North Texas activists talk about the issues facing the black LGBT community and how to be unified in diversity (Part 1 of 2)
Throughout the month of February, Dallas Voice will celebrate Black History Month with a series of profiles of some of the leaders of the African-American LGBT community here in North Texas. The series gets under way this week with a profile of Lovely Murrell, an activist in Denton who is one of four co-chairs of the national Creating Change conference taking place this weekend in Dallas (Page 13).
To kick off our series, we asked LGBT African-Americans in North Texas to take a moment to reflect on ways their community can use the opportunities of the month to help make the greater LGBT community more aware of the special issues facing same-gender-loving African-Americans and to help us all move toward the goal of celebrating our diversity while at the same time moving toward the ultimate goal of unity.
State of the Community:
• Daymond E. Lavine, founder and president of Men of Essence Foundation, describes North Texas’ black LGBT community as upbeat and thriving.
• Cordell Adams sees the community’s richness, but thinks that the community also should serve southern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas and even western Louisiana. "There is," he said, "a huge community out there that has yet to be touched."
• Felecia Miller, regional human resources director for a large healthcare company, has many years’ experience working with various organizations within the black LGBT community, and she sees the community as two distinct "collectives": the younger groups that focus on social projects and community service projects and stay almost predominantly apart from the larger LGBT community, and the older, more professionally-focused groups that participate in the larger LGBT community in terms of political and fundraising efforts.
• Q Ragsdale runs her own company doing video production, new media, graphic design and filmmaking. She believes the black LGBT community is in a "state of maturation, increased solidarity and involvement."
• Kianna Moore says she has never experienced racism, and believes, "If you go around looking for negative things from people that’s probably what you’re going to get."
• Cordell Adams says, "Racism exists wherever you are, overt or blatant, but that is not what defines this area. Everyone has the obstacle of being perceived a certain way based upon their outward appearance. It is up to the individual to prove themselves beyond that point of outward impressions."
• Ronald Jefferson moved to Dallas in 1988, and he remembers being asked to show three forms of identification before being allowed into some nightclubs. That kind of racism isn’t as prevalent today, but "there are still pockets of its existence."
• James Nowlin says the overt racism of the past has been replaced with a more covert form that can manifest in ways like minorities not receiving invitations to certain events. Still, Nowlin said, "Each of us in the LGBT community has suffered discrimination or lack of inclusiveness, and we must work together as a community. I don’t think most people want to be racist, rather they want to be liberated, powerful, happy, and included."
• Felecia Miller says she believes that healing racism comes from putting the right spirit out in the world, communicating, talking to each other about what’s important and about what the perspectives are. It’s a job that will take everyone working together, from all sides of the community.
HIV and AIDS
• Venton Jones has an educational background in public health and has been involved extensively in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the community, including with United Black Element, an organization reaching out to black gay men ages 18 to 29. He believes the black LGBT community and the LGBT community at large must move to confront the spread of HIV/AIDS even more aggressively.
• Cordell Adams says, "We can never, ever can stop educating and putting these numbers in bold lights to keep pushing for better and safer sexual practices and habits. Ask any infectious disease physicians and listen to the staggering and astonishing numbers for yourself."
Read the second half of the conversation in the Feb. 12 issue of Dallas Voice.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2010.