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By Kimya Afi Ayodele
In this second of three installments on unsung heroines and heroes in our local African American SGL and Transgender community, I introduce you to, Michael Charles Piper.
Michael is a 44-year-old African American, “happily single” same-gender-loving man. He was born and reared in Detroit and currently resides in Southfield. He earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Redlands in California in 1985 and a master of finance from Walsh College in Troy in 1996. While Michael says that he is “busy taking care of himself”, he has also found the time to nurture his entrepreneurial spirit and his commitment to our community.
I was recently finally able to reach Michael and asked him to speak to me about his career and his coming out experience in the African American community. Michael states that after graduating from undergraduate school and returning home to Michigan, he became an equity partner with Universal Solutions, Inc., an IT consulting firm, at the young age of 22. He later became their VP of Operations and remained until the principle partners sold the company in 1995. After a much-needed “transitional resting period,” Michael thought that he should maximize his love of fitness and in July of 2004, Gemini Executive Fitness was born. He says, “I’m living the best of both worlds being able to have a job doing what I love best.” In addition to providing fitness lessons as a private fitness instructor, Michael also teaches at several other popular fitness clubs in the area. He has several fitness certifications from the American Council on Exercise, the Aquatic Association and the MADD DOG Athletics Association as a spinning instructor. His current project involves developing exercise programs for young children to assist them with combating childhood obesity.
The 1993 gay pride march on Washington, D.C., is known for having inspired a sense of pride in many individuals, so much so, that many returned home and “came out.” Michael Piper is no exception. He says, “I was so inspired by that event!” He also adds that everyone, including his parents and his older brother, were all accepting. But, Michael believed his “coming out” should also include a sense of community responsibility and involvement. In 1996, he became a board member for the now defunct NBLGLF (National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum) and remained until the organization disbanded in 2002. Michael is also a founder of Karibu House, Inc. and has been a board member since it’s beginning in 1997, currently serving as the Vice President. Additionally, Michael served as the first African American male annual dinner chair for the HRC Michigan chapter in 1995 and a board member for the Triangle Foundation from 1996-1998. Michael is also committed to community involvement outside of the SGL/LGBT communities and has served as a board member for the state of Michigan’s Traveler’s Aid Society for about 25 years and a member of the state of Michigan Foster Care Review Board.
Please join me in acknowledging, celebrating and honoring this history maker. Please also tune in next week for the final spotlight in this series on our local African American SGL and Transgender heroines and heroes.