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Ebony Power 100: Deputy White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre

Her position is historic as the first Black Lesbian who is speaking for the nation’s chief executive as Deputy Press Secretary

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Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre courtesy of EBONY Magazine Power 100 awards

BEVERLY HILLS – Ebony Magazines’ iconic annual Power 100 awards ceremony, honoring those individuals who have had a positive impact on the African-American community is making its 2021 post coronavirus pandemic return airing Saturday, October 23 from Los Angeles and hosted by Wayne Brady.

Brady, a television personality, comedian, actor, and singer, will also give a special performance during the broadcast, and he is slated to receive Ebony’s Vanguard Award for his decades-plus career “as a consummate, all-around entertainer and performer.” 

Included in the distinguished list of honorees is principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is listed in the magazine’s category of ‘Ceiling Breakers.’ As the principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre conducts the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Room in the West Wing standing in as needed for White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki and also she conducts what are referred to as ‘gaggles.’

“Gaggles” refers to informal briefings a White House press secretary conducts with the daily press pool rather than the entire White House press corps.

President Joe Biden’s selection of Jean-Pierre was a first in the history of presidential administrations. Her position is seen as historic from the perspective of being the first Black Lesbian to hold forth behind the podium of the James S. Brady Press room in the West Wing speaking for the nation’s chief executive.

Jean-Pierre has been with the Biden administration since she joined the Biden-Harris campaign in May of 2020 and then accepted the position of Chief of Staff to Senator Harris in August. In late November of 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden named seven women to his incoming White House Communications Team to include naming Jean-Pierre as the Deputy White House Press Secretary.

The daughter of immigrant parents from Haiti, Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique and later raised in Queens, a borough of New York City. A longtime activist and communications specialist, she has a Master’s in Public Affairs conferred on her by New York’s Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where she has taught as an adjunct professor and lecturer in international and public affairs since 2014.

During the first Obama admkistartion term, Jean-Pierre, 43, served as the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs.

Speaking with the Advocate magazine in June of 2011 Jean-Pierre reflected on her tenure working for the Obama Administration as an openly LGBT staffer. “What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many. President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT,” she told the Advocate. “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.”

Speaking with NBC News journalist Tim Fitzsimons; “The sun was setting and the lights got much more prominent,” she said, referring to late June 2015, when she watched the White House lit in rainbow colors to mark the historic Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. “People had signs and people were crying, and there was just so much joy.”

“I remember thinking how proud I was of this administration, that I had worked for that,” Jean-Pierre, said. “It really brought together, in that one moment, how important LGBTQ rights were and how much that administration fought for our rights.”

In 2016 after her White House stint, Jean-Pierre served as a Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Washington D.C. based MoveOn, a progressive non-profit public policy advocacy group and political action committee. Her primary portfolio at the non-profit was addressing President Trump’s rhetoric and platform of hate, violence, racism, immigrant-bashing, and women-bashing.

She also served as the deputy campaign manager for former Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2016 campaign run for the Oval Office.

Jean-Pierre received national recognition after a June 1, 2019 incident during the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum she was moderating in San Francisco, when 24 year-old Aidan Cook, a member of the animal right activist organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), rushed the stage grabbing the microphone out of then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s hand. The Senator was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the time of the incident.

Jean-Pierre, who had jumped in between Cook and the Senator after he took the microphone kept the activist away from Harris until security arrived and removed him. At the time of the incident, Harris, like most other candidates in early stages of the primary process, didn’t have a U.S. Secret Service detail for protection.

Jean-Pierre, her partner, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter reside in Washington D.C.

The EBONY Power 100 ceremony also is marking the culmination of Ebonys 75th anniversary year. 

For the complete list of honorees please head over to here. (Link)

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Secretary Buttigieg’s son back home after spending Halloween in hospital

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home”

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, husband Chasten and son Gus (Photo Credit: Chasten Buttigieg)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, shared that their son Joseph Augustus, referred to as Gus, is home from the hospital after spending weeks in and out of the hospital. 

