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Name: Shabez Jamal
Q: Are you from St. Louis? What does St. Louis mean to you?
A: St. Louis means a few things to me. First it's home, it's family, it's where all my memories are and most of my experiences whether good or bad. For a while it was a place I wanted to run from but now I see it as a place that has prepared me for the rest of the world.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration for your personal style?
A: I've always thought I had a sense of fashion but honestly my best friend Shelton (who is a contributor to thestylechronicles.com and also has his own fashion blog aestheticallyawkward.com which is launching soon) has helped me hone my style to what it is today. By keeping me up to date on The latest trends along with my own personal taste has made my style what it is today. I call it ratchet sophistication.
Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: Right now I'm passionate about my career as a photographer and creating a path for myself and other photographers around me. My goals include owning and curating my own art gallery here in the city giving an opportunity to urban artist who normally are left out of the professional art scene.
Q: I saw you slaying the timeline with your #blackgayslay pictures! Why did you decide to participate in the viral hashtag?
A: After receiving a text from my friend that the hashtag was trending I decided to immerse myself in the black gay twittersphere. I saw it as a way to connect with others who may feel ostracized by the same community we go so hard for. It was empowering as fuck and I couldn't allow myself to miss the opportunity. I saw black gay people uplifting one another something that touched me especially since we can be very divisive within our own community shutting one another out for being to feminine (or masculine for some lesbians), too fat, too whatever so it was especially empowering to see so much love within a group of people facing so much bigotry.
Q: As a member of the LGBT community, what do you consider your responsibility in the movement for equality? Do you believe that black gay men have a unique experience in comparison to other members of the LGBT community?
A: I consider my responsibility to just be vocal about the injustices we face day to day. As most of us know not only do we face oppression from other races but we also face discrimination from within our own community. Most people hide their bigotry behind religious beliefs and make those of us who live "alternative" lifestyles feel inferior. I'm sick of that shit. I'm sick of people feeling like the gay community needs saving. What we really need is for our stories to be heard and that's why I'm here.
I feel that being a lesbian is more accepted within the black community than it is to be a black gay man. Being we live in a very patriarchal misogynistic society anything that challenges the macho image of the black man is deemed inappropriate. Most men fetishize lesbian relationships but have no problem discussing their disdain for the black gay man. I won't make it seem as though it's easy for gay women of color but I do believe our challenges are vastly different.
Q: In your opinion where are areas that you think the black community has made progress in regards to LGBT matters? Where are some areas you think we could improve on?
A: I feel like there are a lot of people within the new generation of "woke" or "conscious" black people have accepted homosexuality but for the majority there is still a lot of work to do. Whether it's the open bashing of LGBTQ members of society or the appropriation of our culture we still have a long way to go before we have our rightful seat at the black table.
Q: What type of advice do you have for anyone who may be reading this?
A: My words of advice for anyone reading this is that we as a community (black community) will never be truly free until we have inclusion within the community. There are so many voices afraid to speak up because they feel as though their voice will be overpowered by those in power. We must put aside our differences and realize that we all are one. We all are fools dealing with the same struggles and until we realize that we will never be free.