Bil Browning

If you gotta have it explained . . .

Filed By Bil Browning | August 29, 2006 12:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
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If you have to have it explained, you ain't never going to know. (Old blues man's saying.)

In his "Our View" column in the September 6th issue of The Word, the editor calls for the elimination of Indiana Black Pride. Robert Ferguson has penned a superb reply elsewhere (ED NOTE: See comments to read Robert's reply originally sent out via email.) and I will not try to paint the lilly. I will note that an impartial observer might doubt The Word's motives considering that the pictures they published of Indy Pride this year were devoid of visible Black faces; they made no mention of the Indy Pride picnic which was hosted by Indiana Black Pride, and they went so far as to publish this notation in the July edition: "If you still want to show your pride in the area, or you missed your local event, July brings one final chance as this Northeast Indiana city holds their annual event the last weekend of July."

Clearly the unity he speaks of is the unity of erasure, where Black people conveniently disappear from view. Why not wrap Indy Pride into the State Fair, as a jesture towards the unity we would like to see across the state?

American culture would not be what it is without the many contributions of Black people over the centuries. African-Americans contribute to Indy Pride in many ways and attend it in large numbers. Indiana Black Pride contributes greatly as an organization as does Indy Pride to our Festival in the Park. But contributing to Indy Pride is not the same as having a festival given by Black folks, for Black folks, in their neighborhood, with everyone most welcome. It is not just a courtesy to have white folk at the festival; it is an important statement that we support the myriad efforts of Black Pride and all the African American organizations. The statement needs to be made to them, and to their community.

Clearly The Word ain't gonna understand anytime soon.

Here is what The Word's had to say:

Finally, a word about Indy Black Pride, The Word feels that Black Pride is going against the unity many of us in the community have fought so hard to gain and should merge with Indy Pride or a regional event. We feel this is imperative, not only because of the need to have one community, but because we find the separate concept goes not at showing what we as a community can do together, but what some people feel we need to do apart. It represents segregation- not cooperation.

We don't have an Hispanic Pride, Jewish Pride, Native American Pride or a Christian Pride because we are all proudly part of Indy Pride. With resources so stretched and schedules equally so, we see nothing to justify a separate Black Pride event in a city our size. This is not DC, San Francisco, or Chicago.

We hope that Indy & Black Pride boards and leaders will consider a merger to make for a larger presence of persons of colour at Indy Pride and the discontinuance of a second much smaller and less-attended effort later in the summer. Surely we can all celebrate our pride, diversity, and unity together. It would be best for everyone in the community and would show we truly have the pride spirit regardless of our skin color. Let's at least consider it...


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Jason Warner | August 29, 2006 2:37 PM

I myself, have had dealings with the editor of The Word concerning my church's justice campaign. I found it quite amusing how my words to him were printed verbatim, but his various emails to me expressing his sheer dislike of our church and its congregants didn't quite make it in his editor followup. My first instinct is to say stop the bickering within the community, but logic and ethics say have your own house in order before you start looking outside of it for change.

Robert Ferguson | August 29, 2006 8:59 PM

Response to the "Our View" column September 6th issue of The Word:

In response to the comments made regarding Indiana Black Pride, I find it disheartening and troubling that any efforts aimed at uniting and empowering any segment of or the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community would be referred to as separatist, divisive, or creating segregation.

Indiana Black Pride is simply a group of African American GLBT people and our friends who understand that being black and gay isn't the same as being gay and white, Latino, Asian or any other nationality or race. We come to the table with a unique set of circumstances. We have a unique history and culture and many times our view of the world and the way the world views us is different from that of the mainstream GLBT culture. We want to celebrate our lives, our history and our culture and we want to do it in our spaces. It is necessary in order for us to begin to heal and empower one another.

In 2006 the African American community is facing an HIV infection rate of epidemic proportion. Though we make up just 13% of the population we account for over 60% of all new HIV cases. We have also witnessed increases in other STD's in our community. When we factor in a higher rate of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease in the general African American community we find ourselves in the midst of a health crisis that is spiraling out of control. Indiana Black Pride provides a forum and a platform to discuss these specific issues and connects our community with resources to start to address these concerns.

