Socially loud! Can you hear us?


Investing in the Invisible: My Pledge to Empower the Black LGBT Community

By Sean A. Watkins

Today, I saw a magazine cover targeted to the LGBTQ community (this time, it was specifically towards the men having sex with men spectrum), and there was one very obvious thing to me: there were no men of colour. You can argue the colour scheme chosen for said cover eliminates the ability to view race, but I’d have to call bullshit on that.

As soon as I saw it, I just put my head down, shook my head, and sighed. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, it is so much more than a magazine cover. It’s the overwhelming feeling that I, as a gay Black man, am invisible to the greater LGBTQ community. And this is not the first cover to do this. In fact, if you Google image search “gay magazine covers,” you’ll see the same thing: an alarming number of white men. Now don’t think I am against white gay males (I’m known for being down with the swirl myself), but how am I supposed to feel included with the marginalized community I belong to, if I can never see any fair representations of myself?

Even when I look at the major LGBT organizations that, no doubt, are doing great work for advancing LGBTQ issues, if I look at the board or top leadership positions, I see a plethora of white men. When it comes to furthering my rights simply as a gay man, they have my full support. But as a Black man, I can’t be so content. I cannot honestly believe a white man—or any white person for the matter—can be the best person to call out the injustices I face as a Black man, because let’s face it, white people are not racially oppressed systematically.

So what am I to do?

Well, the way I see it, I have two options: I could either sit back and hope the white people in charge will take note on how I and other queer people of colour feel invisible within the main LGBT narrative of today, or I can search out the people or organizations who are Black-owned and operated that will actually invest in furthering the visibility of my people. I choose the latter.

An organization of such I am talking about is the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). Founded in 2003, NBJC is one of the leading organizations whose mission is exclusively to empower Black LGBT people. For a social justice nerd who sits at the intersection of both marginalized communities, when I discovered NBJC, I jumped for joy. For once I could align myself with an organization that, for starters, has a staff that LOOKS LIKE ME, and also believed in the same cause I do.

Simply put, NBJC is changing the narratives of LGBTQ issues.

As I have said in previous posts, we need to invest in making it safer for Black LGBTQ individuals to come out and proudly live the life they were born with. And for those of us who have been able to come out and live our lives, we, as a community, need to take ownership of our lives and our moment. The only way we can see more queer people of colour advancing LGBT rights and on more magazine covers, is if we come together to make it happen.

That’s why I am giving my support to NBJC’s Emancipation Campaign. The Emancipation Campaign is a community empowerment campaign to move NBJC from dependency to self-sufficiency by calling on Black LGBTQ and same-gender-loving (SGL) people and their supporting allies to invest in the movement for full equality and in their liberation from the significant reliance on foundations for financial support.

As someone who works in the nonprofit world, I know the struggles organizations often face to make progress in their community if every year they have to work on a new grant application to be able to pay the bills. If NBJC can raise their monetary goal of $500,000, their amazing programs such as theEmerging Leaders Initiative and OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit will be able to continue to flourish from your support. More than that, NBJC can expand their presence on the ground, broadening their outreach to lead Black families in strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality.

The only way we can see the change we want is to own our power and take ownership of our lives.

Show your solidarity with me in empowering the National Black Justice Coalition. They truly are a leading organization who believe in the true equity for the Black LGBTQ/SGL community, and they deserve our generous gifts. And more than your gifts, help me spread the word about the Emancipation Campaign on social media. Join me in changing your profile and/or cover photo on Facebook. You can also check out NBJC’s amazing Social Media Toolkit where they have great language you can Facebook, tweet, and Instagram, to your networks.

As I am on a journey to create a space for myself to thrive in, NBJC is working hard to create opportunities for me to do so. To me, it’s important that I invest not only in my future, but also for my COMMUNITY’S future. By joining me in support of this campaign, you are taking the pledge to give Black LGBTQ people a louder voice in creating change in our communities. If it weren’t for our Black communities who came together to invest in the civil rights of a time since past, I would not be able to do what I do today.

So let’s do all that we can to take action today! Because I’m so tired of seeing another magazine cover that’s supposed to be for the entire LGBT community, yet lacks true representation of the diversity within our community.

Support Sean's blog HERE >

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.