Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rest in Peace

The postings on this site ares my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

I Feel Like Saying "Kaddish"

My former co-anchor of "The 10% Show" for Gay Cable Network, Earnest Hite, is dead. I expected to write that sentence years ago. More often than not, the gay friends I made in the late '80s died of AIDS.

I'm trying to remember if Earnest was HIV+ or not. Many guys I knew then were. I'm trying to recall Earnest's day-job, or if he was independently wealthy. I'm trying to recall whether or not he lost his handsome, hirsute partner to AIDS.

They founded a group for African-Amercan gay, young men, and I imagined their serving as lovely role models for the guys.

I don't know that either of us had had prior TV experience, but I'm pretty sure we wanted our version of the same thing: late-eighties visibility for our people, including the Black and Jewish among them.

Once, I crewed for a segment that Earnest did, featuring Robert Ford, the editor of a Chicago-based literary 'zine called "Thing." We went to their apartment to do the videotaping. I can still see Robert Ford's face and body, sitting on his couch: If E. Lynn Harris had been writing then, Robert Ford would have seemed like an anti-character -- he had a close-cropped, yet patchy beard and writerly-rumpled clothes over his lanky frame.

Earnest, with his well-kept beard and frequent smile, dignified presence and lucid questions, always was flattered by the camera. How ironic that I never saw his obituary all these years from AIDS, and instead, I had to read of his death in a car-crash. God is odd.


Anonymous said...

God is odd. Yeah. I can relate. Sorry to hear of your loss. I actually know at least a couple of AIDS survivors, who have outsmarted AIDS for 20 years and more.I hope I can outsmart cancer and car crashes, but God is odd and it's not our call, unless we take our own lives.

Sarah Siegel said...

The reporter from "The Windy City Times," Chicago's GLBT newspaper, who called me sent along a two-line news item from "The Chicago Sun-Times:" "An Illinois man died Monday when he lost control of his SUV and crashed into an oncoming garbage truck on U.S. 20, Porter police said.

Earnest Hite, 53, of Plano did not regain consciousness after the 6:49 p.m. crash just east of Tremont Road."

I'm asking myself the craziest questions about how and why he lost control of the car, even as I recall just under a year ago, the same thing happening to me in an ice-storm. Fortunately, no one else was on the road when my tank of a car slid up and over a boulder and went aloft.

All this terrible news, and then just for fun, an absurd moment, where I received e-mail from a body-shop owner in Lithuania, who apparently bought my totaled car to re-build it. He wrote:

"Hello Sarah

I do not know but when I buy VOLVO S80 Elite I find your card in car.
I have same questions : maybe you have remote control from Volvo
entertainment system?

P.S. New Volvo is in Europe:)

Thank you wery much."

Susan said...

This is Earnest's 1st cousin, Susan. I'm Googling him trying to find stuff for his obituary and ran across your blog. We (biological family) are still reeling and in a state of disbelief. Services will be Saturday (1/19) in Champaign, IL (our hometown). But I still don't have all the details (time, location). LOL at your comment about him being "independently wealthy!" NOT EVEN! As adults we weren't in touch frequently (we lived just houses from each other as kids), but I can tell you, I miss him already.

Sarah Siegel said...

Dear Susan, I am so sorry for our loss. I had to write some more to think of the right expression for Earnest and found it while posting an additional blog entry on top of this one: He was "a complete mensch."

And this afternoon, I told Andrew Davis, the reporter from "The Windy City Times," that Earnest was "a wonderful force." The work we did together inspired me ever since. All that I've done in behalf of GLBT people and diversity and inclusive leadership while at IBM -- which happened a number of hungry years after the show ended -- was seeded by our television activism...which we were lucky to have nurtured by our producer, Jack Ryan.

May your great childhood memories of Earnest (probably, he was always tall; so was I) sustain you in your time of grief.

I really miss those times!

gerry-london said...

Hi Sarah,

As I was reading the above entry, Van Morrison's "Days like these" started playing, which was the song being played as a very good friend of mine went through the curtains to be cremated.

It took me over a year just to be able to listen to that song without bursting into tears.

It is amazing how much other people can touch you without you realizing it.

Susan said...

Services will be held Saturday, January 19th in Champaign, Illinois at Salem Baptist Church, 500 East Park (NE corner of 5th & Park). Visitation is at 10 a.m.; funeral at 11 a.m.

Sarah Siegel said...

