Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Can U Hear Me Roar

So Just What is the State of Black Gays in Arkansas? commentary by COP 24/7 Executive Producer, Cornelius Mabin

Earlier this week, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change came to a close after a multi-day extravaganza of workshops, empowerment sessions and a virtual who's who of the LGBTQ issues and subcultures. Although I had some intentions of attending, those plans were thwarted to my regret. However, I was totally into the Plenary sessions that were streamed either "live" or delayed for your viewing pleasure.

During that conference there was a "State of State " assessment from Rea Carey who proclaimed, "The state of our movement is, in fact, strong. Issue number one for the Task Force and for the movement in this last year was ending discrimination—from employment discrimination to marriage discrimination; from bullying in schools to the lack of support in assisted living programs; from discrimination against undocumented immigrants to transgender people, who face horrific discrimination in literally every single area of their lives."

In the Los Angeles, Atlanta and many other metro areas there will be a "State of State" speeches and dialog that outline the who, what, and WTF is going on in their communities. Yet in Arkansas, there's no aggrandized event where such proclamations or edicts are done. No major community think tank  where there's a collective understanding or enlightenment session where everyone has an "Aha" moment that we can digest for greater clarity.

For myself it was not what Ms. Carey had to say that struck my senses but rather that of Mr. Charles Stephens (pictured), whom has been a fellow at the CDC Institute for HIV Prevention Leadership and the Black AIDS Institute Community Mobilization College. He called out public health by inquiring that it is not "what has been done" concerning Black gay men but rather " what is planned to reach a better understanding" of Black gay men here and now.

I couldn't agree more, but what perplexes me is the fact that even though there are leadership academies, capacity building meet up's, conferences, Black Gay Men's Portfolio, BGM MSM working groups and probably even a kitchen sink or two, in Arkansas we can't get much interest from the population that all those aforementioned pools of thought were designed and created to assist.

Case in point, there have been several attempts to "connect" Black men to mentorship's or opportunities to learn self efficacy strategies. I know for a fact that great expense, intervention funding and extreme logistics have been explored to usher qualified persons into this realm of knowledge without any significant outcomes.

I fully understand that there are a myriad of issues to tackle especially those personal barriers that preclude some folk to participate. However, I have a terse reaction to those who stay in the shadows while throwing "shade" at others who are tying to improve the situation.

I get it and then I don't get it. I sat pensive as long time advocate Phil Wilson listed how many opportunities his organization has for training and what all the Black AIDS Institute has to offer. I recalled that a long ago fledging Black gay men's start up called RAPPS ( Reaching and Affirming, :Positive Progressive Systems)  was the first group to bring Wilson to Little Rock. It was a triumph for that struggling entity being supported by a small grant from Sisters on New Ground. I was so proud that it seemed that we were on our way to asserting ourselves amidst no real assets or resources.

Yet as I look around today from where I stand, all I can say is "hey Phil, I've looked in my state and there doesn't seem to be that bounty of Black gay men of any age interested in their community!"  Oh by the way Phil, I'm running out of optimism and patience trying to develop, build, elevate and certainly educate my ultimate replacement.

 In closing  let me roar out loud to the universe, where are the Black men in Arkansas who are willing to be of service to their community and provide the necessary leadership for the next generation. Who will continue to be my brother and sister's keeper?  Listen up, don't be fooled, Because if you are not at the table, most likely you will be the lunch! Think about it.


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