Phillip Hudson Phillip Hudson

The Mean Girls of Morehouse

 

WITHIN THE OPENLY GAY COMMUNITY AT ATLANTA’S MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, THERE’S A SUBGROUP: GENDER BENDERS WHO ROCK MAKEUP, MARC JACOBS TOTE BAGS, SKY-HIGH HEELS AND BEYONCÉ- STYLE HAIR WEAVES. CAN A MAN OF MOREHOUSE BE GAY? ABSOLUTELY. BUT CAN HE BE A WOMAN? MEET THE PLASTICS.

Diamond Martin Poulin, 20, teetering in strappy sandals with three-inch heels, steps into an eclectic clothing boutique in Little Five Points, a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants two and a half miles outside of downtown Atlanta. “Ooooh,” squeals Diamond. “What about this?” Holding up a white floor-skimming skirt with an eyelet hem, he swoons. The proprietor of the store looks up at Diamond, does a double take, and immediately picks up the cordless phone at the register. “There’s a man in here with heels on!” she whispers loudly into the phone. Diamond raises his eyebrows and continues browsing the racks. He shrugs when asked if the comment bothers him. “Isn’t it true?” he says, chuckling. “There is a man in here with heels on.”

Nibbling on sushi later that day, Diamond explains why he left after one year at Morehouse. A bastion for producing leaders in politics, community service and medicine, Morehouse College has long been viewed as the ultimate HBCU for young Black men, who are conferred with the mystique of being “Men of Morehouse.” Established in 1867 in Augusta, Georgia, as the Augusta Institute, the school counts such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr.; financier Reginald E. Davis; School Daze writer/director Spike Lee; the late Keith “Guru” Elam of Gang Starr; and the late Def Jam exec Shakir Stewart among its graduates.

"Diamond"That pedigree is what brought Diamond (pictured left) to Morehouse, but he says the school’s social conservatism drove him out. In October of last year, the Morehouse College administration announced a new “appropriate attire policy.” The dress code stated that students, referred to as “Renaissance Men,” were not allowed to wear caps, do-rags, sunglasses or sagging pants on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events. But what raised most eyebrows was the rule about women’s clothing: no wearing of dresses, tops, tunics, purses or pumps.

The new dress code resulted in a flurry of media coverage, prompting Dr. William Bynum, Jr., vice president for Student Services, to release a statement to several news outlets: “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.” During a recent visit to the campus, the poet Saul Williams wore a skirt in solidarity.

“Morehouse wasn’t ready for me,” says Diamond, who has the word “unbreakable” tattooed on his collarbone and the acronym C.R.E.A.M (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me” coined by rap group Wu Tang Clan) wrapped around his right wrist. “I’m about freedom of expression. I’m about being whomever you truly are inside. I came to Morehouse because of all the historical leaders that attended and impacted the world so heavily. You know, I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. I don’t think Morehouse believes that someone like me—someone who wears heels and dresses—can uphold that reputation. But they’re wrong.”

“We respect the identity and choices of all young men at Morehouse,” Dr. Bynum said via email. “However, the Morehouse leadership development model sets a certain standard of how we expect young men to dress, and this attire does not fit within the model. Our proper attire policy expresses that standard.”

Diamond now attends American InterContinental University, majoring in fashion marketing and design. “I want to, like, teach at Parsons. Or you know, maybe even in London—who knows?”

Although it has never been officially confirmed, it’s not too far off the mark to believe that those “five students” at whom the appropriate attire policy was directed included Diamond and his crew, the Plastics. The group is loosely made up of seven or eight former and current Morehouse students, some of whom share a modest townhouse in Atlanta. Their name is a nod to the A-list crowd depicted in the 2004 movie Mean Girls.

READ THE USHER COVER STORY HERE!

The Plastics all assume that the recent appropriate attire policy was aimed directly at their personal freedom of expression, which sometimes includes foundation, cross-dressing, and even taking female hormones.

“I’ve always been into clothes, shoes, hair and everything,” says Diamond, who was born and raised in Providence, R.I. He says there’s a good chance he’ll transition into a woman at some point. “My mother says I always played dress-up in her clothes, my grandmother’s clothes. I’d even get my brother to do it sometimes. That’s just always been me—pushing the envelope of what I’m supposed to be as a man.”

So does Diamond really consider herself a man? At the question, he groans. “Yes, I refer to myself as a man, you know, to relieve any confusion. Sometimes people don’t understand the whole androgyny thing. There’s always the question: Well, what are you? Yes, I’m a man. I like women’s clothes. And yeah, I’m gay. But I don’t want that to define me. How come people can’t just see me as a person?”

But some of the other men of Morehouse definitely don’t see Diamond that way. Early in his first—and last—year, Diamond had a run-in that signaled the beginning of the end of his time at the esteemed institution.

 

 

Social Circle: Your Responses to "THE MEAN GIRLS OF MOREHOUSE" 

Blogger's Circle: The Plastics V. Morehouse

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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Wendy Williams Postpones Show Return Due To “Complications” From Graves’ Disease

Wendy Williams is promising to get back to The Wendy Williams Show by the end of January, after delaying her return two previous times.

Williams announced another extended hiatus from her talk show as she continues recovering from a shoulder injury and recent “complications” brought on by Graves' disease, according to a statement posted to the show’s Instagram account Friday (Jan. 18).

“Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment,” reads the statement. “Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being.

“Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time.”

The statement included a message of support from Debmar-Mercury, the company that syndicates The Wendy Williams Show. “We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready.”

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A Note from The Hunter Family As Wendy Williams Hunter previously shared, she fractured her shoulder and has been on the mend. Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment. Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being. Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time. Statement from Debmar-Mercury For over ten years, Wendy has been a vital part of the Debmar-Mercury family. We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready. The Wendy Williams Show will air repeat episodes the week of January 21st and will produce original episodes with a variety of hosts starting the week of January 28th.

A post shared by Wendy Williams (@wendyshow) on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:34am PST

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Former Chicago Cop Jason Van Dyke Sentenced For Killing Laquan McDonald

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Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan had to decide between sentencing Van Dyke for second-degree murder or aggravated battery, the latter of which carried a mandatory minimum of six years in prison, the Tribune reports. Gaughan decided that it made more sense to sentence Van Dyke for murder, which makes him eligible for early release.

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Darren O'Brien, Van Dyke’s lawyer, pushed for sentencing “leniency,” due in part to his client’s clean criminal record. Depicting O’Brien as the victim, Van Dyke stated that his client feared for his life when he killed McDonald.

“He didn’t start the confrontation,” O’Brien said. “He reacted to what Mr. McDonald did..Everything that happened was set in motion by Mr. McDonald.”

Gaughan called the court case a tragedy for families from both parties. “It’s just so senseless that these acts occur because you can see the pain on both sides. This is a tragedy for both sides."

Van Dyke's sentence came a day after a Cook County judge acquitted three CPD officers charged with covering up the shooting.

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