By Imani Williams
FERNDALE – Kalvin Scarber has joined Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Center as the AmeriCore/Volunteer/HIV Educator. A Detroit native, Scarber, 37, said he is returning to his passion – youth work. He had worked with youth but changed career paths to do the administrative track, only to find out that working directly with young people is where he feels most effective.
“I know the struggles a lot of young people go through because I went through them,” Scarber said.
He said the phone calls have already started coming in, querying him on whether he feels he is a token at Affirmations as the only full time African-American male on staff. He is emphatic in his answer that he does not. “I see nothing but opportunity, that they have a program that’s in place and that so far it’s great,” he said.
At Affirmations, he will provide youth with education about safer sex practices. In his initial group meeting with youth he was awed by their candor and the fact that there exist safe spaces for young LGBT youth to find refuge once they come out. Scarber, who came out at 17, remembers his biggest issue as having nowhere to go to feel safe and receive answers. He feels a great hurt that not more places exist outside of Affirmations and the Ruth Ellis Center. Citing the working relationship that exits between Affirmations youth director Cassandra Varner, and REC, he felt this could only make things better for youth as the organizations collaborate on activities and issues affecting them.
When asked what he feels young black males need, Scarber answers, “They need support and someone that will keep it real with them.” He wants young people to be able to look at their lives and see that they are going somewhere.
Scarber is troubled with the harassment of school-aged youth and the lack of support for these young people within the schools. He sees youth, not race, as he interacts with them, and his hope is to see them prosper and move forward. He wants to be a tool for them in that process.
“I have been through, and come through, so many obstacles to find and be me, I refuse to sit back and allow someone who doesn’t want to do all the hurt to go through that when they don’t have to,” he said.
Asked what he wants to know more about, Scarber reflects, “I have a longing to be more educated about the transgendered. I don’t feel that I could be a totally effective person without that element because they are a part of our community. I want to know what their issues are, their hurts, highs, and lows.” Scarber said he knows the plight of gay males, and that he can feel the struggles of lesbians, and that although he knows some transgendered people he doesn’t know what they are feeling. He sees Affirmations as a great resource to make people aware of transgender issues.
Scarber wants to discuss the plight of gay-on-gay bashing, why it’s happening and how to get it to stop amongst LGBT people. Scarber has traveled within the past two years and his eyes have been opened. His growth and self-awareness have moved from a state of confusion to acceptance. In younger years, he hung in Palmer Park and was a witness to a lot of things he shouldn’t have seen, including sexual activity in the woods. At one point he believed that to be a gay man he should work, save enough money for the operation to become a woman and then have the surgery. At 23, a conversation changed his outlook. He was told that he was a man that liked men and to simply go with that thought and take it from there. The conversation changed his entire mindset.
His self-awareness came full circle 11 months ago when he had his “awakening.”
“I came to grips with my homosexuality after being prayed for, prayed over, prayed on, and anointed with oil to remove the so called evil spirit.” He was invited to what he calls the, “church of all inclusion, New Covenant” where he says his eyes were opened, and he began investigating for himself. He began realizing what he had known all along, that people take the word of God and use it to fit their platform and format. Scarber has made New Covenant his church home, and feels confident now that he can go into any church and be himself.
Scarber said his bottom line is, “You have no choice but to accept me, this goes for family, and friends alike.” He would not allow people to comment on who he is. “I have paid the dues to be me.” When asked what his obstacles have been Scarber said, “I am an African-American, same-gender loving person who has been blessed to get diabetes under control, was infected with the West Nile Virus and am now HIV positive. I am destined to succeed.”