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.