Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why Black Pride?

I have been asked more times than I can count, why does Indiana need a black pride? I was initially offended by such an inquiry. Having grown up in Indianapolis and been witness to the birth, growth, and success of Indiana Black Expo, I have always understood that black culture could be and should be celebrated. The fact that we, as a community, are fabulously gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gender, and same gender loving is even more cause to celebrate. The problem is that because of the prevailing mind-set of many African Americans homophobia and its oppressive attitudes are allowed to run rampant in black culture. Most gays and lesbians would be hard pressed to find safe places within the black community to be wholly who we are. Certainly our institutions, such as churches, schools, and even the extended family units tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes and dismiss homosexuality as the white mans ailment. On the surface homophobia and theologies of discrimination and separation are a major problem in black America. However, as a black GLBT community, we have formed families and societies of our own. Many of us have been cast out of our own families and churches and have sought out and created safe places. Black Pride is a celebration of those safe places.
Sadly, religious oppression has taken a devastating toll on the black GLBT community. Sermons on damnation and abomination have created a culture of shame, guilt, and self hate. We have internalized the opinions of others regarding our lives. This is evidenced by the devaluing of our relationships, sexual irresponsibility, and the depth of our closets. Black pride unites a community that is wounded and promotes dialogue for healing. What must we do to end religious oppression? In society today it is common for the religious leaders to counsel, advise, and influence lawmakers at all levels of government. Overwhelmingly, these religious leaders are black pastors from black churches. Black churches that for a long time have benefited from the time, talents, and tithes of countless black GLBT people. The people that they profess to be against. As a community we should be outraged in the face of such hypocrisy. Sadly, my voice and the handfuls of individuals who agree are not enough to affect change. All black gays and lesbians, as a unified voice, must stand together and call for an end to homophobia in the black church.
Finally, Indiana Black Pride is moving our community forward. On June 27th, 1969 the New York city police department raided a Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. The raid quickly turned into a riot when the crowd of mostly white gay men and lesbians decided to fight back. From that one event the gay civil rights movement was birthed. Since its inception the gay movement has been orchestrated, executed, and actualized largely by Caucasian gays and lesbians. In the early 80's when HIV/AIDS was beginning its rise to a world wide epidemic white gay men heard the call to action and started militant groups such as ACT UP (the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power). While many in the black community thought AIDS was only a white gay mans disease those that were infected early knew that gay men, and their friends, were the only people who cared about healing the gay community! Today we know that, though African Americans make up just 14% of the population, we account for 47% of all newly reported infections and one in four people who are positive don't even know it. Truly the time has come for the African American GLBT SGL community to step forward and begin the business of healing ourselves. Decisions are being made daily that effect our lives. Decisions about HIV funding and outreach. Decisions concerning our equality under the law. Decisions concerning spousal rights and our children's rights. We, as a black gay and lesbian community must be present at the table when these decisions are being made. If we cant get a seat at the table then we should be blazing a trail so that the children that come after us will have open doors to walk through. Black pride is assuring that we celebrate our past and stay on board for our future.
I have always believed that the work that Indiana Black Pride is doing isn't for us today. We are forging new avenues for the ones that will come after us. We see a community that is worth celebrating. We see a community that is unified against racism, sexism, and homophobia. We see a community that is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead for African American same gender loving, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gender people!

Robert S. Ferguson
President, Indiana Black Pride Inc.


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