A billboard and bus advertising campaign that intends to fight homophobia in the Black community and raise awareness around Black gay youth has debuted in the Schenectady-Albany corridor. It is not being received very well.
A pastor, a daycare operator and a City Council member are demanding the billboard's removal, reports the Daily Gazette.
The Rev. Alfred Thompkins of Calvary Tabernacle said the "I am gay" billboard message only encourages troubled youth to embrace homosexuality. “A thirteen-year-old looks at these billboards and says, 'That must be it, I must be gay,' " he said. "That goes directly against God’s purpose. As a resident of Schenectady, a pastor who works with young people, with families, frankly I’m really bothered by the message these send." .. Thompkins compared gay people to thieves and liars, saying he did not want anyone to join the ranks of sinners.
Daycare provider Pamela Spicer told the City Council that the billboards were so vague they were worthless. "These messages are a failure. I think the Department of Health needs their money back," she said. "The intent is to instruct them not to spread HIV if they have it … That does not come across in the message." Instead, she said, the billboards allow "inappropriate sexual expression."
She argued that the messages should be limited to adult business zones — mainly industrial areas at the outskirts of the city. She told the council that her clients read the billboards as she drives them to events in the city. She offers daycare to a 2-year-old, 4-year-old and 8-year-old."When I’m driving them to the Schenectady Public Library and they say, ‘What does gay mean?’ how do I answer that question? How do I expose them to such content?"
From the mouths of babes. If two-year-olds are able to read billboards, that's probably the bigger news story, no?
City Councilman Joseph Allen, who believes the billboards could "encourage teenagers to become gay," suggested an ordinance that would require council approval of billboards. A city attorney pointed out that would be illegal.
The "I Am Gay" campaign was funded as an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy by the New York State Department of Health and In Our Own Voices, a local Black LGBT advocacy group. More adverts are planned for billboards, CDTA buses & shelters in Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer. The "We Are Part of You" series originally developed for Black communities in New York City, and spread to Long Island and Boston.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control shows about 1 in 3 Black gay/bisexual men are HIV positive, much more in some cities. Black men who have sex with men—especially younger ones—have seen the largest increase in HIV infections across the country. Stigma and church-based homophobia are considered among the prime factors in the massive spread of HIVAIDS throughout the Black community.
Thanks JOE JERVIS!
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