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“Reflections 2012”

by “Brother” Edward Dakan Kingston July 25, 2012

Reflecting on the overall Adodi National Annual Retreat for 2012 Groups of black men having fellowship, conversation dining delights, openly laughing at nothing in particular sometimes a joke or a wording in conversation

We dare to be bold, black and handsomely beautiful in our thought and actions, looking good in all the right places Making friends, holding on to the ones we already have had Establishing conversations for the future

Having moments where you just sit in wonder seeing a hundred Black men being men, a work in progress, making excitement happen Hoping that the new “virgin”/brothers can keep up with all the excitement during the week

Dining delights at the pre-event gathering mingle for dinner and conversation From those near and far was awesome, the hotel stays, and home stays were Fun/excellently provided, dreaming of Adodi retreat for that Wednesday, could hardly sleep at night

Our “Superheroes” and “Supreme Ruler” were very interesting. The mutiny was exciting also. Very good job to all who were a part of the “SGL Riders” (my group I was in), the “Elementals”, “Supereeders”, “Gatekeepers”, “Octoforce”, “Healing Cabal” “Iambic Pentameter “, “Petralyclops” you all rock!

I like the “keep the gate” (gatekeepers) and “Ride ’em, “Rid ’em) (SGL Riders) powerful way to administer a group!

Oh the joy of dancing with the Adodi Dance Troupe having a great teacher instructor in Nsilo, singing songs of enjoyment and praise, Adodi Love Song#1 Adodi You Are So Beautiful, God Is Going To Bring His People Out and I Really Love The Lord, a blend of uplifting thought and spiritualness to guide us
Our journey of Adodi continues

The morning affirmations and afternoon seminars/workshops were awesome! If you came to get something out of any of these events it was a worthy days of growth, learning and accepting new/old information

The Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge were a wonderful outting on Friday afternoon! Can I go again! We didn’t get wet brothers, just seeing a natural wonder up close and personal and then some of us ventured up those 425 steps (sorry we three (myself Ardley and Marquis) kept the second van waiting for a short while, we had to get down those stairs as well as ascend! I have hopes of visiting several other natural water falls

Oh the tribute to the ancestors was interesting! We can keep our tears sometimes, but lots of times they flow! The brothers looked wonderful in their white outfits, some in African garb and the hope we can get a copy of that picture!

The green t-shirts, green cap, Adodi group photo (with green shirt) and mug were excellent gifts to the Ados in attendance. Sharing and thoughts from the brothers to say “Thanks” to Ado Aaron Donaldson and all the elders and younger brothers who were in support of the retreat. Thanks to “Dolce” for his great emceeing on Saturday evening! Let’s do that again! (talent sharing)

For those who have questions, thoughts or comments about the differences that were shown at the retreat, remember the spiritual, carefronting and resolution of Adodi principles whether you be religious/spiritual, excited spirit filled believers, non-traditional (think like an Egyptian), atheist or agnostic, or someone who doesn’t share in these thoughts or goes to church synagogue or mosque – our common points of understanding love and respectful sharing of all values of Adodi community should be enjoyed.

The planning committee did a good job on the evening snacks and of course the famous fruit/veggie smoothies by Ado Courtney were off the chain, I loved mine (strawberry and watermelon), did everyone enjoy the donate Vernor’s Ginger soda pop I brought two nights in a row? (just checking)

Had a great time in many discussions with first time “virgin” brothers now Ados and hoping that the Adodi pre-registration on Sunday afternoon was a success

for 2013 or 2014, hoping to see you all next year and of course at January 2013 Winter Retreat (Southern Region brothers conference) and the Spring 2013 April 6/Sat 2013 (Adodi Detroit conference)

July 25/Tues 2012
comments/poem by: Ado Kingston
Brother Kingston
Adodi Detroit

Adodi & the Desire to Survive…..Happy 25th!!!

By Brother Tracy Gibson

Adodi was born out of a desire to survive. It was born without the name Adodi and it was given birth by four men, one of whom was Brother Clifford R. Rawlins, who was an arts therapist and who would become the driving force & life spirit behind Adodi during its’ early days.

I have done some research to try to discover who the other Brothers were at that meeting, but many people who would know have passed away. I personally missed the first meeting, but attended the second and many other early meetings and was a main organizer and later facilitator and officer for the organization in the Philadelphia area. Adodi was a big part of my personal healing & growth process as I “brought myself back’’ from a great deal of depression, anger and sorrow…

When Adodi moved its’ forces, in part, & expanded to New York City to serve the Black gay male community there it was a Brother named Darrell Waters who took the Adodi concept to the Big Apple and was the main one who initially helped the organization take up roots in the Big Apple.

