Friday, March 31, 2006

Racial separation common in Atlanta gay groups

Andrew Keegan:

Nothing is supposed to bring local gay men and lesbians together like the Atlanta Pride celebration in June. But does it?

The city’s large black gay population isn’t clearly visible among the tens of thousands of predominantly white revelers enjoying the festivities each year.

But those vast ranks of gay African Americans also don’t turn out for the annual Black Gay Pride held each Labor Day. The culmination of the event, the "Stand Up and Represent" march, typically draws only a few hundred participants.

"The events are different yet they complement each other," said Donna Narducci, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee. "Both organizations offer an event for the LGBT community that empowers and both organizations provide a weekend that is structured to meet the needs or desires of the attendees."

Michael Slaughter, co-chair of ITLA’s board of directors, said not all racial separation should be viewed as racist.

"People tend to group around each other based on cultural preferences," he said. "Atlanta Pride is a parade while ITLA organizes a march. The goal of both is to provide equal opportunity and access, allowing individuals to make their own choice."

Still, the co-founder of My Brothaz Keeper, Inc., an organization that specifically targets young men of color, argues that Atlanta Pride misrepresents the event.

"June Pride professes to be a Pride for the entire city," said Lawrence Warren. "They should spend more resources to ensure diversity because their event doesn’t reflect that."

Despite gay organizations advocating an "everyone welcome" atmosphere, racial segregation remains fairly common among local organizations, according to Dante McCommon, co-founder of Affair With Flair, a gay professional social group with a 90 percent African-American membership.

"It must be a Southern thing because in Atlanta there is separation — period," McCommon said. "It’s not like we haven’t reached out to all people. It’s a puzzle to me."

But McCommon said that gay blacks tend to have very different issues than whites, which could explain the division.

"White groups are more political while we have our own battles," she said. "For us it’s more about economics and religion."

The leader of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest gay political group, said the group doesn’t track the ethnicity of its members, but acknowledged that racial inequality is a problem.

"Sadly, racial segregation in our community remains an issue," said Chuck Bowen, Georgia Equality executive director. "We continue to reach out to people of color, but I’m afraid it will take a long time to overcome the divisiveness of the past that is inherent in our culture."

Gay Atlanta in black and white


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