The Young Black Gay Men's Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) seeks to change the status quo surrounding the issues that disproportionately affect young Black gay men of color. On April 2-4, 2014 the Initiative held its second Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS), planned and facilitated by the Organizing Committee (OC) comprised of nine young Black gay men under 30. I am humbled to be amongst them as I currently serve as the vice-chair and communications chair.
The purpose of the 2014 PAS was to enhance the capacity and leadership of young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) to improve HIV prevention, care and treatment mobilization efforts for this population. The Summit brought together over 55 dynamic young Black gay leaders from around the U.S. to empower them with the knowledge and tools to meaningfully aid in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
During the Summit, filmmaker Patrik-Ian Polk made a special guest appearance to screen his upcoming film, Blackbird, which sparked an informative discussion about the experience of Black gay men from a southern perspective. The next morning, participants were given an in-depth discussion on health disparities, advocacy and policy. In a panel discussion, representatives from HRSA, CDC, SAMHSA and the Georgia Department of Public Health allowed attendees to address their thoughts and concerns regarding improving overall treatment and care for young, Black gay men living with HIV.
"Working in the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ field can often be challenging, stressful, and isolating. The YBGLI PAS was an opportunity for me to reconnect with, and pull inspiration from, other Black gay men who are just as passionate as I am about combating new HIV infections and providing more support to those living with HIV. It was empowering to be in a room with other Black gay men exchanging ideas and exploring solutions to the disparities faced by our own communities," says Corey Yarbrough, an attendee from Boston.
The YBGLI website has more information about the Initiative and its HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts. Additionally, this Storify contains photos, tweets and videos from PAS participants and individuals who engaged via social media using the hashtag #YBGLI. The Twitter Town Hall: Portrayal of Black Gay Men in Media can be viewed on the YBGLI YouTube channel.
In the coming months, the OC will add members, launch a digital policy initiative, and host regional workshops, virtual webinars and dialogues surrounding policy, health, and professional development.
I am overjoyed thinking of what's to come from the Summit participants. What will they do with the information they learned? How will they change the world for the better and make an impact in their communities? Seeing these YBMSM working together for change is breathtaking. The PAS reassured me that I am not alone in this fight. It gives me a renewed sense of hope and energy to continue to combat the epidemic. As the PAS ended, laughter and tears of joy filled the room. Overall, there was an overwhelming feeling of brotherhood in the unfinished battle against HIV/AIDS among young, Black gay men.
Anthony Roberts Jr. is vice-chair and communications chair at the Young Black Gay Men's Leadership Initiative.