Black Like Me: Gay, Free and Happy!

By Johari Jabir

In Memoriam: Carl Bean (May 26, 1944 – September 8, 2021)

It is an old story. Some ultra-talented Black singer leaves the church in order to pursue a career in a more lucrative career in secular music. Never mind the fact that the binary divisions between the sacred and secular have never really worked when it comes to Black music, Carl Bean is one of those many examples of Black gospel talent who may have momentarily left the building but took the spirit of the church with him. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Carl Bean grew up attending Providence Baptist Church where Rev. Marcus Garvey Good was pastor. In his autobiography, I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom, and a Ministry in Christ, Bean describes his childhood church as a community of, “strivers, those looking to advance themselves in not only the intellectual and spiritual realm but the economic as well” (49). The music at Providence was very proper, but Bean was drawn to the more “rootsy” music played in his household and in the storefronts he visited. Bean’s own church preached acceptance, but the churches he visited were the first spaces he heard anti-gay theologies.

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