Charles Stephens: How AIDS service organizations fail black gay men

Charles Stephens
Original Article:

As we continue to grapple with the impact of HIV among black gay men, we must will the courage to ask the kinds of questions that will reverse the path we have been bound to. One such question is, in what ways have we as black gay men been failed by AIDS service organizations?

The failure of AIDS service organizations to effectively care for us is by no means singular. Just about every American institution, agent of the criminal justice system and representative of the health care system has failed black people overall. AIDS service organizations thus join in the parade of failed systems that have promised much, but provided little.

I know so many black gay men who have gone to work at AIDS service organizations, only to see their dreams smashed and their creativity smothered. Despite this, many of them still put their best foot forward, working hard for little money. They are committed because they care. I also know many allies I admire very much. I’m especially thinking of one in particular; she works tirelessly on behalf of black gay men, and has demonstrated incredible leadership along the way. She is humble. She has grace. She rises above organizational politics. She has a strong sense of purpose. And most critically, she challenges homophobia over and over again. I wish there were a way to replicate her example across the field.

Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed others who have substituted a lack of leadership experience and community engagement capability with academic credentials and social service jargon. The result of this is a landscape increasingly populated by those ill-equipped to effectively mobilize and build power among black gay men, but well-equipped to perpetuate a deficit-based view of our community.

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