How African-American gay activists in the rural south found community support.
Abstract: Brotha== William Robinson William Robinson, or Will Robinson or Bill Robinson or other nicknames, may refer to:
1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
2. Behavior based on such a feeling.
[homo(sexual) + -phobia. people, including homophobic people in African-American communities, to dismiss the disease and cite it as proof that God was somehow punishing gay people. In response to the new epidemic, the (mainly white) gay community began to mobilize. They challenged the government, the private sector, and the larger community to make the disease a health priority by taking to the streets in demonstrations and in acts of civil disobedience civil disobedience, refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust. Practitioners of civil disobediance basing their actions on moral right and usually employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the , by founding organizations to assist the sick, and by challenging the homophobic teachings of some religious institutions.
Over a short period of time, AIDS showed it did not discriminate as cases among nonwhite non·white
A person who is not white.
nonwhite adj. and non-gay people began to emerge. However, many of the "new faces of AIDS" were from other marginalized groups such as injection drug users and Haitian immigrants. Again, it was convenient for many within African-American communities to ignore the epidemic and not view it as a threat to them. Silence about AIDS from African-American churches was most notable and difficult to comprehend because of the traditional role of black churches in identifying and speaking our against threats to the health and welfare of African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. communities. In the past these churches have also helped to mobilize blacks to fight against injustice and have offered spiritual support, especially in times of crisis.
Today the faces of AIDS cases in the U.S. are approximately 50% African-American (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Noun 1. Department of Health and Human Services - the United States federal department that administers all federal programs dealing with health and welfare; created in 1979
Health and Human Services, HHS [DHHS DHHS Department of Health & Human Services (US government)
DHHS Dana Hills High School (Dana Point, California)
DHHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
DHHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services ], 1999). Among women diagnosed with AIDS, African-Americans comprise 64% of cases, African-American children account for nearly all of the pediatric pediatric /pe·di·at·ric/ (pe?de-at´rik) pertaining to the health of children.
Of or relating to pediatrics. cases of AIDS while African-Americans represent only 13% of the U.S. population (DHHS, 1999).
There have been countless stories from African-Americans living with AIDS, both gay and straight, of being turned away from their churches because they have AIDS. There have been numerous reports of African-American ministers using their pulpits to attack gay people. These actions on the part of some black churches and silence from others created a situation where many HIV-infected and gay persons have to carry a burden with them into what is supposed to be a space where their burdens can be lifted. In a published discussion about the African-American church and its view on AIDS and gays, clergypeople and gay Christians were interviewed (Balm and Gilead, 1997). The 51 clergypeople interviewed found many churches stigmatized both substance abusers and gays. Many of the gay men interviewed gave personal accounts of being asked to leave their church after disclosing their gay life or being permitted to remain on the condition they suppress public recognition of their homosexuality and not discuss it. Today, the African-American church is being challenged to respond to the AIDS epidemic. Faith-based HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome organizations have been formed in recent years to involve the black church in HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States. prevention. Examples of these are the New York-based Balm and Gilead and the Ark of Refuge in California. The Balm and Gilead is endorsed by over ten African-American church denominations and caucuses (Balm and Gilead, 1997).
In a few rare cases, African-American gays and the black church have been brought together by the AIDS epidemic, not in confrontation but in collaboration. Some black churches now view the epidemic as an opportunity to demonstrate unconditional love This article is about concept of unconditional love. For other uses, see Unconditional love (disambiguation).
Unconditional love is a concept that means showing love towards someone regardless of his or her actions or beliefs. to the sick and dying based on the teachings of Jesus. In Arkansas, one such collaborative effort between a black church, Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church, and an African-American gay organization called Brotha's and Sista's, took root a decade ago. It was through this collaboration that the African-American gay community in Arkansas -- who prefer the inclusive acronym acronym: see abbreviation.
A word typically made up of the first letters of two or more words; for example, BASIC stands for "Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. SGL/LGBT (Same Gender Loving/ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual bisexual /bi·sex·u·al/ (-sek´shoo-al)
1. pertaining to or characterized by bisexuality.
2. an individual exhibiting bisexuality.
3. pertaining to or characterized by hermaphroditism.
4. , and Transgender transgender or transgendered
Transsexual. ) -- was able to build partnerships and find acceptance with organizations and businesses within the greater African-American community.
Arkansas is a mostly rural, southern state located in the so-called "Bible Belt Bible belt
Those sections of the United States, especially in the South and Middle West, where Protestant fundamentalism is widely practiced.
