For years we’ve heard about how everything is bigger in Texas, but to date, nobody has been able to tell us where the saying comes from or if its even true. So of course you know we wanted to find out. After days of eating leftovers from My Granny’s Kitchen, searching for the Quick Hill location of the Sawyer house from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and binge watching episodes of Dallas (which isn’t Austin) on Amazon Prime, we found someone who was not only worth the hunt, but worth of serving as our Black, Gay & Gifted feature for our second annual Hot Sex issue. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the Sawyer house moved to the Antlers Hotel . If you’re ever in the area ask for Sabrina, she’ll take care of you.
Out of all the things we found in Austin, Jeremy Teel was the most interesting by far. Outside of his involvement with IML, Jeremy keeps his dance card filled with Jeremy A. Teel Creative, Beyond Brothers, and the Woodard Circle. This is probably way more than anyone would have expected from a little black boy from Duncanville, Texas, but despite all the pressures associated with divvying up his time, Jeremy appears to take it all in stride. We were fortunate enough to be able to pick Jeremy’s brain about his involvement in these organizations and on their importance to the SGL community of color at large. We are excited to share him with our readers and to welcome him to our second class of Black, Gay & Gifted features.
Jeremy A. Teel, Creative is an agency that provides photography, decor, writing, and other consulting components to its clients. JATC centers its focus on personal and business photography and brand creation in an era where everyone needs a photo, and even more identify as brands. JATC started as one of Jeremy’s passion projects, and to date he and his team have managed a multitude of projects, from artist showings, non-profit events, and large gala productions. “JATC is a culmination of years working in the service industry, non-profit world, and creative work,'' he says.
“My most extensive clientele are artists and personalities that seek an audience with new contributors or patrons. This is year 2 of this venture, and I have made some considerable strides in the non-profit world in the avenue of health and wellness for people color in respect to HIV/AIDS, STIs, wellness education, and policy change.” The agency gives Jeremy the opportunity to employ his skills in community engagement and creative thinking. If his initial desire was to combine his experiences in these arenas into a larger agency that could work with multiple types of mediums, its safe to say that he’s met his mark.
Jeremy has been a leader within the community for the past decade, and he’s got the resume to prove it. In fact, one of the few things that AGE Central Texas, Beyond Brothas, Kind Clinic, Austin Black Pride, and AIDS Services of Austin have in common is him. And, while we’re on the subject of Beyond Brothas, now might be a good time to elaborate on how it came to be. “So [Beyond Brotha] started because I moved to a town that had less than a six percent black identified population. Coming from Dallas, where the community is more than thirty percent black identified and more mixed race people, it was hard for me to understand how to be the only black person [a] space.”
Some of us are all too familiar with the feeling of being the only black face in a space (we get your emails), and Jeremy reacted in the same ways that we’ve advised some of you to, by reaching out. ”I decided to invite strangers I met online out to brunch, lunch, the park, etc. for community building and it just blew up into all these great organizations and initiatives that exist here in the city of Austin now. So, I find it to be imperative because purposeful visibility is needed to give comfort to those who don’t feel seen in the communities.”
Beyond Brotha’s mission is to create safe and affirming spaces for men of color, regardless of identity, through collaborative skill sharing and by helping each other navigate through whatever challenges they’re experiencing. “Beyond Brothas isn’t just another group of POC that come together to look at each other. We’re a think-tank and support group, we are a research project, and a family unit. We simply want to make space for those who don’t feel like they have it, and give space to those who think they have something to share.”
Organizations such as these are essential to our community in the way that they work to improve the lives of the people they serve. Beyond Brotha is a shining example of this as they’ve working on Austin Pride 2.0, and focus on the wellness of men of color. The group also works to provide support to other organizations throughout Texas as well. But wait. There’s more.
“We just decided to create a twice-yearly summit with varied topics based on conversations [that] would bring in other men of color to teach, work, organize with others. We have a big deal project on its ways but, I can’t speak on it right now, let’s just say, its major!” Beyond Brotha will celebrate its fifth anniversary on January 25th, and is active throughout the great state of Texas.
