Artistry: Artist Feature
Brave Soul Artist: Darian Aaron

June 20, 2011 Print version       Other articles by this author

Our BSC Artist feature to kickoff the summer of 2011 is a trailblazer & courageous brother who embodies all the traits of a 'Brave Soul'.

Darian Aaron is an American journalist and editor of Living Out Loud with Darian, a 2008 Black Weblog Award winner for Best LGBT Blog where he provides commentary on social, political, and religious issues that impact the African-American LGBT community. He is a contributing writer for Project Q Atlanta and GBM News and a staff writer for mPower Magazine, he also served in this capacity for CLIK Magazine. His work has been featured in The LA Times, The Advocate, The Daily Voice, Southern Voice, SGL Weekly, POZ Magazine, and The National Black Justice Coalition.

His digital media presence is expansive having appeared on leading web portals such as AOL Black Voices, Rod 2.0 Beta, Pam's House Blend, Keith Boykin, Concrete Loop and The Advocate.com to name a few. He has appeared on local and national television outlets such as FOX News, CNN, & Atlanta's Pride & Politics discussing marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBT community.

Currently pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism at Georgia Perimeter College his early training was received in musical theater at The American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

He is also the author of When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color (iUniverse Publishing), which was just released and is receiving critical acclaim.

I decided to reach out to Darian after learning about his literary debut a few months ago because I felt it was VERY important to shine a light on such an affirming & relevant work about the lives of Black gay/same gender loving men, particularly those in relationships.
Darian happily agreed to a feature on our site, so what you'll read below is a glimpse into the life, work & mind of Mr. Darian Aaron.

Enjoy...

"The images and stories in this book are proof that you are loved, you deserve to experience love, and you can have everything your heart desires. Your life, sexual orientation, and same-gender loving union is not a mistake. It should be celebrated and not denigrated."

Can you share with the BSC readers what inspired your literary debut: When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color?

Sure. The inspiration for the book stemmed directly from what I perceive as a lack of representation of black gay men in the LGBT and mainstream press. I was repeatedly frustrated by not seeing anyone or anything that reflected my experience and that of my friends who identify as LGBT people of color. I've long held the belief that waiting for the powers that be to tell our stories would turn up fruitless, so once I was done complaining I decided to take action. The concept for When Love Takes Over began on my blog Living Out Loud with Darian as a weekly series titled 'Coupled Up." Each week I would highlight a black gay couple from across the US and offer insight into how they met, fell in love, and maintain their relationship. The series was a huge success! After the overwhelming feedback I knew I had to expand on the idea and create a book.

Can you speak briefly about the process of getting your latest work published? Were there any challenges you experienced? What advice can you offer to fellow writers about the process?

I initially went the old fashioned-route of submitting my manuscript to publishers. I had my share of rejection letters, but I also had a few mainstream publishing houses who showed interest but were moving at a snail's pace towards publishing. Since I was the only person who seemed to understand the urgency of pushing this book into the marketplace I decided to go the self-publishin route. Of course, there's pro's and con's to both, but in the end this route was the best for me and my book. As a new author there was so much for me to learn about the publishing process. Thankfully, I had a mentor in Terry Angel Mason (author, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent) who'd already published with iUniverse and held my hand through the entire process. Publishing is a beast! The moment you think you've dotted all of your I's and crossed all of your T's there's still more work to be done. My best advice to fellow writers is to surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart, published authors who can keep you from making mistakes that you otherwise would without the guidance of a veteran, and to have a great editor on speed-dial who respects your gift and is there to enhance your work and not re-write it.

The cover image for When Love Takes Over brings to mind a memorable quote from Marlon Riggs: "Black men loving black men is a revolutionary act." Can you speak about the significance of this statement as it pertains to the overall premise of your book?

My good friend and author James Earl Hardy responded to that famous Marlon Riggs quote and it's in my book. He said: "Who has decided that my loving someone, who is a reflection of myself is a revolutionary act, what is a black SGL man to do if he can't love another black man, and by extension love himself?" In today' society I don't think that black men loving black men in itself is revolutionary. However, it can be debated whether or not black men loving each other openly (and in a book) is revolutionary. So often when a black gay man is represented in a piece of literature as one half of a union the other half happens to be white. This is not a condemnation of white gay men or interracial relationships, it's just simply a fact about American gay media. This book is exposing the totality of black love.


The foreword of your latest work states "This book is dedicated to every lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender person who has ever been made to feel less than or out of arm's reach of the love of another or themselves." Although self explanatory, can you speak in more detail about the significance of this statement?

