The Chicago Department of Public Health and the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus hosted a Chicago LGBTQA Black history recognitions and awards event honoring luminaries in the community Feb. 23 at the South Side Community Art Center.
"This event is all about highlighting and focusing on LGBTQ Black individuals and allies who have contributed to the quality of life for Black folks," said Chicago Department of Public Health Public Administrator and LGBTQ health outreach liaison Antonio King. "Every year, Black History Month is celebrated but is focused on cisgender, heterosexual people. Not many people think of the accomplishments of the LGBTQ Black community so this is a night to lift those individuals up and celebrate everything they have done."
Ahead of the ceremony, King spoke about the importance of having this event at the South Side Community Art Center.
South Side Community Art Center Executive Director Masequa Myers noted the history of the venue going back to its founding 77 years ago through the WPA, one of the many initiatives started by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat the effects of the Great Depression. Myers explained then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was on hand for the dedication.
Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Executive Director Erik Glenn said the caucus was started to address the specific issues in that community, especially the HIV rates being recorded, and now the focus is on holistic health equity.
King, on behalf of the Chicago Department of Public Health presented LGBTQ affirming Lighthouse Church Pastor and activist Jamie Frazier; ally and West Point Baptist Church Pastor Bernard Jakes; poet, activist, spoken-word artist e. nina jay; LGBTQ youth activist and father of the ball scene's House of Mizrahi Kentrele Mizrahi; activist/Lavender Pop Greeting Cards creator and activist Otis Richardson and Brave Space Alliance Founder, community organizer and trans activist LaSaia Wade with recognition letters from Mayor Rahm Emanuel for their years of service.
A special memorial recognition letter from Emanuel was given in honor of the late LGBTQ activist Jackie Anderson. Accepting on her behalf was her grandson, Torrence "Doc" Gardner.
Glenn bestowed community awards to fundraiser/volunteer James DeLoach as well as HIV/AIDS activist and retired Cook County Health and Hospitals System administrator Sidney Thomas.
The special guestopenly bisexual Chicago hip-hop artist Taylor Bennettcongratulated the individuals who received recognitions and awards, and spoke about the positive changes he has seen over the years on the South Side regarding LGBTQ acceptance.
The evening also featured performances by jay, who read one of her poems; Nikki Patin, who read from one of her moving poems and sang a few songs; and exhibition art by Richardson, H.L. "Hana" Anderson, James "Jimmy" Collins and Liz Larue.
See chiblackgaycaucus.org/ and www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph.html for more information .