The Black Bear Brotherhood of Detroit, a local social group dedicated to black gay men of size, and the Onyx Great Lakes Chapter, a fraternal order for men of color, are co-hosting a panel discussion called Black Gay Men: Cultural, Social, Sexual & Political Power in the Age of #45. This free community forum, which will take place Thursday, Sept. 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Affirmations, is co-sponsored by the Counter Narrative Project and is part of a concurrent five-city #WeWillBeHeard National Day of Action.
“This is a rare opportunity afforded to black gay, bisexual and same gender-loving men in Detroit by the Counter Narrative Project and our partners, to discuss where and how we resist, accommodate and access power in an age where our racial and sexual identities are both under siege and the fragile rights afforded us appear more vulnerable than ever,” said L. Michael Gipson, BBB’s founder.
The Day of Action is part of a national approach to combat voter suppression in key battleground states like Michigan by registering voters, checking local voter registrations to see which residents may have unknowingly been purged from the voter rolls, and to convene a community dialogue about the importance of minority enfranchisement, representation and political power. The BBB registered voters and checked registrations during Hotter Than July, Detroit’s black gay pride, this summer.
“We found that about half of those who thought they were registered was (sic) no longer registered, many having just voted in the last election,” said Gipson. “Therefore, it’s vital we help educate our community on voter suppression tactics, register folks, and do our part to make sure our community’s voice is heard at the voting booth over these next two game-changing election cycles.”
Gipson will moderate the upcoming panel discussion. On the panel will be Chase Cantrell of Building Community Value, Denzel Anton McCampbell of Engage Michigan, Albert Dixon Cunningham of Adodi Detroit, Geno Harris of the Carr Center, Curtis Lipscomb of LGBT Detroit, Jay Phoenix of Onyx Great Lakes and Nguvu Tsare of the New Leaders Council. In addition to the discussion BBB will also be offer voter registration and host a networking reception.
“We have a couple of spitfires on our panel,” said Gipson. “Attendees can expect some impassioned discussion and maybe a firework or two. We have two candidates for public office and one former candidate Detroit City Council represented. Audiences can expect seriousness and a depth of knowledge about what we need here at home. We have artists and creative thought leaders represented so recipients can expect some flourish and moments that make you reconsider what you thought you knew or believed. We hope to shift the conversation from raising the issues to acting on them and have black gay men seen in our range and beauty and capacities as we seek to gain more power and credibility for who we are and what we do for community.”
Founding the BBB
The BBB was first formed by Gipson in the spring of 2017. Initially it was just a monthly potluck and safe space for black gay and bi men of size and their allies and admirers.
“It began in my home as my brainchild and I still steer the ship,” Gipson said. “But where and how we’ve evolved over time has come from the members demanding more from both me and the group. They envision us bigger than we are and we try to meet that vision. … We are becoming more of a socially conscious collective that also seeks to create change in our community.”
Resistance, one might say, is one of the group’s themes. The BBB, Gipson said, consists of “out and proud black men who are unapologetic about their size, race, sexuality or progressive politics in an era where all four are under attack. And we’re not just talking about the issues, which is also essential as a starting point,” he said. “But we are rolling up our sleeves and doing the work to make sure people aren’t steamrolled over politically or socially. As big black men in a fatphobic and white supremacist society, we have some experience with what that feels like and we will not have it.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/BlackBearBrotherhood.