The Woodard Circle is another of Beyond Brotha’s initiatives. “The circle is a near and dear project that was started with a friend of mine, Dr. Lyndon Gill of the University of Texas, Austin. We were both seeking space to be both Black and HIV positive without having to explain the hardship so, in essence, we created a group that is part support great and part social atmosphere. Together the circle has empowered well over 80 Black men living with HIV, and I am sure the ripple of positivity (punny) has reached countless numbers of people.”
“The Circle”, as Jeremy calls it, works to inspire black men who living with HIV through empowerment, social support, and through collective healing as well. The collective was named in honor of HIV+ scholar and artist Vincent Woodard, and works to continue his legacy through their work. ”I would say that his goal was to create a more healing space, and mine was to create a more social space. Together we took on this task to make a positive impact instead of telling people “how they should live,” it proved to work out just fine.”
You’d think that all of this would be enough, right? Like, with all Jeremy has, and will continue to do, you’d think that there wouldn’t be time for much else, right? Wrong. Enter, the National Strength Conference. Though the conference headed by AntJuan Wiley, Jeremy serves as its co-chair. The National Strength Conference is an annual conference that takes place in Dallas, Texas. “The four day event is filled with educational seminars, motivational speakers, breakout sessions and opportunities to build skills and leadership, share experiences, mentor new leaders and [to] support future leaders.“ Jeremy somehow manages to create extra time out of thin air as he oversees much of the social and peer-to-peer interactions. The conference is entering its fifth calendar year of existence, although its only been hosted for four of them.
“…my goal is to continue to curate spaces where people can share their experiences and others can learn from, or improve upon their own.” Jeremy also sees the conference as an opportunity for attendees to network with people who are not only HIV+, but have been living with the virus while creating spaces for themselves in their respective cities, or have found a career in advocacy as a result of their status. “I would be lying if I didn’t say, I think my main goal is to meet all the really great guys and get some laughs in.”
Jeremy is currently working on creating abstracts and discussion materials for the conference, and while most of us would immediately break into at the mere thought of creating one abstract, Jeremy already has more than a few in mind. ”…There are so many things I want to talk about, teach on, [and] do a workshop with.”
“I think a few of my favorites right now are the assumption of allyship among the letters (LGBTQIA+), brotherhood, being competitive instead of being compassionate, aging while POC, and the introverted POC. Most of them are presentation/discussions and some are a workshop. So many ideas, so little time.” One of the things Jeremy finds most important in conferences such as these is the educating presence of non-health and service workers.
“I think we use the word “real” to say “common” or “without polish.” he says. “A lot of people that work in our professional atmosphere are (in my opinion) immolating the public lives and teachings of scholars, pastors, and politicians. I want people to that are going to come at topics with perspectives that are lived and unfiltered, this is the only way we can truly get to the issues buried under that topic at hand. For instance, if you are a man who has sex with men, and you don’t talk about being the receiving or penetrative partner, you’re not being real to me. How do you know these facts that you’re speaking on? Where did you get your information? Give me the context to you trust your word and hear your opinion out. That is to me, though. I want someone to put it on the table or leave the table.”
Jeremy is currently preparing for IML, after winning the title of Mr. Texas Leather earlier this year. “I’m traveling a little more to meet some of the guys and their local communities as well as taking as much time to as I can to enjoy wearing the Mr. Texas Leather sash, it’s an impressive job to have.” Despite what many of us on the outside may think, there’s very little one can do to prepare to compete for the annual International Mr. Leather competition, which is held annually in Chicago, Illinois.
“We are all so vastly different, and the numbers will add up however they will.” he says. “ I’m simply honored to be able to rep Texas as the third Black man to hold the title and show other young, hairy, non-ripped, regular guys that we are sexy and we are powerful too! There will be able to outfit changes, though!” IML is definitely a sexy situation. What inspired you to become involved with IML, and what advice would you give to those who might one day consider to do the same?
