As international borders close and travel becomes increasingly restricted as a result of efforts to limit the spread and of CoVid-19, it is a pleasure to be able to share news about a new organisation seeking to build international solidarity and support for social justice activism. Even better, it is an organisation of Black queer men seeking to support Black queer men globally.
The current pandemic is evidence for any doubters that our world is increasingly interconnected and that we are interdependent. Transnational corporations, international political movements, and socially conservative religious organisations, operate across borders. Where they choose to act against the interests of Black queer men and others with minoritised sexualities, we too need to build cross-border responses.
Reasons for building international networks among queer men in the African diaspora are not merely defensive – we have a lot to learn from each other that can be relevant in progressing our missions in our own respective political jurisdictions.
At the 2018 International Aids Conference in Amsterdam, BlackOut organised ‘Diasporan Dialogues‘. Our aim was to bring together Black queer men from around the world – activists, artists, writers, researchers or medical professionals, to share learning and knowledge; to make connections with them and begin to explore how we could collectively work to find solutions to both shared and unique challenges we face in our communities.
The events, as well as creating space for what we believe to be crucial conversations, also encouraged us to reflect on our need to understand better the different ways in which racism and homophobia manifest at national level. Failing to acknowledge differential levels of privilege can often stifle authentic engagement across the African diaspora and leave us talking at cross purposes.
It quickly became clear that we all walk the tightrope of life in racist, homophobic, heteronormative spaces that have a detrimental impact on our health, well-being and, too often, our very existence. The events also confirmed for us, the psychological and practical benefits of efforts in support of activism and in solidarity with activists, who can often feel isolated and under immense pressure.
We are delighted that discussions about how we build international solidarity have borne fruit. The Global Black Gay Men Connect (GBGMC) collective has reached a significant stage in its development – formal establishment.
We are also delighted that BlackOut UK, via Marc Thompson, will have a seat at the table. Marc has joined the inaugural board of directors.
Board members are in a good position to shape a global conversation about Black queer men, in which we are more than victims, or passive beneficiaries. The insights we are developing through BlackOut’s work – e.g. sharing work, distributed leadership, supporting each other, co-designing interventions, collaborative funding, as well as the voices and experiences of Black queer men in the UK and across Europe will be represented.
Global Black Gay Men Connect will now enter a period of further development. There are numerous challenges in building international organisations – especially those that seek to support the delivery of social justice, and who are ambitious to be effective and accountable. They start with an impressive sense of purpose and recognition of the urgency of the challenges we face. They note:
The members represent our belief that our core issues are at a make-or-break moment, and we need solutions bold enough to meet our greatest challenges and big enough to motivate all of us to get it done.
In announcing the start of this next phase of their work GBGMC have already set out some clues as to the direction they will take:
- supporting local capacity for delivery
- defending human rights
- distributing leadership among communities
Already a promising start. We wish them good fortune and offer our support.