January 5, 2012 at 10:39 am EDT | by Rev. Irene Monroe
Black LGBT community doesn’t support its own

Late last year, Gay Black Men News folded. It was a unique online eZine because it brought a perspective of the news as it related specifically to gay men of African descent. And its circulation was global.

“We are blessed with a large following of avant garde, artistic people. While most of our site visitors are in the USA, we have a good following around the globe. This we believe is largely due to our global prospective and the fact that the global people of color community are a priority with us,” said Ralph Emerson, publisher and founder of GBMNews.

Emerson operated the publication out of his own pocket. And while clearly the cost of operation was prohibitive causing the eZine to cease publication, another reason, according to Emerson, is the lack of support from the LGBTQ communities of African descent.

“Our folk don’t rally around and support their own. When GBMNews started everyone rushed to it, but with the advent of Facebook the attention had shifted,” Emerson told Out in Jersey reporter Antoine Craigwell.

“We didn’t have a groundswell of support for the site and for the newspapers as I thought it should have had from the community. As a community, we don’t seem to work together and support each other as a collective, and as a result, it collapses,” Emerson stated.

Emerson’s statement that LGBTQ people of African descent don’t support their own shouldn’t be dismissed as anger and bitterness for having to close shop. Rather, his statement speaks volumes about our black LGBTQ community’s history of not financially supporting projects that benefit us.

Issues of race, gender expression and sexual orientation invite a particular type of news reporting. One of the biggest losses, with now no nationally recognized black LGBTQ print or online eZine, will be the unreported and underreported news of our lives. GBMNews did local, national and international coverage of us.

A lack of financial support from the black LGBTQ community has contributed substantially to all the print and online black LGBTQ publications folding. I’ve had the pleasure of writing for these magazines but sadly my tenure with these ’zines was short-lived.

In 2007, GBMNews was founded as an all-volunteer contribution site devoted to the LGBTQ community of color by Ralph Emerson. In 2009, Emerson launched GBMMagazines and in 2010, he launched RadioGBM, a groundbreaking Internet radio station with exceptional coverage of the music industry and emerging artists. I joined GBMNews in December 2009 when Emerson wrote, “I noticed your article submissions and I’m contacting in hopes that you will become a regular GBMNews contributor. I am certain our site visitors would enjoy your journalistic dispatches, your opinions, analysis, and distinctive observations.”

But on Nov. 28 GBMNews, GBMMagazines, and RadioGBM shut their doors for good. “I’m going to take a few months off to think about my next direction. I’ve toyed for years with starting an arts business,” Emerson stated.

In 2000, Arise was founded by Glenn Alexander and the Rev. MacArthur H. Flournoy, associate director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign. The publication’s readership was the same-gender-loving community of people of African descent. Its mission was “to challenge the mind, encourage the spirit, and affirm the value of all sexually diverse people of African descent.”

In November 2003, the paper celebrated its third anniversary and had become a national icon for the African-American LGBTQ community. Sadly, a month later, Arise folded.

In the 1990s, Venus Magazine was founded by Charlene Cothran, a publication that for 13 years targeted the black LGBTQ community. As a staple in the African-American community, Venus Magazine was the first and only queer magazine owned and operated by a black lesbian that spoke to and about the unique intersections of being black and LGBTQ in both the African-American and white queer communities.

Cothran sent shock waves throughout African-American LGBT communities when she wrote an article entitled, “REDEEMED! 10 ways to get out of ‘The Life’ if you want out!” In it, she wrote that she’s now not only “saved,” having turned her life over to Jesus, but “straight” as well.

And as a fledgling magazine with the threat of folding always hanging over its head, Cothran opted to take financial support in 2007 from black churches funded by white right-wing Christian organizations that emphasize “reparative therapies.” In fact, she opted to be her own magazine’s “ex-gay” poster girl, rather than let the magazine fold.

Those of us who read GBMNews will feel its absence, and remember why it’s not here with us.

  • Or perhaps the marketplace just selected against this entrepreneur’s effort? Gay blacks can buy any magazine, just like anyone else. My guess is that the gay blacks who like to read magazines selected other options–maybe Ebony or The Economist. Maybe not all gay black people care that much about a magazine only focused on gay blacks. But as an entrepreneur Emerson will likely dust himself off and start something new. Hope he makes a mint!

  • Black LGBT community members support those entities that speak to their market desires. Every Black Pride Party, Ski Trip, theme event, rom com film, or DL novel seems to do exceedingly well in the marketplace, fully supported by the Black LGBT community. We support our own plenty, we just may not like what the choices of our support says about us. There also should be an understanding that in terms of sheer size of the marketplace, we’re talking a niche of a niche, one in which fully half doesn’t self-identify as being part of that cultural and socio-political niche. We’re not a large group, statistically speaking. And, like any other racially and sexually identified group, we’re not a monolith. Our tastes and desires are as varied as the population itself. So, those seeking to profit from targeting this small, niche population needs to consider all of those factors and variables in any business plan and then bring their project to scale accordingly.