Bible belt " of the U.S. In 1998, 70% of the population of Arkansas lived outside of urban areas and 40% lived in communities with fewer than 2,500 (Arkansas Department of Health [AR DOH], 1998). The median annual income of $25,500 in Arkansas is below the national norm and African-Americans are overrepresented o·ver·rep·re·sent·ed
Represented in excessive or disproportionately large numbers: "Some groups, and most notably some races, may be overrepresented and others may be underrepresented" in poverty figures for the state (U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 1998). Many young people leave Arkansas for places like Houston, Texas “Houston” redirects here. For other uses, see Houston (disambiguation).
Houston (pronounced /'hjuːstən/) is the largest city in the state of Texas and the or Atlanta, Georgia where there are greater job opportunities. African-Americans are also overrepresented among AIDS cases in Arkansas, comprising 35% of all cases while only 16% of the population (AR DOH, 1998). Religious traditions and social conservatism This article or section has multiple issues:
* Its neutrality is disputed.
* It does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by citing reliable sources.
* It may not present a worldwide view of the subject. run very strong in Arkansas, even in its SGL/ LGBT LGBT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community. Since many of the communities are "small-town-like" and most families know one another and share conservative values, many SGL/LGBT people living in Arkansas cope with internalized homophobia homophobia Psychology An irrationally negative attitude toward those with homosexual orientation, or toward becoming homosexual. See Closet, Gay-bashing, Heterosexism. Cf Gay, Homosexual, Phobia. and lead "closeted clos·et·ed
Being In a state of secrecy or cautious privacy. " lives to shield themselves from homophobic attitudes. It is believed by many members of Brotha's and Sista's, as well as some behaviorists, that internalized homophobia can contribute to depression, suicide, and substance abuse. These behaviors may indirectly put a person at risk of developing AIDS (Williamson, 2000).
Brotha's and Sista's, Inc., was founded in 1990 by a group of African-American lesbians who began meeting informally because they were concerned about a number of health and social issues the African-American community in general, and the SGL/LGBT community specifically, were being challenged with. Also of concern was the lack of meaningful cultural/social activities for African-American SGL/LGBT in Arkansas. The only social outlets that existed for years were the bars and homes of individual gay people. The founding women of Brotha's and Sista's identified a lack of information and gaps in services around domestic violence, substance abuse, STDs, cervical cancer Cervical Cancer Definition
Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably, forming tumors. , and internalized homophobia as some of the most pressing health challenges facing the community at that time. The organization's objectives from the beginning have been to bridge gaps in health and social services social services
welfare services provided by local authorities or a state agency for people with particular social needs
social services npl → servicios mpl sociales ; promote a sense of cultural, political, and spiritual awareness and pride among African-American SGL/LGBT people; and enhance the development of the entire African-American community. Brotha's and Sista's defines itself as an HIV/AIDS prevention and community enhancement organization.
Realizing the challenges facing the African-American SGL/LGBT community and larger African-American community are similar but also too numerous and complex for one group to tackle alone, Brotha's and Sista's has sought to form a partnership with the African-American community in Arkansas to address these challenges. The organization recognizes that African-American SGL/ LGBT identify strongly with the larger African-American community and its traditions, and are just as likely to be discriminated against for being black as they are for being gay. For these reasons, Brotha's and Sista's believes the African-American community is a natural ally of SGL/ LGBT African-Americans, in spite of the homophobia that still exists today in the greater community. Also, the organization's members believe that by working together on common problems, barriers can be broken down.
Brotha's and Sista's first developed ties with the Women's Project in Arkansas, since one of the founding women worked for the project. The Women's Project is an organization of progressive women who assist women of all races and socio-economic backgrounds in obtaining information and resources. It is perceived by many in the African-American community to be a white organization and is therefore unfamiliar to many of them. Brotha's and Sista's was able to obtain from The Women's Project educational materials on cervical cancer, STDs, and other health-related issues. The founding women of Brotha's and Sista's were also concerned about whether they were at risk for HIV, though at that time, transmission of the virus among women was not a health department priority. However, the "sistas" decided not to wait and let AIDS become an epidemic among them and decided to educate themselves about HIV. One of the founding women of the organization worked for the health department which made it possible to access public health information. With the new information the women of Brotha's and Sista's developed "playshops" that promoted safer sex for women and were very popular, educational, and portable to spaces where women gather. They designed "playshops" as opposed to "workshops" because they did not want their audience to interpret safer sex practices as work.
