pink cadillacs, guns and objectifying straight men: on the road with gay, black zine the tenth
The Tenth is the radical new gay culture magazine shining a light on the too often ignored black scene.
photography matthew holmes
The Tenth is a gay, black publication documenting the community's history, culture, ideas and aesthetics, aiming to make its readers pensive, horny, outraged, inspired. Co-creators (and adorable boyfriends) Khary Septh and Kyle Banks launched the first, heavily New York-centric edition last year, and are now bringing out the second, taking the 'zine on an American road trip in their own unique way ("one car, six fags, five dollars and the boldness to dream"). The team cut through New Hampshire, Boston, New Jersey, Washington DC, Tennessee, Clayton, Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans, covering everything from bounce to ballet and from men shagging on public piers to the "boy next door."
Like all good roads trips, it wasn't without incident, as Khary explains some Thelma & Louise style madness. "We were down in Montgomery, Alabama, shooting a very cool piece about the civil rights movement. We saw this really gorgeous old-school Cadillac kitted out, rims, candy pink, so I was like, 'Cool, we'll shoot on this Cadillac.' As soon as the subject leans on the car, up pulls this car of four thug-ass dudes, guns in their fucking waistband, and they're like, 'What the fuck!? Get off my car faggots!' Because we're not trying to be straight - we're carrying on, having a good time. We tried to explain, 'Oh, we're just taking pictures.' They're like, 'We don't give a fuck, faggots. Get out of here!' The Tenth team wisely skipped town, headed to New Orleans and hit up a bounce club that same evening. Khary's keen not to get too down on Montgomery though: "It's just like New York: from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, you might have to change your approach or swag depending on where you are."
Here The Tenth give us their current Ten Commandments.
1. Love thy country and thy neighbour.
"We spent a lot of time in our first issue considering what our lives would have been like as slaves - a darker, black narrative. With this issue, we thought, 'Fuck all that!' We're like 'McDonalds! And Mickey Mouse! And hip hop!' We've all got as much access to that American identity as anybody. It's fun to take this stance and have some fun. That's why we had the all-American boy on the cover - our version of him. We're feeling a little more light-hearted, which is cool."
2. Support your own artists...
"We did interviews with Cakes Da Killa, Spank Rock and bounce artists. What we found interesting was that although there's all these really cool, interesting hip hop acts, as a community, we don't really know about them. Cakes had never performed in front of an all-black crowd until he did one of our parties in September. We were like, 'How can Spank be on the cover of Fader and have this huge following, but then when you ask any black fag in New York or LA, "Do you know who this guy is?" they're like "No"'. We've taken it upon ourselves to do a little more educating. It's not all about Rihanna. We get it: we're also creating that girl; it's cool. But we should be supporting our own acts in our own spaces."
3. Regret that you can no longer throw shade...
"We did an interview with Lawrence Washington from The Real Housewives of Atlanta who's on Fashion Queens. There's so much polarisation in the black community about masculine and feminine, and we wanted to see what the gay black man's position in media means. Lawrence broke it down and said, 'I'm in the media and I'm challenging ideas and stereotypes, so everyone else who has something to say, step up, be visible.' How many actors and media figures are out? It's this concept that there's no more shade in the room - it's all about love."
4. Go analogue for a season...
"That was a part of our experience of being on the road. We scouted every location through a computer screen, which felt like adequate planning, but then we were able to get on the road and be in a physical space, everything changed. There was a real connection. We were in the pursuit of interesting work and new ideas."
5. Objectify straight boys like they do women...
"It was a big point for us to include figures who had influenced parts of our lives, so there are stories that are talking about women, like Big Freedia's main background dancer and creative collaborator, Trudy. Then we liked the idea of objectifying straight boys by taking a woman's stance."
6. Indulge in the chocolate bunny...
"We did a cool story in Atlanta called Chocolate Bunnies, where we got all these yummy gym bunnies who happened to be chocolate. It's about what's hot and what's sexy, but it's also about physical health. They're our two favourites - boys we got on Instagram who are beyond hot. Indulge in it!"
7. Invest in your own shit...
"We're on issue number three next. The magazine has allowed a lot of things to connect in the real world. One of our photographers collaborated with a writer he shot for the magazine. Then there's a playwriting happening across coasts, with a guy from LA doing something from New Haven. Two boys are dating now. All this through the magazine. We think it has a lot to do with our investing, not simply from a financial perspective, but human investment as well. Do your own shit and things will happen that will be bigger than the purpose you set out with."
"For the next issue, we're going to Hollywood. We're expanding geography, but we're also expanding ideology. There's this cool LA white boy photographer and we've got this other kid who's a black photographer and they're doing a reverse Mapplethorpe series and having this race conversation. It's expanding our ideas beyond our insular community. And in LA we're talking with Lee Daniels who's doing Empire. Keep growing the conversation! For the next issue, we're going to Hollywood, with the help of Atelier Ace..."
9. Stay young...
"A lot of our magazine is what's happening with youth culture, but most of us are in our 30s. It's about staying young and relevant. We have this office of cool interns who are constantly finding us new talent and telling us about fashion trends and where to shop and 'Girl, you're not wearing a dress!?' It's about being fresh and not being so solid in what you've learnt to be true; just being a bit more fluid."
10. Think global.
"We're always trying to use this platform to reach beyond. In this issue, we did a cool story in Boston called 'The British are coming', which featured all these black queer kids from London. We had a conversation about what things were like in London. Our goal for issue four is to do a global issue. Hit a plane, go to a new continent."
Text Stuart Brumfiit
Images courtesy The Tenth