In 2005 a report released by the National Urban League using the latest census data stated that there are significant disparities between white America and black America in the areas of employment, home ownership, education, and income. However, that same census data also showed that black same sex couples were raising children at a rate twice that of their Caucasian counterparts. This data seems to suggest that our community is doing more with fewer resources, a fact that we have known for some time. Though there are many African American GLBT people who are college educated homeowners, there are still quite a few that need to know that they can go back to school, start a business, and/or own a home. Indiana Black Pride strives to be that organization that connects potential home buyers that have previously been ignored or not marketed to with individuals or businesses that can help them achieve that dream.

For far too long the black GLBT face has been invisible. During many recent political rallies and strategy meetings I have often found myself the lone black face in the room. So many of my brothers and sisters remain relegated to the closet by the homophobia that is pervasive in the black community and/or ignored by the gay community that would rather us forget that we are black and just be gay. Look at the national GLBT print and television media. The images of GLBT people rarely are people of color. Examine many of the boards of directors and leaders of both local and national GLBT organizations. How many faces of color do you see? So if we aren't present and contributing do our issues, concerns, and history get represented? Indiana Black Pride encourages visibility and involvement in our community.

I am proud to say that Indiana Black Pride has begun to take on a character and a life of its own. It is uniquely "OUR" festival. Over the 5 day event this year we talked about some very important issues, we were able to network and dialogue with organizations and businesses that are interested in our community, we celebrated our culture and our history, we were reunited with old friends and family members, we made new friends and family members, we danced to the music that makes our collective pulse quicken, and we ended the week in worship to a higher power that made it all possible. I will not ever apologize for Indiana Black Pride nor will I sell it out and merge with another organization. We want to celebrate who we are in spaces that affirm us in ways that are familiar to us!

Indiana Black Pride had a significant presence at IndyPride this year. We hope to continue a longstanding healthy relationship with Gary Brackett and the leaders of IndyPride. I believe I speak for a large portion of the black GLBT community when I say that we have enough pride to be black and gay in June and black and gay in August. We do indeed see the presence of people of color growing at IndyPride events and we hope that continues. We also hope that the entire community will join and celebrate with us in August. We are not a segregated organization our board and membership is made up of men, women, transgender persons, white people, black people, and people of all races and nationalities.

There should be a Latino pride and if the Latino community wants to be a part of Indiana Black Pride I will welcome them and support whatever it is they want to do. If they decide to have a separate pride I will support it and dance with them all day! I feel the same way about a Jewish Pride and a Native American Pride. There are 52 weekends every year. We can spend every Saturday celebrating what makes each and every one of us unique, beautiful, and special!

Robert S. Ferguson
President, Indiana Black Pride Inc.

Chris Douglas | August 29, 2006 9:08 PM

In my opinion, without the efforts of the board and organizers of Indy Black Pride, we might not have had the Human Rights Ordinance passed.

It is clear that much work has been done, and much more work needs to be done, in representing the needs and concerns of the black glbt community in Indiana. The challenges are substantial in dealing with the fundamentalist church-led part of the black community which has not yet come to grips with the reality of same sex orientation.

There is nothing wrong with debate, or with Ted Fleishaker having his own opinion, or with his stating it in a respectful tone, as he seems to have done in his editorial in the Word. I do disagree with Ted with regard to Indy Black Pride.

In my view, the need for Indy Black Pride, and its accomplishment in contributing to civil rights progress, is fairly substantial, and bears any scrutiny. It is clear by their presence at Indy Black Pride, that most every organization in the community supports the effort and bids the event success. In my own opinion, the organizers of Indy Black Pride should have our admiration and thanks for the work they have done and our confidence that they will proceed as is most beneficial for the black glbt community and for the glbt community as a whole. Although I speak for no one but myself, I think this generally is the view of the activist community.

Incidentally, as an exhibitor, I thought IBP did a superb job of putting the day together, and succeeded in breaking a certain barrier in getting both Melina Kennedy and Carl Brizzi to appear, Donna Edgar, and Eric Dickerson, let alone our fast allies David Orientlicher and Scott Keller. Last year, Steve Talley attending represented an important step toward his eventual vote for the HRO.

