Scott, Vernal. “God’s Other Children – A London Memoir”, Amazon Digital Services, 2013.
Vernal Scott is a black gay father who has labored for people with AIDS in London. This is his passionate and elegant autobiography and this is one of a kind. Scott’s story begins in Jamaica during the 1930s and moves to London of the 1950s. Scott
battles his confusing sexual identity and finds refuge in the discos of the 70s. Scott’s desire for girls becomes a passing fad, and a need for same-sex love and intimacy takes over. His family and homophobia caused him to take desperate action, but his survival becomes his rebirth.
I love the balance of humor and honesty here as the author looks at “love and loss; sex, sexuality and ‘coming out’; faith and religion; child chastisement and domestic violence; disease, death and dying; equality challenges at home and abroad; gay baby-making and parenting; love won and lost; family court; even voodoo and the paranormal make a spooky but convincing appearance”. The writing makes the words jump off the page and when Scott deals with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, he captures the horrific impact on both heterosexual and gay communities, and finds himself at the forefront of the challenge; a period he describes as “a conveyor belt of death and dying”. The various accounts involve men, women and children and make tearful, heartbreaking reading… especially when AIDS comes home.
Disco plays a large part in the book and he makes valuable contacts—he was involved a bit with Gloria Gaynor and he was able to convince Whitney Houston to come to a vigil in London. He also had meetings with Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross.
Scott loved the Bible and he interpreted it deeply and honestly and he loves his God but is quick to criticize “blind religion” and “inhumane Bible scripture”.
He longed to be a father and he did so but was soon involved in a bitter battle to get access to his children and when he could not he faced serious depression. This is a big book—almost 500 pages but it is a book that should be read and thought about. It is a poignant story told honestly and I found myself both laughing and crying as I read.
Vernal’ Scott has a tough upbringing and he faced constant fears of rejection and hurt which bear witness to his strength. The young adult Vernal Scott found his pride within and he was a self-taught educator and stoic friend to those who knew him. His descriptions of those dying of AIDS are heartbreaking but he also possessed the ability to encourage well-known figures to his battle for education on AIDS.
Here is a biographical sketch of the author:
“Vernal Scott, Author and Consultant – Human Rights and Equality. Born in 1960’s London to Jamaican parents, Vernal is an ‘out’, Christian, gay dad, who emphatically believes in equality and service excellence for everyone. In the 80s he initiated the then popular Peoples Group at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre. He later set up the Black Communities AIDS Team (BCAT), a support network for black people affected by HIV and AIDS. In 1987 he was appointed Head of HIV services for the London Borough of Brent, serving one of London’s ethnic majority communities. In the early 90s he organized the highly successful Reach Out and Touch HIV/AIDS Procession with Flowers featuring stars such as Whitney Houston. A year later he invited Dionne Warwick to open his project, the Brent HIV Centre. In 2003 he joined another London borough as their Head of Equality and Diversity and more recently became a freelance consultant and coach, working with a wide range of companies including People Keys, and Marshall ACM. He has authored articles on subjects such as bullying and harassment and customer services. More recently, Vernal facilitated an all-day multi-disciplinary workshop, co-hosted by West Midlands Police Service, which looked at achieving equality outcomes in a context of efficiency savings. He views the Equality Act as an opportunity to renew efforts in removing discrimination of any kind from the lives of the men, women and children affected by it. November 2010 saw Vernal joined a leading official of the Equality and Human Rights Commission as a keynote speaker at the National Conference on Hate Crime. 2012 and 2013 saw Vernal actively supporting the Peter Tatchell Foundation and the London AIDS Memorial Campaign. He’s also a ‘McKenzie Friend’ in family court”.