America, we need a word. You’re going through a hard time and we’re here to help. Well, actually we’re in the UK, dealing with our own douchebag of a leader but we have two ambassadors who are ready to help make you fabulous again; Rakeem Cunningham and Nehemias De Leon.
Loverboy has worked with Rakeem before. But since then, he’s launched the Podcast of Colour and his work as a photographer has become even more in demand. Nehemias, meanwhile, leads by example and ‘is an out and proud faggot’ who works with school kids at his local LGBT centre in Boyle Heights.
So we had them both sit in in front of Rakeem’s camera before discussing all of the U.S.’ problems….and of course the discography of one Mariah Carey. Read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
What do you both do in the community?
N: I’m just an out and proud faggot. Haha…I also volunteer at Mi Centro, an LGBT centre in Boyle Heights. It has a Learning Education Programme for LGBT teens. When all these douchebags got together and made this guy President, I figured, if I get together with my group, maybe we can thrive and be better together.
R: That’s great. I work with a lot of queer people in the community through photography, exploring body positivity and self-acceptance. I also have a podcast with three of my friends called Podcast of Colour. We talk about sexual assault, top or bottoming in gender norms, interracial dating, a tonne of different stuff. It’s dope to sit down and just discuss it all.
Gays are notorious for subcultures based on body shapes, bears, wolves, cubs, etc. Is this positive or negative?
N: Before subcultures it was all about the Abercrombie twinks. Others just felt like they were in the shadows. But subcultures have helped them feel sexy.
R: At the same time those groups can fuck you over. The bear community started out as this body positive space and it’s transformed into this weird shit where people judge you because you’re not big enough or you don’t have enough hair. Every time one of these groups happen, there’s always going to be a group of people that make others feel like shit. I don’t know that I like that.
Also body image is tied to a lot of people’s identity, like your friendship group and even what part of the neighbourhood you hang out in. You know a Silverlake gay or a WeHo gay is going to be a certain type of person. Long Beach gays are terrible.
N: Dude, I once met this guy in a bar in Long Beach. He’d been like, ‘Let’s go drinking on the gay side.’ Something in my head was saying, ‘Don’t trust him,’ but I was thinking with my horniness. Long story short I ended up at the train station with my phone, my wallet and my beautiful new hat all missing, getting handcuffed by a cop. I started crying as soon as it happened. In my head I thought, ‘If you cry they’ll let you go.’
R: Yeah but you’re not a white woman. So….
N: I know! So I freaked out, told him I’d been robbed and he was giggling about it. I guess because I’m a big guy…
R: That’s fucked up. He should be like, ‘How can I help you?’
Have you noticed different types of behaviour between different subcultures?
N: A lot of the Latinos come from a machismo type thing. A lot are “tops” because they don’t want to admit they’re bottoms.
R: Where do you think the shame comes from?
N: Speaking as a proud bottomer, it’s from society because you’re a bitch if you get fucked.
R: It’s rooted in misogyny. People hate women. But if anything, that just means you are a bit more…durable!
N: I’ve never felt manlier than when I’m getting fucked.
What political issues are important to you?
R: I care about all black people; trans, lesbian, gay, disabled, everyone. I care about racial inequality, police brutality and the stigma that black people are unintelligent. I care about toxic masculinity and the myth that black women are angry. I care about LGBT issues that have nothing to do with gay marriage because that is a white gay issue. When it was made legal, contributions to LGBT centres went down 200%. White gay men were like, ‘Well we got what we wanted so that’s it.’ Lastly Flint because Flint needs water.
N: The world is so shitty.. For me, #BlackLivesMatter. I am not black but black issues affect me. My brother-in-law and my nephews are black. Issues of black men being seen as dangerous is a huge issue for me. They need to be seen as intelligent people and leaders of society. Great fathers! That’s not seen in the media or anywhere. My brother-in-law drives across town to take the kids to football practice! I’m really jealous of the way that black people always say hello to each other. It makes me want to cry inside. Like an old black lady stopping to talk to two teenagers as if she was their grandma. I also feel strongly about poverty.
N:If you want this country to be the best, give free education instead of bombing the shit out of other countries.
R: It’s insane how much money we give to the military but not to schools.
N: I also feel strongly about Trans Rights. Someone who has no rights by law as they are getting murdered. Black trans women are getting murdered left and right and no one is batting an eye.
Will Trump make it to the end?