It was important to me that I created a body of work that celebrated who we are as LGBT people of color. So often what is written about us or preached from the pulpits of our churches is derogatory, and unfortunately we often internalize this hatred. That foreword is simply saying that the images and stories in this book is proof that you are loved, you deserve to experience love, and you can have everything your heart desires. Your life, sexual orientation, and same-gender loving union is not a mistake. It should be celebrated and not denigrated. Archbishop Carl Bean says it best, "God is love and love is for everyone."

How do you feel about the way the lives of black LGBT individuals are addressed in the mainstream media?

I think there's still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of portraying black LGBT's as the diverse group of people we are. I'm inclined to say that black lesbians are often portrayed more positively than black gay men. Black lesbians have found a small but welcoming presence in publications like Essence and Ebony. Seven years after the infamous Oprah Winfrey down low episode, black gay men are still trying to clean up the mess created by all of the lies and distortions that were attached to our identity and character as black gay and bisexual men. On the flip side, I think more gay men of color have to be willing to step up and counter the untruths about us that are being presented as facts in the media if we ever want the public's perception of us to change.

Our topic of the month is "The importance of COMMUNITY". Can you share your thoughts on this subject, specifically as it relates to LGBT people of color?

This is a really great question and one I've been grappling with lately. I think the definition of community as it pertains to LGBT people of color will be different depending on whom you ask. Is there a black gay community? In terms of size and shared sexual orientation, perhaps yes. In terms of social justice and clear results that is making life better for black LGBT's? The jury is still out. There's definitely individuals and groups across the country doing extremely important work, but as a collective whole I think we still have quite a way to go. I personally would love to see us rally around combating homophobia, transphobia, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community, depression, and self-esteem like we do around our "annual recreational activities". But that's a topic for another day.

Who are some of your artistic inspirations and/or influences?

I have so many influences, but if I had to name drop the following people definitely come to mind. Keith Boykin, Janet Jackson, E. Lynn Harris, Iyanla Vanzant, James Baldwin, Craig Washington, to name a few.


Your bio states that your early training was received in musical theater at The American Musical & Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City. How (& why) did you make the transition from musical theater to writing & journalism?

I've danced and acted for as long as I can remember, so pursuing a career in the performing arts was a natural decision after graduating from a performing arts high school and attending AMDA in New York City. Looking back on those years and even before, I was writing even then, but theater occupied so much of my life I guess I suppressed the budding writer and activist that I knew I would eventually become. I had a great ride performing professionally, but there came a point in my life when cattle call auditions, moving every six months, living out of a suitcase, and never being sure where my next paycheck was coming from wasn't the least bit exciting.

Aside from journalism & musical theater, do you have any other artistic talents or interests?

I'm such a thespian. Lol! Theater was and remains my number one interest. Instead of being onstage now I drag my partner to every touring show that comes through Atlanta and we often make trips to NYC to see broadway shows whenever possible.

How & why did you venture into the world of blogging? What are your feelings about social media overall? Do you think it's a blessing or a curse ? (so to speak...)

I ventured into blogging after being inspired by the work of Keith Boykin on his now closed website keithboykin.com and after a conversation we had. I remember him telling me that we all had a voice and it was just up to us as individuals to utilize our voice. I made the decision to start my blog shortly after that conversation. I believe social media can be used for good and bad. As far as LGBT people are concerned, I believe social media has been able to connect people to resources and support that may not be available to them where they live and that's a great thing. However, the internet can be extremely toxic too. It's something about the anonymity of sitting behind a screen that gives racists and homophobes the license to spew their venom all over the web...this is definitely a major downside.

Aside from the promotion of your literary debut, what else can we expect to see (in terms of artistic offerings) from Darian Aaron in the near future?

You'll definitely be seeing more media appearances from me speaking on issues that affect LGBT Americans. I recently completed an intensive media training with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for LGBT people of color. I'm thrilled about the partnership we've formed and their dedication to diversifying the images of people who speak about our issues in the media.

What advice (if any) can you offer to the BSC readers (particularly Black gay/SGL, bisexual men) regarding relationships & what it takes to establish/cultivate them?

Be open to the possibility of experiencing true love. Address red flags when you see them. Learn to communicate...this includes listening:-) Be open to therapy whether it's individual or couple's therapy. Plan for success and enjoy the ride!

For more on Darian Aaron, please visit:
Living Out Loud With Darian

& Order When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color here:

iUniverse.com

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble.com

Borders.com