Vonciel Hill sparks largest rally ever in Dallas’ black LGBT community

#RevLOVE - 13

In what one longtime activist called the largest rally in the history of the local black LGBT community, about 50 people gathered in a South Dallas parking lot on Saturday morning to voice their objections to City Councilwoman Vonciel Hill’s anti-gay comments last week concerning an HIV prevention billboard.

The billboard, part of the Greater Than AIDS campaign, features a black man with his arms around another black man and says, “UPDATE YOUR STATUS.”

Hill, who is African-American and virulently anti-gay, told a TV news station that she objected to the billboard in her district because she believes it sends the message that homosexuality is “acceptable.”

Saturday’s rally, which had as its theme a hashtag, #RevLOVE, was held under temporary awnings erected in the parking lot of Abounding Prosperity, an HIV/AIDS agency in the heart of South Dallas at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and SM Wright Freeway. Harold Steward, who organized the rally, explained to those who braved 90-degree heat that the hashtag #RevLOVE is based on a line from pioneering gay black activist Joseph Beam’s book, In The Life.

“Black men loving black men is the revolutionary act,” Beam wrote.

“We have been here before,” Steward told the crowd. “If we have to we will plaster our faces and lives and our loves on every billboard in America. We will love in this revolutionary way until our haters catch up with our history.”

—  John Wright

Forum tackling black LGBT violence after NE Dallas hate crime gets positive response

Pastor Alex Byrd, left, Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, center, and Lt. Don Ham with Dallas police respond to questions at a LGBT safety forum at the United Black Ellument March 22. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Members of the black LGBT community voiced concerns about violence and police support at Thursday night’s forum.

The community hall-style meeting was at the United Black Ellument building in Deep Ellum in response to the March 13 northeast Dallas hate crime on Audelia Road and Forest Lane.

While police stressed the importance of reporting crimes and remaining active in neighborhood crime watches to specifically address their concerns within their community, those who attended mentioned the need for police to reach out to organizations.

U-BE program director Ruben Ramirez said the attendance of about 30 people was a positive showing despite the forum’s cancellation last minute on Monday due a power outage from weather conditions.

Ramirez said the most important thing that came from the community was the visibility of the African-American LGBT community and their communication and expectations with Dallas police, calling it “a great start to a community discussion that was long overdue.”

Senior Pastor at the Living Faith Covenant Church Alex Byrd led the forum’s discussion, which he said was “part of a greater conversation about violence against people just for being who they are.”

“These conversations are important, I think, for us to talk about it in our context and then to broaden that scope into the context of what’s happening in our various communities,” Byrd said.

Action steps were discussed at the end of the meeting to bring more awareness to the community about active black LGBT organizations by printing cards and distributing them, as well as becoming active in police diversity training.

“I think the conversation was very fluid and was definitely relevant to what’s going on in the community,” Ramirez said. “The community spoke and I believe the Dallas Police Department was able to address many of the issues.”

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison officer for the DPD, said she thought the meeting went well because she brought police officers with her, so the group could see first-hand that more police are comfortable discussing LGBT issues and concerns.

After the meeting, she said many participants offered to volunteer to help with police training and expressed interest working with the LGBT task force. However, she said there still needs to be representation on crime watches so concerns are addressed directly to LGBT members’ communities.

Ramirez said other forums are likely to occur in the next couple of months after the action steps are worked out and greater involvement from the community is garnered.

—  Anna Waugh