Many contributions of this generation of black gay men are still relevant today. Some of the most important critiques of anti-black violence at the hands of American institutions have been offered by black activists engaged in HIV work and particularly, but not singularly, black gay men. Many of them saw, and still see today, the lack of investment in resources for black communities grappling with the epidemic as a form of violence.
These ideas have to be put in conversation with current struggles against anti-black violence representative of #blacklivesmatter organizing. Another important contribution of that generation of black gay men is that one cannot talk about the black bohemian paradise of 1990s Atlanta, the Southern capital of the black creative class, without talking about the contributions of black gay men to the cultural landscape of this city. Where there is art and culture, there are black gay men. We should have learned this from the Harlem Renaissance.
I have been inspired by this legacy, this tradition. This is what called me to my work. Two years ago, when I was founding Counter Narrative, I had in mind an organization that could elevate history and culture as a way to present alternative narratives of black gay men and promote civic engagement.
Most recently, I worked with Georgia Equality to use black gay men’s history and culture as a community engagement strategy. We produced The Blueprint Dialogue, an intergenerational conversation between black gay men. The event was very successful.
Atlanta may be a city that has demonstrated considerable resilience, but we must also demonstrate an equal commitment to remembrance. It’s part of who we are.
Charles Stephens is founder of Counter Narrative and co-editor of the anthology, “Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call.”