baptist Dayton and Temple Israel, the workshop is going to be 13 weeks, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30.
The workshop is designed to teach you how to write about Faith–a tricky subject to begin with–but with a long history. Come explore your faith and learn techniques found in Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, Andre Dubus, John Updike, Frederika Mathews-Green, Kathleen Norris and others. While the core may be Jewish and Christian based, there will be readings from other faiths. We hope to create a lasting workshop of multi-faith writers who will continue to write and workshop together.
Follow us on www.writingfaith.net where I’ll be posting short articles about “How to Write about Faith” as we go.