Dwight Allen O’Neal

O'Neal, Dwight Alan 2017

Dwight Allen O’Neal was born on January 9, 1984. He is a model, actor, producer, celebrity makeup artist, and LGBTQ activist.

Dwight Allen O’Neal was born the youngest of three children in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Dwight O’Neal, who is a cowboy, and his mother, Christell O’Neal, who works in the medical field. He attended John L. McClellan Magnet High School, where he graduated with honors in 2002. O’Neal was active as the vice president of the student council, the treasurer of the Future Business Leaders of America, president of the drama club debate team, and a participant in the Boys State and Student Congress. Following high school, O’Neal enrolled at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where he studied musical theater.

Junior high was tough for O’Neal, who says he was overweight and called “fat faggot.” He was not very accepting of his own sexuality, and would pray every night for God to cure him from being gay. O’Neil adds that he didn’t feel comfortable in his own skin until he moved to New York City after high school, and although he was still was not prepared to come out of the closet, he drew encouragement from a cousin to live his life freely.

O’Neal began working in New York as a model and actor, and appeared in many fashion shows, ad campaigns for Hitch and YJ Stinger Power Drink, and in music videos for various rising artists, including Young Gunz, Cassidy, and Jamie Foxx. He currently owns Off the Clock Productions, which has produced “Christopher Street” and “CockTALES The Series.” They have also produced the Off-Broadway play, “5 Seconds to Air.” In addition to being a featured actor in “Christopher Street” and “CockTALES The Series,” he was a principal character in “Melody Set Me Free” in 2009.

Dwight Allen O’Neal is a celebrity makeup artist who served as the key artist for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2008, and has worked with fashion designer Julia Haus, actress Leighton Meester, and supermodel Josie Maran, among others. His makeup artistry can be seen in “Vogue,” “Life,” and “Style” magazines, and in film and television.  He was featured in “Instinct Magazine” in 2009 as an out celebrity in the industry. In 2004, O’Neal successfully modeled for Mosiah Clothing Company, a Jamaican clothing line that hired him as the face of their campaign. He loves working in the entertainment, fashion, and beauty industry, and has known since the age of three that this was what he wanted to do.

O’Neal has been active in the New York City AIDS Walk, and has supported FACES NY, and Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD). He created “The Beyond the Street Tour” as an outreach program that used the popularity of “Christopher Street” to interact with young audiences at previews throughout the United States and Canada. In 2018, O’Neal will be serving as the director of events for Impulse Group’s New York City chapter.

O’Neal cites many who have influenced him and provided encouragement, including Maurice Jamal, Patrik-Ian Polk, Deondray Gossett, Quincy LeNear, RuPaul, Elayne Rivers, Phillip Bleicher, Nathan Seven Scott, Nathan Hale Williams, Richard Pelzer, Cornelius Jones, Jr., Dane Joseph, Ty Hunter, Merrell Hollis, Beyoncé, Ali Alborizi, and Josie Maran. He has high praise for Jamal, who saw his drive to produce films, and inspired him to reveal the day-to-day struggle that he and his friends went through as young, Black gay men chasing their dreams in New York.

One of O’Neal’s biggest supporters is his loving husband, Cuauhtémoc Badillo, whom he married on October 8, 2017. The loving couple enjoys the beach, good food, and traveling. O’Neal says that writing has always been his hidden gift, and writes scripts whenever he has free time.

Once teased by a colleague as a “gay-lebrity,” O’Neal is now proud of the name. He takes great pride in being able to show others that whatever they want, they can achieve. He also strives to be a positive role model in the Black and SGL/LGBTQ community.

“We don’t have many people to look up to,” said O’Neal. “I am excited that we have so many others to look at, however there needs to be more leaders and people for us to aspire and inspire our community.”  He further states, “I have always thought it takes an entire village to raise and guide our own” and “if my work inspires one person then I have completed my task.”

We thank Dwight Allen O’Neal for his contributions to the arts, his activism, and his support of our community.

