Black LGBTQs Finding Voice for the Future: Op-Ed

Published: January 5, 2012

Having voice in the Black Community is still an arduous struggle for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) members. As we cross over into 2012, one of our biggest accomplishments in 2011 has been the various ways in which LGBTQ of African descent have employed different public venues to be heard. These following venues will be used as instruments of change in our future struggle.
 
The Stage
 
While most Harlem churches won’t touch LGBTQ issues, various gay-friendly arts venues in Harlem will.
 
On April 26, 2011 the Harlem Stage premiered the new documentary short film, Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness, allowing the largest public dialogue on same-sex marriage by LGBTQ people of color in the country. New York native and award-winning African American gay filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris directed the film, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.
 
Harris tackles the continued hot-button issue in both the African American and LGBTQ communities. Civil rights: black vs. gay. Harris dismantles the false dichotomy of this ongoing debate by connecting the Black Civil Rights Movement of 1960s with the same-sex marriage equality movement of today. And he does it by focusing on African American Democratic Massachusetts State Rep. Byron Rushing, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who, in the past decade, took the campaign for same-sex marriage into African-American communities here in Massachusetts.
 
With over 200 LGBTQ people of color and allies in attendance at the Harlem Stage, renown gay African American Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart moderated the forum on same-sex marriage with a panel that included entrepreneur and activist Russell Simmons; Cathy Marino-Thomas, board president of Marriage Equality New York; Human Rights Campaign board of directors member David Wilson; myself; and a host of rights advocates, political activists, and religious leaders.
 
Black Colleges
 
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as a whole have been slow to take on the public challenge on LGBTQ issues for a few reasons: Some schools were founded with religious affiliation, and Black colleges are no different from African American communities in general. But during "Coming Out Month," the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s HBCU Program hit campuses again. In an effort to educate and organize students, faculty, and administrators in advocating for LGBTQ equality and social justice specific to each institution’s needs, HRC conducts annually the black LGBTQ Student Leadership Summit to help college age students to deal with strong family foundations that emphasize heterosexuality and strong conservative religious ties within the Black Church. "It takes a lot of courage to stand up on an HBCU campus and be proud of who you are," said HRC Associate Director of Diversity Donna Payne. "That is why we support training this generation to be effective leaders that will change the course of what it means to be African American and LGBT."
 
The Court
 
Bishop Eddie Long, one of the Black Church’s prominent pastors of "prosperity gospel" and bling-bling theology in the Southeast, is flashing neither his gold nor silver these days. The embattled pastor had hoped that settling a sex scandal lawsuit for an undisclosed amount against allegations that he used influence, trips, gifts, and jobs to coerce young males into sexual relations would close the lid on the matter. But the mess wouldn’t subside and trouble kept coming: he’s now stepped down temporarily from his bully pulpit.

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