In just as few short years AIDS cases sharply increased in Arkansas and Brotha's and Sista's was affected in a personal way as friends began to die. The group then shifted its focus to AIDS prevention and control. Today 54% of Arkansas's AIDS cases are in homosexual or bisexual males (AR DOH, 1998). Reaching African-American SGL/LGBT males proved a challenge for Brotha's and Sista's for two reasons. One reason was the perception of the group as a gay, women's organization, and the other was the large numbers of men who had sex with other men but did not identify themselves as gay. After extensive discussions with many gay men it was decided that the best way to reach SGL/LGBT men was in the bars where they gather. This would require establishing a trusting relationship with the owners of gay bars. As it turned out, the local, black, gay bar was owned by an African-American lesbian who not only allowed Brotha's and Sista's to do HIV prevention work in her bar, but soon became an active member of the organization.
Hearing about the HIV prevention work of the organization, a local, African-American physician, Dr. Henry Masters, approached Brotha's and Sista's about working together to educate the community about AIDS. Dr. Masters provided all the resources and incentives for the work. However, gay men were slow to present themselves for HIV testing HIV test Various tests have been used to detect HIV and production of antibodies thereto; some HTs shown below are no longer actively used, but are listed for completeness and context. See HIV, Immunoblot. and counseling. Once again, the organization held a series of discussions with some of the men. The idea emerged to create a campaign to increase testing by offering a free T-shirt with a catchy phrase ("I do, do you practice safer sex?") as an incentive. This was a huge success as many men came forward for testing and, of course, a T-shirt.
After these two successes Brotha's and Sista's knew it was time to become more formally established within the community in order to expand its work. In 1994, the organization developed its Articles of Incorporation The document that must be filed with an appropriate government agency, commonly the office of the Secretary of State, if the owners of a business want it to be given legal recognition as a corporation. , and in March of 1995 received its 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, non-profit status. The organization then brought its agenda to the larger African-American community; with the knowledge that almost every. African-American home has been touched by someone infected in·fect
tr.v. in·fect·ed, in·fect·ing, in·fects
1. To contaminate with a pathogenic microorganism or agent.
2. To communicate a pathogen or disease to.
3. To invade and produce infection in. or affected by AIDS, they presented their issues as issues that have an impact on the entire community. To help make the voices of the SGL/ LGBT community heard and forge new partnerships with local agencies and other groups, Brotha's and Sista's staff also participated in the Community Planning Board Noun 1. planning board - a board appointed to advise the chief administrator
governance, governing body, organisation, administration, brass, establishment, organization - the persons (or committees or departments etc. and Minority AIDS Education Task Force. Through numerous discussions with the health department and by participating in community planning, it was decided that outreach at bars was critical to controlling the epidemic and funding should be sought. At that time the chairperson chairperson Chairman The head of an academic department. See 'Chair.', Cf Chief. of the Minority AIDS Education Task Force was Rev. William Robinson, a progressive minister who played an instrumental role in helping Brotha's and Sista's apply for funding for HIV prevention and outreach activities.
Rev. William Robinson came into AIDS prevention work the way he came into Civil Rights activism in the 1960s. He sees it as God's work to minister to the disen-franchised and believes all humans deserve dignity and respect. Rev. Robinson asserts that AIDS is a human and health issue, and that the epidemic is not about homosexuality but a virus which infects individuals and 'affects the entire community. Rev. Robinson also maintains that it is the job of the church to love humans, and that the epidemic has given the church an opportunity to affirm they are in the business of love. He has been the pastor of Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church for decades, running a social activist ministry which includes a recovery program, a shelter for the homeless, a community daycare center, a youth activity center, and a program for young entrepreneurs.
Today, Rev. Robinson is one of two straight members who sit on the board of Brotha's and Sista's. He has given the organization space from which to run its operations and has been a spiritual support to its members. Rev. Robinson's philosophy regarding partnerships is that it makes good sense for people to work together on the things they agree on, and to agree to disagree Agree to disagree or "agreeing to disagree" describes or refers to a situation where two or more people or groups of people resolve conflict by reaching an agreement whereby both sides tolerate but do not accept the views, opinions or position of the other side. when their opinions differ but not let that interfere with the work. He points out that collaboration should not be confused with manipulation (i.e., using underhanded methods to achieve one's goals), that collaboration means bringing all issues to the table so the merits and drawbacks of those issues can be discussed.
Another African-American minister, Rev C.W. Garrett formerly of Pineal pineal /pin·e·al/ (pin´e-il)
1. pertaining to the pineal body.
2. shaped like a pine cone.
