Hero of the Week Award: July 6, Frank Ocean

6 Jul

Hero of the Week

It’s been quite a week for LGBT celebrities. Coming out rumors and confirmations have abounded, with Anderson Cooper getting the brightest focus. A young hip-hop musician rises above the crowd, however. Frank Ocean put to rest rampant speculation in advance of his first solo album, Channel Orange, with a powerful and touching statement.

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.

Ocean continues the story of his first crush noting that the other man was in a relationship and unavailable. He built on that crushing experience and the joy that preceded it to frame his coming out message, which he dedicates

To my mother, you raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first, so thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man.

Given the extra challenges faced by being out and African-American and the notoriously homophobic nature of hip-hop culture, Ocean’s actions are especially bold. (So much so that Billboard ran a special piece on his message.) Ocean goes a step further than a coming out message, too. The songs on his new album include romantic lyrics clearly directed to a male subject, something out singers in any genre rarely do. Hip-hop and rap godfather Russell Simmons, a strong marriage equality advocate and LGBT ally, sums up this bold young singer perfectly.

Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? […] Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.

4 Responses to “Hero of the Week Award: July 6, Frank Ocean”

  1. penguinlad July 6, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Writer and critic Touré has a nice piece on Time’s website comparing the Cooper and Ocean coming out stories. While recognizing the power of Cooper’s statement (and the fact that he is better known so got more press), he makes it clear just how seismic Ocean’s action is. A rising hip-hop star risking his career sends a powerful message. Let’s hope it’s heard everywhere it needs to be.

  2. Christine Noble July 6, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I love it, for so many reasons. It is great that this young man showed the courage he did. It is great that he did so in the face of the traditional homophobia in hip hop culture (and watch Season 2 of the Boondocks’ episodes involving the character Thugnificient on that. Aaron MacGruder is one of my heroes.) It is great that Russel Simmons, already and awesome ally, is backing him up. It is great that Jay Z has been such a strong ally of late, and finally it is great that there is this shift in attitudes in hip hop culture. What critique are the racists going to have to lean on now?

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