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home, smiling, and doing great!” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted. “We’re so relieved, thankful, and excited for him and Penelope to take DC by storm! Thank you so much for all of the love and prayers.”

He also thanked “the countless medical professionals who helped Gus (and his dads and sister) along the way. We are so grateful for your tenderness and care.”

The Buttigieg’s revealed last week that Gus had to spend Halloween in the hospital after falling ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter at the time. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple has still not revealed why their son was hospitalized. 

In September, the couple revealed that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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Secretary Buttigieg spends Halloween in hospital with ill son

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg & husband Chasten via Twitter

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg spent Halloween in the hospital after their son Joseph August, referred to as Gus, fell ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized.

The Buttigieg’s revealed in September that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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I Am a Queer Filmmaker: Can I tell you my story?

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity

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James Patrick Nelson (Courtesy of the author)

By James Patrick Nelson | BROOKLYN – Our community has made enormous progress in recent years. We are living in a time of unprecedented queer visibility, which empowers us to keep moving forward, and to heal the scars that linger from our recent past.

“Be Will instead of Jack.”

Screenshot of Eric McCormack (Will) and Sean Hayes (Jack) in “Will and Grace”

When I was 14-years-old, “Will and Grace” was a cultural phenomenon — the first queer-led show to attract a world-wide audience. The night I came out to my father, he told me, “Be Will instead of Jack”. At the time, I dismissed this as a harmless laugh-line.

But looking back, it reveals how limited representation fuels internalized homophobia. Apart from being openly femme-shaming, the comment made it sound like there were only two “types” of gay people — flaming or passing.

High school photo of me, shortly after coming out.

And I knew I didn’t fit into either category. I knew my identity was more nuanced and complex than the archetypes on TV. But at that age, having never seen myself reflected on screen, I bought into the idea that there were only a handful of ways to be gay. And so, I spent a lot of my youth struggling to fit in, always feeling like I needed to change something about my body or my voice or my fashion, if I wanted to be part of the club.

But then 2020 offered me a lot of introspection, and I realized I don’t have to fit into a mold. All of the fabulous nuances of my identity are all part of my queerness. And I don’t have to change myself to be part of a community. When I make art and tell stories, I get to build communities, founded on love and authenticity.

Will and Jack are not the only options. There are countless ways to be gay!

Representation Matters

The question remains, how do queer people learn to cherish the remarkable nuances of our identities if we rarely see nuanced, authentic portraits of ourselves on screen?

Cover Image of the Advocate article linked below

Of course, there’s a big difference between nuance and authenticity. Scores of actors have been nominated for Oscars for giving nuanced performances of queer characters. In 2018, the majority of actors who won an Oscar were playing a queer character.

But in these widely distributed films… the actors have always been straight.

No one is saying that an actor has to be exactly like his character in every way, or that talent is a secondary concern. The debate is about access and equality! While queer characters appear with increasing frequency, queer actors are so rarely given the spotlight, despite the authenticity they would bring.

Wikipedia chart listing leading actresses who’ve been nominated for Oscars for queer roles.

When queer stories are populated with straight actors, and geared toward the perceived sensibilities of a straight audience, they often perpetuate unconscious stereotypes.

Queer characters in leading roles are usually in turmoil about their sexuality. And if they have a love interest, they’re always hetero-presenting and meet an unattainable standard of beauty.

Straight people get how painful it is to live in a culture that tells us we have to look a certain way to be loved. Imagine that compounded with the idea that you have to pass as straight to be worthy of love in the first place.

After all, “Be Will instead of Jack” could also be interpreted as “Be more like the one who’s played by a straight actor.”

This pervasive heterosexism means the rest of us never see a healthy or affirming reflection of ourselves. So what’s to be done?

We have to tell our own stories

In recent years, American television has generally done a better job than American cinema at showcasing LGBTQ+ people in leading roles.

