Darnell L. Moore: Growing up black and gay in Camden
Writer and activist Darnell L. Moore is in Philadelphia presenting his book, “No Ashes in the Fire,” an autobiography inspired by his traumatic experience growing up black and gay in Camden, New Jersey.
After the murder of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black student gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, Darnell L. Moore began organizing bus trips from New York to Ferguson, becoming one of the first initiators of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Born and raised in Camden, New Jersey, a city that endured high levels of crime and racial oppression in the 1980s, Moore has become one of the most influential black LGBTQ writers and activists in the Philadelphia region, as well as the United States.
In an attempt to understand what happened in his childhood and adolescence - which became a struggle to define his "queer" and black identity - Moore decided to write an autobiography. The result is the recently published "No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America," a book he believes can help other young people in the same situation to save themselves from the suffering and trauma that he experienced as a child.
In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Moore lamented that the local media continues to cover the news of black and Latino populated neighborhoods with a biased view, focusing more on problems such as violence and crime than on highlighting positive aspects.
“When I would read the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Courier-Post, what was reported about Camden often read as a deficit analysis. Black and Latinx folks were portrayed as the people responsible for the shaping of Camden, as if there wasn’t a long history of political neglect, political malfeasance, white flight, racial supremacy, and so much else,” he told the Inquirer.
In fact, one of the traumas that he lived as a child gave the title to his book "No Ashes in the Fire," as it references an incident when he was jumped by several neighborhood boys.
“They doused me with gasoline and tried to light a match. The title is a reference to that moment—a metaphor about survival amid violence. Black people, Black queer and trans people, are often violated and encounter 'fires' in our lives. Some of us survive, bearing the scars, but some of us don’t make it out alive," Moore said in an interview with The Grio.
The book also explores the challenge of being gay in a sexist, often masculine-centered community. One of the paragraphs in the book reads: “All boys are taught that the world is theirs. But black boys learn early on that the world they are required to rule is the home—the place often sustained by the visible and invisible labor of black women and girls we share homes and relationships with. The home is likened to a kingdom black boys are expected to provide for, fight to protect, and lord over. Outside the home, the streets black boys navigate are controlled by the state and the wealthy, and black boys’ freedoms are restricted and policed."
Currently, Darnell Moore is a regular contributor to several media outlets such as Feminist Wire, Ebony magazine and The Huffington Post, where he deals with issues of racism and LGBTQ rights.
Moore will be presenting his book in Philadelphia in the next days:
7 p.m., Thursday, June 7, Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books, 5445 Germantown Avenue.
6 p.m., Friday, June 8, Penn Book Center, 130 S. 34th Street. Free.
Noon, Saturday, June 9, St. Paul's Baptist Church, 1000 Wallace St. Free.