JOSE (MICHELL) BRITO
A Hotep Trollage
Saturday, March 17th, 3 – 6pm
Performance starts at 3:30pm sharp
My toxic coping obsession with cyber bullying “Hotep” men began after I realized that I was powerless in my efforts to shelter young people from their ruthless public displays of anti-Queer/Femme vitriol. The online phenomenon of #Hotepnigga type hashtags and trolling meme culture emerged somewhere in the mid 2010s’ with the Black Twitter medium and it was my intention to fully engage in this power struggle, coping mechanism and therapeutic release.
“Hotep” once stood to mean a very noble greeting—to be “at peace” or “to be content.” It was used to denote kinship in Ancient Egypt. But the Hotep emergence of post-Civil Rights struggles and its re-emergence in pop culture of the late 90s’ and early 2000s’—with films such as Don’t be a menace…and School Daze—has taken a dark and humorous turn as a trope used by online Black social media trolls, like myself, to shame the Black nationalists, pseudo-intellectuals and out-of-touch Afrocentrics of today.
If the realities of navigating the “non-for-profit” industrial complex weren’t enough, the homeless LGBTQ+ youth of color I worked with had to face their own skinfolk in the struggle for Black liberation. These neo-Hoteps—the Black Supremacists, the Ankh-Right cousin of the Alt-Right Movement—latch onto unfounded Egyptian Royalty or Hebrew religious texts to justify their hate mongering. These men, sometimes dressed in full traditional Egyptian garb and cool biblical Israelite drag with the fringe, still perform on all corners of 125th Street in Harlem and in the Broadway Junction train station of East New York, Brooklyn.
With their hypothetical sense of entitlement and confrontational hyper-masculine call-and-response tactics, they would often deem non-cis-hetero folks as unworthy of love and inclusion in pro-Black circles. Some have gone so far as physically assaulting the non-cis-hetero youth I worked with, even advocating for their death as the only solution for saving the Black nuclear family from becoming obsolete.
Needing to remain employed, I’d simply rush the youth inside the drop-in center. The only appropriate and potentially non-dangerous alternative was to hit the online forums, use language as a liberating tool, and just let it all out. So, I would engage and rage in back-and-forth battles with these traditional kente clothes and dashiki wearing, “my Queen” calling, Black fist raising, fake-woke men advocating for their own non-intersectional and exclusive interests.
I’m here to expose these men to a wider audience who would otherwise never encounter a Hotep or should not engage them for safety reasons. I present this online and in-real-life trolling spiral in several readings, drawing installations, and a short video loop of personal Hotep anecdotes. I will be sharing my IRL social experimentation of “going native,” where I infiltrated several Hotep meetings that eventually led to a very risky and intimate experience with a self identified Hotep. Through my retelling of these interactions I hope to show just how hypocritical, frail, and delusional the Hotep search for freedom and kinship affirmation is. My journey has not ended. I know yet another “pro-black” space where my LGBTQ+ chosen family and I are not welcomed. My coping mechanism is to make laugh-out-loud and critical entertainment. I’m just trying to deal, still.
— Michell Brito
JOSE (MICHELL) BRITO (b. Dominican Republic) is a Brooklyn based multi-disciplinary creative and performing artist. He received his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in both Africana Studies and Latin American/Iberian Studies from Bard College, 2011. He is an Artist Studio Manager, Creative Consultant and has collaborated with various artists in the visual arts, performance shows, and documentary filmmaking. His collaborations have taken his creativity abroad to London and several U.S. cities, including Miami, FL, Detroit, MI, New York City, NY and New Haven, CT.