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    To Be YGBC&S

    Karen Williams

    Speak Up! Speak Out! Laugh Often!

    By Karen Williams

    To be Youthful, Gay, Black, Clean and Sober…

Not exactly lyrics to a song, but certainly words to a saga. I am attending yet another social function for black lesbians where the music is jamming, the cards are being slapped down on the table, and the drinks are flowing forth from the open bar in time with the rhythms. Cigarette smoke disperses through the air, finding its way into my clothes and hair. Hey, it’s party time!

That’s cool! Seems like gay people and black people share the cultural commonality of getting our drink and smoke on when we socialize. I’m not making this up. Check out the number of alcohol and cigarette ads in any magazine that caters to either group. They’re chock full of celebrities and other hip folk imbibing and puffing, perpetuating the myths that drinking and smoking are cool, and vital for having a good time. 
I could get moralistic and question the message that such behavior sends to our young counterparts, but let’s forget about them and think about what all that drinking and smoking is doing to us, particularly as “persons of a certain age.” I read articles about maintaining good health and all of the data points to what Dick Gregory said decades ago, that we are what we eat, imbibe and inhale. I took the liberty of adding drink and smoke to the equation.

A recent article in AARP magazine says that the major deficit in our country’s national budget is the cost of health care — largely attributed to our citizenry’s poor physical health — and that the top three contributors to bad health are alcohol, meat, and smoking. And for those of you who are into the THC factor, back in the day, we WERE smoking grass. Today’s wacky crop has fifteen to twenty times the THC we used to ingest and that’s the stuff that gummies up your lungs, just as badly as cigarettes.


In the words of John Mayer who sings, “…for all of my trying, I still end up dying, how can it be?”…I know that none of us get out of here alive. But I sure would like to depart this plane with fond memories of my journey, without coughing and wheezing on my way out.

I’m just saying, black is beautiful and we’re out and proud today, so perhaps we can let go of some of the cultural baggage attached to having a drink or a smoke in hand when we’re hanging out together. How about affirming life with some good conversation, a tall cool glass of pure water to oxygenate the blood, and your hand in mine if you’re fidgety without something to smoke between your fingers. Life is good and I want to enjoy it with some folks who are willing to try life another way, making healthier and saner choices that support being youthful, gay, black, clean, sober and happy.

After all, whether we like it or not, we are leaving a legacy. So here’s to good health, one day at a time.

    Karen Williams is youthful, gay, black, clean, sober and happy! Hit her up at!