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RuPaul's What's the Tee? Don't keep it to yourself! Add it Here. Create a new account. Log In. Watch the song video Low Down Blues. Wealth Won't Save Your Soul. I Don't Care. Honky Tonkin'. Move It on Over. Six More Miles. I'm Satisfied with You. My Sweet Love Ain't Around. The Blues Come Around. A Mansion on the Hill. Lost on the River. There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight. May You Never Be Alone. I've Just Told Mama Goodbye. A House Without Love. My Bucket's Got a Hole in It.
Long Gone Lonesome Blues. Why Don't You Love Me. Why Should We Try Anymore. Beyond the Sunset. Everything's Okay. Nobody's Lonesome for Me. Moanin' the Blues. For African-Americans, facing and addressing the black AIDS crisis would require talking honestly and compassionately about homosexuality -- and that has proved remarkably difficult, whether it be in black churches, in black organizations or on inner-city playgrounds. The mainstream gay world, for its part, has spent 20 years largely fighting the epidemic among white, openly gay men, showing little sustained interest in reaching minorities who have sex with men and who refuse to call themselves gay.
Rejecting a gay culture they perceive as white and effeminate, many black men have settled on a new identity, with its own vocabulary and customs and its own name: Down Low. There have always been men -- black and white -- who have had secret sexual lives with men. But the creation of an organized, underground subculture largely made up of black men who otherwise live straight lives is a phenomenon of the last decade. Most date or marry women and engage sexually with men they meet only in anonymous settings like bathhouses and parks or through the Internet.
Many of these men are young and from the inner city, where they live in a hypermasculine ''thug'' culture. Other DL men form romantic relationships with men and may even be peripheral participants in mainstream gay culture, all unknown to their colleagues and families.
Most DL men identify themselves not as gay or bisexual but first and foremost as black. To them, as to many blacks, that equates to being inherently masculine. DL culture has grown, in recent years, out of the shadows and developed its own contemporary institutions, for those who know where to look: Web sites, Internet chat rooms, private parties and special nights at clubs.
Over the same period, Down Low culture has come to the attention of alarmed public health officials, some of whom regard men on the DL as an infectious bridge spreading H. With no wives or girlfriends around, Flex is a safe place for men on the DL to let down their guards. There aren't many white men here either I'm one of them , and that's often the norm for DL parties and clubs.
Some private DL events won't even let whites in the door. Others will let you in if you look ''black enough,'' which is code for looking masculine, tough and ''straight. While Wallace tests one man for H. By the lockers, I notice a tall black man in his late teens or early 20's staring at me from a dozen lockers down.
Abruptly, he walks over and puts his right hand on my left shoulder. His frankness takes me by surprise. Bathhouse courtship rituals usually involve a period of aggressive flirtation -- often heavy and deliberate staring.
You look like you would have a girl, too. I tell him that I don't have a girl. I decline his advances, to which he seems genuinely perplexed. Before I go back upstairs, I ask him if he normally uses condoms here.
As a recurring announcement comes over the club's loudspeaker -- ''H. If Cleveland is the kind of city many gay people flee, Atlanta is a city they escape to. For young black men, Atlanta is the hub of the South, a city with unlimited possibilities, including a place in its vibrant DL scene.
I went to Atlanta to meet William, an attractive year-old black man on the DL who asked to be identified by his middle name. I met him in the America Online chat room DLThugs, where he spends some time most days searching for what he calls ''real'' DL guys -- as opposed to the ''flaming queens who like to pretend they're thugs and on the DL. I told him I was a writer, and he eventually agreed to take me around to a few clubs in Atlanta.
With one condition: ''You better dress cool,'' he warned me. Two of William's best friends are in the car with him: Christopher, a thin, boyish year-old with a shaved head, and Rakeem, an outgoing year-old with dreadlocks who asked to be identified by his Muslim name. We drive toward the Palace, a downtown club popular with young guys on the DL. William doesn't date women anymore and likes guys younger than he is, although they've been known to get more attached than he would prefer.
He's got this weird power to make boys act really stupid. It's easy to see why. William radiates confidence and control, which serve him well in his daytime role as an executive at a local corporation. He says his co-workers don't know he likes men ''It's none of their business,'' he tells me several times , or that after work he changes personas completely, becoming a major player in the city's DL scene, organizing parties and events.
Christopher, who sits in the back seat with me, is the only one of the three who is openly gay and not on the DL although he won't tell me his last name, for fear of embarrassing his parents. Christopher moved to Atlanta when he was 24 and was surprised when black men in the city couldn't get enough of him. He followed me off the train. Rakeem, a roommate of William's, moved to Atlanta five years ago from Brooklyn. He says he's ''an urban black gay man on the DL,'' which he says reflects his comfort with his sexuality but his unwillingness to ''broadcast it.
