By Tod Roulette
The second annual “Out on the Hill” convened again this year in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Black Justice Coalition.
Scheduled to coincide with the Congressional Black Caucus, NBJC leaders co-organized some events together. On Thursday, September 23rd, I attended the forum entitled, “From Civil Rights to LGBT Equality: African-Americans and the LGBT Community at the Intersection”.
The overall goal though multi-faceted and varied was to make sure black LGBT persons are respected, safe and recognized as vital in their own African-American communities-the school, the church, fraternities, Historically Black Universities, clubs, etc.
The six person panel ranged from transgendered woman Valerie Spencer, founder of the Transcend Empowerment Institute to the mother of a young boy who committed suicide due to being bullied about his suspected sexuality, he was ten years old. Ms. Sirdeaner Walker founded The Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover Foundation in response to her unimaginable loss. Moderated by LZ Granderson, an ESPN and CNN columnist and openly gay black man along with Charles Pugh who is president of the Detroit city council this forum was also sponsored by the National Education Association.
The black church was of particular focus here. As Cathy Cohen of the Black Youth Project stated, more than the white gay population, the religious voice informs and is more present in the lives of the black LGBT individuals and their families. Walker whose son Carl felt no other option but end his life called for the black church to address difference in a real way. “The Princess Boy” author Cheryl Kilodavis spoke authentically about her five-year old son challenged the family with his penchant for dressing in pink.
“Things that people are not talking about yet it is happening all the time,” she continued, “Will you like me for who I am, will you accept me-very basic,” said Kilodavis.
As her five-year old prepared for school he reassured his mother, “Noone is going to tease me mom, it’s fine” carrying his pink backpack to school. When he returned home the response “was great backpack!” Kilodavis stated we have to trust our kids.
Phil Wilson, internationally recognized authority on African-American HIV/AIDS issues globally and founder of the groundbreaking Black AIDS Institute spoke about the spike of HIV infection rates of men who sleep with men under the age of 29.
Missing from many of the discussions are issues of transgendered experiences in not only the black community, but black gay and lesbian forums says Valerie Spencer, founder of Transcend Empowerment Institute. NBJC Executive Director, Sharon J. Letterman-Hicks spoke about ‘owning one’s power’ and the importance of having Black Enterprise magazine (July issue) address bluntly the issue of being black and gay in several pages and including transsexual issues as well.
Actor, director and producer Maurice Jamal of “Dirty Laundry” brought many laughter to the panel but also talked about the need to empower black LGBT persons to believe “I am of value.” His online Glotv.com provides international programming to LGBT people of color which is accessible to persons in non urban and non connected and supportive environments.
“For the first time, there was an exclusively LGBT panel at the Congressional Black Caucus and the sky didn’t fall. This is the second year that Out on the Hill was held in conjunction with the CBC We seem to think that people can separate their identities but this is not possible. I am Black first and trans second. For me, my Blackness is always visible and I was raised by parents during the Civil Rights Era. Society seems to think that LGBT people aren’t part of our families or fabricate of our history and this country. The events held at OOTH helped to prove this wrong. We are all members of the Black family.” Says Kylar W. Broadus, Esq., Board of Directors.
Photo credit (l to r): 1) NBJC members meet with Barbara Jackson Lee (D-CA.) about black LGBT concerns; 2) Tod Roulette tags from the event; 3) IRN (International Resource Network with Leader Carrie Allen Johnson discusses violence and black mail of LGBT persons in Africa and Caribbean.
Tod Roulette’s is a writer for Harlem World Magazine and is writing his Masters thesis is being rewritten as a book and examines four generations of female members of his Mid West family “Rowing, Not Drifting-Bryant Women in Kansas, 1795-1908: The Expansion of the West and the Participation by Women of Color”