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Black Gays Honor MLK In Atlanta

And then I woke up

by j. brotherlove

Every year, during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, hundreds of black gay men descend upon Atlanta to honor the slain civil rights leader. My bad, I mean hundreds of black gay men descend upon Atlanta to shop, drink, party and have sex with other black gay men.

I don’t expect a spiritual pilgrimage from 20-something Beyoncé fans in sparkled hoodies. But it would be great if more of these visitors acknowledged the impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin have had on their ability to live the carefree “lifestyle” they take for granted. After all, there is much more work to be done. And no movement can survive without the contributions of the younger generation.

I can relate to the need to have fun. When I was in my 20s, I was boy crazy, too (some would argue I still am). By day, I was in school and at work. At night, I would be on the dancefloor of Club LaRay in Chicago. However, in addition to hanging with my friends, I spent considerable time with black, gay elders who taught me about gay life and the importance of Audre Lorde, Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill.

That’s when I learned none of the rights black LGBT folk received would happen by accident; we’d have to fight for them. So I wrote, I marched, I spoke out. And now, like Keith Boykin, who retired his work as a black gay activist last year, I have to admit I’m a little tired. Chiefly because the rewards come slowly and I see little support from the next generation or from others who can help but don’t.

This weekend is a great opportunity to educate and raise money for Atlanta organizations that support the black LGBT community. It’s been well publicized how HIV/AIDS is ravishing our people. Yet, how many parties or club promoters are donating money from their weekend bounty to AIDS service organizations? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Shortly after the new year, Kevin Bynes wrote in a similar vein:

While we dance, sweating our liquid investment away into the thousands of dollars worth of designer digs bought special for MLK, Fourth of July, Memorial Day etc., the Black Justice Coalition, The Black AIDS Institute, People of Color in Crisis, Us Helping Us, People Into Living and the New York State Black Gay Network will all look for money from the FORD Foundation, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, State and Local governments and community foundations and other non-black funding sources so that they can keep their doors open and continue doing the work that they do on our behalf.

That pretty much sums it up. If you should fall on hard times, the club can’t put you in temporary housing, or find you a doctor, or offer a support group. You will turn to service organizations — if they have managed to stay viable while you “walked it out”.

Much in the way DC got a bad rap last year for price gouging its patrons during Memorial Day weekend, Atlanta’s party promoters are in danger of doing the same. At the very least, they could set aside one dollar from the inflated cover charge to benefit the community in addition to their pockets. But this won’t likely happen as long as patrons continue to shell out coins without asking questions. Keep that in mind as you use your rent check to buy a weekend club pass.

There’s some hope. On Sunday January 14, 2007, Playground South, Ozone Entertainment, and In The Life Atlanta have joined forces to honor the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. First, they ask you to meet them at the King Center near MLK’s crypt to remember the life and work of Dr. King. After paying your respect, you will receive a wristband for free admission to their Unity Event which includes free food, cards, and other activities. That’s a step in the right direction.

And there are black LGBT youth who balance partying with a social conscious (recently, Playboy Adonis posted an audio clip of himself reading the Essex Hemphill poem “When My Brother Fell”). But we need more folk to keep the movement alive. Even those of us without a lot of money can volunteer our time.

So, if you’re up to the challenge, here are some non-club events for the 2007 MLK weekend with links to the details. Most of them are free:

Friday January 12, 2007
Gil Robertson discusses his book, Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community at Outwrite at 8:00pm. Not in My Family is a collection of personal essays, stories and memoirs, written by a variety of people such as former Joycelyn Elders, Patti LaBelle, Mo’Nique, and local activist Craig Washington, who will be in attendance. Details.

Saturday January 13, 2007
Clarence Nero will read from, and sign, his book “Three Sides To Every Story” at Outwrite Bookstore at 8:00 pm. Details.

Sunday January 14, 2007
As mentioned above, Playground South, Ozone Entertainment, and In The Life Atlanta have joined forces for the MLK Unity Day of Remembrance Event from 2:00PM - 8:00PM. Details.

Monday January 15, 2007
Radial Cafe, Positive Impact, AIDS Survival Project, Starbucks Coffee, Charis Books and More, and others, host the Sixth Annual Bayard Rustin Breakfast from 10:00 AM 11:30 AM. This free community breakfast gives participants a chance to meet before the big MLK March. Details.

Monday January 15, 2007
The big Martin Luther King Jr. March & Rally starts at 1:00 PM. AIDS and LGBT organizations will line up on Peachtree St and Ellis St to join the march from that point. Following the march, there will be a rally featuring speakers including, a speaker representing LGBT community. Details.

Most of this information is taken from the Events page of the Together In Love website. Also, check In The Life Atlanta for more social and club events.

pub: 01/11/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 6 | subscribe

OH MY GAWD, J. While I loved your MLK post and will definitely represent this weekend, I just read your post on Club LaRay and brotha you took me baaaaaaack!!! I actually never got to go to LaRay’s because I was much too young at the time (15 or 16) but my friends would always try and get me to sneak in. I heard a lot about that place and it was great to hear about your wonderful experiences there.

Being the young hot piece of ass I was back then, I spent most of my time at all the other spots - Bistros, Rialtos, Stop-n-Drink (woo-lawd), the Musik Box, The Warehouse, Limelight, The Reactor, Foxys, Boom Boom Room, The Edge of the Looking Glass, The Bismarck parties, I could go on and on. Damn those were some fun times.

I am soooo glad I got to experience the energy of those days, the very essence of house music and dancing. There’s was truly no other time like it and it makes me sad that those days are over. I don’t think the kids today will ever know that kind of freedom but I’m so proud to say that I was there!

Thanks for takin’ me back.

OH! I almost forgot. I have the track “Welcome To Club LaRay” SOMEWHERE on one of my old house tapes. If I ever come across it I’ll let you know.


much appreciation j for reminding folks of who this weekend was designed to honor and how we can make it more relevant to our needs. the challenge is how to creatively engage queer black folk, especially our younger brothers,in some cultural education and critical thinking without shaming them for wanting to party.

For too many people, this has become just another day off from work, I’m afraid. I even got an email from some club promoting their MLK Day party.

Well, I certainly don’t want to suggest that people shouldn’t party. I love a great party. I’m simply asking for some balance because our community sorely needs it. For instance, the Bayard Rustin Breakfast was well attended and it was great to see some folk I haven’t seen in awhile.

However, out of all the activists, AIDS Service Organization workers, and “community builders” attending the breakfast, scant few participated in the MLK March that followed. That was a big disappointment to me and a bit embarassing and hypocritical considering many had just watched Brother Outsider. Situations like these fuel my opinion that we like to point fingers at others and talk the talk. But when the chips fall down, who is walking the walk?

I hear your dissappointment j regarding the turnout for the March. over the 6 years that we have presented the bayard rustin breakfast, there has never been a majority of participants going to the march. more importantly, attending the bayard rustin breakfast is in and of itself a demonstration of “walking the walk”. many watched and discussed brother outsider and the relevance to their work.we had 25 kids from GLSEN meet several local organizers who made themselves available to talk to youth of color. this is significant. many who were there have been walking the walk for years and do not need to walk the MLK march to be doing the work. also given the attendance at the 2 outwrite readings and the MLK prayer breakfast, Black lgbt organizers and others were involved in meaningful queer cultural events besides the MLK March.

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