I posted an item on my blog in response to Mr. Brandon Thompson who offered some feedback concerning the National Alliance of State and Territorial and AIDS Director's (NASTAD), Black Gay Men's Technical Assistance concept that seeks to increase leadership and peer to peer capacity building among black gay men (BGM). I am extremely familiar with this organization and have attended other technical meetings sponsored by them which I found had value and purpose. I am of the opinion that this agency has boldly approached this population with its entire BGM portfolio of initiatives addressing the challenges and barriers impacting Black gay men, while being extremely frank about the impact of HIV and AIDS among this population.
I have been impressed with an array of activities and outreach that the organization has put forward both past and present. To Mr. Thompson's point of "what's needed," I fully understand his observations and the weight of his possible disdain at what he perceived as a lack of "clarity, agency transparency, and his understanding of the interaction of mentors and or the " insider secrets," that he stated seemed to be problematic in his particular area. Thompson chided state health departments with the statement:
Health departments must engage the community most impacted by the epidemic at present. This meansb black and Latino youth need to be represented on every Community Planning Group (CPG), gay men's work group, research protocol, Community Advisory Board (CAB) etc. Furthermore, youth must be cultivated and groomed -- their flame must be stoked, that they may lead when their time comes.
He further explained that he was troubled by what he sees as fractures not only with in the LGBTQ community but additional fragmentation that has cause same-gender loving individuals to feel disjointed even among themselves. He makes the bold point that "we as Black gay men aren't pushing one another to greatness anymore."
I read mesmerized as he also indicated failed mentorship, poor guidance and the nebulousness of social media intersected with marginal inter-generational connections. His assessment of his viewpoint taunted me, enraged me yet moved me to try to feel his heartfelt "holla." Because much of what he stated is actually true, it therefore forced me to have to have my say.
Its a fact that Thompson has valid points, however, from my vantage point I've worked tirelessly to gather and disseminate information, encourage capacity building activities and all manner of learning opportunities for my younger brothers. I feel confident that I have certainly made myself available as not only a resource but carried my self as a self assured and informed advocate for all shades of rainbow. I can understand how he may feel some bewilderment, because the "work" that we speak of often ebbs and flows, sometime steeped in fluid policies and rambling interpretations. I can see how he feels about grasping much of the complicated jargon and verbiage that could leave ones head spinning as it has often left my own. However, it is under this bureaucratic atmosphere and policy wordsmith that are the realities of the work that we achieve to do. Consequently, one has to immerse themselves into all manner of information and data dumps regardless to be effective.
I've challenged my fellow brothers and sisters to become engaged in deciphering how policies and procedures can have an adverse affect on their daily lives. My adage that "you are the lunch if you are not at the table," rings prophetic as many people of color can't be found, not hired, agencies not funded or simply ignored due to many factors including racism.
Yet as he took much to task, I have to push back by stating that among many of the young black gay men that I've encountered lately, I see limited hunger for knowledge about HIV or other health disparities including access to the affordable health care. I've determined that there is no sense of civic urgency as it pertains to having a seat the policy table -- and they are not being asked to sit at the table, either. Case in point, when we have a call for young gay black men here in Arkansas to attend emerging leader meetings or increasing their knowledge base they are often missing in action.
I want Mr. Thompson to know what I've witness. I've witnessed poor personal responsibility, senses of entitlement and folks stuck in mental delusions regarding unsafe "pay for play" and failing to link to care regimens. Much of this lack of change in behavior continues to fuel the increased infections that he cites, even care opportunities abound. Overall, I've become jaded to the lack of commitment of some young black gay men to just being men of their word instead of queens of ego towers. In my opinion, this type of attitude serves no one or a significant purpose across the community spectrum.
Has all been perfect? Certainly not. But I can emphatically state that there are many fighting chances afforded at great angst, financial loss and often times great disappointment. I've stopped counting the times that I've been let down by those whom I have the greatest yearning to see not only survive there current status, while being acutely aware of the impact of the societal disparities that most likely will befall them.
I would welcome a legion of "Mr. Thompson"-like individuals ready and willing to carry the torch that lights the trail I will leave for the next generation of leaders. I hear you, Mr. Thompson, but I'm the chorus. I hope that your "holla" and my encouragement will be heard by those who really need to hear it!
"We Are Here: Black Gay Men in the South," is a blog tour curated by the Counter Narrative Project and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance to amplify the voices of Black gay men in the South. For more information feel free to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornelius Mabin, Jr., Executive Producer of CorneliusOnPoint has blazed a new media trail in Arkansas since 2004 with his long running blog and informational Web portal. Mabin has been utilizing the internet as both an informational tool as well as advocacy platform to engage the state's LBGTQ community and beyond.