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Foreword

William Hawkeswood was one of my favorite graduate students; indeed, he was beloved by everyone in the Anthropology Department at Columbia University. He was always larger than life but also capable of great intimacy and warmth, and he was unfailingly generous with his time, his considerable expertise, and his spirit. When he died in the summer of 1992, his loss was felt deeply by everyone who had known him.

Bill spent his last years writing this book, and one of the sadnesses of his death is that he will not hold it in his hands. I know that he would have been pleased not only to see his work put before the public but to take his place among the social scientists committed to the analysis and understanding of gay life in America. For Bill, this was a particular passion, an expression of his own identity and his intellectual center.

One of the Children is more, much more, than a description of gay black men in Harlem. It is an attempt to understand the often uneasy fusion of race and sexuality in a country with a long and tortured history of segregation and bigotry on both counts. Harlem, one of the cultural capitals of African-American society, was the focus of Hawkeswood's ethnography because it is in Harlem that so many gay black men have created lives that bring together their experiences as African-Americans and as gay men. Bill wanted to show that an effervescent, creative, and historically grounded culture has evolved in the heart of the inner city, that it is a source of sustenance for ordinary people and extraordinary artists.


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Bill also wanted readers to understand that gay black men participate in, and often secure the foundation of, social and familial networks that provide for the well-being of other men, women, and children in Harlem. So much that has been written about African-American families in the United States relegates men to marginal roles; here we see gay men as integral in the economic and emotional lives of sisters, younger siblings, friends, and neighbors and their households.

Bill lived in Harlem for several years and was thoroughly integrated into the lives of the men described in this book. Few white men have had this opportunity; even fewer have been accepted so readily. He found ways to work around or through the deep and long-standing divisions separating whites and blacks in this city, drawing upon his prior experience doing fieldwork with Rastafarians in New Zealand, the country of his birth. His ability to find a niche in communities seemingly distant from his own was a marvel to behold.

He is missed by his family in New Zealand, whom he loved dearly and of whom he spoke often, and by his colleagues and friends here, who remember him well. Fortunately, the ideas he lived for are represented in these pages.

KATHERINE NEWMAN
SEPTEMBER 1993


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