Antron-Reshaud Olukayode

Olukayode, Antron-Reshaud 2017

On September 14, 2017, Ubuntu Biography Project honoree Antron-Reshaud Olukayode had an Instagram chat with the Project’s Mark Zustovich, expressing how grateful he was that the biographies and Stephen Maglott’s legacy would live on. The next day, we sent an email to Antron-Reshaud, providing instructions on how to update his bio, and with the note: “You don’t have to update now, since your birthday is in April, but this will give you a jump.” As it would turn out, we wouldn’t have that much time. Less than two months later, we lost Antron-Reshaud, who never had the opportunity to update his story for 2018. In his memory, we present his biography, with edits to reflect his passing. With the exception of a few factual events in the public domain, everything contained in this bio was submitted and approved by him. 

Antron-Reshaud Olukayode was born on April 26, 1984 (to November 12, 2017). He was an accomplished poet, author, HIV/AIDS activist, blogger, self-taught multidisciplinary artist, vocalist, music producer, creative director of BOS+AROS, and Buddhist practitioner.

Born in Gainesville, Florida as Antron Reshaud Brown (he later changed his surname to Olukayode, which is Yoruba for “God brings happiness”), his father, Joseph Brown, is a saxophonist, photojournalist, former drum major, and alumnus of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Brown’s mother, Brenda Kiner, is both a nurse assisting patients with disabilities and an interior designer. Olukayode had a younger half-brother, Jarvis. He attended Buccholz High School, and following graduation in 2002, enrolled at the University of Florida, and studied part-time at Santa Fe Community College in Arizona.

A self-described “high school love child,” Olukayode told the Ubuntu Biography Project he was ordered to be aborted at the request of the Brown family “due to classism and concerns about the reputation of his young, unmarried parents.” His grandmother, Louise, had a dream about his future, and made it her mission to see to it that he lived to realize that future. After Olukayode was born, the Brown family begrudgingly accepted him into the fold. He was taught piano by his father’s mother, Sarah, and his well-rounded view and love for culture was shaped from the time he was in their lives.

Growing up in government housing projects around Gainesville, without his father present, Olukayode, his brother, and their mother endured the pains and joys of a single parent household. Until the age of four, Olukayode didn’t speak, but his love for artistic expression flourished early on, starting with painting and drawing in kindergarten. His grandmother and mother supplied his crafts, and offered him encouragement. By second grade, Olukayode began his theatrical journey as well as his short story writing, and he won a local writing contest based on a story about going to the grocery store with his mother. At age 15, Olukayode was working with children at his local Boys and Girls Club as an art director, and continued his time there throughout his high school years.

Effeminate, free spirited and gifted, Olukayode said he was constantly teased, picked on, socially rejected, beaten, and abused. By age 17, he had been brutally raped by two young men in a field near his neighborhood. Left to die, he recalled, “a butterfly arrived and landed onto [my] face providing comfort and hope.” Olukayode considered suicide, but heard a voice clearly saying “WRITE,” and so he picked up a pen and notebook sitting on the nightstand, and began his poetic journey.

When he was 19, Olukayode was attending college and met Jordan, a basketball player who won his heart. But he said Jordan was not comfortable with his sexuality, and he brutally raped and physically assaulted Olukayode, infecting him with HIV. When he learned of his diagnosis, Olukayode felt shame and was deeply upset. He dropped out of college, and re-entered the work force by taking dead end jobs. Still living at home with his mother, writing not only became Olukayode’s escape, it became his voice and gave him the strength to leave Gainesville for a better life.

On February 16, 2006, with four boxes, $200 dollars and a Greyhound ticket in hand, Olukayode left for Atlanta, Georgia. When he began his new life, activism and sharing his poetry were the last things on his mind, yet it was Kelvin Barlow who got a glimpse of Olukayode’s work and introduced him to AID Atlanta’s program manager, writer, and mentor, Craig Washington, who asked Olukayode to recite poetry at a Black Gay Pride event called Phyre!

