Partner Johnny Manzon-Santos
Michael Hunter (April 15, 1958 - January 23, 2001), aka Bert Hunter or
Bertram Michael Hunter, was born on April 15, 1958, in Hell's Kitchen,
NY, and raised in Spanish Harlem, NY. He was an educator, cultural
activist and journal editor of Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the age of
AIDS, published by Other Countries: Black Gay Writers.
"On April 11, 1991, my first day on the job at Norman Thomas High School in New York City, Yarius, a student in my College Accounting course, asked me: "Why are you teaching?" His question probed for more than the introduction I offered the entire class: I went to public elementary school in East Harlem, graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, had an undergraduate degree in accounting, a law degree, spent five years selling computers for IBM, and, after taking a year and a half off to travel the world, had decided to pursue my lifelong desire to teach. I purposely gave a broad sketch of my life, leaving out details of my love interests or political views. I interpreted Yarius's question in two ways: first, "If you have so much going for you, why are you "just" a teacher; and second, "We students don't deserve teachers who want to teach."
"Why am I "just" a teacher?" I did not want to be challenged so early. I have always wanted to teach, to dance, to act in the theater, and to write. But these were things that "faggots" did. And I was not a faggot.
I wonder at times if, as a Black gay male teacher, I am really making a difference. Many of the values I hold are alien to my students. I am startled and often surprised at their frequently conservative and rigid remarks regarding sex, recreational drug use, sexuality, and other "moral" issues. Most of the time I find I am left of center, still the precocious child, the sensitive teenager, the left-wing student with the right-wing college majors; still, in the words of fellow African-American co-workers, the "too-Black" IBM sales representative."
"It's through the community that we met. Though Bert may have a different
recollection, I first met him at a meeting of the Lesbian & Gay People of
Color Steering Committee to secure a spot in the People of Color contingent of
the New York City Pride March of GAPIMNY, at the time a new affinity
organization. I noticed Bert, one of the handsomest men I'd ever seen, who was
really quite and cautious - the opposite of me. He was a writer and
refreshingly not a graduate of an Ivy League school, like my ex-lover. I was
happy to learn that he didn't grow up with money and, like me, received
financial aid to get through mostly all-white schools. I felt safe with him
from the beginning, and not ashamed of unpacking whatever personal baggage I
may have brought with me. I wondered about Bert being Black, having
experienced too many Black people telling me that I wasn't oppressed enough."
"I first noticed John at a general meeting of VOCAL (Voices of Color against AIDS and for Life), a fledgling group of lesbian and gay people of color who worked in AIDS. I was there to announce the marching order of the People of Color Contingent in the 1990 Lesbian & Gay Pride March. He reminded me of a high school friend I had, who was one-fourth Black and three-fourths Chines. John didn't look anything like my friend, but they did share one feature: black hair. There was something about John that seemed familiar. We saw each other at a couple of other joint People of Color meetings - after one such meeting I asked him to dinner, and he accepted. After one or two other dates we got together and somehow developed a relationship. Physically, John is similar to almost all of the other men I've dated - slim. I was and am most attracted to John's mind, quick mouth, and energy, some of the very things that cause tension in our relationship. I was thirty-two when I met John, and feeling young but old. Old from so many consecutive deaths of friends from AIDS. When I found out John was seven years younger than me, I was a little reluctant to continue our relationship, because he seemed politicized in a way I wasn't familiar with. There were some early signs that we have had very different life experiences.
First, the obvious: he's Filipino, I'm of African descent; I was raised in a housing project in East Harlem, he was raised in a house in Daly City, California; he worked as a counselor at a community agency in Chinatown, and I had just quit my job as an account marketing representative selling mainframe computers for IBM. Now the not so obvious - he had gone to private school since sixth grade and then to an Ivy League college; I went to public grammar and middle school, a specialized public high school, a small, east-coast private college, and had already graduated from a top-ranked public-interest private law school. My previous experience with men who attended Ivy League school also left me a little cold - they seem to never be satisfied with things. They always seem to have access to information and invitations to events and always acted as if they were entitled to everything they desired. I also felt I was considered desirable by these men because of my degrees and career track: they assumed I was their "class peer." John was very different - he is one of the few men I trust." Bert
B. Michael Hunter died of AIDS on January 23, 2001, Central Harlem, New York City. John Albert Santos Manzon is currently living in Oakland and he married his new partner, Michael Leo Branca, in 2012.
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