The value of Brother Waters’ involvement cannot be overstated or overlooked as he helped the Adodi Organization receive national attention & recognition and bought on many, many other critical & crucial brothers early on including Delmar Thompson, Paul Darling, and Brother Haynes who were also critical in running and organizing retreats for us; shoring up & organizing meetings and membership in New York; and helping us get more financially sound…. I am sure I have forgotten some name, please don’t think this a slight of anyone. Other important key leaders and / or members were Boris and Jerome Carter, Greg Reid as well as Kevin Greene and his friend Hal Carter.

According to the Adodi New York Web Page:
“Adodi is the plural of ADO, and is a Yoruba word that describes a man who “loves’’ another man. More than just a description of partners in Africa, the ADODI of the tribe are thought to embody both male and female ways of being and were revered as shamans, sages and leaders.”

What was Adodi then and what has it become? Adodi was given birth because many Black Same Gender Loving men in the northern corridor, and in other parts of our nation were feeling isolated, alone, fearful, confused and depressed during the early stages of the AIDS epidemic as several Brothers were coming down with this then strange and dastardly disease. Adodi was a way of fighting back. It allowed men to come together in a safe space to talk about issues we were having related to surviving the disease; coming out stories; building successful relationships between Black Gay men; successfully building self-esteem [an early goal of the organization’s]; discovering & re-discovering ourselves as viable, worthwhile, authentic, honest and healthy Black Gay men; successfully dealing with family & coming out as a gay Black man; dealing honestly, openly & successfully with the Black church [many Adodi members would get involved in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement which was founded by now Bishop Bean and has become a national church movement that is friendly towards and is open to all, but largely peopled by Black gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgendered people Bruce Harvey and I, for example, were instrumental in attempting to start a Unity Fellowship Christ Church in Philadelphia, but were unsuccessful in the 1980’s]. Adodi would sometimes have guest therapist, guest facilitators and guest speakers who would help create a warm, open and safe feeling—a feeling of general comfort and embraced arms–that would add light & luster to many of our meetings, seminars, workshops and retreats up until this day. Adodi is a process not a destination. It is a process that requires your full participation to be truly effective in working properly in a person’s personal healing & growth process…. Many social scientist who have studied self-help & self-improvement organizations like Adodi have concluded that they can be vital and crucial in the healing & growth process for people –such as Black Gay men—who have been marginalized, misunderstood, scapegoated and oppressed by the dominate society in which they live…. Some Black social scientist have even gone as far as to say such organizations as Adodi can help their members with their very survival.

Not too long after Adodi was formulated there were brother organizations formed that had different organizational structures & ethical principals but similar goals including: The Black Men’s Exchange [BMX] in New York City that was started by Cleo Manago; and the Colours Organization founded in Philadelphia in 1991 by Activist / Organizer Elliott Prescott but that included women in leadership positions and as members. The Colours Organization is geared more towards younger members of the community and has broken ground of its’ own. [The Colours Organization was later run by Michael Hinton who would later go on to run the City of Philadelphia’s office of gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual relations under Mayor John Street for two terms.] Brother Tyrone Smith of Philadelphia and some friends of his later started UNITY which offered more direct health intervention and services concerned with the AIDS / HIV epidemic in the Philadelphia vicinity. [After some leadership & financial problems UNITY was unfortunately disbanded.] There are a few other organizations similar to Adodi as well in other parts of the country like California and Down South.

Early on, Clifford opened his home to all men who would come and, generally speaking, there were always about 30 or so men at early meetings at Clifford’s home near 48th and Springfield Avenue in the University City [West Philadelphia] area of Philadelphia. The brother not only extended himself, his fellowship and his home, Clifford also made meals from scratch each and every week and sometimes much of the money for the food came directly out of his pocket—although later a small donation was taken up.

