Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jet Magazine Makes Headlines Featuring 1st Gay Male Newlywed Couple

I saw an interesting short piece on MSNBC this morning about Jet Magazine featuring Ravi Perry and Paris Prince as the first gay male African-American couple to appear in the magazines 'Weddings' section.

While Jet has featured same sex female couples in their 'Weddings' section before, I think a male black gay couple appearing there represents an important cultural gauge in light of recent conversations and national debate on same-sex marriage that have been increasingly frequent in the mainstream media with the Supreme Court set to rule on Federal cases in New York and California that could establish the right for same-sex couples in the US to marry.

Personally speaking, Jet featuring a simple photo reflects evolving views on the acceptance of same-sex marriage in America. Too often in this country the African-American perspective tends to get lumped into a rather narrow expression of "black conventional wisdom" that doesn't really take into account the enormous diversity of opinion that exits in contemporary black society. 
We're decades past the days when Jesse Jackson sitting on a television news program with an earpiece on "explaining how blacks feel" could sum up the African-American perspective with a couple quotes. While there is certainly a wide range of opinion on the acceptance of same-sex marriage among African-Americans, there's no doubting the enduring popularity and relevance of Jet Magazine as a solid snapshot on black culture and entertainment.

For well over a century barbershops and beauty parlors that cater to primarily African-American clientele have served as more than just a place where people of color can go to "get a cut". These small community institutions found in just about every corner of the nation have long functioned as unofficial community centers where one can go to catch up on local news and gossip, swap stories, hear a good joke or get the latest on what's happening in the local black community.

One common touch sure to be found amongst all these small businesses are plenty of copies of Jet, Ebony or Black Enterprise. While I never picked up a copy of Jet for extensive world analysis, it was always a fun, lighter read to leaf through where one could read stories about the lives of leading African-American celebrities and important figures from the world of business or politics; or sometimes just regular people. Jet still boasts a respectable monthly circulation of 700,000 according to the MSNBC report I saw, but it holds a special place in the black American community.

I got my first haircut at Jimmy's Barbershop located at 141 John Street which used to be located at the heart of what was the African-American community in Princeton. The owner Jimmy Mac, who left the Navy and opened the shop in 1954, was known unofficially as the "Mayor of John Street" and you could learn a lot about life and the community by just sitting there listening to him as he cut hair and held court. Sitting in one of the hard-to-find chairs in his small shop while waiting patiently for a haircut always offered time to pick up an old copy of Jet; and I'm certain I'm not the only guy who quickly leafed through the pages to check out the "Jet Beauty of the Week".

It's going to be months before the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage, but as more and more conversations about people's right to marry who they want take place across this nation in the media and in private, Jet's decision to feature a gay male black couple in the 'Weddings' section suddenly makes it even more relevant; a snapshot of a shifting perspective. Not just in the African-American community, but in the mindset of many Americans who understand that our concepts of family, marriage and individual rights are changing with the times.   

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