BY CLEO MANAGO
This years’ ‘Millions More Movement (MMM)’ rally, held October 15, 2005, on the National Mall in Washington D.C. was historic for same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual members of the Black community, and the community at-large. At the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, I had the honor of addressing the massive crowd, specifically, as a same-gender-loving (SGL) man of African descent. Flanked by John-Martin Green and Leo Singleton - two leaders of the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) in New York City - proudly, I represented the organization. From the momentous MMM podium, eagerly, I shared BMX’s purpose: to affirm, unify and educate SGL people, and a diverse Black community. My words included, “As we plan for the political and economic strengthening of our communities, so that the framework is not vulnerable to inter-group conflict, we have to take care of our people. Because, movements are made up of people. Parallel to the Minister’s brilliant MMM plan I suggest that there be mental health and restoration intervention for Black people. Because many of us need it. We need cultural affirmation courses. Because many of us do not know who we are. We need healing opportunities particular to the Black experience that explicitly acknowledge our diversity, which would include same-gender-loving Sisters and Brothers, non-religious folks, powerful women, people who are differently-abled physically, and others loyal to Black unity, life and success.”
I went on to discuss the importance of acknowledging and affirming SGL and bisexual folks as part of the healing necessary for the Black family. I was able to express more, but of course, with over one hundred speakers a head of me, my presentation was short. I had planned to discuss SGL Sisters, Black masculinity conflict, ways of resolving HIV/AIDS, the importance of nurturing Black children and allowing them to blossom into who they really are – including when they are same-gender-loving. There was not enough time.
At my closing, as I bid the audience affection and respect, in response I received rousing applause and love. Upon leaving the platform we were mobbed with accolades including from Dr. Maulana Karenga (the creator of Kwanzaa), Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and Kwame M. Kilpatrick Mayor of Detroit, and various members of the Nation of Islam. Responses included, “Thank you Brother. You gave me something important to think about,” and “That was powerful, man. Keep up the great work, and thank you for presenting.”
Throughout the day all I received was positive energy. A particularly moving moment was when I came upon a crowd of Brothers and Sisters clad in beautiful Black BMX T-shirts. These were BMX members, and heterosexual allies, who had taken a chartered bus to the event. They had gathered together in front of the stage, in support of my presentation.
We were all proud. Brothers and Sisters from the crowd, some mothers or fathers with children approached our group to congratulate us, and congratulate me on my talk. Also wonderful was the pride-filled and dignified smiles on the faces of BMX members and allies who realized that all approaching us clearly knew we were homosexual and bisexual men. And this did not prevent us from being embraced. Heterosexual and SGL individuals, couples, family members and the press requested to take pictures with us. And we did. Never once were we knowingly disrespected, or frowned upon.
This time, a decade after I was originally scheduled to speak at the first Million Man March, Millions More Movement organizers had actively sought the involvement of same-gender-loving (SGL) and bisexual Black people. But it was important to the Nation of Islam (NOI) that everyone invited also affirmed Black people culturally, politically, behaviorally and intellectually. With this in mind, Minister Louis Farrakhan, as advised by powerful people within his organization, chose the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) to represent at the historic event.
All things are possible with Black people, through love, cultural resonance and a respectful approach to our challenging issues. Most importantly, ‘Self-Love Is Its Own Reward.’
Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) –East/West/South
1-213-923-7260 – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
CEO/Founder AmASSI Community Health & Cultural Centers–East/West/South/South Africa
P.S. The full speech I had prepared for this historic event will be made available soon on my blog site - http://www.livejournal.com/users/cleomanagosblog/.