In a pre-smartphone era, B.Michael used a Middlebury College calendar, procured while studying at Bread Loaf earlier that summer, for him and his lover John to keep each other abreast of individual commitments, as well as joint ones. For example, they had a standing couple counseling appointment on Mondays at 4p, tickets to see Rachelle Ferrell in concert on November 9th, and a planned trip to visit John’s family of origin over Thanksgiving.
On December 1st, World AIDS Day, B.Michael shared his essay, I Have Come Here to Die, at a reading of One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories, Ed. Kevin Jennings, 1994.
On December 3rd, B.Michael and John went to see Still/Here, choreographed by the Bill T. Jones / Artie Zane Dance Company, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. B.Michael had previously participated in a workshop while Jones was developing Still/Here, and his voice is featured in the performance.
On December 7th, B.Michael attended a meeting of HEAL, Health Education AIDS Liaison, one resource which supported his ongoing understanding of his HIV-positive diagnosis.
Given Bert’s teaching schedule, summers afforded more time and space to take international trips. In 1994, Bert and John, newly domestically-partnered, visited dear friends, Paola and Sertaç, in Istanbul. The above photo of Bert is, most likely, taken at the harbor in Bodrum, a coastal town where Turks vacationed (translation: a destination without a lot of tourists from the US). Visiting Bodrum required an internal flight to Dalaman Airport.
And since Greece is so close to Turkey, they thought, how cool would it be to touch down on the islands of Lesbos and Mykonos, which loom large in the collective queer historical consciousness? Turned out that scenario would require more time than was available so they opted to visit two of the easternmost Dodecanese Islands, Kos and then Rodos (Cos and Rhodes in English respectively).
An enduring undercurrent of tensions between the two countries was evident in the way Greeks spoke about Turks/Turkey and vice-versa. On the ferry boat between Kos and Rodos — both islands in super-close proximity to the western Turkish coast — the wall maps included Turkey’s monochromatic land mass but did not label it.
While in Tigaki, a beach town seven miles from the city of Kos, B.Michael awoke in the middle of the night to wrote a poem.
Below are some scrapbook items — which include unexpected words like “saloon” and “tango” — as well as a lot of terms translated into German, given that Turkey was, at least at that time, a popular destination for German tourists.
In early August 1994, B.Michael was all set to accompany his partner, John, who was slated to attend the Tenth International Conference on AIDS as a representative of Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Inc.
Additionally, through his networks, John was able to arrange for he and B.Michael, post-Conference, to meet with students from Kyoto Seika University who were interested in learning about HIV/AIDS, community organizing efforts, and civil rights movements in the U.S.
Unfortunately, B.Michael learned, just a week before their scheduled departure, that he had to complete a professional education course ahead of September 1st in order to maintain his teaching license. He was forced to cancel his plans to join John on what would have been their first trip to Asia.
B.Michael attended Bread Loaf, a life-changing summer program that braided his passions for learning, teaching and writing. He manifested a handful of poems (scroll to 1994) that are included on this site.
Below are a couple of B.Michael’s writing exercises from that summer.
B.Michael was invited to participate in the Panel on AIDS Service [sic] of the Sager Symposium at Swarthmore College, which took place in mid-April 1994.
He would have been invited in his capacity as board chair of Other Countries, which had recently released their journal, Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS. At the time, their volume was nominated for, and ended up receiving, a Lambda Literary Award. B.Michael’s intention in this conversation about coalitions, queerness and difference would have been to complexify the notion of what people, particularly Black gay men, living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS need with regard to “services,” and to elevate the role of art, storytelling, and bearing witness in the HIV movement.
The above poster (original 11″ x 17″) highlights a range of programming brought by a compelling roster of LGBTQI activists, most from the Northeast, including What I Miss? contributor Colin Robinson. The Symposium took place just 2.5 months ahead of the historic 25th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City.