N: I think he will, dude! It’s fucking depressing. White people stick with each other. Rich people stick with each other even more. And this guy is a rich, white person. The night he got in, I had been sober for a year and my boyfriend and I were crying in my room. I was like, ‘Can we go buy beer?’ Nothing is going to bring this guy down. But I love how much everyone is getting together and fighting.
R: A lot of people refuse to say what is going on. He won because he’s a racist, a misogynist, because he made fun of a disabled reporter, because he called Mexicans rapists, because he grabbed women by the pussy. If this was an actual Nazi, people wouldn’t entertain this. But he is one! If Hitler were alive, he’d be on CNN giving an interview. History is going to look back on this as a terrible-ass moment for America.
N: Make America Fabulous.
R: Honestly, I think if we held another election, he would win again. Because: White People.
Which artists are you turning to?
N: It was amazing when the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama came out. This asshole is in power, being shitty, and then suddenly this beautiful memory popped back up again.
R: I agree. My favourite thing is maybe Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer because I think it was made for people like us. It just came out but it’s so timely.
Also, Beyonce’s Coachella performance was so black, it was a love letter to black people.. She sang ‘Lift every voice and sing’ which is like the Black national anthem. It just made me feel good.
In terms of art I am obsessed with Erica Deemon. Her show Brown is portraits of different black men on brown backgrounds in brown frames. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. These people look like my Uncle, my Grandfather, my Cousins…all black men. Her other show is called Silhouettes which is of black women, photographed side-on. You get to see the textures of their hair because of the way the shot is taken.
There was also a thing at the LA Art Show, dictator punching bags and you could go and punch Trump right in the face. That felt so good.
What are your thoughts on ‘This Is America’ by Childish Gambino?
N: All these articles are popping up about what all the signs mean. Like for example, the guns are being carried like newborn babies. The black bodies being shot are just left there because they are not important but the gun is. The violence is happening in the background while the happy dancing is in the foreground. All the cars were busted because people of colour can’t afford new ones. It also represented Philando Castile. Everything is there to cover something else up. There was also the Jim Crow stuff…
R: I think it was a commentary on how we don’t pay attention to all the stuff that happens, because we want to be entertained and not really think. It actually scared me because I wasn’t affected by seeing that guy and the choir get shot at all. I should be affected and freaked out by it! Then I just realised I was desensitised to it. We’re at the point now where a lot of this shit is just normalised.
What do you make of Kanye right now?
R: I don’t have any sympathy for him. To say that dwelling on slavery is to be “mentally trapped” is such a stupid thing to say. If you’re not aware of the history of your own fucking people, how are you supposed to make conscious decisions moving forward? His ancestors would be rolling in their graves. Imagine those people that got whipped, beat, raped and killed trying to escape and then he goes and says some ignorant shit like this? Slavery wasn’t a choice but it’s a choice for me to boycott his bullshit.
N: I used to love Kanye so much. I love black people that get rich. I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, show those people what you’ve got.’ But now I’m like, ‘What the fuck? You’re supposed to be bringing your people up!
R: But I don’t like that people are blaming the Kardashians because Kanye is a grown-ass man. We need to stop blaming women for men’s’ behaviour. I think Kanye wants to be what Beyonce, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lemar and Solange are. But he doesn’t have it and he’s pissed.
Is being too politically correct, possible?
N: When someone says ‘too politically correct’, that is what a white person does to cover up sins.
R: What does politically correct mean to you?
N: To me, it’s just being cautious. Think before you speak.
R: I think there’s a difference between being PC and being an asshole. You can phrase things to not hurt someone’s feelings. You don’t just sit there and say whatever the fuck you want. Like all the stuff Trump has said, you don’t do that.
What are your favourite Mariah songs?
N: I’m a psycho when it comes to being a boyfriend so for me it’s ‘Always Be My Baby.’ It’s like, ‘You’ll always be a part of me’. You’re mine!
R: One of my all time favourites is ‘Fly Like A Bird.’ It’s a gospel song. She sang it at the Grammys and her voice is just amazing in that. I feel ‘Vision of Love’ is a cop out but I love it. I also really love ‘Cry’, the opening track on Me. I am Mariah. Mariah has such a good discography, so Queen.
Follow Rakeem on Facebook or Instagram, visit his site www.rakeemc.com and listen to the Podcast of Colour here.
Follow Nehemias on Facebook or Instagram and find out more about the LGBT centre at Boyle Heights here.