IML is certainly a sexy situation, but according to Jeremy, looks can be deceiving. “Oddly enough, it looks sexier than it is. I believe at the core of IML there is an extensive collection of families that get together to choose a person they feel represents where they are going as a collective. The current IML Jack Thompson is a shining example of how inclusion and diversity are at the forefront of what we are trying to do in this Kinky world. He is a sweet and powerful man that works to create space where he goes and learns from others around him.”
Jeremy says he became inspired to compete in IML after watching previous IML competitions on YouTube and pledging ONXY Lonestar in 2018 “I owe them and the curators of those videos and images a lot. The abundance of people was a big draw, but the lack of someone I felt represented me was a giant push to try and be that symbol. It just so happened to work out.” Jeremy cites both Mr. Texas Leather and competing in IML as being two of his biggest projects for a reason. After silently suffering through years of depression and social anxiety Jeremy decided to break free by exploring the world of kink. “I found a version of human that was closer to who I am at my core. Unapologetic, Funny, and totally capable of expression! The sex was great too!” All of this went against most of what he was taught but after discovering that most of what he learned was bullshit, the gloves were off.
We were interested knowing about the challenges that Jeremy has encountered during his journey in leather, but to our surprise he didn’t have many to list. “I have only attended IML 41 and viewed some from the past so, I don’t have challenges with IML to be completely honest” he says. “However, the anxiety of being the only person that will look like me makes me really nervous.” He went on to say that the most significant challenge for him has been expressing himself in the face of those who oppose him due to his age or tenure in the community.
His advice for those who are interested in following his path is to go for it. “Go for it to show yourself you can do this and you are just as worthy of the position as anyone else. I legit did Mr. Texas Leather 2019 to be the black guy onstage, speak my truth, and wear beautiful outfits. IML is a bit different, I would tell people just to go and have a good time, to wish for anything past that is just a big headache waiting to happen as only one of you can win.” His belief that you can’t be so focused on winning that you don’t enjoy the fact that someone is seeing you as their representation. “Enjoy the spotlight and shine!”
One of the things Jeremy feels that he brings to the title of Mr. Texas Leather, outside of his blackness, is his youth. “I know I’m not the youngest Mr. Texas Leather but, my youth and explorative nature have already made it very clear to me that a lot of our past is built of nostalgia, not real exploration. I think it is great to do something based on tradition but, if that tradition isn’t doing anything to bring good or progression, I’d instead not go there and explore something that does.”
We’ve covered a lot of ground with Jeremy as this month’s Black, Gay and Gifted feature, and for good reason. He has demonstrated his commitment to SGL communities of color through his work with JATC, the Woodard Circle, Beyond Brothas and even Mr. Texas leather have painted him as the type of beaux worthy of recognition. His involvement within the community is beyond inspirational, but he is not beyond being inspired.
”I draw inspiration from the literal air, to be honest, there is no one person, there is no one thing, I just feel inspired by walking around or listening to a conversation. My personal mission is to make life as easy as possible for the next person to understand so, I ask the questions people are embarrassed to ask or feel uncomfortable asking.” He also cites his grandmother and aunt Donna as significant pillars of his personality. ”One is more academic, and the other is a straight-up hustler, both qualities I possess proudly.”
Representation matters, which is why we need to see more SGL of Jeremy’s caliber celebrated as communal gems. He, and those like him represent the best of us. The presence of SGL helps to build bridges that connect us to each other and to those outside of the gay community as a whole, and Jeremy is well aware of this. ”If we don’t understand we all need to be seen and have the right or need to be seen, we won’t get anywhere.” he says. “We have got to stop hiding our differences and start celebrating them, living in our truths and understanding we aren’t alone. That will connect us more to one another and create a stronger side for our portion of the bridge.” For more information on Jeremy Teel and his work, visit jeremyateel.com, Beyondbrothas.org , and KapreseAndre.com. You can follow his social at Kaprese Andre and Mr. Texas Leather on both instagram and Facebook.