Ebo Barton

An Open Letter to Tevin Campbell from the Queer Future, or “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)”

A diplodecade before you spun our cross-coloured overalls

Round and round

Before Ashley Banks ever had a birthday

Free Love was a disco ball

Sexuality was spread thin across our sweaty skin

Everyone kissing everyone on the dance floor

And in 2021, Can We Talk for a Minute shows up

on an oldies playlist–your voice

serenading an awkward inner tween inside of me

And I tell my friend between nostalgic blushing

and recalling a 7th grade daydream

that the 1970s could have held you better

Could’ve hustled a haze over you

Nestled you safe between the glitter and the polyester

How dare I cherish secret like safety

Like I’m not out loud and proud every day

Like I don’t decorate myself in the culture

Twist my tongue around the language

Like I have a right to build an imaginary closet around you

In 1991, we cared way too much

about who your voice could’ve been for

And less about how breathtaking your voice was

So we demanded an answer that you did not even have yet

A language we, nor you could even speak

I don’t know what they want you to do, Tevin

I’ve been living in the Queer Future

Here we only dream of where

We don’t still question and demand impossible evidence

From women and children

And allow whom they have accused

to continue singing along

To our most precious moments

Like we can compromise our values

For an album

For a tv show

But only when they are straight men

Only when their sexualities

Force themselves

Into our parties

They re-bend their names to spell classic

Fit easy in our mouths

Like buffet plate

But we been ready to drink holy water

in the fires of hell

That Lil Nas X found a home in

Because we’ve been told that’s where we’ll end up

So many times

In the Queer Future, we could love you.

We have no titles

Only beautiful bodies

We bathe ourselves gorgeous

Take turns licking the shame

off each other’s backs–we suck glorious

from each other’s bottom lips–celebrate the sex we have

and the sexy we are

We kiss each other softly

under moonlights

Frank oceaning our way to joy

We dirty computer talk

and Kehlani said

you should be here, Tevin.

But I’ll never forget that it was you

you that told us question mark babies

That we could anywhere that we want

Any road that we decide to take.

All that we needed was our precious dreams

And we did

So now

We dance, We grind out loud, We speak

We sing

We live

And it is not perfect, but

but Tevin, maybe I am the fool they call me

to believe sometime in this Queer Future that

we are ready

to love you


Ebo Barton comes from salt— from the moment before worlds converge. In this world, we are still trying to articulate that mixed Black and Filipino, Transgender and Non-Binary, Queer, Artists and Educators not only matter but are precious. In another world, Barton is loved, safe, and valued. The only difference being that the latter is a path they must make themselves. You may have seen Ebo’s work in Natasha Marin’s Black Imagination and heard in the audiobook read by Grammy and Tony award winner, Daveed Diggs. You have also seen Ebo’s work online on Write About Now, Button Poetry, and All Def Poetry channels. In 2016, they placed 5th in the World at Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2017, they co-wrote and co-produced the award-winning play, “Rising Up”. In 2018, they played “Invisible One” in Anastacia Renee’s “Queer. Mama. Crossroads” and reprised the role in 2019. Ebo debuted his first published collection of poetry, Insubordinate in 2020. In 2021, Insubordinate was named a Washington State Book Award Finalist in the Poetry Category and Black Imagination was named a Washington State Award Finalist in the Creative Non-Fiction Category. A leader in arts and activism, Ebo Barton is committed to creating opportunities for others to organize, heal and rejoice. From curated shows like Alchemy Poetry with Ben Yisrael to educating across the country at various institutions, 2020 Jack Straw Writing Fellow, Ebo Barton’s written, performative, and community work demand societal reckoning.