From the moment he opened his mouth, Olukayode knew he had found his calling, and began his spoken word journey. His involvement with AID Atlanta, while working as a host at the High Museum’s Table 1280, landed him his first HIV/AIDS prevention job at National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities (NAESM), under the supervision and guidance of executive director Adolph St. Arromand.

In 2007, Olukayode released his first collection of poetry, “Bohemian Rebel: Naked and Exposed Vol. 1.” A week later, he became homeless. He slept in Piedmont Park, under a ballroom stage at the Sheraton Hotel for Atlanta’s 2007 Black Gay Pride, and couch surfed after repeatedly being put out for refusing to exchange sexual favors for shelter. Finally, after nearly dying in the hospital from a serious infection, Olukayode watched President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, and became inspired to live again.

Over the next three years—still without a place to call his own—Olukayode produced “The Rising Vol. 2,” a collection of poems and proses about his years being homeless, and his first written stage play, “TRANS-ition,” the story of a teenager transitioning from male to female. He also created his first one man show, “Evicted,” about enduring homelessness while HIV positive. Olukayode released “Fearless Revolution, Vol. 3,” a collection of poems and prose about the relationship he experienced with a soldier. “Ayo: Lost and Found,” a collection of poem and prose examining a year of reinvention, love, spirituality, and finding joy again, was released in 2011.

Olukayode contributed “Afraid of My Own Reflection” to the 2012 anthology, “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home.” He also produced a blog and vblog, With Love ATL, for thebody.com.

In addition to his writing, Olukayode’s passion for music had always been part of growing up in the Baptist church. With a strong eagerness for humanities and culture, he wrote songs since the age of seven, but didn’t seriously pursue music until 2013, when a depression-driven breakup moved him to produce his first EP, “Oluka Oluka.”

Antron-Reshaud Olukayode was a foreman of two Black, gay-focused initiatives: DA CRIBB under the National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities, and AID Atlanta’s The Evolution Project. He was a former member of Lifting Our Voices for Equality (L.O.V.E) Coalition, a member of Common Ground Ministries, and as a spoken word artist, he was a talent for Meak Productions. Olukayode also lobbied in Washington, DC for AIDS Watch, a constituent-based project to increase services for HIV/AIDS. Representing the youth of Georgia, Olukayode met Congressman John Lewis, and had the opportunity to present a copy of “Naked and Exposed” to novelist E. Lynn Harris, who was at Morehouse College promoting “Just Too Good to be True.”

Olukayode was a representative for the Centers for Disease Control’s initiative, “Let’s Stop HIV Together,” for which he made an appearance on the “Just Keke” show on BET, sharing his journey and promoting the campaign. He was creative director of BOS+AROS, a vehicle for change with an avant-garde approach to empower the masses about HIV/AIDS, using art to connect with people and spread awareness. He premiered his multimedia exhibition, ANTRONICA, in 2016.

Olukayode spent the remainder of his life in Atlanta, where he practiced Buddhism, and enjoyed the independent and avant-garde art scene, cooking, blogging, art galleries, nightclub dancing, time with friends, teaching, and spending quality time with his adopted family, especially his nephews and niece.

Antron-Reshaud Olukayode died on November 12, 2017. According to a tribute posted by friend Mark S. King, Olukayode “had developed Kaposi sarcoma, a dangerous cancer that spread from his skin to his other organs during a month-long hospital stay before his death. AIDS caused Antron’s cancer.”

In a Facebook post dated October 25, he wrote: “Having my mother here in the hospital with me is healing. She came all this to be by my side. I am so grateful and grateful for my friends who have been nothing but supportive. Having her witness my friends lavishing the love and meeting her and is extraordinary. A blessing and fills me with joy.”

A 14-year survivor of HIV, Olukayode’s advocacy was infused with his art as a way of leaving his mark, and informing the people of his status and his concerns for prevention and treatment. Olukayode’s art—like his life—was there to inspire and empower others.

