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Michael R. Jackson Just Made History With This Pulitzer Win

Two gay Black writers win Pulitizers Prizes: Jericho Brown won for Poetry with The Tradition and Michael R. Jackson won for Drama with his musical A Strange Loop. Brown is also living with HIV.

Jericho Brown won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with his collection entitled The Tradition while Michael R. Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in a Distinguished Play for his 2019 semi-autobiographical musical, A Strange Loop. Jackson, a Out100 2019 honoree, made history as the first Black man to win a Pulitzer for Drama. The awards were announced in a virtual ceremony on Monday

Brown, who is living with HIV, uses his poetry to touch on the issues of the sexual identity, racial injustice as well as the intersection of violence and love the permeates much of American society. In The Tradition, he questions how we as a society have become complacent to the terror the has infiltrated into all aspects of our personal lives, from the bedroom to the workplace to public spaces.

Robert Frost, the only four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, once famously observed that writing free verse was akin to playing tennis without a net. It stands to reason then that he would approve of Brown’s poem, Duplex — a combination of the traditional sonnet, blues poetry, and a Persian and Arabic version of the sonnet known as a ghazal (pronounced ‘guzzle’). Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith is an example of the ghazal in its more traditional form. Brown wrote an essay explaining both the structure of his new form of sonnet, as well as the personal trials and processes that helped form its creation.

Michael R. Jackson never believed his musical, A Strange Loop, would be produced because he “thought people would think it was too confrontational, Black, queer, and just too much,” he told Out when he was named one of our Entertainers of the Year for 2019.

“I wrote this story because I felt like I never saw myself reflected,” he continued. “I never quite saw something that was an examination of what it was like to be a self, in general, and to be a Black queer self in particular. It feels nice to know that people from all different backgrounds...find cause to reflect themselves and to reflect on a Black queer protagonist at the center of it.”

Jackson appeared overjoyed at the announcement in a video that was posted to Twitter.

In addition to winning the Pulitzer, Jackson’s A Strange Loop also won the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award, and has multiple other nominations pending.

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Tags: Art, Theater, musical

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