On June 22, the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus ( CBGMC ) held its annual Pre-Pride Parade Open House at Affinity Community Services at 2830 S. Wabash Ave. With many of the Caucus' board of directors and Affinity Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon in attendance, guests and caucus volunteers reviewed accomplishments of the group in the last 12 years while looking ahead to new changes in the coming months.
CBGMC Executive Director Erik Glenn greeted guests; after a light Caribbean supper, he spoke at length about the new direction.
Looking back to 2005when the organization was established by the collective efforts of Black gay community organizers and Chicago Department of Public Health officials to address the skyrocketing rate of the HIV infection of Black gay menGlenn noted that there is a need for a shift in the organization.
In 2005, 46 percent of Black gay, bisexual and same-gender-loving ( SGL ) men were thought to be infected with HIV. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that one in two of that same demographic will become infected.
Glenn noted, "Something is wrong. HIV is no longer the death sentence that it once was, but the advancements felt throughout our country are not felt throughout out community. What better place to demand change, than of ourselves? Therefore, the Caucus took 2016 to ask the hard questions and figure out our role in ending the HIV epidemic among our people.
"We adopted a new mission: to advance health equity among Black, gay, bisexual and same-gender-loving men by developing community centered leadership and innovative programs."
Some of these changes include continuing to work in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health and the AIDS Foundation as well as specific initiatives that include leadership development, grassroots advocacy, civic engagement, capacity building and health marketing.
In the coming months, the Caucus will continue holding community events including the July 1 event LoveFest ( a health and entertainment festival held annually to ensure HIV/STI awareness while showcasing community talent ), From the Heart ( which acknowledges achievements of community leaders during Black History Month for their commitment to the Black, gay, bisexual and SGL men of Chicago ) and Black Boy Joy ( a holiday soiree featuring live performances from the community with the intent to strengthen and persevere despite adversity ).
For more information about the Black Gay Men's Caucus, visit ChicagoBlackGayCaucus.org .