You can view Olukayode’s work on his personal blog.

Dennis Wamala

Wamala, Dennis 2017

Dennis Wamala was born on October 27, 1984. He is director of programs at IceBreakers Uganda (IBU), and a human rights activist who is passionate about the lives, livelihoods, and health of LGBTI people around the world.

Wamala Dennis Mawejje was born in Kampala, Uganda. During his schooling, Wamala was active in clubs, and held several leadership positions. He attended Busoga College Mwiri in Jinja, Uganda, and received his bachelors of economics at Makerere University in Kampala.

Wamala is inspired by the activism and 2011 murder of fellow Ugandan and friend David Kato, the subject of the documentary “Call Me Kuchu,” in which Wamala also appeared. “He was my friend,” Wamala told “Waza” in 2013. “He was someone I could relate to, and knowing who David was, I could not bring myself…that someone would kill him in such a brutal way.”

Facing danger in Uganda, where it remains a crime to be LGBTI, Wamala found himself moving from home to home to remain safe. On an even more personal level, he said being a public voice since coming out in 2003 has “come at a cost of family, friends, and community members shunning me. But this is something I handle very well knowing I am doing the right thing, and that my cause is just.” He has a scar near his eye—the result of being struck with a broken bottle.

In Uganda and beyond, Wamala is known for his experience in LGBTI human rights and access to health care issues, particularly for men who have sex with men (MSM), an area of expertise he has brought to several local and international projects. He is an outspoken critic of Uganda’s legislative efforts to stiffen penalties for “aggravated homosexuality,” including the onerous Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which originally called for the death penalty before being modified, signed into law, and ultimately struck down by Uganda’s high court on procedural grounds.

At IceBreakers Uganda, a grassroots care and support organization for LGBTI people in Uganda founded by Frank Mugisha in 2004, Wamala and his team’s work centers on sexual health, health rights advocacy, community mobilization, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and education. IceBreakers supports adults who are in the process of coming out, as well as those who are already out or “having feelings of loneliness or isolation due to sexuality or sexual related orientation.”

Wamala serves as vice-chair of the board at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), and country chairman of Other Sheep Uganda, a multicultural ministry for sexual minorities. He is on the National LGBT Security Committee, which tracks and deals with violations of LGBT persons, and is a member of Rights-Evidence-ACTions (REAct), a human rights support system.

The inaugural representative of sexual minorities on the government of Uganda’s ministry of health technical working group, Wamala is an inaugural fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, and a driving force behind the GMT (gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender) service providers’ network of Uganda.

In 2016, Wamala traveled to the United States with SMUG for federal court hearings into a “crimes against humanity” lawsuit filed against evangelist Scott Lively, blamed by many for coming to Uganda, meeting with anti-LGBTI clergy and leaders, and fanning the flames of hatred and violence there. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2017, but the presiding judge had harsh words for Lively, calling his ideology “ludicrous,” “abhorrent,” “pathetic,” and “crackpot bigotry.”

Wamala has also appeared in Uganda’s high court to challenge the Ugandan Registration Service Bureau’s refusal to register SMUG as an organization. Without official recognition, it makes it difficult for groups such as SMUG to operate in the open, ask for and receive donations, and secure spaces to operate.

Wamala is married and describes himself as a “very fun-loving and outgoing man.” He is a Rotarian in Kampala, where he still lives and dreams of a better world for LGBTI people in Uganda and around the globe, especially those of color and African descent.

“LGBTQ people of color face everyday challenges of survival,” he said, “but these very challenges have been—and can still be—used as fuel to rise up ever higher and achieve greatness.”

We thank Dennis Wamala for his courage, his activism, and for his steadfast support of our community.

Jimmy Daniels

Jimmie Daniels 2017 by George Platt Lynes
Photo by George Platt Lynes

Jimmie Daniels died on June 29, 1984. He was an acclaimed cabaret performer, actor, model, nightclub host and owner. Daniels’ music primarily included the songs of the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and Harold Arlen. He worked in New York, Paris, London and Monaco.

