By: Rev. W. Jeffrey Campbell, Houston, TX
Yesterday, January 23, 2010, I was winding up my time at the 2010 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities in Atlanta, GA. As usual, it had been an awesome experience to be with my same and both gender loving brothers and our heterosexual allies dialoguing about this disease that continues to ravage our African American community and more specifically the men of our African American same-gender loving community.
On Thursday Rev. Edwin Sanders of Nashville, TN offered a prayer during our lunch plenary session. Prior to praying Rev. Sanders gave specific instructions on what he wanted willing participants to do during the prayer. These were his instructions:
1. Do not bow your head, instead, keep it up.
2. Do not close your eyes, instead, keep them open.
3. If you feel led, during the prayer look around the room and observe the other men in the room.
As Rev. Sanders began to pray I listened to him eloquently address God as he celebrated life and as he petitioned God for necessary blessings. As his booming voice filled the air I began to look at my brothers with my eyes wide open. I gazed first at the brothers at my table and then across the room as the many others who had made the journey to Atlanta for this conference. With my eyes wide open I saw black same/both gender loving me as young as 18 and as old as 65. I saw men of all heights, weights and skin tones. There were bald brothers, brothers with locks and everything in between. In that room were individuals with GEDs, high school diplomas, college degrees and some who have Ph.D or MD behind their names.
With my eyes wide open I continued to explore the great similarities and differences of God’s creation, the Black same/both gender loving brother. The more I looked around the more I discovered. From the east coast to the west coast; men from north of the Mason Dixon Line and others who spoke with a southern drawl. There were men who are single and others who are in partnered relationships. These men came from varying belief backgrounds in regards to God and Jesus Christ. Some brothers live with HIV. Others are in the AIDS stages of the virus while still others live with an HIV negative status.
I kept on looking! Students, teachers, mentors and mentees! Suits, jeans, African garb, dress shoes and sneakers! In this room were brothers living out loud while others only experience the comfort of being out when they are away from their home city.
As Rev. Sanders drew his conversation with God to a close I whispered my own prayer to God. I asked God to bless every brother in the room and to allow my brothers to experience God like never before. I then thanked God for giving me the opportunity to see and experience what some have never seen and even more what some think does not exist I saw strong, wise, healthy African American same and both gender loving men and I felt blessed.
The next time you have an opportunity to experience our brothers whether it be in a small gathering or a large gathering, enter the room with your eyes wide open filled with love and compassion and not hatred or judgment. I hope that you will see what I saw and give thanks.
Until next week…ROTFL with WJC!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further discussion.