Indy Black Pride, as well as Indy Pride and Lambda Legal, as venues that politicians now feel they should attend, have come to demonstrate remarkably how important we are as a constituency whose support is necessary for electoral success. That is remarkable progress and bodes well.

Marie Siroky | August 29, 2006 10:18 PM

If anyone is representing segregation and uncooperation it would be the Word's editoral comment. Add to that it is mighty bold to suggest that the two boards (Indypride and Black Pride) cooperate and show unity...and in the same sentence to explain that would mean stopping Indiana Black Pride's "lesser attended" event all together. But comments such as that is what sell papers. (oh that's right, it's free. )In that case you get what you pay for. (give me time to think of more cliches.)
This is not the first time a self appointed voice of Indianapolis' Gay community wants another organization to don't ask for funds/support/donations and don't tell others you are here, because that will take away from us.
A new open and accepting church posts to a website, and what will happen to attendance at "the others" . A new HIV/AIDS organization starts, and worries begin that funding will cease for HIV positive gay individuals. Indiana Black pride has a summer event, and what if the Gay Jewish Pride should start?
Indiana Black Pride matters...if one person attended all or part of their 5 day events that didn't attend Indy Pride it matters. OMG what if someone attended and supported both events? Is it possible? HERE? In Indianapolis to have two pride events?
It is time to quit being afraid that there won't be enough...what is the Word afraid of? We need to step up and out and be who we are with whomever we want to celebrate. I think a celebration each weekend sounds pretty good...no matter what "pride" it is.

Robert - you are quite eloquent and I agree with everything you said. I was at last year's Black Pride and I thought it was fabulous!

I would like to add that as the president of the Indiana Chapter of PFLAG, we do not have many Black parents attending our meetings. I assume this is also due to the unique circumstances of the Black community. We want to reach out to the parents of Black GLBT children - if they would like to start a sub-group within our Chapter, we would be very happy to help them get started. They would be part of Indy PFLAG but would gear their meetings to their own particular needs. Remember, our goals are still the same - it just may take a different path to get there!

These is a paste of my response to both the comments made by Mr. Ferguson, and also comments posted online today by Mr. Cook. It was suggested I come here and post as well.
==============

Oh my goodness yes. Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Cook, you all are bringing tears to my eyes.

Perhaps Mr. Fleischaker will take this discussion - your incredible writings - and use it toward his, his organization's, and his constituency?s educational advancement. Maybe he'll use this opportunity to take some group trips to the library with his associates - do some googling - and really begin to get at least some surface knowledge of the issues at hand.

Maybe he'll begin to delve into the research.

Maybe he'll conduct some Black administered interviewing and surveying - with no deliberate skewing, shading or manipulation - and get a sense of the dramatic history that makes Black Prides possible and in fact, imperative.

But, alas' somehow I know that is also "a bit of a stretch" Mr. Cook.

The good news is, whether or not Mr. Fleischaker and others of his ilk take on these and other base educational endeavors, I submit it doesn't matter.

The essence of Blackness - all the culture that ushers these events from open to close should be raised up, honored and preserved whether or not there is some sudden "burst of light" emanating from White led "LGBT" Pride organizations. After all, there is nothing - and I do mean nothing - like throngs of Black folk gathering together to share our thoughts, our concerns and our wares - with honoraries like Mr. Cook here.

So, let the banter continue of course about the ridiculous charge that to be Black, proud and getting together to celebrate it is "separatist." I contend it is beautiful to be Black - and to put it in the reverse - Black is just plain beautiful and as such we deserve all the uniquely cultural gatherings we can imagine, conjure up and facilitate.

In fact, I promote there should be two Black Pride celebrations per year in each major city. One being the original. And the other just to give Mr. Fleischaker more racist spasms that - as Mr. Cook has so eloquently said - reveal a tragic, supremacist psycho-social fixation with all the wrong things. I think we should have two Black Pride events per year until there is a spreading of the wealth in our communities, that being far more important than spreading diatribes about matriculation and assimilation.

Mr. Fleischaker's admonition is interestingly akin to George W. Bush anti-cultural suggestion that Latina and Latino brotha's and sistah's should conform to Eurocentric traditions and learn to speak English.

