I attended a recent panel discussion titled 'What Is Justice For The Black Gay Man?' on Thursday, January 28, 2010. Sponsored by a collaboration of orgs: Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, TPAN, Project CRYSP, Lifelube, and the Communities of Color Collaborative.
On the panel were Keith Boykin, editor, author, TV host and former White House aide to president Clinton, E. Patrick Johnson, a professor at Northwestern University and author of "Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South," and Antonio D. Jimenez of the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Public Health. The event took place at the The University Center downtown Chicago and the audience was standing room only. My brief notes from each panelist's message:
Keith Boykin: Our biggest problem is our own internalized homophobia. Attitudes won't change until the Black community sees out Black gay men. Go beyond identy politics and have dialog with other groups and movements.
E. Patrick Johnson: In interviewing Black gay men for this book, "Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South" he discovered that these men are looking for affirmation and confirmation. Justice is being who you are and calling others out on their homophobia, even family members.
Antonio D. Jimenez: Spoke from the perspective as an ally. He started one of the earliest HIV prevention orgs that served the Black and latino community-Minority Outreach Intervention Project. He spoke of the need for men to be tested and to be proactive about their health. Black men must also maintain connections to family members and partners for support.
Congrats to organizers for great turnout and discussion by panelists and audience. After the panel, several people expressed feedback that 'Justice' as a topic was too broad. I agree that topic is broad, but as a starting point maybe that's ok. Looking at the many themes that came up, hopefully the organizers will use the email list serv to have follow up talks with more narrowly focused topics. Other attendees have suggested more focused discussions and measurable outcomes.
Topics I noted were:
Identity/Being true self
Access to privilege (white, male, etc)
Role of allies
HIV prevention in marginalized communities (MSM, prisons)Interconnections with others (trans, bi, women)
Knowing our Black gay history (Bayard Rustin)
Using agency/empowerment to get stuff done
Affirming one another to build community
I believe the large turn out represents the desire for Black gay men to find solutions for ourselves. I noticed members representing many organizations in the audience; Chicago Windy City Black Pride, Adodi Chicago, ONYX, religious/spiritual orgs, etc. Maybe a comprehensive list of local Black gay groups could be posted to let others know who is doing what in the community.
As a small business owner (http://www.lavenderpop.com/), I’d like to see discussion on how we can build economic power and networking to address issues. I’ve heard feedback that continued talks about homophobia and stigma, while important, are a distraction from building economic and political power. Homophobia effects white gays too. And as one audience member said “White gays get stuff done (along with lesbians)”. Can Black gays who have less economic power and privilege than white gays, successfully confront the multiple issues that negatively affects our full participation in the Black community and the larger society?
Panelists take audience questions
Front row panelists seated: L to R-Antonio D. Jimenez, Keith Boykin, and E. Patrick Johnson