Clifford was an amazing man and an amazing human being who made Adodi his life’s work for several years before his untimely passing due to complications from AIDS / HIV. He was also a talented artist and most probably would have even adopted children, had he lived… He not only made Adodi known in Philadelphia, but worked diligently with Brother Waters to move the concept to New York. Other Brothers helped, I am sure… The early meetings in Clifford’s humble apartment found the brothers attending surrounded by Clifford’s art work and art work from mostly Black artists who Clifford appreciated & cherished…. While the apartment was humble, it was also breathtaking to be surrounded by such stunning works of art. I don’t know how he found time, but his apartment was also kept clean and tidy, but I digress…

Clifford was a role model for us all. He had personal problems with fidelity which he openly shared with Adodi Brothers who attended the meetings. He felt sharing was vitally important to help the healing process along. Early meetings also helped some Adodi Brothers attend meetings of an organization called Love and Sex Anonymous, which was designed to help people who thought they might have a sexual addiction. [I attended these meetings myself and found them most revealing and helpful, along with therapy for some other personal adjustment problems I was having at the time.]

One of the things that was talked about early in Adodi is the potential dangers of casual and frequent sex with many unknown partners due to the HIV / AIDS crisis. This has been, even until this day, a controversial subject because while one of the goals of Adodi is to also share such information, we try not to impinge on people’s freedoms and ability to think for themselves as well.

Early Adodi Retreats were able to capture a sense of aliveness and a special spiritual oneness that is still present at Adodi Retreats and reflects a very special feeling indeed. That feeling is one of closeness, brotherhood, healing, oneness, fellowship—a non-religious religiosity– and just the plain old fun and merriment that we all had as we started the tradition of “talent night’’ on Saturday nights. This “talent night’’ has seen many a drag show, but also many a talented classic and jazz pianist, actors, comics and others share their special talent in a warm and supporting atmosphere. Some people experienced a spiritual high after their first retreat and many have said they didn’t want to return to their jobs and dominate society after the four day’s journey into bliss with their Adodi Brothers.

Add to all these positive experiences the fact that we were in a secluded area [usually it was just us there] and the fact that we generally had some really good food and; a movie night and arts and crafts and you had three or four days brimming with something many brothers say they have never experienced before and will never forget. The retreat has always been the pinnacle of the Adodi experience as a feeling of self growth, fun, self exploration, healing and learning converge.

But I have to say that it has always taken a great deal of help to bring forth the Adodi experience and make it successful. There have been early core members and later members such as Eric King; myself; Michael Otis; Arnold Jackson; Kevin Hardy—yes even Kevin Hardy; Todd Conway; Larry Davis [of D.C.]; Coles Ruff; Alden; Bruce Harvey; Lynburg Scott; Tony Parrish; Darrell Waters; Trent Pettus; Charles Harp; Keith Bright; Delmar Thompson; Chris Blandford; Aaron Donnerson; Big Rod; Steve Anthony; Brother Haines; and many, many others too many to remember or mention. There are scores of others I have not mentioned. One has to remember also that these are just some of the brothers from Philadelphia and New York. Adodi has also had chapters in Chicago and Washington, D.C. If I have forgotten names it is more because I just don’t know all the key organizers in those cities—NOT an attempt to slight any one. Adodi has been responsible for bringing out the best in many, many people. It has touched literally thousands of lives. It is a Black tradition with African roots and solid ethical principles that help the brothering grow and develop in a positive way. I hope it will live on long after all of its’ current organizers and officers—including myself–are in another place because the experience is life-giving and even critical in building a well-rounded Black Gay man, for some of us.

Brother Tracy is a writer and businessman living in New Castle, Delaware and Philadelphia, PA. He can be reached at: BrotherTracy11@GMail.Com

This Safe Space that Clifford and Adodi Made For Us..

his Safe Space that Clifford and Adodi Made for Us
By Ado Tracy Gibson

This is the house that Clifford, Adodi and a few of his good men built. The house where Adodi meetings were initially held is near the corner of 51st and Springfield Avenue in South West Philadelphia. This article is about what went on there and how what went on their helped mend the lives of hundreds [and eventually thousands] of Black Gay [or Same Gender Loving] men over the past 25 years…. What Clifford and a few others had given birth to lasted 25 years and we are proud of that fact…..

The funny thing is I remember it as if it were yesterday. Revisiting the space where the meetings took place was a special thing that I did with Adodi Brothers Bruce Harvey and Greg Reid. The meetings I remember there were part of a litany for survival that helped so many of us Brothers mend our lives back together during the early days of the AIDS crisis. So many of us were losing friends, relatives, lovers and supporters and we were just beginning to get a vague reason as to why.

Clifford R. Rawlins and three other Black Gay men met there in the 1980’s [probably 1986 to be exact]—it was a sunny day in May—to start something that would formulate itself into a movement that now has four chapters—the newest one in Detroit—that help several Black Gay men hold their lives together through the use of African principals and teachings and sharing stories, building & learning self esteem, loving ourselves, building on hope, peace, freedom and survival skills that helped us make it through a society that doesn’t always really respect our existence.