1. Having the form of a pine cone.
2. Church, also broke the silence and exclusion policies of many black churches by welcoming members of Brotha's and Sista's to join his church. It was through community work of individual members of the organization that Brotha's and Sista's came to know Rev. Garrett.
Brotha's and Sista's decided as a matter of strategy that the best way to reach more SGL/LGBT African-American people would be to hold informal, social events since it was widely known that the community would come out in large numbers for fun. Once people were in attendance, AIDS prevention messages could be softly pushed. The first of the events was a picnic where the organization held a barbecue with music and provided AIDS educational materials and condoms. The picnic, now in its 9th year, was later named Suisse Mocha Mocha (mō`kə), town (1990 est. pop. 2,000), S Yemen, a port on the Red Sea. It was noted for the export of the coffee to which it gave its name but declined as a trading port in the late 19th cent. with the rise of Hodeida and Aden. in memory of a transgender person who died alone of AIDS. In paying tribute to Suisse Mocha, the members of Brotha's and Sista's wanted to convey to SGL/LGBT people with AIDS The People With AIDS (PWA) Self-Empowerment Movement was a movement of those diagnosed with AIDS and grew out of San Francisco. The PWA Self-Empowerment Movement believes that those diagnosed as having AIDS should "take charge of their own life, illness, and care, and to minimize that they do not have to die alone because the organization exists for them. In addition, the organization's members have made it possible for 150-200 people to be tested for HIV and referred hundreds of others for testing, and handed out more than 30,000 condoms, 2,000 safe sex kits for men, and 500 for women. Brotha's and Sista's was one of the first organizations to introduce the use of OraSure testing, a non-invasive HIV test. In 1998 the Bert Meyer Foundation awarded the organization funds to do voter registration Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens to check in with some central registry before being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive. Centralized/compulsory vs. which has now become a part of the organization's community outreach activities. Today, Brotha's and Sista's is the only African-American SGL/ LGBT organization in Arkansas.
As the annual picnic became a successful way of organizing and educating the community about AIDS, there was a need to find vendors to supply materials (e.g., food, T-shirts) for the picnic. Brotha's and Sista's made a conscious decision to support small, black businesses as part of its community enhancement objective and has been able to successfully partner with several of them over the years. Most of these businesses are owned by straight people who now welcome and look forward to the organization's patronage. One example of a collaborative effort between the local business community and Brotha's and Sista's occurred in 1995, when a black bookstore worked in cooperation with the organization to bring gay, writer E. Lynn Harris E. Lynn Harris is an Black American author, (b. June 20, 1955). Harris writes primarily about African American men on the down low or in the closet; Harris confirmed that he is a homosexual. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Atlanta, Georgia. to Arkansas.
Brotha's and Sista's has learned that African-American SGL/LGBT people do have allies in the greater African-American community and must be creative in finding those allies. Sometimes allies are in places people do not think to look or are individuals who are only waiting to be asked. The organization believes that SGL/LGBT must first view themselves as resources in their communities, contributing valuable work and creativity. It was because of the personal contacts through their jobs and community work that individual members of the organization were able to tap into resources within the African-American community. Today Brotha's and Sista's continues the work of bringing HIV prevention education to the African-American SGL/LGBT community by targeting men who have sex with other men and their sexual partners regardless of their sexual identification. Additionally, the organization, in cooperation with Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church, is in the process of becoming an HIV testing site. Brotha's and Sista's is also expanding by developing an interactive web-site.
There is still a great deal of homophobia and fear of AIDS in the African-American community and churches. However, the African-American gay and greater African-American community are inextricably in·ex·tri·ca·ble
a. So intricate or entangled as to make escape impossible: an inextricable maze; an inextricable web of deceit.
b. linked and their best interests are served when they come together.
Arkansas Department of Health (1998). Arkansas HIV/AIDS Epidemiologic Profile.
The Balm and Gilead, Inc. (1997). Though I stand at the door and knock: Discussions on the black church struggle with homosexuality and AIDS.
Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. . (1999). On the front lines: Fighting HIV/AIDS in African-American communities.
U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. (1998).
Williamson IR. (2000). Internalized homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men. Health Education Research. 15(1) 97-107.
Darlene Hudson, B.S., is Founder and CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. of Brotha's and Sista's, Inc. The Rev. William Robinson is Pastor for Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church. Address all correspondence to Ms. Hudson at Brotha's and Sista's, Inc.; P.O. Box 165917; Little Rock, Arkansas Little Rock, Arkansas
required military intervention to desegregate schools (1957–1958). [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 556–557]
See : Bigotry 72216; Ph: 501.663.7223; Fax: 501.663.7228.