James Lesley Daniels was born in Laredo, Texas, in 1908, but grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the 1920s, he left Arkansas for New York at the height of the Harlem Renaissance to attend Bird’s Business College in the Bronx, where he learned to be a secretary. He returned to Little Rock and was hired by an insurance company, but grew tired of office work and came back to New York in 1928 to pursue a career on the stage.

Daniels landed a role in Katherine Cornell’s Broadway show, “Dishonored Lady,” and performed in local theater, including the Chamberlain Brown Stock Company in Mount Vernon, New York. He would soon transition from acting to music, landing his first professional singing gig at Harlem’s Hot Cha nightclub.

During much of the early and mid-1930s, Daniels toured Europe with performances at venues that included the Summer Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, Ciro’s in London, and Le Reubon Blue in Paris. He also sponsored a series of parties at the Bronze Studio and was the headlining performer at the Sunday night suppers at Ship Grill in New York.

Around 1934, Daniels met and started a relationship with prominent architect Phillip Johnson, who was White and seven years his senior. The pairing would only last a year, with Johnson recalling years later that “a terrible man stole him away—who had better sex with him, I gather. But I was naughty. I went to Europe and I would never think of taking Jimmie along.” Daniels’ lovers would eventually include Kenneth Macpherson, a Scottish novelist, photographer and filmmaker who was bisexual. Macpherson’s wife, the wealthy Winifred Elliman (known as Bryher in the literary world), was a lesbian whose wealth supported Macpherson, who in turn helped support Daniels. It was Elliman who commissioned Black, gay artist Richmond Barthé to sculpt a bust of Daniels.

Before entering military service and performing for troops in the early 1940s, Daniels opened the Jimmie Daniels Nightclub on West 116th Street in Harlem. At the time, the “New Yorker” gave a back-handed compliment to the club bearing his name by calling it a “model of dignity and respectability” by “Harlem standards.” Following the military, Daniels expanded his New York musical influence in 1950 when he became host at the Bon Soir in Greenwich Village, a club where he would be employed for ten years. The Bon Soir was a venue that attracted a mixed clientele—Black, White, straight, gay. It was also during this time that Daniels shared a home with fashion designer Rex Madsen.

Daniels was immensely popular at Bon Soir. Regular Grant Sprandling said, “If you didn’t know where you were going, you would miss the entrance to the small supper club down a steep staircase below street level protected by an unobtrusive black awning. The bar to the right as you entered was awash with handsome gentleman in grey flannel suites, the rage in the 50s…brilliantly handsome. Jimmie cast a spell that made those of us who had just arrived at the club feel we were, for a while part of the famous and glamorous. The ambiance of the Bon Soir was a balance between elegant and intimate, risqué and respectable.”

Business at Bon Soir suffered after Daniels was let go by management, but he refused their offers to be re-hired. Instead he began hosting a series of parties at the L’Etang Supper Club in Downtown Manhattan. Daniels also began to visit Cherry Grove on Fire Island, where he attempted to buy a cottage in the 1960s. According to “Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town” by Esther Newton, prominent property owner Jimmy Merry hired Daniels to manage his fledgling Tiffany Room (now the Ice Palace). One of Merry’s employees recalled that a cross was burned on the lawn of Daniels’ home and he dropped plans to live there. Daniels would also provide entertainment at the Fire Island Pines’ Blue Whale Bar.

In his later years, Daniels continued to perform at parties and clubs such as Jan Wallman’s Restaurant in Greenwich Village, and often lived with and cared for his oldest, dearest friend, the legendary Alberta Hunter. Daniels suffered a stroke and died at St. Clare’s Hospital in Manhattan, just a few days after performing at the Kool Jazz Festival’s “’Evening of the Music of Harold Arlen” at Carnegie Hall. He was 76.

We remember the legacy of Jimmie Daniels and his legendary contributions to the world of entertainment.