B.Michael was a staunch supporter of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. On December 1, 1996, B.Michael and six other brothers, organized the first Brothers for Sisters fundraising event in New York City. In the above photo, (L-R) Michael Seltzer (standing), Don Kao, Mitchell Karp, B.Michael, Lidell Jackson, Ralph Tachuk, John Manzon-Santos (standing).
Artists G. Winston James and What I Miss? contributor Jacquie Bishop generously donated their time as special guests.
Below is the same post-event scene as above, snapped a millisecond later, enough time for B.Michael to cock his head slightly; also B.Michael with Steven Birnbaum, one of the evening’s guests, a new contact brought in by Don Kao.
Together with fellow Other Countries member G. Winston James, B.Michael co-emceed this groundbreaking celebration on June 18, 1996. (The video’s date-stamp of June 19th is an error.) This day was proclaimed “Other Countries Day” by Ruth Messinger, Borough President of Manhattan, as B.Michael recites from the podium [05:36].
While the above footage does not capture the entire program, we do get to see, and hear read, five of Other Countries’ “veteran voices” in Christopher-Dana Rose, Allen Wright, Len Richardson, Guy-Mark Foster, along with B.Michael [07:16]. The evening includes remarks by New York City Councilmember C. Virginia Fields [02:16] and powerful performances by four literary giants, who also happen to be Black and Queer — Samuel R. Delany, Jacqueline Woodson, E. Lynn Harris, and Sapphire.
In addition to acknowledging Jacqueline Woodson and Sapphire, B.Michael gives shout-outs to some of the fierce women artists who supported Other Countries over its first decade [01:22:34], including Jacquie Bishop, Hattie Gossett, Gale Jackson, Sheilah Mabry, Mariana Romo-Carmona, and Pamela Sneed.
“Hello everyone, my name is Bert Hunter. I’m a New York City high school teacher and happen to be John’s lover.
It was through John that I met Haruko. And what I didn’t want to do was just deal with her on a level as John’s lover / through APICHA. I was really trying to find some kind of way to connect to her in the boundaried way that I am sometimes and in the boundaried way that she is. Interestingly enough, because she worked at the Board of Education, we were able to build some kind of relationship around that.
We talked a lot about different books. She would lend me some books and I would lend her some books. And we talked a lot about, actually, my mother. I didn’t necessarily realize that she was a social worker. She’s like social working me sometimes. (laughter) It was interesting that she was able to do that because I’m usually the person who’s the ear for other people. So it’s rare that somebody has an opportunity to social-work me, if you will, or to counsel me and I believe that she, in fact, did do that. She gave me some incredible advice.
In addition to that, because I have a natural ability to social-work other people although I’m not a social worker, we actually did talk a lot about her family, her children, her life and her grandchildren. I knew her granddaughter immediate because of the red hair because I also have a brother who is a carrot top. No offense! (laughter) One trip, she was coming back talking about her granddaughter with the red hair. “My brother had red hair … ”
I’m kind of angry because of the power of this woman. This was an incredibly powerful woman, and this is a loss. I had the opportunity — I teach American History — and during the 50th anniversary of “the bombing,” I was trying to put that in perspective for my students and was running my mouth to John. “Oh, you should talk to Haruko.” I was almost like, Why? Because you meet people and you talk to people, and someone who’s so rich, has so many different sides of themselves to share with you that you don’t necessarily always tap into the sides. “You know, she was interned.” I was almost floored because, as a history teacher, it was hard for me to believe that someone who was interned was still alive and accessible, if you will.
She came to school the first time and she talked to the students. I should say the majority are Black and Latino, we have some white students, very few Asian students. And she held their attention for 20 minutes easy, talking about her life and experience and it was incredible. She came back a second time to a different type of class a year later, actually, last year. Again, she held their attention. She actually read her testimony that she gave to Congress on her experience as a person who was interned. Again, the room was silent. She asked me for feedback, how I thought it went. I told her it was phenomenal. I said it’s the kind of thing where, years from now, they will realize that they touched history. That she, in fact, was history and that they had an opportunity to experience it.
We again exchanged … I just found a new reader so I gave her a book, I think it was Family or The Matter of Life from J. California Cooper, a new author who I was exposed to. Even for myself, I was moved by the power that I recognized in her … ”
B.Michael attended law school and he taught the U.S. Constitution to high school students who came from marginalized backgrounds. The right to vote was a tantamount issue for him, particularly as a Black man. Every election is important — and he would be organizing folks with even more passion toward Election Day on 03 November 2020.