Last Friday, the Detroit chapter of the NAACP sponsored a panel discussion featuring prominent black straight and gay voices entitled "Is Gay the New Black?" The discussion was spearheaded by Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony. The standing room only discussion attracted hundreds, reports say, and is the first time the local chapter and black churches publicly engaged LGBT issues.
Panelists included newly-elected Charles Pugh, Detroit's first-ever openly gay city councilman and council president, and straight ally National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman.
"[Pugh] pointed to his own electoral success last fall as proof of growing acceptance of gays and lesbians within the black community. 'Homophobia could have reared its ugly head in that campaign, but that did not become an issue,' Pugh said, proudly ticking off the endorsements he received during the race from the Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors and the AME Ministerial Alliance.
'The gay agenda does not and cannot supersede the agenda for black people,' said Minister Malik Shabazz, a Detroit community activist and leader of the New Black Panther Party. 'Can you define the gay agenda?' Pugh interjected. 'Hold on Charles. This isn't a personal thing,' Shabazz replied. 'OK, but I still want to know,' Pugh fired back.
Frankie Darcell of Mix 92.3 FM, who moderated the panel with Angelo Henderson from FM 105.7, asked why a gay person would want to "wear 'gay' on their forehead at work," saying it is inappropriate in the workplace. Curtis Lipscomb of Detroit's KICK, the agency for LGBT African Americans, answered by saying, 'It's not that we wear 'gay' on our foreheads, it's that we are who we are. I was fired because I am gay. Someone at work asked me if I was gay, and I answered honestly, 'yes,' and I was fired. What we want is simple equality.' "
"On the issue of same-sex marriage, [Columnist Anthony Samad] asserted that socially conservative African Americans are being forced 'to choose between (the gay rights) cause and their church.' Disagreeing with Samad, Pugh argued that Christian leaders in the black community 'need to be drawing gay people to church, to draw people to God and spirituality and a center.' The comment was greeted by extended applause."
Pugh and Lettman also talked the importance of coming out. Says Lettman: "I would say being black and gay is the old black because the black LGBT community is the invisible 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' staple of the black community.
Absolutely right. And it's really a shame that too many in our community are comfortable with their glass closets and allow it to continue.