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By Dr. Kofi Adoma
The now historic State of the SGL/BT Community international teleconference was conceived by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti as way of connecting the lives of Black LGBTs across the globe, and engaging in self-empowering conversations. It took place on February 26 and was sponsored by Black Mens Exchange, Women Healing Women, and Azaan Kamau Media. Community supporters included Detroit’s own A.L.O.R.D.E. Collective, Agape Spirit Life Ministries, and Detroit Black Pride Society. It was open to the public and allies were especially welcomed.
Ta’Shia stated in a press release, “The summit will convene a panel of grassroots SGLBT/LGBT leaders to dialogue on the current challenges facing SGLBT/LGBT communities of African descent. What’s important about this event is that it includes members of the community who’ve made major contributions to social change in African, African-American and the SGLBT community but whose voices are rarely heard at mainstream LGBT events.”
Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti is a renown award-winning journalist, author, TV producer and activist, whose website can be found at http://www.tashiaasanti.com. She contributed her artistic, literary, and spiritual gifts during last year’s Hotter Than July celebration at Karibu House’s Poetry Night, the candlelight vigil, and the writer’s panel. I had the pleasure of befriending her at Nia, Sistahfest, and the National Black Lesbian Conference (Black lesbian retreats) since the early 90’s.
Ta’Shia asked me to join her prestigious panel of leaders from around the globe. Feeling extremely honored and blessed, I gladly accepted this invitation which turned out to be a phenomenal moment in time. Words to describe it are inadequate.
With almost 200 attendees on the line, the synergy was earth-shaking. It felt like a lovefest, a village gathering of kindred spirits; men, women, youth, and elders fellowshipping, brainstorming, strategy-sharing, prioritizing, and uplifting each other. Ta’Shia facilitated the entire meeting. It began with an elder blessing by Archbishop Carl Bean and Gale Sky Edeawo and the pouring of libations by Queen Hollins to invoke the ancestor spirits. This was to ground us in our purpose and intention. African tradition continued with song by Lillie Carol Russ on vocals and guitar. Next were the keynote speakers, Cleo Manago of the African, American Advocacy, Support-Services & Survival Institute (AmASSI) and Ruby Sales, a Black studies feminist scholar and theologian, followed by a host of other speakers around the U.S. and Africa.
Invited panelists shared their remarks and ideas for solutions toward community wholeness, equality, and solidarity. Topics explored an array of issues including economic empowerment, media, communications, protection of our elders and youth, preserving African traditions, Kwanzaa, Black gay pride, same gender marriage, HIV/AIDS, health and wellness, support for transpersons, building relationships with allies, spirituality, and much more.
When it was my turn to speak for four minutes, I made a list of concerns regarding the mental health of our Black SGL/BT communities, with an emphasis on self-care and a request to de-stigmatize mental illness. Within this request was a call-out for securing safe spaces such as community centers in our urban areas, replacing “sexual” with “attractional” when referring to our identities, becoming proactive in improving school climate and child welfare practices to support our LGBTQ youth who are at-risk for homelessness, suicide, and bully victimization, and emotional healing considering that many of us have been victims of trauma in some form or fashion. I took the opportunity to let everyone know about the efforts made by Detroit’s Black LGBTA community to do intensive work on building cohesion, such as Detroit Black Pride, PFLAG Family Reunion, Race Matters, Kwanzaa, Healing Detroit, town hall meetings, Black lesbian intergenerational gathering, and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ cross-attractional dialogues. Detroit was also represented by Kimberly Jones of Black Pride Society who spoke of the importance of maintaining community partnerships. Rev. Darlene Franklin of Agape Spirit Ministries was also invited but was unable to attend.
I was deeply moved and humbled by the power of the truth-telling, authenticity, honesty, realness, energy, and the love expressed throughout this process. I gained a greater sense of commitment and loyalty that now expands worldwide. If you would like to hear more details about my experience, you may call the Karibu House helpline at 313-865-2170 ext. 3.