Black Gay Pride: ‘Love In The Air’ or ‘Static’? As thousands hit Atlanta, two artists weigh in with opposing views.
By Tom Corliss
Before you get to the Black Guy Pride Atlanta lineup on the next page, we wanted to have a discussion he black LGBT Pride movement began as house parties in pockets across the country to stand up against the rejection and marginalization they were feeling from both sides of their identities in the African-American and gay communities.
Of course now the annual events, including the world’s largest in Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend, have metamorphosed into large slates of events that unite black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to celebrate both their African heritage and sexual orientation.
Two popular artists have very different views on the state of African-American LGBT life in the U.S. First up, Inaya Day.
According to dance diva Inaya Day, out now with her new dance single, “Love Is In the Air,” the gay black community has a lot to celebrate this year.
“Things are getting better every day,” she contends. “[My gay friends] go wherever they want to go and hang with whomever they want to hang with.”
As a straight ally, she thinks it is important that more African American allies stand up in support of the gay community.
“In unity, there is strength. When more people shout, more people get the message.”
She believes the line between the white and black gay communities is blurring, too. As a regular Pride performer, she’s noticed more races, creeds and colors in her crowds and feels the different faces reflect the symbolic rainbow. Her message to all of them?
“Continue to love yourself, do what’s right, and fight,” she says. “You can dig a tunnel with a spoon.”
On the other end of the spectrum, out rapper Music Bear Tony Banks counts himself as a fan of Inaya Day and appreciates her optimism, but admits to feeling more pessimistic about the community’s progress toward equality this Pride.
Out this month with his new single, “Static,” Music Bear feels the struggle for the gay black community persists, possibly even more now than ever.
As a black gay man, he feels it’s still hard to feel accepted for multiple reasons.
“The community, as a whole, limits your visibility and your voice,” he says. “Also, as a gay black man of size, that visibility and voice is even more limited. So sadly, no, I don’t feel like a part of the community.
“You don’t see many people like me in magazines, videos, and articles. It’s almost as if large, gay black men should be ashamed of who we are. Luckily, I’ve always created my own lane in the gay community, and so far it’s been a pretty smooth ride.”
He says as far as he’s concerned, LGBT people aren’t even on the radar of the larger African-American community.
“If we were, the homeless LGBTQ youth numbers wouldn’t be so high,” Music Bear says. “The suicide numbers wouldn’t be so high. The African-American community isn’t thinking about us unless it’s to bash us, bring us down, to watch us act a fool on TV, in movies and online or to mimic us.”
He says black gay people must continue to be their own voice and champion their own movement, and that Black Gay Pride events can sometimes get it wrong in that regard.
“It so bothers me that during gay pride weekends, mega-parties with homophobic celebrities over shadow all the community outreach, events and services that are happening during the weekend,” he says. “The black gay community has to take care of our own better if we want to begin to look to others for anything.”
As far as white LGBT people go, they need to listen more and talk less, he says.
“The white gay community needs to understand that their experience with race is not our experience with race,” he asserts. “Understand that, embrace and accept it. … Everyone plays a part in creating a stronger community. Just because you have no experience with it doesn’t make it fantasy or less valid. Don’t dismiss our reality.”
And those famous black people that white people point to so much ¬ RuPaul, Frank Ocean, Wanda Sykes, Jason Collins? Forget it, Music Bear says.
“Too often, these figures are seen as part of the mainstream gay community and not members of the black gay community,” he says, “and the black gay community would rather idolize Beyonce, Lil Kim and — fill in the blank with any hot reality star or rap chick — instead of those within our own community.
So what is he most proud of, then, as a black gay man?
“I’m most proud that I’ve avoided the pitfalls others have endured: jail, drugs, crime, to name a few. As a gay male, I’m proud to have the support of my family. I know many gay men who aren’t so lucky.
“I’m happy that I’m able to represent my community through my music and my voice in a positive way. So many others have been silenced by a number of obstacles but I’ve built a platform, and I plan to continue to make my voice heard with every chance I get.”
Oh, and one more thing:
“Happy Pride, ya’ll!”