Forum explores being LGBT in the African American community

Laura Streyle

The second Black History Month series forum of the term, put on by the Black Organization of Students, was held this Tuesday, Feb. 15.

The forum began with the whole room reading the title aloud: “‘No Homo’: The Stigma of being LGBT in the African American Community.”

The event continued to encourage participation, with audience members first reading aloud the rules of the forum and the questions prepared by BOS and then being encouraged to submit comments and ask questions of the five panelists.

Marvanna Avery-Cash, the acting vice president of BOS, explained, “The main intention for these forums are to spread awareness, discussion and promote healthy and factual understanding of issues, whether historical or cultural, to not only our group, but the campus and community.”

The panel was made up of five members: four African American Lawrence students and an African American community member, all of whom identify as either homosexual or bisexual. Not all members of the panel have come out to families, friends and employers, and for this reason, some names will be withheld from this article.

Between each question, BOS showed television clips of cultural icons who denounce homosexuality in various ways. They showed music videos of rappers such as Busta Rhymes and Lil’ Wayne, demonstrating that while their lyrics are often homoerotic, these celebrities refuse to openly support members of the LGBT community, obsessively using the phrase “no homo” in their songs and in their commentary.

One of the first questions broadcast on the screen was whether it is it more difficult to be an African American or a homosexual in today’s society.

To answer the question, panelist Alex Ajayi stated, “In the black community, a lot of us were brought up with the resources to fight racism […] it’s part of our conscious. We care about how people deal with it.”

He went on to say that, regarding being an African American who is also homosexual, that “there’s really no book as to how to deal with that.”

Isake Smith reminded the audience that, while the LGBT community’s fight for its constitutional rights is similar to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, racial discrimination has not ended to the extent that the world can move onto simply fight for LGBT rights.

Smith said, “I still have to deal with […] racism. I have to deal with walking down College Avenue, and having people scream things at me, and having people throw things at me, having people spit at me. I also have walked down College Avenue holding my girlfriend’s hand and had people scream things at me, and had people spit at me.”

After the forum, panelist Leonard Hayes said, “I believe that forums that discuss issues about GLBT are very important for the Lawrence campus, because [they] allow people outside of the GLBT community to think about how their views — political or religious — words — kind or harsh — and actions — good or bad — affect the people in the GLBT spectrum.”

The next BOS forum in the Black History Month series will happen Monday, Feb. 21 from 8 to 9 p.m. in the Campus Center Cinema. The topic will be “Africa: Seeing Beyond the Western Stereotypes.”