Not Even That: A Reflection on Joseph Beam’s Brother to Brother
By Babi Oloko
As part of a recent slate of classwork, I read Joseph Beam’s 1991 Brother to Brother: Words from the Heart. Beam (1954-1988) was an African-American writer, poet, and activist who wrote extensively about the difficulties he faced being a Black gay man in America during the AIDS epidemic. In Brother to Brother, Beam discusses what it is like to be a Black gay man, and expresses the desire for a future where Black masculinity can be reconstructed to allow for Black men to share emotional intimacy and vulnerability with one another. What interested me most about Beam’s work were his explorations of the erasure he felt in America as a Black gay man. I was particularly struck by the image of glass, which appears when Beam describes a man who stopped acknowledging him in public upon realizing Beam’s sexual identity: “He no longer speaks, instead looks disdainfully through me as if I were glass.