  • I agree just the premise of this article. Although a number major print (newspapers and magazines) have closed over the last several years because of the easy access to free information through the Net, I believe the Black GLBT community doesn’t support GLBT businesses outside of those associated with sex and partying. I noticed this at Black Gay Prides where they have workshops on finances, starting your own business, a health fair, real estate, estate planning and how poorly attended it is even though it cost very little. However, at every club event there are long lines of folk waiting to pay $25 and on up to stand around and look good while being crunched together like sardines.

    Black GLBT writers and film makers don’t get as much financial support as one might think. Yes, there are a number of folk at their book signings and watching their favorite YouTube episodes but when it comes to raising money to expand the productions there’s very little financial support. When it comes to losing popular series such as Noah’ Arc and The DL Chronicles the Black GLBT community doesn’t raise up in large numbers to protest. It’s not that the community doesn’t like the production being presented to them but there’s no grassroots effort to organize, which would require the largely closeted society of Black GLBT adults to be visible.

    It’s not that the community doesn’t have disposable income to support Black GLBT businesses because when it comes to dress, eating out and partying they have plenty of money to spurge. The Black GLBT community just doesn’t have a sense of ownership of the products and services that supports them.

  • I thought this was suppose to be an article on “Why the Black LGBT community doesn’t support its Own?” To me it seems like this article was based off of one online publication going out of business and not a article on truly why GLBT blacks don’t support their own. Their are still 2 black publications left one quarterly (www.swervmag.com) and the other bi-weekly (www.sglweekly.com). Next time please think out what you are presenting to your audience.

  • Greetings Reverend Monroe,

    From time to time I’ve glanced at your columns in the Washington Blade. I am a fifty-something year old black homosexual male who does not identify as “gay” nor do I identify myself with the white gay/”LGBTQ” communities. From the tone of your columns I had gotten the impression that you identify more with the white gay/”LGBTQ” communities, from whom I’ve experienced the same racist exclusion that I’ve experienced with the white heterosexual community.

    It is therefore especially interesting that you would chide the “black LGBTQ” community for not supporting its own. Maybe the Black homosexual community didn’t support the now defunct GBMNews because, contrary to your point of view, it simply did not have an audience in the Black community. I do support Black publications that take in interest in the affairs of our same gender-loving community. I never knew of this publication, but if its demise is something you feel so strongly about, I probably would not have had an interest. By the way, how many Black homosexuals do you know of that refer to themselves as “queer”, a term I’ve seen you use with regularity? Probably a lot less than would refer to themselves as “homosexual”.

    Your writing came to my attention during the last presidential campaign in which Barack Obama won by a landslide. When 97% of the real Black community supported the candidacy of Barack Obama, you were busy penning articles to get to points in the white “LGBTQ” community such as:

    * October 25th, 2006: Barack Obama is no great political hope
    * April 12th, 2007: Barack’s marriage equality Obama-nation
    * September 11th, 2007: By backing Obama, Oprah leaves queers behind
    * January 28th, 2008: Obama’s playing us stupid
    * March 19th, 2008: If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to us?
    * April 8th, 2008: Cornel West calls Obama out for dissing King tribute
    * June 25th, 2008: Black Media Fails Its LGBTQ Community
    * July 9th, 2008: Obama’s Turn to the Right Leaves Out Poor LGBTQ Americans
    * September 11th, 2008: By Dissing Palin, Does Oprah Hurt Obama?
    * August 27th, 2008: Obama Owes Hillary Some “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!”

    After the landslide victory and right up to the inauguration, your contribution was:

    * January 13th, 2009: Obama’s inauguration brings mixed feelings for many Black LGBTQ Americans
    * January 22nd, 2009: Obama pimp-slaps queer community by omitting Robinson’s invocation

    By the way, what a sly use of the white community’s code word “pimp” to describe the first Black president. Were you still trying to get those points? Even after nearly a full term demonstrated support for lots of issues that affect our community (e.g. the repeal of DOMA and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), here are examples of your appreciation:

    * June 24th, 2009: Obama’s upcoming hush-hush damage control meeting with gay leaders
    * June 1st, 2009: Obama not marching with Black Pride
    * March 24th, 2010: ObamaCare Passed Passing Up Reproductive Justice
    * June 2nd, 2010: Obama shifting responsibly for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

    Reverend, I really don’t think you are qualified to rebuke the Black community for not supporting its own because when you had or have the chance, you’ve remained in your zone of comfort – out-of-touch with the same gender-loving Black community.

    With complete disappointment at your hypocritical chutzpah,

    Wesley West

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