BlackGaySlay showcases, celebrates, and pays respect to Black Gay Men whose work elevates the LGBT community and Black Gay Men specifically. For more than 30 years Dennis Carney has been on the physical and a metaphorical Front Line doing this work.
Born in Manchester in 1962, Dennis has been a Londoner since 1982 with most of those years spent in Brixton. As many BlackOut readers know, the ‘Front Line’ is the name given by the local community to Railton Road; the line behind which the community sought refuge against the racist ‘sus’ laws used by some cops to brutalise the neighbourhood in the 80s that erupted in the Brixton uprisings. Dennis, reflecting on the changes he’s seen in Brixton joked;
I’ve never seen so much blonde hair or pedigree dogs in all my days in Brixton; and on the Front Line! You know things have changed when drunk White women in high heels stagger down Railton Road late at night without a care.
On the Front Line of activism and social change, Dennis recalls mustering up the courage to attend a public discussion at the Brixton Recreation Centre 30 years ago.
The topic was homosexuality in the Black community. I was 23 and I was terrified. I visited the Rec daily to swim and thought if I told the woman on reception I was going to the event she would know I was gay. I was young and not yet confident in my identity as a black gay man.
Blown away by the discussion and the general content of the meeting, Dennis went along to the Annual General Meeting for the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre Project (BLGC) and was elected the Treasurer.
I didn’t even know what an agenda or minutes were, having never done any kind of work like that before, but that’s what started me out. At that time being involved in BLGC was one of the best things to happen me.
In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology profoundly impacted Dennis.
Originally published in 1986, this seminal ground-breaking book inspired Dennis to travel to the USA and to find and meet as many of the men who contributed to the book as possible. Tenacious and fierce, Dennis not only meet many of the contributors including Assotto Saint, Sydney Brinkley, and Melvin Dixon, he stayed in the home of Joseph Beam the book’s editor and spent precious time with him just a few months before his death. Of all the contributors to In the Life, Dennis made perhaps his most significant and intimate connection with the American writer Essex Hemphill when upon the invitation from the BLGC he toured the UK to promote his work in 1988. Rotimi Fani-Kayode shot what would become iconic photos of the two men.
Essex completely changed the gay landscape in this country from doing just a six-week tour. It completely rocked my world and gave me an idea of what my life could be as an out black gay person.
The 80s and 90s witnessed major shifts in public attitudes about race, sexuality, inclusion and diversity. By 1990 Dennis designed and ran his first staff training course. 27 years on Dennis is a staff training expert with a specialisation in LGBTQ equality issues. He trains staff in a wide variety of organisations from small charities to Government Departments including the Home Office, Environment Agency, NHS, and Local Authorities throughout the country. Along with running his staff training organisation, Dennis also teaches innovative and highly praised courses on personal development and counselling at City Lit. 14 years ago Dennis helped to establish Loving Men – Adventures in Intimacy; the events for Gay and Bisexual men to meet on a deeper level and to experience a stronger sense of community are ongoing with bookings now being taken for their May 2018 weekend workshop. Dennis’ mission continues; still on the Front Line.
Dennis’ Top Tips ……
The Book: In the life by Joseph Beam
The Film: Tongues Untied by Marlon Riggs.
The Play: Boy with Beer by Paul Boakye
The Song: You Stepped Into My Life by Melba Moore
Advice To …..
FEAR means False Evidence Appears Real.
I am still and always will be worthy of love.