Blackberri wearing the sacred necklaces of a priest in the Afro-Cuban Yorùbá-inspired Lucumí tradition, by Robert Giard, 2001. Elisa Rolle quotes his profile from Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African Inspired Traditions in the Americas:
Born in 1945 as Charles Timothy Ashmore, Blackberri is a singer, composer, poet, photographer, and political activist. He is of mixed origins and started his career as gospel singer. He came out to his mother when he was a teenager and his mother accepted his being gay. After going into the armed services, he stopped singing gospel, but he returned to music in 1967…
In recent years, although Blackberri has continued to perform, he has devoted much of his time to the AIDS-related causes and organizations, including the Black Brothers Esteem Program at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center, also in San Francisco. In 2002, he was honored at the San Francisco Candlelight Vigil with a Lifetime Achievement AIDS Hero Award.
Today, Blackberri is a priest of Lucumi, or babalorisha: he first became seriously involved in this spiritual tradition in 1984 and was initiated in Oriente, Cuba, in 2000…In 1995, he [had] decided to visit Cuba with Queers for Cuba, a Bay Area-based organization. There, he “met Oshun, who blessed [him] in a lot of ways.”
Blackberri has visited Cuba seven times since 1995. On each of these visits, he has experienced a spiritual epiphany. This was the chief reason he ultimately decided to undergo initiation in Cuba: “That’s where I feel most strongly connected to spirit.”
Blackberri once said: “I think we choose [to be queer] as a part of our destiny, because of the things we have to teach other people about themselves, about life.”