We gathered to tell our coming out stories; stories about our lives and the discrimination we were suffering from; stories, workshops and seminars about how to help the Black church treat us like human beings; stories about having and or living with people who had the disease in its’ early stages; stories about ways and techniques to survive to live another day [they were just beginning to talk about safe sex and the need for using condoms in those heady days during the 1980’s]; stories about how to build solid relationships with other Black Gay men that would last longer than just one night; stories that would build on the litany for survival.

Some brothers heard about the meetings and just wanted to get together for a good meal [Clifford was a great arts therapist, but also a great cook] and friendship—that is the wheat bread, fantastic meals and grape juice& apple juice that Clifford used to feed our soles and heal our manhood & our lives back to something we could comprehend as worth living. [We never had alcohol out of respect for recovering Brothers.]

He did not have an easy job. He was a wonderful, open, caring and loving man with a real sense of humor. He was an artist and this apartment at 5037 Springfield Avenue would go down in history as the place where it all started. A soothing, healing process was part of the order of the day when we went to Adodi meetings in the early days. We were not even called Adodi yet. Michael Otis [a major Adodi operative in those days] would not do the research that connected the name to the Yorba of Africa for years yet. We were just Clifford’s men. We were beginning to receive the seed—the essence of what it would take for us to become proud, Black, Gay men—not just people looking for another sexual encounter—but proud Black Gay men.

Clifford had us—his willing friends and supporters–there to learn how to open our souls for the healing–sitting in his living room—some 30 to 35 men at a time and rarely the same exact men twice—surrounded with his art work and the art work of other Black artists—some known and some not so known—and we knew something special was being born. The bright colors and geometrical designs found in his art work helped keep us awake and alert through the meetings as Clifford explained his concepts that would be seen even years later as healing, helpful and spiritually renewing. And we knew we were a part of that special thing that was going on… Something that would help us become real, authentic Black Gay men, without necessarily having political axes to grind but to help each other heal. Although there were Adodi Brothers like myself who blamed “everything’’ that was wrong about the society we lived in on White people—politics was never the goal of Adodi & never has been.

With maturity we learned that many of the problems the Black Gay community suffered from were self inflicted. Many of the worse homophobes were sitting up in Black churches listening tentatively week in and week out as their pastor chimed in about the evils of being a homosexual. They said nothing. Their complacency and compliance was a testimony of their own fear, self loathing and acceptance of their own homophobia. It still goes on today. There were Gay Brothers who attended Black churches who would not have been caught dead at an Adodi meeting. There still are such Brothers. Certainly White oppression was talked about loosely, but this was not a blame game. It was about finding roads to survive and survival while maintaining with our jobs in tact; our sanity intact; as much of our Black families intact as possible; and finding ways to make this positive journey into the future with love, peace and freedom in tact as well…

Good fellowship was being born on Springfield Avenue in a fantastic and lasting way at every meeting… And the seed has grown to help other organizations build similar groups that have helped even more people.

The Adodi experiment grows on and moves on and I am glad to be a small part of the Brothers coming together for the 25th anniversary. I may not be there in person, but my spirit is with you—my spirit is with you.………

Reflection on Founder Clifford Rawlins

Clifford Rawlins and Adodi Philadelphia:
A Personal Reflection By Eric S. King

One of the most important communities to which I belonged during this period of my life [the 1980s] was Adodi Philadelphia, a support group for African American gay men, founded by the late Clifford A. Rawlins. Clifford Rawlins was one of the most important people to ever touch my life. Young, gifted, and Black, he embodied some of the best of the Warrior, the Sage, and the Caregiver. Although he had established an excellent reputation as a therapist and counselor in the field of mental health, his real love was the world of art. He was a prolific painter and took a keen interest in the way that art therapy could help bring people to wholeness. He had traveled and studied in Africa and always demonstrated a deep of African and African American cultures. What I most admired about Clifford was his persistence in confronting his own internal issues, his refusal to allow anyone or anything to come in the way of his own personal growth, whether that growth took the form of a developing spirituality, his own psychotherapy, his art work, or his intellectual growth. Moreover, he never made any attempt to hide his gay identity. To be explicitly gay in the larger society and within the Black community, in the 1980s, took a great deal of courage, courage not as the absence of fear but doing what is right despite the fear, courage not as the absence of fear but knowing that something is more important than the fear.

