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  • Writer's pictureDarian

'We Have Internal Work To Do:' Cleo Manago, SGL Black Men To Host Virtual Community Dialogue

Updated: May 7, 2020

Cleo Manago, a social justice activist and founder of Black Men's Xchange, the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to promoting healthy self-concept and behavior, leadership, critical thinking and cultural affirmation among same gender loving (SGL), gay- identifying and bisexual African-descended males and allies, will lead the virtual discussion: "Which Way Now For Black SGL Men?" on May 8.

Manago will be joined by a panel of nine identifying Black, gay or same-gender loving men, whose visibility and contributions to the success of the community are at the forefront of their work. Manago tells Living Out Loud 2.0 that the need for this long overdue community dialogue is a result of "constant communications from young SGL Black people - across the gender and sexuality spectrum, who hunger for community and well-being."

"A number of our people are eating their own, acting out on each other, resulting from a deep sense of dissatisfaction, internalized oppression as Black and/or SGL, and feeling no sense of community, pride, or emotional safety with each other," says Manago.

"They want Black role models, Black on Black love stories, Black affirmation, institutions, something substantial to really feel proud about. I believe if 15-year-old Nigel Shelby and 19-year-old transmale Blake Brockington - both who committed suicide - had a Black peer community that actively supported, nurtured, and inspired them, they'd likely still be here."

For Manago, the upcoming livestream is the realization of a collective dialogue with "constructive, industrious and skilled Black SGL people who seem to care about Black people."

Dr. David L Malebranche, a leading HIV/AIDS Researcher and Associate Professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, is one of those people and will lend his voice and expertise to the discussion.

"I think frank discussions like this one are needed so we can discuss issues of policy, education, activism, empowerment and health in a way that acknowledges how they all influence each other and inform our future prospects as Black SGL people," says Malebranche.

Malebranche also tells Living Out Loud 2.0 that he believes the most pressing issues impacting Black gay and SGL men are the "social and structural issues that are putting us at higher risk for inequities in health outcomes when something like a pandemic comes along."

"One day, we need to candidly unpack why Black males at HIV sexual risk endure three decades of disproportionate impact, apparently unable to independently stave it off," says Manago.  "That conversation has to be face to face.  In contrast, for Black women, they have better managed it. Now we have COVID-19."

Manago acknowledges that the livestream format limits the number of brilliant and successful community leaders who are able to participate, but believes "May 8, 2020 will be a powerful start."

“Regardless of how "successful" we are within our particular realms, our youth, our legacy, needs us to pass something meaningful directly on to them, that garners progress and positive Black, SGL (and general Black community) succession going forward,” Manago adds.

”We have internal work to do, that cannot be accomplished in silos or without meaningful, cross-generational dialogue.  Silos exacerbate the divide. Breaking down these silos is a goal of this conversation."

"Which Way Now For SGL Black Men?" will livestream on Facebook on May 8 at 7pm EST/4pm PST here.

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