John Manzon-Santos happened upon this brand of cologne, which he believes he either gave to B.Michael (born April 15) as a gag gift, or came across after his death. It became the perfect amphora in which to send to Colin Robinson some of B.Michael’s ashes for scattering off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. Colin later reported that, after snapping the above photo and dispersing the ashes that day at Maracas Beach, the bottle got swept away along with a brand new coveted pair of eyeglasses. Colin later wondered if B.Michael was playing a trick on him!
Sometime in 1994, B.Michael and John Manzon-Santos were approached by the artist Robert Giard, who subsequently photographed them via the natural light in their apartment at 528 East 11th Street #11 in Manhattan. They donned their slightly wrinkled commitment ceremony shirts and the beads they had exchanged in April of that year.
B.Michael (“Bert”) received inspiration for one of his poems, “The Photograph,” from a framed image he had prominently displayed in his living room. William (“Bill”) Wesley Hansard, Jr. [b. August 16, 1937, New York NY; d. May 30, 1989, Boston MA] and Lester (“Les”) Howard Bunyon were both Black gay men and close friends of Bert’s who died of HIV/AIDS prior to 1993.
Les at Christmas, Bill with Bert. Both pictures taken some time between 1981-89. Both photos, which had been foamcore-mounted, were most likely special to Bert.
Think old-school, three-ring binder (11.5″ x 11″ x 3″) with a glossy, gold-trimmed cover. Inside are removable, double-sided, cardboard inserts with light adhesive to keep photos in place beneath fold-over plastic sheaths. B.Michael had two, the earlier one coffee-colored, the latter the color of cabernet.
Each block of photos below is an album page that was curated by B.Michael. His rich, joy-centering life wove family of origin with chosen family, commuting readily between his multiple roles of son / brother / nephew / grandson / uncle / cousin / godfather, together with friend / lover / brister / classmate / organizer / activist / community member.
The latter binder includes a dozen or so blank pages that he didn’t get around to populating. N.B. The pics are not necessarily in chronological order, and the dimensions of an image in this digital setting sometimes vary from the actual size of the corresponding print image that appears in the album.
Click on each photo for more context. AND, more importantly, if you know who/when/where/why details about an image, we encourage you to contact us here!
The workshop was most likely creative in nature, though the venue, date, and names of the other participants are not known at this time. We do know that B.Michael was present since these photos appear on the same roll of film, in his possession, that contains images from another retreat that B.Michael also attended. The latter retreat took place circa 1990-91. If you were in the room and can shed some light on the details, please let us know!
There is much to say — and even more to keep under wraps! — about this extraordinary gathering of Gay Men of Color activists (nicknamed the Booty Commission) in upstate New York, which took place some time between 1990-91.
B.Michael took these black & white images, which represent only some of the Native, Black, Latino, and Asian retreatants. Click each photo to put names to faces, and kindly let us know if you recognize those brothers whose names are omitted.
Other attendees not pictured, besides B.Michael, include Charlie Fernández, and What I Miss? contributor Colin Robinson.
B.Michael pictured here in #2 to the right of Elbert Gates and Jacquie Bishop in the June 1990 issue of BG. At a reception of newly-appointed New York City commissioners, Dennis DeLeon and Dr. Billy Jones, both Gay Men of Color. This event was hosted by Boricua Gay and Lesbian Forum and Gay Men of African Descent, and sponsored by Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Shout-outs to the fabulous community leaders in #1 — Val Kanuha, Chezia Carraway, Marjorie Hill; #3 — Gary Paul Wright; and #4 — Sandy Lowe.
B.Michael appears ever so briefly in Marlon Riggs’ groundbreaking documentary, Tongues Untied, beginning at 41:45. Pictured here near the Gay Men of African Descent contingent at the 1988 New York City Pride March, B.Michael gives fierce marshal diva in his pink, form-fitting uniform shirt.
Take a deep dive into Marlon Riggs’ work and his revolutionary vision here.