Asked if being poor, black and gay hurt him at the start of his career, author James Baldwin famously replied that his situation "was so outrageous ... you had to find a way to use it." Deshawn Cole knows outrageous and he, too, is trying to make the most of being a young, gay, black man — at Imperial Courts public housing project in Watts, where coming out has long been scorned as a manhood wasted. "Early on I knew I was different," says Cole, 23, who lives at the project and works in its on-site recreation center for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. "I was always a leader. ... When I saw someone who was outspoken or different, they had to be in my circle."
- Our Work