I wish I could fly out to Earnest's funeral, but I won't be able to. In response to Gerry's posting above, I'm reminded of the experience I had last night, googling Earnest after getting the idea from his cousin Susan: I found that he'd been inducted into Chicago's GLBT Hall of Fame in 1994 and much was said about his AIDS work, and "The 10% Show" was like a footnote. It struck me then that for me, at that time in my life, ages 22-24, the experience was totally formative and informed all of the future work I am doing in behalf of GLBT people and diversity and inclusion altogether, whereas for Earnest, when I read the profile, it seemed to be another among a series of important work he was doing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

I found your blog while googling Earnest's name and I felt I had to leave a comment. I was the second person on the scene of his accident last Monday night. I was coming home from the gym, and just as I reached the turning to my house I saw his car in the ditch. A woman was standing next to it, so I stopped. I assumed she was the one driving, but she told me that she was the first one of the scene. I stayed with Earnest while she went to phone the police. Since the car was at an angle I could only reach his leg, so I put my hand on his leg and I tried to talk to me and comfort him.

I found out the next day that he had passed, and I can't seem to forget him. I spoke to someone at BEHIV where he worked. I wanted to let them know that he wasn't alone when he died. I had hoped that she would pass my phone number on to his family so that I could show them where the accident was. I see the tire marks in the dirt there every day and I think of him. I don't think I'll ever forget him.

If you'd like to speak to me I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Sarah Siegel said...

Dear Sharon,

The moral of Sartre's *No Exit* was that hell is other people, but *God* is other people, a story like yours reminds me. Thank you for staying with Earnest. I hope his partner and cousin Susan see this comment from you and are comforted by it like I am. I'll write you a note separately. You did a great, sacred thing in helping another human being not be alone at an ultimately vulnerable time.

Char said...

Not sure where to start,but I miss him I am Charmaine he was the brother I never had. We both worked at Open Door on the north side. I had just spoke with him day before and had plans to have lunch. Thanks Sarah was staying with him. We now have another Angle watching over us. If his life partner reads this please call me at work 312-746-9604

jbrotherlove said...

Hello Sarah,

I was one of the founding members of Image Plus, the group Earnest and Leon founded in 1987. I can tell you they established a prototype on how I view black gay men and people as a whole. It probably has something to do with why I blog the way that I do (I posted about Earnest today).

The fact that you mention Robert Ford and Thing magazine is an added bonus. I mention Thing's fierceness (there's really no other word to describe it) to this day. That was an electric time in Chicago's history. Thank you for posting and allowing comments.

Sarah Siegel said...

Nice to have had lunch plans with Earnest. I found it comforting when I googled him to see one or two comments he had posted on Keith Boykin's blog, so that I could still hear his voice.

I love, too, seeing a comment from one of the people that ImagePlus helped. Seeing the reference to the late-80s as an electric time in Chicago's history, I smile and feel fortunate to have lived there then, and to have helped to document a bit of it.

Speaking of 'zines, I recall our covering a 'zine convention, where the tables were turned on me; a young woman, wearing a trench-coat approached me, holding an unmentionable object in her hand as a pseudo-microphone, wanting to interview me, the interviewer(!) I did my best to keep my composure, especially when her coat fell open (on purpose) to reveal a flasher's outfit, i.e., her "birthday suit."

Shequitta said...

Hi Sarah,
I found your article a few days after Earnest passed (I believe on Wednesday)and I wanted to respond but couldn't find the words. First, thank you for creating a blog in memory of has helped me put together a lot of missing puzzles pieces. I don't know when was the last time that you spoke with Earnest but within the past 2 years he had fallen in love and was living with one of my dearest uncles. They have a nice romantic place near lake Michigan. Earnest became apart of our family very quickly...especially since he was a great cook and we love food! He will be missed by all of us but most importantly my uncle. I would appreciate it if you or anyone else reading this, who has any conforting words or great stories about Earnest, to contact me. I would like to get you in contact with my uncle to possibly ease the horrible pain he is feeling right now. Thank you all!

Sarah Siegel said...

Shequitta, thanks for your invitation to reminisce about Earnest. I wish I had known him for longer than I did 20 years ago.

Your uncle Glen left a really lovely comment for me on the "Show Time" entry of my blog, where he reminded me that Earnest is still with us. Earnest obviously found someone special, with a special family!

Susan said...

This is Susan (cousin) again. If you send me your email address, I can send you a memory tri-fold with the obituary and some photos. I'm at

Sarah Siegel said...

Susan, I'd love that! Thanks. I sent you a note with my e-mail address.