Monday, June 27, 2005

Do we want to be?

When Harriet Tubman was about 20 or 25 years old her constant recurring idea of escape one day had taken an irreversible turn. She ws ready to make a run for it today! After consulting with her brothers she began singing the words of familiar hymns, telling of a heavenly journey.

When dat ole chariot comes
I'm gwine to lebe' you
bound for de promised land
friends I'm gwine to lebe you

"The brothers started with her but the way was strange, the north was far away, and all unknown, the masters would pursue and recapture them, and their fate would be worse than ever before; and so they broke away from her, and bidding goodbye they hastened back to known horrors of slavery, and the dread of that which is worse".

Sometimes I wonder if Indiana is truly ready for a black gay pride festival. Do we want to be a unified community or are we content with the way things are. There is one common gathering spot for black gays and lesbians in Indianapolis. On any given Thursday or Saturday you may find between 200 and 500++ black folk up in there. We pay the cover and we buy the drinks. Lately we have taken to posing for pictures and buying "Pride" jewelry. The problem? We dont own or profit as a community from any of those dollars spent in that business or others just like it. Sadly, very few of us seem to be concerned about this as the parking lot is filled to capacity and at 1am on Sunday morning the line is out of the door. As with many other local establishments ours seem to be the invisible dollars. We are quick to empty our wallets, but little if any of that money is ever given back to our community.

The issue is a two sided one. One one hand we have to convince businesses that we are a viable market segment and worth courting for our dollars. On the other hand we have to be more vocal about where we spend our money and demand that those businesses support organizations that have our best interests at heart. Do we know what organizations have our best interests at heart? Do we even know what issues need to be addressed as African American gays, lesbians, and transgendered people?

We know that as black males we make up less than 14% of the general population. However we, along with our sisters, make up 50% of all newly reported HIV infections. There is currently a syphilis outbreak of epidemic proportions that is heavily effecting the very zip codes that most of us live in. Additionally, we all know that as black GLBT people there are significant disparities between our earning power, educational attainment level, and home ownership and that of our Caucasian counterparts. Add to those facts that we are nearly an invisible minority under represented politically, economically, and in the media and what you have is a cultural crisis in black Indiana. We know that racism exists both in and around the general gay community. We know that homophobia exists both inside of and around the black community. We know that some business owners don't care one way or the other if we kill each other or not. We know that nobody cares about us, but us! Yet we seem to be unconcerned.

So a few folks sat around and thought: We need something in Indiana that is uniquely ours. Something that can begin to address all of the issues that are important to us as a community of black GLBT folks. Something that businesses can sponsor and support as a display of their commitment to the people that fill their bank accounts and in turn this black gay organization could take polls and surveys and find out what is most important to us and what, if anything, is worth fighting for! A pipe dream? Perhaps, but I still believe in my heart of hearts that we want this! I believe that we want to celebrate that beautiful, powerful, strength, and energy that is black and gay.

All of this requires a lot from all of us. We have to be bold and confident and choose to believe in something rather than hold on to nothing. The way is strange, being proud of who we are and embracing our true selves is unknown to some and far away to others. The homophobes and the racists will lash out at us and we may think that our fates will be worse off than they were before there was a black pride. But please do not be afraid to do a new thing. I don't know what we will see at Watkins park on August 6th, but whatever it is I know it will be beautiful to behold! Are we ready for a black pride? The question should be is Indiana ready for a black pride?


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