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November 28, 2014

Response to Ferguson: Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions

Ferguson ASSOCIATED PRESS

Decades of segregation and inequality in Ferguson, as well as most American metropolitan areas, have fostered a racial inequality exacerbated by the criminalization of not just poverty, but the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Too many whites are too willing to believe that a black body poses a threat.

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Tonex: Opening Up About Hysteria Over Homosexuality

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Gospel Singer Tonex Opens Up To Black Voices About Hysteria Over His Homosexuality
Earlier this month, clips of a taped television interview that gospel music sensation Tonex conducted for 'The Lexi Show' (on the Gospel network) surfaced on the Internet and caused a heated frenzy within the black religious industry. During the revealing conversation, the internationally renowned music superstar (nee Anthony Williams III) talked candidly about his homosexuality, his failed marriage and his thoughts on the black church. As expected, when someone touches upon such a taboo subject, it strikes a chord among others. But as the multiple Stellar Award-winning virtuoso tells it, in his very own words, it was a lot more than he ever bargained for. Below is Tonex's exclusive testimony to BlackVoices.com:

Okay, so now since it's really gone mainstream, there is really no backpedaling is there?

After all of the buzz surrounding the Lexi interview, things started spinning out of control. What was said, what wasn't said, and how after you tell the truth even that truth has the propensity to get twisted. However, it's never a crime to face yourself and speak your heart. And you must have heart to tell the world who you are.

I never thought in a million years that I would find the courage to speak so freely about where I am as a human, a man and a child of God. After much soul searching and Bible reading, I had to come to some decisions about myself that I knew weren't going to be the easiest to confront, especially since I was a prominent figure in the religious community and gospel music at large. How would my family deal with this when it aired? And would the content be congruent with what was actually filmed after post production? I have to say that Lexi kept her word about professional journalism, and if people watch all three parts, they will see the totality of what was covered -- not just the sensationalism.

I scheduled the interview, but I had no idea of the nature of the questions. I mean, I have yet to see faith-based journalists explicitly present these kind of questions to anyone else, but that's why they asked me, because they know I'm going to give them an answer. It was spontaneous, but I had already come to terms with myself and knew that I would be able to answer with clarity, calmness and truth. Why ? Because I was tired of being asked about my sexuality, and I was still on a journey to find the fullness of what that is. To be honest, I'm still on that journey. I'm studying daily on the subject of same-sex matters. I'm tired of echoing what I've been told. I want to know for myself the true interpretation of scriptures in Biblical text and well as scientific documentation.

You know, it's not easy growing up in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church, where everyone is pretty much anti-gay, although it's common knowledge that some of the most anointed musicians and singer-songwriters have, or have dealt with, same-sex attraction at some point. For me, it was particularly taboo because of my upbringing and the ministerial call on my life. I then had to think about the repercussions of this revelation. But I knew I had to get free. That interview was cathartic for me.

It turns out that was the very first time an award-winning mainstream gospel artist openly admitted these things about his or her sexual orientation. I didn't really think about that either until after the fact, when someone mentioned it to me. Believe me, that's nothing that I'm happy about. It actually kind of sucks. I had no blueprint; I was actually making one. I had no clue of what would happen; I would have to wait and see. People make telling the truth sound so easy, but it's not. Not because you don't know whether it's the right thing to do, but because you don't know what people are going to do with it once they hear it. And, more importantly, what part of the truth they really gonna hear.

There was so much more in that interview that I thought was, unfortunately, overlooked. So much more to my story then the sexuality part, but most church folks are sexually repressed anyway, so they naturally gravitate right toward that type of subject matter. I noticed parts one and three weren't juicy enough for the church or the public, yet they were the key to the whole puzzle. I talked about my same-sex attraction. I don't think that there was any new information here. I've addressed this issue in my music for years. But for many, I guess, it was a shock of sorts. But believe me, it wasn't for shock value. The real story is not cute, ladies and gentlemen. Freedom, my friends, is not for cowards.

Amazingly, after the interview, I could not believe that 96 percent of the responses were positive. Many were commending me on my poise, my intellect and the way I handled the entire process. No, everyone didn't agree with every point I made, but they had to applaud my courage for speaking out on such a private matter. I felt the need to address it candidly because we've been skating around the subject of homosexuality and the church for a long time -- enjoying the benefits of same-gender-loving people, yet abusing them from the pulpits.

No one said stop preaching against fornication, lust, lying, stealing or adultery. What I am saying is that we need to stop focusing on people's private lives and sexual orientation and preach the truth of God's salvation. Whatever your faith may be, no one has the right to blatantly disrespect or harass another human being. Beyond that, we have no need to go into people's closets and private matters. Teach the word, and let God handle the rest. His love is much greater than His judgment.

