THE BLOG
12/16/2011 02:25 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Does the Black LGBTQ Community Fail to Support Its Own?

Just last month, Gay Black Men News (GBMNews.com) folded. It was a unique, online e-zine 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 U.S.A., 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 has operated this publication out of pocket. And while clearly the cost of operation was prohibitive, causing the e-zine to cease publication, another reason, according to Emerson, was the lack of support for the online site from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (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.

In November 2009, when the Washington Blade, the nation's oldest LGBTQ weekly, folded soon after its 40th anniversary, it sent a message about this era of digitized news and the nation's growing interest in Facebook.

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

"Many of us sit up in these homophobic churches and put money in the offering plate. Surely we can send money toward a healthy goal," Glen Glover of Roslindale stated.

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 e-zine, 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 all these magazines, but sadly my tenure with these 'zines was short-lived.

In 2007 Ralph Emerson founded GBMNews as an all-volunteer contribution site devoted to the LGBTQ community of color. 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 this 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 Glenn Alexander and the Rev. MacArthur H. Flournoy, Associate Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, founded Arise. 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 of publication and had become a national icon for the African-American LGBTQ community. Sadly, a month later, Arise folded. In an email blast to Arise supporters, the publishers wrote, "Despite our best efforts to remain in print, it has become cost prohibitive to continue to produce Arise as we know it. It is not our desire to compromise its quality to remain in existence. Therefore, effective immediately we are closing the pages of Arise magazine." Eight months after the decision was made to close the pages of Arise, a relaunch issue was slated for January 2004, but that, too, failed.

In the 1990s, Charlene E. Cothran founded Venus Magazine, 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, and it spoke to and about the unique intersections of being black and LGBTQ in both the African-American and white queer communities. And Venus' loyal readership had hoped the magazine would do for its queer population what revered publications like Ebony and Jet magazines had done for all people of the African Diaspora -- that is, change society's negative and misinformed perceptions about us.

Cothran sent shock waves throughout African-American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities nationwide 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 the head of a fledgling magazine with the threat of folding always hanging over its head, Cothran opted in 2007 to take financial support from black churches funded by white, right-wing, Christian organizations that emphasized "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, hopefully remembering why it's not here with us.

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