This year, Black History Month has received much more attention because of the Black Lives Matter movement, but in many ways, it just seems to be a lot of tokenism, words and white liberal guilt.
I find it interesting that everywhere you look, especially businesses, there are “Black Lives Matter” posters in windows, but few-to-zero black employees. Racism is alive and well in America and even in the LGBTQ+ community. San Diego has nearly 100 LGBTQ+ organizations, yet you can count on one hand the number of Black elected officers or representatives of those organizations. Almost every LGBTQ+ organization is lacking in Black membership or involvement with the exception of the Imperial Court de San Diego, which is now in it’s 49th year of community service and first elected an African American Empress in 1973 and both the last elected (48th) Emperors and Empresses were also Black.
Some of our local sports organizations have African American members, but not equal to our LGBTQ+ population. Can you name any Black LGBTQ+ leaders or activists in our San Diego community? Thank God the LGBTQ Black Coalition of San Diego was formed and is doing its best to change things. As many of you know, I have lived in San Diego for over 50 years and have been writing a column in LGBTQ+ publications since 1974. I will never forget several publishers telling me that “having African Americans or women on the front covers of LGBTQ+ publications always resulted in higher returns (unopened and unread copies of a publication) and less readers picking up the publication in general.” Stampp Corbin, the only Black publisher of a San Diego LGBTQ+ publication, made history by putting more African Americans and women on his magazine covers than any LGBTQ+ publication in our community’s history. In the many years of gay bars and nightclubs opening and now LGBTQ+ businesses expanding in general, the percentage of Black employees in these businesses has been almost nonexistent and it’s shameful.
As of now, Rich’s night club has the highest number of People of Color employed, including transgender People of Color. Chris Shaw’s (MO’s Universe) businesses also get high marks for hiring People of Color.
The San Diego Bayard Ruston Honors is currently the highest awards and/or recognition honoring Black LGBTQ+ activists and allies. They were established by Carolina Ramos and me, and now Darnell Williams and the Imperial Court host them. I am also proud to have founded and produced the (then) annual Mr. and Mrs. Black San Diego Pageant in the 1970s.
In August of 2019, almost 100 LGBTQ+ African Americans came to a “Town Hall for the Black LGBTQ+ Community” at the San Diego LGBT Center (The Center) and made it very clear that they felt unwelcomed and discriminated against at The Center, noting they hardly even saw anyone who was African American on its working staff. I do believe it was a wake-up call for The Center and they made commitments to change things.
Even with that example, many will still question why there is a lack of African American involvement within our San Diego LGBTQ+ community and the answer bears repeating: Black people who identify as LGBTQ+ do not feel welcomed in the LGBTQ+ community! So as a Person of Color, I am tired of hearing and reading about LGBTQ+ “support” for the Black Lives Matter movement only in words and not in actions. If Black lives really matter, then offering Black people employment and welcoming them into our organizations should be a prioritized action. If you are able, why not make a donation to the LGBTQ Black Coalition of San Diego or the local NAACP chapter?
On the national LGBTQ+ front, I am elated to report that for the first time in our civil rights movement, both the National LGBTQ Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are being led by LGBTQ+ African Americans in Washington, D.C.
Our LGBTQ+ community needs to build stronger bridges with (and offer more results-driven support to) the African American community. Having served and advised the last eight mayors of San Diego, I am proud to have been a part of getting a historical amount of LGBTQ+ People of Color appointed to various boards and commissions. Look around LGBTQ+ San Diego, African American representation is greatly lacking at our “LGBTQ+ community table.” All of us, myself included, need to do more than just display posters and post on social media in celebration of Black History Month. It’s time for action, not just words. Thank you for reading.