Housing Works Update: Where Are All the Black Gay Men?

This article from Housing Works’ Weekly Update raises similar issues I raised in my op-ed for The Defenders Online about HIV/AIDS in the Black community, and the silence around Black gay men.

Two weeks ago individuals and organizations across the nation marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Judging by many of the articles, press releases and events commemorating the day, however, you might never guess that the highest percentage of new HIV infections in 2006 was among black gay men.

Why, even on a day dedicated to black AIDS awareness, do black gay men remain a footnote?

“It’s symptomatic of the problem we face of ridding our community of HIV in order to break the back of the epidemic,” said Ernest Hopkins, policy director of the Black Gay Advocacy Coalition. “The most heavily impacted population by percentages is black gay men. If you want to talk about this epidemic you have to start there, and then move very quickly to black women, or you’re not doing your job.” Read the rest of the article here:

Black Gay To Serve on Obama Policy Council on Faith-Based Initiatives

From Gay Politics.com-Fred Davie, the openly gay president of Public/Private Ventures, has been named to serve on President Barack Obama’s Policy Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Davie will work to provide objective, nonpartisan advice to the president on a variety of public policy matters, including strategies to increase the effectiveness of social services delivered by community and faith-based organizations.

Before the gays break out the champaign–I don’t like the idea of government-funded social service programs to religious institutions. I don’t care who is on the decision making body (and if you look at the rest of the body, it is not clear that this is the most progressive of faith-based leaders, and they’re almost entirely Christian). Since the Bush Administration began the faith-based initiative project several years ago, it also allowed for faith-based institutions taking federal grant money to make decisions about hiring based on their, or an applicant’s, religious (read: moral) preferences. Obama, in announcing this new (but not new) office, has held off reversing this decision, which they say is under legal review, according to a story published in US News & World Report. Also, listed among the goals of the office, is to work on “abortion reduction and fatherhood participation” initiatives–both of which have the potential for more liberal, Daniel Patrick Moynihan-esque social policy that is about supporting patriarchial family structures in poor (and especially Black) communities.

I am all for churches who do good work–feeding people, caring for the sick & elderly, providing community spaces for people to gather. But I don’t want them to take money to do that work, and then turn around and preach shitty things about queers, or racist & misogynist fundamentalist churches as well. Also, what does this do to further paralyze Black churches, who have all but abandoned mass action and community organizing, to only turn them into service providers. Black churches historically have done both, but will getting government money further move them in that direction?

NOTE: I should say that I have known about Davie for many years. I used to work in workforce development where Davie is well known and very well regarded in progressive circles (you can find some of his speeches on the PPV website which seem OK. I don’t care for faith-based initiatives with government money, and have strong reservations about the office itself.

My Plenary Remarks at Creating Change

Hey folks, sorry  I been gone so long, but I was in Denver al last week for the 21st annual Creating Change conference, this year in Denver. Bilerico.com just published the speech I delivered at the HIV/AIDS plenary at Creating Change on Saturday, January 31, 2009. My other co-panelists, Marjorie Hill, PhD (Executive Director, Gay Men’s Health Crisis), Bishop Yvette Flunder (UCC Ark of Refuge, San Francisco), & David Ernesto Munar (VP of Development & Communications, AIDS Foundation Chicago), were quite brilliant!

Excerpt below. Go to Bilerico to get the full text:

First and foremost, the time where we can pretend that there is no viable, credible or visible Black (or other POC) queer leadership is over. While we certainly need to be developing leaders, leadership per se, is not the problem. We have lost of leaders, but leaders with no base that they’re accountable to. Because what little Black LGBT infrastructure that exists, is largely due to HIV/AIDS service delivery, we are able to reach lots of people in our organizations as “clients”, but are rarely engaged as potential leaders, organizers or members of our organizations. We need the investment of both progressive philanthropy and LGBT funders to help build the capacity and infrastructure of organizations to move from strict service delivery to doing community organizing, leadership development, and base-building.

Lastly, as long as the White-led mainstream LGBT movement is invested in seeing itself as the only credible leadership or it’s organizations the only ones doing “the real work” or having “real impact” we will continue to invisibilize the work that Black and other POC organizations are doing on the ground, in spite of real material obstacles. So every time the gay news media and organizations promote ideas of the gay community vs. the Black community, Black queers will continue to remain invisible, and assumes that Black queer people are not engaging in a battle against homophobia and transphobia in the Black community.

Here’s the last 3 minutes of the speech on Youtube:

Video from Black LGBT Protest at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Thanks to Darian Aaron from the blog Living Out Loud with Darian for this video from yesterday’s protest held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, to protest Rev. Rick Warren’s Martin Luther King day speech.

Also, Atlanta Progressive News reported on the tensions between the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition and the white lefties from Atlanta World Can’t Wait–who disrespected the wishes of the Coalition by disrupting the proceedings inside the church.

Black LGBT Folk To Protest Rick Warren’s MLK Day Sermon at King’s Church

The layers of the following story are a mess. But let’s jump in:

One year ago this weekend, then-Senator Barack Obama delivered a speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church where he very directly challenged the Black church and by extension the Black Community on its treatment of Black LGBT folks. He said:

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.

The leadership at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, the church that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. was pastor, and which played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement, paid that speech no mind, and President Barack Obama doesn’t seemed to have meant much by it, either. Why? Not only does Obama choose Rev. Rick Warren (Prop 8 supporter, evolution denier and anti-choice zealot) to give the invocation at his inauguration, but Ebenezer Baptist Church has chosen this white evangelical pastor to give the sermon at the MLK Day service!

