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AFC conference focuses on bisexual health
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-11-08

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Dr. H. Sharif Williams, otherwise known as Dr. Herukhuti, ( Center for Culture Sexuality and Spirituality founder, Goddard College professor of interdisciplinary studies and CUNY School of Professional Studies adjunct associate professor of applied theater ) gave the keynote address—"No Homo|No Hetero: Black Bisexual Masculinities and the Search for Sociocultural Health"—at the Nov. 2 AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) conference "We See You: Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Health."

Williams ( who self-identifies as a Black bisexual ) is a cultural studies scholar, sex researcher-educator, systems theorist, playwright, poet, performance artist, interdisciplinary sociocultural scientist, Kemetic priest and spiritual healer.

Before his remarks, he showed a trailer for his in-progress documentary film project, No Homo|No Hetero: Sexual Fluidity and Manhood in Black America, about being Black male-identified bisexual people.

Williams, a native New Yorker, also asked attendees to take a moment of silence in remembrance of people affected by terrorist attacks; civilians who the U.S. military has killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and those who have died in the struggle for liberation, decolonization and social justice.

During his keynote presentation on sociocultural health, Williams spoke of the term as "the ways in which a community supports the social, cultural and spiritual health and wellness of its members. ... A way to measure it is the quality of the relationship between the person and the forces of social life and cultural production around them."

Williams explained that for people used to the biomedical model of healthcare, especially those in the western world, the idea of sociocultural health might disturb their sensibilities. He said the goal of his talk was to expand people's understanding, engagement and questions around health.

"Sociocultural health is a way to think about health that deals with how a community holds and nurtures people socially, culturally and spiritually," said Williams. "For Black bisexual men there are challenges to our community's ability to hold and nurture us because of monosexism, which is the oppression of sexually fluid people and privileging of sexualities that focus on one gender and the overall oppression of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy."

Regarding his work, Williams said he is interested in developing ways communities can hold more people—especially Black individuals.

Williams outlined what social, cultural and spiritual health means in terms of the work he does. He said social health includes connection to others, self-determination, interdependence, cooperation and communalism, purpose, agency and pride while cultural health is beauty, pleasure, embodiment ( body, mind and spirit ), aesthetic intelligence ( ability to know things through the arts ) and symbolic and metaphorical understanding ( recognizing that some things are larger than the sum of their parts ). Spiritual health is one's place in the universe, having a purpose, groundedness/rootedness, peace, efficacy and people's passion for things.

"Self-determination means people do not get to discredit the lived experiences of Black bisexual men," said Williams. "They cannot say bisexuality is a stop on the way to being gay or call us closeted homosexuals or people who just do not want to come out."

Williams said that the Black community health is interdependent and interconnected so when one talks about Black Lives Matter, people should be saying, "ALL Black Lives Matter." In addition, Williams examined the importance of keeping Black dollars inside the community as much as possible. He asked what attendees are doing to support—but not take over or gentrify—Black community development.

"White supremacy and monosexism undermine sociocultural health for Black bi+ men," said Williams. "White supremacy attacks and sabotages independent Black institutions, extracts and suppresses resources in Black communities including Black Wall Street, delegitimizes Blackness and co-opts anti-racist actions to serve white supremacy while monosexism invisiblizes bi+ men and diffuses collective power, withholds LGBT resources from bi+ people, delegitimizes male sexual fluidity and co-opts sexual liberation movements to serve white gay and straight men."

Also, Williams suggested that there are many ways Black bisexual men and their supporters can take action.

"Black bisexual men can organize, decolonize and heal themselves, commit to social entrepreneurship and social enterprise and convert others," said Williams. "Supporters/allies should learn about sexual fluidity across cultures and throughout history, challenge delegitimizing talk and behaviors, interrupt biphobic policy and procedures, channel funds to support Black bi+ men and support the self-determination of Black bi+ men."

In the coming weeks, Williams said he will be launching a crowdfunding campaign on social media to gain support for the financing of the next production phase of his film, No Homo|No Hetero.

Williams had attendees think of places in Chicago where they find social, cultural, and/or spiritual health. Then he asked how many of those places would be welcoming to Black bisexual men. The answer was not many of those places fit the bill.

In addition to Williams' talk, there were plenaries about improving bisexual health services and intersectionality and bisexual health equity as well as information about PrEP and a bringing the "B" back to LGBTQ youth services discussion.

See sacredsexualities.org/ and www.aidschicago.org/ for more information .


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