Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast
Sitting at the high square table in the breakfast nook of my friends Cayetano and Jenny’s south Los Angeles home, my feet dangled a few inches above the floor as I contemplated the launch of Episode 23 of Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast, featuring Gamal ‘G’ Turawa, the founder and lead facilitator of England’s Purple Frogs Connections Ltd. As the United Kingdom’s first openly gay black London Metropolitan Police Service officer and the subject of director Cherish Oteka’s 2022 BAFTA-nominated British short film, The Black Cop, I listened one last time to my final edit of our interview.
As the creator and host of Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast, a platform for black LGBTQ+ citizens to “come together to inspire and educate each other on who we are in our respective countries and professions,” my goal is to showcase individuals sharing their journeys of self-discovery and acceptance in their professional and personal lives.
“…I wanted to go beyond think pieces aimed at educating non-blacks on the racist entanglements we black citizens experience in our daily lives.”
Sprouting in the early morning hours in mid-February 2021 during my time in Stockholm, Sweden, the idea for the podcast floated up during a night of dreamless sleep. Reaching across the bed in the small apartment I rented, I grabbed my iPad. Engulfed in the Scandinavian winter darkness, a current of ideas poured out of me as I wrote possible themes, title ideas, and a preliminary guest list.
As an American who’d been outside of the U.S. for over a year, I longed to know where other black LGBTQ+ citizens were in Europe. Throughout my years of international travel, I’d seen black people in every country I visited. However, I wanted to know more about black LGBTQ+ Europeans and where they lived and thrived.
Preliminary online searches yielded articles detailing the experiences of black gay men with dating apps. However, I wanted to go beyond think pieces aimed at educating non-blacks on the racist entanglements we black citizens experience in our daily lives. Samuel Girma, an Afro-Swedish film and art curator and activist, says it best in Episode 17. “I’m at the level of not anymore engaging with whiteness, in order to prove that we are human.” My interest lay in the stories of Europeans of African descent who celebrate their successes that journey beyond interactions mired in racial negativity.
The lives of black LGBTQ+ communities are rarely featured in mainstream black or LGBTQ+ media, despite our diversities crossing continents and borders. I hope that Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast helps to highlight more of them.
“Black LGBTQ+ communities lack well-rounded displays of positive imagery that encompass our professional and personal lives.”
Much has changed since I came out in 1998. Today, being an out gay man is less of a liability. And we’ve had films like Moonlight and the Logo television series Noah’s Arc. That being said, projects featuring black LGBTQ+ protagonists are still a rarity. Leaving us continuing to crave stories with those who look similar to us.
Cameron Johnson, an American screenwriter and producer, says in Episode 22 that “I think it’s important to sort of see images of, like love and passion and innocence between black men.” I believe that entertainment educates, simultaneously informing us of who we are and how we’re perceived. Black LGBTQ+ communities lack well-rounded displays of positive imagery that encompass our professional and personal lives. This concurrently creates the perception we don’t exist, don’t contribute to societies, and that we aren’t valued.
A September 2020 NBC News article states that “two in three Black Americans don’t feel they see their stories represented on-screen.” Since 2012, there have been several high-profile films on American slavery. But NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reminds us in his November 2019 The Hollywood Reporter article that this abundance of movies on the subject can overshadow African-Americans’ “many scientific innovations and inventions that transformed American society — from refrigeration to blood banks — get dismissed, diminished or ignored…”
We can say the same of projects centering on black LGBTQ+ communities, specifically black gay men. Throughout world history, there have been men who’ve had secret sexual and romantic male relationships. But the bounty of films, television projects and books about down-low men would suggest that most black men who have sex with men are in the closet and doing so while dating women. Thus, drowning out the accomplishments of openly gay activists, artists, doctors, lawyers, writers and other professionals.
There are individuals in various forms of media getting stories of black LGBTQ+ people out there. These include University of Illinois professor Kevin Mumford. His 2016 book titled, Not Straight, Not White, details the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s and how they’ve been on the front lines of civil rights, black power, gay liberation and AIDS activism movements. Some historical figures that Mumford references include Bayard Rustin, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.
Since Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast’s April 2021 inaugural episode, I’ve interviewed several women, each using their professional platforms to make positive contributions in their respective countries and communities. In Episode 9, Swedish consultant and educator Anna Adeniji talks about how she combines critical race and intersectionality studies and its usage in creating ethnic and racial diversity within civil society and the arts.
“I realized I could do some use out in the world and in organizations to help,” Anna says. “I mean, in Sweden, you have to start with why is it important to work on anti-racism? Most people say that they’re anti-racist. Or at least they say they are not racist. And by that, they mean ‘So, I don’t have to work with it.’
During my Episode 15 interview with Cameroonian entrepreneur and activist Bandy Kiki, she details the Cameroonian civil war that began in 2017. Bandy also opines the importance of blacks throughout the world connecting with African countries. She adds that “Africa is the center of blackness. And if people don’t respect Africans, people are never going to respect black people. Full stop.”
One of the enduring legacies of European colonialism and the transatlantic or Euro-American slave trade is that black citizens throughout the world experience racial trauma. Although we individually and collectively find tools to work through the adverse effects of racism, it’s also important to uplift and celebrate our gifts, our successes and our joys.
“Together Celebrating Our Global Community” is Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast’s tagline. Loving who we love is not a choice. However, being who we’re meant to be can be. And we can honor and uplift our voices and say, “You matter. You’re valued. And we hear you.”
New episodes of Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast upload biweekly. For news and updates, follow on Instagram @ourblackgaydiaspora and Twitter @blkgaydiaspora.