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Shades of Black

Photo Credit: Solomon Abrams

This was an op-ed piece I wrote during a blog tour a few years ago, and I felt the need to re-post it here, for posterity’s sake:

I want to take the opportunity to speak on a subject that most might not be aware of: that there are “Shades of Black”…or people of color (read: black people) who not only practice different disciplines within BDSM, but they do so publicly, too.

While my Nubian Underworld series is immersed with parts of fiction, it is also based on real-time people, including myself and my Beloved, who are actively living within the “lifestyle.” For us, this is a way of life, this is who we are. We just happen to be black.

Why did I choose the turn of phrase “Shades of Black”? Well, it’s not hard to figure that one out. That series has opened the door for a lot of dialog over the past few years, but what if I told you that books and series like mine were around long before that phenomenon showed up? What if I also told you that black people have been actively involved in the BDSM scene for a longer period of time than you might realize?

To be inside the Black BDSM community, regardless of where in the country you might be, is to enjoy the unique flavor that we bring to WIITWD. This is not to say that we do it better or with more swagger or anything like that, but it is to say that we like to put our own spin on something that has been around for a long time.

There are vibrant communities of black people actively engaging in BDSM practices. From Los Angeles to New York, from DC and various parts of Maryland to here in Atlanta where my Beloved and I reside, to other pockets all over the country, there are blacks that enjoy what we have come to affectionately refer to the BDSM lifestyle as, “what it is that we do (WIITWD).” As my main character, Ramesses, so eloquently stated at the beginning of the series, “Now, I think I know what you might be thinking, but here’s the real: this is a lifestyle. Everyone has a little freak in them, but the difference is we have found like-minded people who don’t judge. They just enjoy themselves and the friendships which are made within the lifestyle community, and the freedom of being within that community.”

That community comes with active munches in different cities, with more popping up every month, and events and BDSM conferences that primarily cater to black people, like Atlanta Peachy Kink earlier this month, the annual Black BEAT (Black Expressions, Alternative Tastes) conference later on in August, and the Weekend Reunion last summer, too. Yes, BDSM in and of itself is beautiful to experience with all cultures and races, but there’s something about being able to be amongst those who share the same culture as you from time to time.

A recent acquaintance, Mason deRou, said in an op-ed within his group on the popular social media site, FetLife, that I think sums up the prevailing thought within the Black BDSM community: “I want to hear some rap when I beat ass, dammit! Enigma and EDM and techno gets old. I want to make ‘In Living Color’ references or ‘Martin’ references or ‘Living Single’ references or ‘Harlem Nights’ references and people actually know what the fuck I’m talking about. I want to drink spiked red Kool-Aid and talk about grape drink. I want the deejay to put on ‘Hoochie Mama’ and a gang of ass just starts clappin’. But guess what? I have absolutely zero requirement that those people have to be black. None at all. But guess what? A vast majority of people who can relate to me in all the ways listed above: black people. And I’m not ashamed of wanting to be around just them sometimes.”

That is the reason why I created the Nubian Underworld series. I wanted to showcase a strong, black Dominant male, and a few Dominant females, in a genre that is inundated with their Caucasian counterparts. I also wanted to showcase black male and female submissives, to show that there are black men and women who embrace a term that we’re told we’re not exactly supposed to embrace…Master and slave. Even though there are BDSM erotic novels and romance novels that cover multicultural and interracial relationships, I felt that “we” needed a voice, an outlet, a way for people who have yet to see that, “Hey, black people do this, too.”

Finally, even though the literary world is swooning over shades of grey, that there is still room to revel in shades of black, too.

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