Thursday, June 28, 2007

School Officials Black Out Photo of Student Kiss

Student's Gay Kiss Photo Struck from NJ School Yearbook
When Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden saw the photo of openly gay student Andre Jackson kissing his boyfriend on a page of the school yearbook which Jackson had purchased, she ordered the 4 1/2 x 5 1/2" photo blacked out with a marker in each of the 230 copies that were to be distributed.

The photo was on a page in a "tribute" section of the book, in which students purchase pages for $150 (in addition to the $85 cost of the yearbook) and are able to post photos of themselves and friends. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, "Rules for publication of the pages prohibited shots of gang signs, rude gestures and graphic photos, said Benilde Barroqueiro, an East Side senior graduating with Jackson. 'You know, it couldn't be too provocative. No making out, no tongue,' she said."

Said Bolden: "It looked provocative. If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture."

Other photos of heterosexual students kissing were allowed to remain. So the reason for Bolden to black out this specific photo is clear — the students are gay and she did not like it.

In fact, according to the New York Times, "On the page immediately opposite Mr. Jackson’s, a young man and a young woman kiss on a couch, his hand on her leg as she sits on his lap."

As students waited for the books to be distributed, the photo was shamefully blackened out in each and every one of them.

New Jersey gay rights group Garden State Equality has demanded that new, uncensored yearbooks be distributed at the school's expense. They are also demanding a public apology from Bolden.

Said Chairman Steven Goldstein: "This action by the school district will have an unspeakably vile chilling effect on other gay and lesbian students coming out. Her (Bolden) trying to erase a student and his boyfriend is a metaphor for her trying to erase the gay and lesbian community out of Newark and its school system. It's wrong and it's ridiculous. The second it hit the Web I started getting calls. This is not only homophobic, not only an egregious lack of judgment, but this is a violation of the law and we're looking at one of biggest firestorms of year if the superintendent doesn't change her mind."

Jackson told the New York Times: "I didn’t intend to say, 'Oh hey, look at me, I’m gay.' It was just a picture showing my emotion, saying that I’m happy, you know, whatever. It was to look back on as a memory. I was upset. I was hurt. I felt embarrassed and abused." He said he has thrown his yearbook away: "I didn’t feel right. What I wanted to see wasn’t there."


Ocean said...

You know how we love to reminisce and look at old pictures in our high school yearbook, or old family photos to remember the "good ol' days"? Remember that feeling you get when life seemed so "carefree"? Remember your prom date, the girl you dated as "cover", the gym teacher you flirted dangerously with, the Big Game? You know the smile that comes across your face when you look at your fucked up high-shcool hairdo? Feel the chuckle and warmth when you read the corny poem written to you, that somehow you overlooked then, and realize "Tyrone" had a the hots for you and you just now found out! This is the power of images. They move us to remember, and believe, if only for a moment, what we have forgotten.

To a teenager about to graduate high school and take on life, the yearbook is their "family album", an important document, not to be parted with. I treasured my yearbook, and studied the photos relentlessly, back then, and now. In fact, I also worked in the yearbook club. Though I wasn't a photographer back then, I realized the value and impact of the images, and the story they would tell of our lives in high school.

Fast forward to 2007, I realize the powerful documentary aspect of the yearbook, from the photos to the written messages that serves as a record of a critical time in my life.--high school. I had my first boyfriend when we were both in the second grade. I would have loved to have a picture of us in the yearbook when we graduated high school together in 1987. To me, that would have been the equivalent of the cherished wedding photo. Today, and fortunately, these two students feel empowered enough to express their love for one another, and to have a "document" to this fact.

Photographs have the power to influence, start wars and to end relationships. It also serves as a record of place and time, which is what history is all about...the people and events that shape our lives. In this case, the image already has great impact, it has immense power to change the perception of the black gay begins dialogue about something many people don't give a shit about...our lives. Such beauty...two young men of color sharing a kiss. My hope is that this moving photo will empower the generations of young men of color that come after us. We as a community, especially youth, need to see these images. The WORLD needs to see these images. Men of color have the reputation of being lustful. This is our opportunity to project positive and diverse images of the SGL community, and to "re-wash" the brain from negative stereotypes. This is my personal mission as a photographer... to show the world that we live and we love


Franke said...

The Kiss

It has many forms and expressions
It is beyond the scope intellectual conceptions
It is Nature's Wisdom
A manifestation of Source's unlimited creativity

To be shared not scorned
To be nurtured not torn
It is real and will not be denied
No matter how It’s oppressed or distressed it will survive

For it is stronger than thought
More forceful than action
It is the core of All That Is
No matter what the distraction

And as it is innocently portrayed
in a passionate kiss
Let not fear's ignorance
deny Its bliss

Emancipate it
Celebrate it
For it is the savior of all
It is Love
Be not afraid to heed its call

©2007 Frank E. Robinson, Jr.
(All Rights Reserved)

Franke said...

Art like life is in constant flux. Hence the life in this piece is reflected in the redux. - Franke

The Kiss (Redux)

It has many forms and expressions
It is beyond the scope intellectual conceptions
It is Nature's Wisdom manifest
and Life at Its best

It is to be shared not scorned
Nurtured not torn
It is real and will not be denied
No matter how it’s oppressed or distressed
It will always survive

For it is wiser than thought
The foundation of feeling
It is the core of All That Is
No matter what Confusion is dealing

And as it is beautifully portrayed
in a picture of a passionate kiss
Let not Fear's ignorance
deny Its bliss

Emancipate it
Celebrate it
For it is the source and savior of all
It is LOVE
Be not afraid of its call

©2007 Frank E. Robinson, Jr.
(All Rights Reserved)