Coretta Scott King and daughter Yolanda King (both deceased) were both allies to the LGBT community, and would have flat out disapproved of this choice, and so likely would have Martin. It’s hard not to think Sharpton’s speech one week before MLK Day in Atlanta wasn’t also given as an indirect scolding of Ebenezer choosing Rick Warren. But luckily, the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition, being led by two friends/comrades of mine, Paris Hatcher & Craig Washington, are leading a protest of Ebenezer this weekend to express their outrage on this choice. Southern Voice (my favorite of all LGBT newspapers) writes:

“Warren not only compares women having an abortion to Nazis, and pro-choice supporters to holocaust deniers, but he also opposed the right of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer folk to marriage, as well as [admittance] to his church,” said Craig Washington, a founding member of the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition, which is organizing the protest…These views, these words, are acts of oppression. They are incompatible with the dream of the beloved community Martin Luther King envisioned, and the spirit with which Coretta Scott King founded the King Center.”

Warren “preaches a message that is dated, harmful and dangerous about our bodies, our sexualities and our communities,” said Paris Hatcher, a lesbian activist with reproductive rights group Spark!, another protest organizer.“As members of King’s beloved community, we say that all communities are sacred,” Hatcher said. “And at times like these, Atlanta needs to hear a message of love and liberation that affirms everyone, not a narrow opinion that reinforces the dialogue of oppression and shame.”

The protest is scheduled for Monday, January 19th at 9am, at the corner of Jackson & Auburn Streets, across from Ebenezer.

The reality is that we’re going to have to continue to bring it to the rest of the Black community like this from here on in.

What it Looks Like Now: The Obama Presidency

Yesterday I appeared on GRIT.TV with Laura Flanders talking about controversy surrpinding Obama’s choosing Rick Warren as the person giving the Invocation for the Inauguration. I said on the show, that to me, the choice represented 3 things:

  1. Obama has officially bgean his 2012 run, and this choices was to bring Christian conservatives to his side.
  2. To finally neutralize the rumors that he’s a Muslim, and who better to reassure White American than Rick Warren?
  3. That perhaps he actually is more of a Clintonian Democrat than Progressives would like to believe.

My co-panelists disagreed, and I wish I’d have been better prepared for such opposition. I agree that some of his policy platform looks at this point to the left of Bill Clinton, but many of the people he’s appointed to carry out policy are either to the Right of, or very directly from the Clinton Administration. I also added that Obama’s use of the Clintonian political tactic of triangulation  is very much a part of his political strategy as a “uniter.” Wikipedia defines triangulation as:

Triangulation is the name given to the act of a political candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the “left” and “right” sides (or “wings”) of a traditional (e.g. UK or US) democratic “political spectrum”. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.

Obama has clearly used this strategy in his statment about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (“When bombs are raining down on your citizens[ISRAEL, THAT IS], then there is an urge to try and put an end to that.”) But beyond triangulation in speech and Cabinet choices, there is just general political calculation that is going on.

Case in point: After many re-iterations of the “I believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman” talking point, The Windy City Times just published a questionnaire from Obama in 1996 where he clearly states “I favor legalising same-sex marriages.”

Now I am not turning this into a “gotcha” blog post because I am interested in pusing Obama to try to pass same-sex marriage legislation–in the absense of something more expansive to self-define my family–I’ll take the civil union, thank you very much. But it is an example that our soon to be sworn in President is not capable of the same political re-positioning of past Democratic Presidents.  I think it’s time to put the party favors down and change the lenses in the rose-tinted glasses .  If we’re planning to have anything to really celebrate materially 4-8 years from now, we’ve got to take the kid gloves off.

Note: The New Issue of Black Commentator has apublished part 1 of a new 3-part  piece dealing with the significance of this moment, as it relates to the politics of the last 40 years withthe author, Dr. Horace Campbell refers to as the counter-revolutionary period.

Sharpton Turns the Church Out On “Gay Marriage” Focus

The Southern Voice reported today that Reverend Al Sharpton on Sunday in Atlanta called out Black church community on how much energy they put on the same-sex marriage issue, and little else about anything else in the Black community. Here’s what he said:

“It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners,” Sharpton told a packed audience on Jan. 11.

“There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you,” Sharpton added.

(DAMN, THAT LAST LINE IS FIERCE!!!)

He spoke at Tabernacle Baptist Church, which was written about in the New York Times in 2007, because Rev. Dennis Meredith proclaimed the church open and accepting to the LGBT community, which meant much of his congregation went elsewhere. According to SOVO, Reverend Meredith has since come out as bisexual.

Sharpton goes onto speak more about the hypocrisy of minister who are often in the closet themselves, and preaching hatred of gays, as well as their lack of participation in racial & economic justice issues.

“I am tired of seeing ministers who will preach homophobia by day, and then after they’re preaching, when the lights are off they go cruising for trade…“We know you’re not preaching the Bible, because if you were preaching the Bible we would have heard from you…We would have heard from you when people were starving in California, when they deregulated the economy and crashed Wall Street you had nothing to say. When [alleged Ponzi schemer Bernie] Madoff made off with the money, you had nothing to say. When Bush took us to war chasing weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there you had nothing to say. … But all of a sudden when Proposition 8 came out you had so much to say, but since you stepped in the rain, we gonna step in the rain with you.

Let the church say Amen.