“No Ashes in the Fire” by writer and activist Darnell Moore is a beautifully written memoir of a young black queer boy finding his freedom in America. Darnell Moore is considered one of the most prolific, important voices in young Black American culture.
Drawing from a traumatic event in his youth, Darnell speaks of being “jumped” by a group of neighborhood kids, then having gasoline poured on top of him and attempting to set him on fire.
Darnell does not tell this story in the book for you to feel sorry for him but to explore the commonality all adolescents experience when they are viewed as “other” or different. Being bullied a lot for his gender expression in the 1990s in Camden, N.J., this memoir gives the reader a crash course in resiliency 101.
I personally love when Darnell speaks about how we must stop playing the oppression Olympics in the United States. Meaning when someone says, “I am black and queer,” one is not greater than the other, because as black queer people, we have learned how to navigate both simultaneously. Oftentimes when Darnell is asked howhe feels about being black and gay he states, “Wonderful!”
Darnell is keenly aware this question would not be posed to other populations in our country, however white America tends to fantasize about what intersectionality feels like.
Darnell states, “cages cannot be doorways to freedom,” meaning the antiquated ideologies we have on gender expression, sexual orientation or race will not lead us to liberty.
So, as we head into Pride month, we all have to strike a balance of celebration, understanding there is a lot of work we all need to do. Darnell understands we need a space to celebrate and honor our queer legacies, “however,” he said, “we cannot be committed to all the ideas and norms that continue to keep us from being uninhibited.”
I think Darnell knows why Dr. Maya Angelou’s caged bird sings; it’s singing to simply be free.
Antar Bush is a public-health advocate, professor at West Chester University and executive producer of the online talk show OUTPour LGBTQ. He is committed to advocating for health equity in all communities.Follow him on Instagram @antarbushmswmph.