I had known Clifford since 1979, when both of us were members of Philadelphia Black Gays (PBG), Clifford had considered establishing a support group for Black gay men which would serve as a forum in which we could discuss the emotional issues which confronted us in a society characterized by racism and homophobia. Clifford had been disturbed by the number of Black gay men who, alone and ostracized by their families, had died of AIDS. He had been pained by the knowledge that a society that made it difficult for heterosexual Black men to exercise the prerogatives of conventional manhood imposed even heavier penalties for Black gay men. He was well aware that African American gay men often walked a thin line between discrimination from the larger society and rejection by individuals and groups within the Black community itself.

Where, Clifford would often ask us, can we go for validation? Many Black churches declared that we were evil or possessed by it. We often could not come out to our families and, even in those situations where we had revealed our lifestyles, we still did not feel free to discuss the issues which weighed o our souls: the lover with whom we were having a turbulent relationship, the fear of discrimination on the job, the fear of gay bashing, the prejudice we experienced from white gays, and the demons of anger, bitterness, rage, and loneliness that threatened to sap our inner strength and self-esteem. Realizing the need for a therapeutic enclave that would encourage Black gay men to talk, share, and realize that they were not alone, Clifford asked me and a number of other Black gay men to join him in founding Adodi Philadelphia.

Our community grew from eight initial members to over thirty members. We held weekly meeting at each other’s homes and apartments, encouraged each other to pursue self-realization in whatever ways necessary, e.g. artistic development, professional growth, and therapy. We conducted workshops and seminars on AIDS prevention, relationship building, the spiritual dimensions of sexuality, gay parental adoption, and financing and savings. Indeed, we annually sponsored a retreat for Black gay men which attracted many men from New York and other points East, as well as from the South and the West Coast. Adodi Philadelphia efforts were replicated in the “The Big Apple” when Black gay men founded Adodi New York. For many, Adodi had become a model of constructive community. I owe Adodi much in the way of my own personal growth.

Adodi Philadelphia would become a beacon guiding African American gay men who weathered the storms of emotional and social insecurity. When fear of AIDS and ignorance of our needs disposed our families of origin to turn their backs on us, Adodi was there to tell us that we were not alone and offered us a family of choice. When our religious institutions would not affirm us, Adodi encouraged and expanded our vision of spirituality. When lovers and friends misunderstood, betrayed, or abandoned us, Adodi both consoled us and guided us into a deeper understanding of self as the only basis for an authentic relationship. By creating a support group where we trustingly could discuss the issues affecting our lives, Adodi provided an invaluable service.

While Adodi encouraged political and social activism, we also were aware that people sometimes used activism to avoid confronting the painful issues and unresolved conflicts in their lives. So, rather than stress activism as a mark of self-identity, we emphasized self acceptance and self-development as a prelude and foundation to any effective activism. I once read a Chinese proverb that captured the orientation of Adodi: “If the wrong man uses the right means, then the right means will work in the wrong way.” Adodi sought to connect the “right man” with the “right means”. In this context, we did not believe that heroes were special kinds of persons; rather we viewed every person as a special kind of hero. I speak this way because, as charter member of Adodi Philadelphia I became a beneficiary of its program and an heir to its legacy.

When I had despaired of the Black Gay social scene, my Adodi brothers showed me that we could relate to each other as partners in affection and not just objects of desire; when the pressures of a hostile world proved stressful, the Adodi bonded with me in terms of our mutual aspirations rather than a common desperation; when personal problems and internalized homophobia threatened to destroy my emotional center, the brothers of Adodi held me steady and allowed me to use their strength until I regained my own; when I succumbed to the temptation to deny my problems, the Adodi brothers, with tough love, patiently took me aside and whispered to me, “Get real!” and, on those glorious occasions, when I remained true to my vision and talent, the Adodi demonstrated how I might live a constructive life as a Black gay male.

However, Adodi was at best a cocoon, not a cage. We realized that many members would eventually outgrow the community and move toward other pursuits: settling in other parts of the country, undertaking new careers, establishing new (and hopefully better) relationships, initiating projects and creating networks of their own. Still, even as some brothers moved on, others found their way into our ranks, so that succeeding generations of Adodi brothers continued the struggle to “make it real”. Although individual members would come and go, the basic needs which Adodi served remain the same.

This essay is an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript
and forthcoming book by Eric S. King, entitled,
A Tale in Two Voices: Journies of Transformation
in the Lives of Black Gay Men.