His family wouldn't know, either, if a vindictive friend hadn't told them. While Rakeem and William proudly proclaim themselves on the Down Low, they wouldn't have been considered on the DL when men first started claiming the label in the mid's. Back then the culture was completely under the radar, and DL men lived ostensibly heterosexual lives complete with wives and girlfriends but also engaged in secret sexual relationships with men.
Today, though, an increasing number of black men who have sex only with men identify themselves as DL, further muddying an already complicated group identity. And as DL culture expands, it has become an open secret. For many men on the Down Low, including William and Rakeem, the DL label is both an announcement of masculinity and a separation from white gay culture. To them, it is the safest identity available -- they don't risk losing their ties to family, friends and black culture.
William parks the car in a secluded lot about a block from the Palace. As he breaks out some pot, I ask them if they heard about what happened recently at Morehouse College, where one black student beat another with a bat supposedly for looking at him the wrong way in a dormitory shower. If you're masculine and a guy thinks you're checking him out, you can always say: 'Whoa, chill, I ain't checking you out. Look at me. Do I look gay to you? Masculinity is a surprisingly effective defense, because until recently the only popular representations of black gay men were what William calls ''drag queens or sissies.
It might hurt you some, but it's not like if you're black and gay, because then it's like you've let down the whole black community, black women, black history, black pride. You don't hear black people say, 'Oh yeah, he's gay, but he's still a real man, and he still takes care of all his responsibilities. I ask them what the difference is between being on the DL and being in the closet. The closet isn't fun.
In the closet, you're lonely. Both have a point. As William says, DL culture does place a premium on pleasure. It is, DL guys insist, one big party. And there is a certain freedom in not playing by modern society's rules of self-identification, in not having to explain yourself, or your sexuality, to anyone. Like the black athletes and rappers they idolize, DL men convey a strong sense of masculine independence and power: I do what I want when I want with whom I want.
Kelly, meaning ''secret'' -- has a sexy ring to it, a hint that you're doing something wrong that feels right. But for all their supposed freedom, many men on the DL are as trapped -- or more trapped -- than their white counterparts in the closet.
While DL guys regard the closet as something alien a sad, stifling place where fearful people hide , the closet can be temporary many closeted men plan to someday ''come out''. But black men on the DL typically say they're on the DL for life. But early on in my career at the Tennessean newspaper I got a job within six months of graduating from college with a degree in English and photography.
I worked my way onto the paper and I thought that would be the best way basically to learn how to do documentary work. We went to the Natchez Trace and then came back up through the Delta, stopped at the home of Son Thomas.
This was in August of When I walked into his little shotgun house there in Leland, the first thing I saw was he had one of the caskets with a sculpture of a dead woman laid in the casket, and one of his amazing clay sculptures of a skull up on a shelf with human teeth in them. I was just absolutely just thunderstruck by the power of this imagery.
And then Pat — his son — took me to the back bedroom and we hung out for a while and I played a little bit of music with him and made a few pictures of him.
I was just electrified. This first trip to the Delta, it changed my life. I was like, I have to get back here as soon as possible — without any kind of grand scheme — I just physically have to be here. The trajectory of that has obviously slowed after 25 years, because almost all the original folks that I met have died off.
You know, the sons, daughters —. Octagenarian Floyd Hollman owns his own land and still hand-picks at least part of his crop every year to keep his stamina up. BS: I left my newspaper job in and have mostly just done freelance photography work and then music. But it was impossible to do while I had a full-time job at the newspaper and trying to do all this documentary work, and supplement my income with freelance work.
It was only after leaving the newspaper that I had the time to start pursuing music. In the beginning, of course pursuing the music was not really seen as a profession but just something to feed my soul, just something I had to do. It was really Steve Gardner who gave me a lot of the encouragement and permission — because I was like so many people, I just loved these Southern traditions. It took me a long time to give myself kind of permission to play the music.
Once we started playing out in public I realized that, well you know, I could have my own voice within the tradition and use — my goal early on, and to this day, is still basically advocacy for the culture. Nurture it. Support it. Everything comes out of this tradition. A group of baptism candidates make their way carefully over loose stones to the edge of Moon Lake, an oxbow of the Mississippi near Lula, MS.
For this past year it was the Yazoo County issue. I did almost all the photographs for that — contemporary photographs.Low Down Blues Lyrics: (Verse) / Well all I do is roll around all day / Folks ask me “why?” this is what I say: / I got the blues / Boy, I got the low down blues / (Chorus) / Well I’m feelin.