For Years to Come” creative references.

Some of my favorites are “Work in Progress” on Showtime, “Please Like Me” on Hulu, and “Feel Good” on Netflix, all examples of LGBTQ+ artists creating and starring in semi-autobiographical stories — a huge inspiration.

I’ve been a working professional actor my entire life, I’ve been screenwriting for about six years, and I’ve recently started producing my own work. I spent 2020 writing and developing a number of film/TV projects, all focused on queer protagonists and majority-queer ensembles.

Recent queer-centric work for stage and film (Clockwise: Waking Up, Speak What We Feel, For Years to Come, Immortal Longings, and Without Touch).

I realized recently that both of the produced feature films I’ve written were sparked by perspectives rooted in my queer-identity. But in both cases, I let the queerness get buried, and the films suffered as a result. From now on, I’m determined to lean into my queerness as a catalyst for my work.

Queer filmmakers don’t have to wait to be picked. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We need to start telling our own stories — here’s one of mine.

When my mother was dying, I found out my father was a porn director.


For Years to Come” poster art. Photo by Evan Smith.

In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She received in-home hospice care, and I went home to be with her. I knew it was the last time I’d ever see her, so we had a lot of candid conversations. I sat on the bed and asked her about her childhood, her dreams, her regrets, the men she dated before my father — everything!

She freely admitted she spent a lot of her life complaining about the small stuff, like she had all the time in the world. But as I sat with her on the bed, she was more peaceful than I’d ever seen her. She didn’t want to waste any more time. She was thankful for the sunshine and the breeze and the smiles on our faces.

So of course, I adopted this same spirit of frankness with my father. He and I were driving to Costco one day, and I was asking him questions — and he casually mentioned that back in the day, he was a highly paid writer-director of porn!

My head spun around. This was the last thing I expected from the humble man who I remembered painting the fence, watering the lawn, and driving me to school. I was flabbergasted by these two new realities — My mother is dying, and my father’s a porn director!

For Years to Come” visual references. See citations above.

When a parent dies, your narrative about them changes. If you idolized them, they become vulnerable. If you were angry at them, their faults become easy to forgive. Either way, they become a very different person. In this case, my narrative about both my parents got turned upside down at the same time!

After years of development — and a pandemic, which heightened my urgency to make art about grief and healing — I’m finally telling my story in an episodic dramedy called “For Years to Come,” the story of a young gay man who falls in love with his dead mother’s hospice nurse, while struggling to reconcile with his elderly father, who’s secretly a porn director.

Left: Director/Editor Micah Stuart; Center: Me with Co-Producer Jay DeYonker; Right: DP Dennis Zanatta

The Queerness is Not the Conflict

Now, you might be wondering, “What does any of that have to do with being gay?” And the answer is… nothing, really. And that’s exactly the point. What I want to see are stories in which queer people are central characters, but their queerness is not the central conflict.

For Years to Come” poster art. Original photo by Taylor Noel.

Cis-het audiences can relate to stories about losing a parent or finding love. If they can go beyond passive sympathy (watching queer people struggle with “queer problems”), and lean into active empathy (seeing themselves in a queer protagonist)… that feels like genuine progress toward equality.

Meanwhile, queer audiences are hungry for these kind of stories! We want to see ourselves reflected without a filter and without an apology. We’re tired of sitting on the margins. We are the stars of our own lives, and our lives are about more than just the struggles of coming out. We are richly complex, multi-faceted human beings, with endlessly diverse and distinct experiences, and we deserve to be seen, for all that we are.

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity, in full-throated, heartfelt stories about all that makes us unique, and all we have in common.

For Years to Come” is a vibrant and irreverent story about people redefining themselves and opening their hearts to each other. My creative team and I go into production this winter, and we’re beyond excited to share our story with you! Visit this link to learn more.

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James Patrick Nelson is a Queer writer-actor-poet-filmmaker loving life in NYC.

www.james-patrick-nelson.com

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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