Young, Gifted, and Black
By DaShawn Usher
Young Black gay men have been invisible for centuries, whether rooted in societal forbiddances, cultural silences, or religious shields. The resiliency of Black gay leaders to remain visible and leave lasting imprints that they existed all along continues to happen today. Through time, the cultivation of the next generation of Black gay has truly evolved. We now are able to turn on the TV and see glimpses of us on varying spectrums like Jussie Smollett on Empire, Freddie Ross on Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, or Michael Sam on Dancing With the Stars. While the new Black gay seems to be going mainstream, the realties of modern day Black gays are often filled with disparities and inequalities.
Last month, the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) held it’s 3rd Policy and Advocacy Summit in Baltimore, MD from March 26 – 29. The summit brought 70 young Black gay, bi, same gender loving, and gender nonconforming leaders from across the country to partake in a four-day leadership intensive meeting. The YBGLI Organizing Committee (OC) made sure that the four days were filled with learning, coalition building, leadership, and personal development. YBGLI is a national collaborative of committed young Black gay, bi, same gender loving (SGL) and other Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM) between the ages of 18 - 29 that work towards addressing the HIV epidemic in the United States. YBGLI is the only national initiative that is peer-led by MSM of color with an innovative approach of curbing the HIV epidemic amongst their peers by focusing on community mobilization, research, advocacy, and leadership development. YBGLI is an initiative of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC).
This year, over 200 people applied to be in the 2015 YBGLI Summit. While the selection process was highly competitive, all 70 participants were between the ages of 18 – 29 years old and offered potential, value, and purpose to this year’s meeting. While the 2015 cohort did not know what to expect, they were challenged to step outside their comfort zones, let their traditional shade guard down, and become vulnerable to strangers. This organic vulnerability that occurred early in the summit truly set the tone for the rest of the conference. As participants sat in a room full of other young professional’s that were their peers, the summit served as a reminder that they were no longer alone and had a community to support them.
The revolutionary act of love occurred and proved it could exist over this four-day summit. The 2015 cohort encountered self-love and the instillation of being apart of the Black excellence that has continued to carry our community forward. Once the summit concluded, majority of attendee’s appreciated the contributions they have made in their communities and realized, there’s more work to do. Irrevocably realizing that we are young, gifted, and Black.
To learn more about YBGLI visit: YBGLI.org