Finding Black Queer Love in the Urban Everyday

With his first public art installation, Clifford Prince King hopes to stop busy commuters in their tracks and imbue a sense of safety and calm into their big-city living while normalizing Black queerness in the everyday. 

Let me know when you get home, presented by the Public Art Fund, is a collection of 13 portraits taken with a 35mm camera by the self-taught photographer during his summer travels in 2023. Displayed on bus shelters and newsstands across New York City, Boston, and Chicago, the photographs transform spots normally reserved for advertisements into spaces for acceptance and representation. 

“It’s a different time in the future that there might be more ease and settling — a positive daydream,” King told Hyperallergic of the series. Growing up a queer, Black kid in Tucson, Arizona, and now based in Brooklyn, King’s “positive daydream” is where people like him don’t have to “overly minimize [ourselves] in certain situations in order to just completely deflect any sort of harm,” he said.

And the harm is very real. LGBTQ+ people are nine times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be victims of violent hate crimes, according to a 2022 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. “Marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community leads to disproportionate rates of hate-motivated violence,” said Caro Rodriguez-Fucci, a psychotherapist and licensed certified social worker based in Brooklyn.

The phrase “let me know when you get home” is a message of care and thoughtfulness said by friends and family at the end of a late night. It’s also a warning that things may not go well along the way.  

During his travels, King found himself in rural towns, feeling insecure about being a queer, Black man in White, conservative spaces. In search of community and safety, King took to the dating apps. He found friendship and companionship in individuals like Darrius, one of King’s subjects in the eponymously titled photo. Through these connections, King found that home does not have to be a physical place, but “a feeling that we create,” he said. 

In “Guilty of Love,” two men stand in a warm, grassy field in Syracuse, New York. Both are dressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirts and one is wearing a hat. The scene is serene. They are kissing, but their hands are handcuffed behind their backs. It’s also a metaphor for the surveillance Black men endure where they must be “hyper-aware of the space that we’re taking up in nature,” said King. 

Nikeeda Spuill, 40, was waiting for the bus on 125th Street in Harlem when she noticed the photo. “Love is love. You love who you love and this is the world that we live in today,” she said.

Photo sites can be found on Public Art Fund’s map. On March 12, the organization will host a “hot cocoa on-the-go” with the artist at the JCDecaux bus shelter on Dekalb Avenue between Knickerbocker and Wyckoff Avenues from 3pm to 4:30pm. 

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