AFC Public Allies Intern Lawrence Turner covered two events to commemorate National Gay Mens HIV/AIDS Awareness Day that were sponsored by AFC the Black Gay Guys Rock Monologues, a night of storytelling on Sept. 24 about experiences among black gay men, and Sex in the City II, a daylong conference on Sept. 25 that unpacked a spectrum of joys and concerns faced by the black gay male community.
Black Gay Guys Rock Monologues
When it comes to the Black Gay Guys Rock Monologues, there is one thing that is for sure: black gay guys do indeed rock! Rocking the full house with a series of monologues, ButtaFlySouL and his special guest Marquez Rhyne took the audience by storm. On Sept. 24, The Baton Show Lounge was home to over one hundred people who want to see a difference in the lives and treatment of black, same-gender-loving men. The Baton offers up a peculiar sense of intimacy and closeness perfect for the reconciliation of such a sensitive topic like HIV and AIDS awareness.
With a line out the door in anticipation, this free admission event gave Chicagoans something to talk about. The monologues unveiled the dangers behind heteroflexible lifestyles, meaning individuals who claim to be heterosexual but sometimes engage in homosexual sex, and the pain it can bring.
In between performances, audience members were encouraged to come to the microphone placed strategically in the middle of the venue to share their personal testimonials. The artists both spoke about being inspired by their mothers, who both were in the audience. Mother Rhyne, mother of Marquez Rhyne, took the opportunity to deliver a truly touching story about her life and raising Marquez.
The respect and the love was thick in the room. So often groups such as the one gathered for this show are faced with adversity and struggle with acceptance, but that night, there was love everywhere. Packed with emotion and hilarious punch lines, the Black Gay Guys Rock Monologues was a total success.
Sex in the City Part II
This conference truly inspired and enlightened. The one-day event highlighted HIV and AIDS and how they impact the African-American gay male community. The focus shifted among several key issues: anal health, treatment as prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and policy and behavioral health.
The conference was opened up with a continental breakfast and warm welcome from John Peller, the recently appointed president /CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and introductory comments from the moderator, Sanford Gaylord. Gaylord serves his community as the Regional Resource Coordinator with the HIV/AIDS Regional Resource Network Program, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region V). Gaylord engaged the attendees with poetic interludes in between speakers, adding his natural flare to the conference.
The opening plenary, Invisible MSM and Survival: Practice to Research and Back Again, was delivered by a great community ally in Chicago, John Schneider, who serves as associate professor of medicine and epidemiology director for the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination at the University of Chicago. With a very informative and knowledgeable presence, Dr. Schneider set the tone for day with an ice-breaker discussion around anal health and the importance of the advanced prevention of HIV. He touched elegantly on the social environments and networking tendencies of MSM and the factors they contribute to the current issues in the MSM community.
After a brief break and quick time to mingle, attendees were anxious to continue the conversation, handing the microphone to David J. Malebranche, MD, MPH. Dr. Malebranche is a Primary care Physician, currently working for the University of Pennsylvania Student Health Services Department. In his session, Intersectional and Interdisciplinary: Encouraging Resiliency in Health among Black, Same-Gender-Loving Men, hefollowed the theme and presented many similar points as his counterpart Dr. Schneider, highlighting programs that utilize assets-based approaches towards focusing on overall health and wellness for the black SGL male community.
During the midday break, it was easy to find small discussion groups forming among the conference attendeesIt was a clear and direct result of the purpose behind the conference: to get people talking.
After a refreshing lunch, the conference was on fire and was ready to take on a Real, Raw, and Uncutplenary. The opinionated and well-educated Marvin K. Thompson has done a lot in his 26 years of life. Offering up innovative insight and perspectives while keeping it real, raw and uncut as expected of a millennial. As a young SGL black man himself, Thompson had a lot of ideas on how to better engage young African-American MSM and shared his opinion of what younger MSM expect and how this population wants to be treated.
As a man who has been living with HIV for two decades, Jim Pickett (AFCs director of prevention advocacy and gay mens health) encourages the elimination of stigma around HIV and preaches to reclaim pleasure and desire while banishing fear, loathing and judgment. With his humorous yet informative presentation, Living is a Risk Behavior, Pickett was successful in his delivery of the message that we all are strong, we all are resilient and we all have assets.
The final session, Choosing Our Destiny,focused again on black gay men; Deputy Director of Public Policy with amfAR, Kali Lindsey traveled from Washington, DC to share his thoughts around policy and scientific development. He offered up serious statistics and numbers to compliment his statements; it was easy to take him seriously and to embrace his ideas about reconciliation for the community in order to have more impact and influence in governmental decisions and add fuel to the fire behind scientific developments. Together we can ensure that gay men are informed and have access to every tool available to reduce the HIV transmission and live as well as possible with HIV.
Excited, encouraged and proud, Cynthia Tucker, Director of Prevention and Community Partnerships with AFC proclaimed to the audience that Sex in the City Part II delivered everything it promised. However, with webinars planned to take place, this conversation is far from over.
So lets talk!
Categorized under Inside Story.