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The House Party​.​.​.

from Nhojj Poetry Vol. 2 by Nhojj



I discovered “Invisible Life” by E. Lynn Harris around the same time I found “Giovanni’s Room” from James Baldwin.

For a long time, I believed this race for equality began with Baldwin, but over time I learned, he was just one member in a relay team that’s been running since the dawn of time. 


I was walking alone, along Christopher street, when James Baldwin and E. Lynn Harris, who had been out, on a mission to rescue lost boys, found me.  This was back in the day when that infamous bit of paved asphalt, off NYC’s West Side Highway, opened its arms (and doors), to kids like me. 

I was a college student, studying hard to maintain honors, but not understanding anything in my world.  I had a bag on my back, heavy and weighed down with questions.  Anyone bothering to look would have guessed it full of textbooks, but Baldwin and Harris knew better.  They could sense a confused gait anywhere. 

They called me by my name, tapping my shoulder with words, their meanings so familiar I recognized them immediately as friends.  This was an invitation to a house party.  Everything would be revealed there and then. 

So I put myself together as best I could and showed up, forefinger eager to ring the door bell of this historic edifice of brownstone.  The street had a great many trees, giving it an air of peaceful seclusion and something comforting, like lemonade on a summer afternoon.  I would later identify this sweet taste as self-acceptance. 

Mr. Harris opened the door and, resting on me that famous smile, guided me through the foyer into the living room.  It was surprisingly expansive, with an open, breezy feel.  For me, it was like walking into another world. 

Between introductions, I gazed around at the walls.  After all, walls mirror and house the soul of a home. 

On these walls I witnessed African masks hanging side by side art, paintings so dark and beautiful I felt myself being pulled, drawn to them by some unseen force.  Was it curiosity or something more primal. 

Africa’s secret past... 
Our hidden history 
Solve this mystery 
How could one not  
Recognize ancestors 

Yoruba’s “adofuro”  
Nigeria’s “yan daudu” 
Uganda’s “mudoko dako”  
Senegal’s “gor-digen” 
Seated in the center on a throne 
King Mwanga ll 
“Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands” 

Images of... 

Holding his 
Hands in villages   
His hands enfolding his hands  
In huts round the continent 
His hands brushing his hands 
As he braids his hair 
His hands lifting his hands 
Pulling him closer  
Pulling him near  
Pot of cassava boils 
Brightly colored beads, palm oils 
Parting hair and planting seeds 
Gift of cows and cowrie shells 
Hands reaching down into wells 
Of time and space now  
Touching my face 
Warm beautiful hands 
This man’s hands 
Welcoming me 

African God 
Warrior of human sexuality   
Standing tall and mighty and proud 
Spear glistening  
Intricate wooden points spanning the spectrum of our humanity  
African Goddess 
Bless us all  
Soft effeminate men everywhere 

The vision past as quickly as it came, and I was back in this charming parlour.  The buzz of conversation, and the names of these men I’d just been introduced to, coming back to me... wait was I dreaming? 

The Harlem Renaissance was alive and well...  at one corner Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent and Alain Locke sat on Victorian style chairs, relating the rebirth of African-American arts in the 1920s and 30s.  They called it the New Negro Movement, and endeavored to uplift the race, so there was little space to interject sexuality into their writings even with the use of codes and other subversive tactics.  

James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin stood near open windows debating civil rights in the 1950s and 60s.  Hardcover copies of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone” lay sprawled on antique side tables beside them.  The novelist conversing with the pacifist who transported the message of nonviolent resistance from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, and who, from the court records, paid the price for living the life Baldwin so often wrote about. 

At another corner AIDS activists and poets alike gathered together, publicly dissecting their lives as African-American gay men, in the 1980s and 90s, their tongues finally untied.  Essex Hemphill, James Beam, Marlon Riggs, Melvin Dixon and Assotto Saint convened around a coffee table covered with books like “Brother to Brother: Collected Writings by Black Gay Men”, “Does Your Momma Know About me?” and “Here to Dare...” 

It was into this milieu that E. Lynn Harris now strode, bringing with him new characters to add to this plot, new novels to add this burgeoning library.  

Hunky football player Basil followed protagonist Raymond, who now joined Baldwin’s David and beautiful, sad Giovanni on the love seat.  It was a curious mixture of black and white standing and sitting side by side. 

At that very moment, the grandfather clock in the hall began to chime.  Midnight.  I didn’t realize it was this late, I had classes in the morning... so I rose to find my hosts and thank them for an enlightening evening.   

What an epiphany 
“Invisible Life” 
What a beautiful symphony  
Husband no wife 
I was ok  
I am ok 
“Just as I am” 

The door bell signaled new arrivals.  But I would hear about those new authors later, the ones who kept the tradition alive and well into 2000s and beyond. The ones who joined the party and helped it swell and overflow out onto the streets. 

As my feet hit the pavement, a vinyl record began to spin, turning round and round on someone’s stereo.  Needle touched groove, almost in time with my steps, and Sylvester’s falsetto filled the night air.  I smiled and looked back at the door I’d just come out of.  All the characters and all the men were now dancing... together.


from Nhojj Poetry Vol. 2, track released February 24, 2018
Written & performed by Nhojj
Contains sample of "He & Him" by Nhojj


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Nhojj Orlando, Florida

Singer/songwriter and poet wading through the rivers of R&B, soul, jazz, and reggae.

My intention is to create sonic spaces where you can experience yourself through the lens of love and acceptance.

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