This is the position I am holding: God's love is indeed for everyone. Although that interview is being dubbed my "coming out," that was the least of what was being conveyed. Healthy, committed, monogamous relationships on both sides of the spectrum were mentioned, particularly marriage for a man and a woman (even though I have not come to terms about gay marriage). I still feel commitment is much better than promiscuity. Abstinence, of course, is ideal, but in this generation, it's just not a likely reality.

The other reactions are another story. Within no time, every engagement that I had to preach or sing in churches or faith-based concert venues was canceled. I suppose they did not want a demon-possessed homosexual on their stage or pulpit, although I never stopped preaching or teaching the same doctrine and principles that I spoke on before. I'm still the same dude today. I believe that people still have not seen the interview themselves; they are going by what they've heard someone else tell them.

I was the same person back then as I am now, the one that God used to help a lot of people. The phobias that I am witnessing are scary. People who serve this loving God are showing so much hate for one of His beloved children. And I understand where they are coming from, because it's never really been addressed this way. I'm standing out here naked. And, frankly, people are angry.

Some said I should have shown remorse; some say that I'm leading people astray. All I did was tell the truth. It's no wonder why people lie within this system. Not because they believe in everything man says but because they have bills to pay. The hypocrisy of this should have left me quite burnt out with the whole situation. So then I had to shift my focus off of religion and move toward being a pioneer. Charting new territory for an oppressed people that truly love God and have been ostracized beyond belief -- the sheep of another fold.

I speak of them in a song called 'This is All of Me.' I was speaking for all the "kids" around the world. Basically the kids are boys and girls that are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), a group that has a 30 percent suicide rate among gay and bisexual youth. And the young men with more "feminine gender-role characteristics" and those who recognized their same-sex orientation at an early age and acted on those sexual feelings seem to face the highest risk of self-destructive behavior.

Because no one is affirming the existence of these young people. No one is showing them love. No one is showing them life or God or beauty. They are only shown hell, death, bigotry and damnation. But even for this community and other social outcasts, there is still room at the cross.

I will continue my recording activism, advocating fair treatment of all people, including these people, my own people, with whom I not only sympathize but empathize. I have experienced firsthand what it's like to be teased, abused, yelled at and preached against. I've been told that I am worse than a serial killer. No one can ever tell me that I willfully opted for choosing this road. I wanted it out of me. In the past, I had even attempted to take my own life, but God's mercy said no.

As I continue down this path of self-discovery, my prayer is that others will see that we are your sons, daughters, cousins, nieces and nephews silently crying inside, coping with fear and uncertainty. We need love and affirmation. We need to know that it's okay to talk about these issues in a safe family environment and that we will be respected not just for our art and talents but for the beautiful human beings that God created us to be. After all, He does not make mistakes. I would not be here typing had it not been for the prayers of the righteous and real friends who understand the challenge of taking the road less traveled. May we all show love toward one another. The greatest command is love another. Thank you for listening to my testimony.

The College Survival Guide

    A Fridge
    Regardless of whether you have a wonderful sized meal plan, your fridge may come in handy with leftovers or when you feel like stocking it with bottled drinks.

    Computer
    The convenience of a computer is essential when sending your kids off to college. Forget the hike to the computer lab across campus students need a computer in the comfort of their room. A printer comes in handy as well. Depending on whether your child plans to carry his laptop around campus, you might opt for a desk top since they're lighter on the pockets.

    Snacks
    You will surely survive with off of a meal plan but it doesn't hurt to stock up on snacks when you don't feel like leaving your dorm room. Bottled water, pop corn, cereal and Ramen noodles are all low budget snacks to stock up on. Just be weary of the freshman 15.

    Things from home
    Some college students suffer from homesickness the first year. It's best to surround yourself with things like photos of the family, pillows or even stuffed animals. Anything that reminds your child of home.

    MP3 Player
    With all the stress that comes from school and exams, sometimes it's nice to block out the chaos in your life and even your roommate with music. It's nearly impossible to find students walking to class who aren't jamming to tunes.

    Budget
    Students who enter college often come in at the ripening age of 18. A great time for credit cards. Parents beware, your child may end up ruining their credit at a young age

    Alarm Clock
    When you're in college you don't have the luxury of getting awaken by your parents. It's now your responsibility to get to class on time so alarm clocks are a must. But keep your roommate in mind. You shouldn't wake him up ever morning with a blow horn alarm.

    Cleaning supplies
    Now you don't necessarily need to bring in the rubber gloves, mop and gas mask but it doesn't hurt to bring along Clorox all purpose wipes for spills or dust. Vacuums and brooms come in handy too depending if you have a carpeted dorm.

    Bedding
    What most parents aren't aware of is that most college beds are twin sized but extra long and require special sheets. When shopping keep your eye open for sheets that clearly state 'extra long' or else your child may come up short.

    Shower shoes
    You really don't know what some people do in the shower these days. College showers are known to be creeping with germs so spare yourself the fungus and purchase flip flops for the shower. You'll thank us later!

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