Religion. Masculinity. Civil rights. How many other ways can we ignite debate about being gay in the black community? (That’s a different debate from being black in the gay community.) Cleo Manago, the founder of Black Men’s Xchange and AmASSI Health & Cultural Centers, submits this taping from the Al Sharpton’s National Action Network 2009 Summer Conference in Atlanta last month. It’s a fantastic, if inconclusive, conversation and we encourage you to watch the whole clip. (In fact, we ask you to not even leave a comment on this post until you do so.)
Much of the public dialogue about “the black community” — an umbrella term as nefarious and over-encompassing as “the gay community” — comes from religious leaders, and that means conservative voices dominate the debate. That’s too bad, in the same way The Gay Agenda is most often put forth by middle-aged white men: because these people don’t represent all of us.
Their views, however, are given national pedestals. That’s mostly thanks to aggressive public relations campaigns, and the media’s need to have just a couple immediate go-to talking heads. And while (often homophobic) black religious leaders certainly have their supporters, they maintain an unhealthy dominance on public perception of black views.
Which is why we’re happy to see Mr. Manago — who does not compare the black civil rights struggle to that of gays, but supports their rights — leading such an engrossing conversation, challenging prejudice against black men in same-gender-loving relationships. Particularly when it comes to tired anti-gay arguments.
Says Manago, who does not consider himself a gay rights advocate: “If you care about black people, and black life, and black human beings, and black humanity, [if] it’s important to you, we’ve got to change our ways and do whatever it takes to be healthy, powerful, decent, productive human beings.”