Earlier this week, the very first Brother to Brother: A Forum on the Black Masculine Body was held at Lincoln Center.
It was a conversation that was held between four successful Black NYC-based dancers, curators, and educators. Isaiah Blake and Kenneth Murphy were the moderators along with the Artistic Director of Les Ballet Afrik Omari Wiles, and dancer/actor and a Juilliard Alum, Robert Mason as the panelists. They talked about the struggle that they had to deal with individually including fighting against stereotypes of black queerness and masculinity that have been painted in society.
We had a chance to speak with Kenneth Murphy and Isaiah Blake about how they came up with this forum. “Isaiah and I wanted to take a deep dive into the real issues that Black men face,” Kenneth said. “In doing our research on this, we came across the 1989 film “Tongues Untied” by Marlon Riggs, which helped us to dive in more about our own experiences and what it means to be modernly inclusive for our generation.”
Isaiah spoke on how the beginning of Riggs’ film became the title of their forum. “The film [Tongues Untied] has this refrain that it starts off with that says brother to brother numerous times. Because it is Black history month, we decided to create a program that isn’t topical around Black masculinity. We wanted to get to the real, ugly, beautiful of what it means to be Black at this time.”
During the forum, they spoke about the worlds that they are a part of. “It’s a competition world, so I’m being judged by my peers, by my own community. It's either 10s across the board or it's either a CHOP!,” Omari Wiles said when asked about the Ballroom scene.
Robert Mason added from the point of view of identifying as both masculine and feminine as an actor and dancer. “I’m still masculine within my being, still feminine within my being, I can do both.”
They also went on to salute Black women in the midst of it as well. “Black women have birthed us, and we honor their worth and their labor to create the space that we have and our lives. It’s important that we honor creative spaces!”, Isaiah said.
You can watch the entire forum below.