Juan Michael Porter II has written for TheBody, NY Observer, Time Out Theatre, TDF Stages, American Theatre Magazine, and HuffPost.
It’s hard to believe, but there has never been a global pride event dedicated to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Fifty-two years ago, Black trans-activist Marsha P. Johnson helped launch the Gay Power movement at Stonewall, and yet pride celebrations around the world have remained overwhelmingly centered on whiteness. In keeping with the fight to dismantle white supremacy, Global Black Gay Men Connect (GBGMC) has stepped up to challenge that erasure.
Starting at 7am on July 10, the group is kicking-off a twelve-hour-long virtual celebration of the global Black LGBTQ+ community. For three hours at a time, the roving pride event will move from Africa to Europe, the Caribbean and South America, and finish in the US. More than a parade, it is a joyful riot against existing power structures that continue to dismiss the importance of Black lives. As GBGMC founder Michael Ighodaro put it, “This space has always been led by white gay male individuals, so we feel like it's time for us as a group to say that Black Lives Matter; ALL Black Lives Matter.”
What is often ignored in the context of this current civil rights movement is that Black LGBTQ+ individuals not only have to negotiate racism, but they are also subjected to violent sexual discrimination within their own communities, targeted for existing in “white gay spaces,” and are ignored by authorities when they seek assistance.
GBGMC was founded in 2018 to combat this violence. Its board is comprised of prominent Black gay men working in HIV/AIDS and human rights networks around the world. As a coalition, they use their influence to empower the Afro-Queer community, advocate for change in existing policies, research what is actually needed on the ground level and then put that data into action.
The July 10 riot grew out of a survey that board member Keletso Makofane conducted on the impact of COVID-19 on Black LGBTQ+ communities. Makofane, an HIV/AIDS researcher, found that in addition to the medical and mental health challenges that quarantine isolation unleashed, it was also being used by the Ugandan government to blame LGBTQ+ individuals living in shelters for spreading the virus.
These anti-homosexuality policies are a hold over from white colonialism instituted by the British, Belgian, and Dutch. They are reinforced today by evangelical missionaries who use their governmental and financial influence to deter sexual equality. The riot on July 10 supports an ongoing fight led by Black activists such as board member Richard Lusimbo to repeal these laws with a global show of force that proves just how vibrant, necessary, and prolific the LGBTQ+ community is.
Kalen Allen, a popular YouTuber known for his appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, is this year’s Grand Marshall. In a special message recorded just for GBGMC, he shared, “It is a complete honor to be the Grand Marshal for the first ever Global Black Gay Pride. I think now more than ever, this is a time to celebrate our queerness and our Blackness and I will make sure that I do that with every ounce of my being.” Gay dating app Grindr has also thrown its support behind the riot as an official financial sponsor, with MOBI, GLAAD, Pan Africa ILGA, and NATIVE SON and NYU coming on board as media partners.
Ighodaro is enthusiastic about all of the support that the celebration has received thus far, but only insofar as it allows GBGMC to amplify and promote the voices of participating local performers, activists and sympathetic leaders. As board-chair Kenyon Farrow put it, “We're getting Black gay men around the world to engage each other through arts and culture as well as through activism. We want to document the violence and discrimination that occurs, but also support the incredible work that people are doing around the globe to change those conditions.”
This year's riot doubles as a fundraiser for GBGMC's upcoming plans to address those conditions. The fight for sexual equality and changing regressive policies remains essential, but so does showing up to celebrate the culture. And Ighodaro is already planning for an even bigger in-person celebration next year.
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