I argue Mr. Fleischaker should settle down, click this link and . . . :
http://terryhowcott.com/closeup.asp?cid=9&pid=75&offset=0


Terry Howcott

Best to you all from http://www.terryhowcott.com

Rick L. Cook | August 30, 2006 11:57 PM

In response to the editorial in the September issue of The Word regarding Black Pride, I would like to contribute to the dialogue begun by Robert Ferguson. In the editorial, Mr.Fleischaker bemoans the need for a separate LGBT pride event in the guise that it encourages the continuation of segregation and stretches already limited resources and available weekends.
As a gay white man who has been in a long-term relationship with a person of color, I feel that it is imperative for me to express my opinions and concerns about the erroneous statements made by Mr. Fleischaker in his editorial.
First of all, audacity of Mr.Fleischaker to speak about the need for unity in our community is an oxymoron in itself, especially coming from a publication that contains a bully pulpit known as a gossip column that attempts to destroy and impune couple's lives and individual's character. I have encountered the question of why there is a necessity to have a "separate" LGBT pride by some of my customers and with my friends across the country. My friends in San Francisco have traveled the country and never encountered such a vicious column
that often falsely attacks members of a community without ramifications. Similarly, I have heard the same statements about the necessity of Black Expo. It speaks volumes, that there even needs to be an explanation or excuse for the existence or validity of either cultural event, especially ones that address particular health, occupational, and political needs that are endemic to a specific culture. To question the existence or the need for them exposes a very thinly-veiled stream of racist thought.
As for the so-called unity that you feel that you have fought so hard to gain, I can only call that a "bit of a stretch" as well. If that unity includes only Caucasian gay males and lesbians, then job well done. The fairly recent inclusion of a couple of LGBT people of color does not constitute an equal representation of any board. Political groups across the country are using similar tactics in order to appear diverse, advance their own agendas by gaining access to the "others" resources while maintaining their own hegemony. Sounds familiar,huh?
If it's a matter of resource allocation then Indy Pride has been in existence long enough that they should have the fund-raising ability necessary to finance their event or perhaps they should fold or incorporate themselves into Black Pride.
Lastly, as an openly gay white male, I find Mr. Fleischaker's ideas incredibly uneducated, offensive, regressive, and downright ignorant. Until such time that the entire gay community is able to educate ourselves about Black culture and truly embrace the idea of cultural diversity, then we should not castigate others for doing their own thing. Perhaps the turnout for Black Pride was "smaller and less-attended" than the Indy Pride event, but personally, I had a more inspiring and unifying experience at Black Pride that I have ever had at any Indy Pride event I've ever attended. God bless Robert Ferguson and his staff!

Sincerely,
Rick Cook
Owner
Mass Ave Video

Marla R. Stevens | September 25, 2006 8:40 AM

While there might be a legitimate discussion raised about the pros and cons of identity politics, this really boils down to a vision that's expansive versus one that is fearful, controlling, and limiting.

Unity is too often a word misused to express majoritarianism, when real unity flows from anything but. It is something that occurs when there is consensus and, clearly, where there is resentment of the sort expressed on both sides of this argument, consensus does not exist.

What is so impressive to me about Rob's response is that it offers diversity as a gift rather than a challenge or a chore. That reflects my own experience -- that making space for everyone grows movements and makes us all more effective, particularly in any endeavor involving social change, communication, sales -- whether of things or ideas, and politics -- pretty much anything where getting lots of perspectives informs strategies, makes it possible to reach more people, and gives people a sense of being valued and respected and having a share of the power.

We're in a fight that we cannot win alone as LGBT people, much less white LGBT people. And, as a white queer person, I can't see that it's effective to tell black queer people how to express being either black or queer much less black and queer together. I wouldn't want someone to presume to tell me that.

And, if I was thinking about taking a first step into the light of our community, I think I'd be more likely to take it if there were plenty of places full of people I thought I might feel comfortable being around.

So ignore Ted. It isn't the first time he's been wrong, after all. Continue to do the amazing things that you've all been doing that are making things better for everyone in Indianapolis and beyond.