Earl Fowlkes never thought his career would end up focusing on HIV and LGBT work, but that’s the way it’s unfolded. Growing up just outside of Philadelphia in Willingboro, N.J., Fowlkes spent most of his adult life in Manhattan and spent many years streamlining companies for maximum effectiveness. He gradually became impacted by the toll AIDS was taking on his friends and started volunteering, which eventually led to a low-paying position.
“I kind of got sucked in at a very low rate of pay but it’s something that I saw happening to so many of my friends,” he says. “Fortunately I have a loving and caring family so I can’t imagine what happened to some of my friends where they were basically dumped completely. This was before Ryan White and all those other programs and a time when you really did, as they say, have to rely on the kindness of strangers.”
Fowlkes relocated to Washington 14 years ago to take a job with D.C.’s AIDS program Damien Ministries where he worked for eight years before joining the D.C. Care Consortium, another AIDS charity. He’ll be phasing out of that this summer to manage the International Federation of Black Prides, which he founded 11 years ago. D.C.’s Black Pride, now in its 20th year, predates the Federation. Fowlkes was D.C. Black Pride president for seven years and has continued volunteering ever since.
“I believe it’s very important for people who are black and LGBT to have a space that’s culturally sensitive,” he says. “Ultimately you want everybody to be comfortable in the larger LGBT world but Black Pride is the gate a lot of our people come through because homophobia is still so insidious and entrenched in our community.”
Fowlkes is officially single but has been seeing someone lately. He’s a baseball fanatic and has a special cable subscription that lets him see all the Phillies games. He lives in Mt. Vernon Square and likes reading about history, shopping and sipping apple martinis in his free time. (Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
All my adult life and telling a childhood friend was the hardest person to tell.
Who’s your gay hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The Circle Bar, a really laid back bar where the HRC shop is now on Connecticut. It was just one of those great city spaces. A nice, clean bar.
What’s your dream gay wedding?
Having a wedding at the Hillwood Estate Gardens.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
Women’s reproductive rights
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The Jackson Five on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
On what do you insist?
I am in my seat at a baseball game before the National Anthem.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
May 13 was my mother’s birthday and I wrote on Facebook that I missed her.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“A Successful Failure”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Stay the way God made me.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is a higher power beyond this world that I live in and for me this power is called God. God created me exactly the way I am supposed to be and loves me for who I am.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh and find ways of bringing joy to your life beyond your work.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
An invitation from President Obama to attend a State Dinner at the White House.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
Gay men can’t play sports.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
“Boys in the Band”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Exchanging business cards with people whom you will never contact.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Major League Baseball’s World Series MVP.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How to tie my own bowtie.
It’s a wonderful place to live and has great opportunities particularly if you’re black and LGBT.