Thursday, December 8

How an Ohio Black Pride celebration & proclamation helped transform one Black Queer Ohioan

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Being a Black Queer man with a bit of mileage on my tires leaves me in a fairly unique position.

You see, I’ve been witness to many of both the monumental and not so great moments in our Queer Collective History since Stonewall in 1969. Not only that, I’ve also been around long enough to have witnessed and experienced the mishmash of attempts at what we’ve come to call DEI initiatives. At the time I was coming of age, it was called Affirmative Action: there were no committees and no training classes or reading lists assigned as a way to ease folx into the strange new world of Equality. It was baptism by fire. Justice and Equity were reserved for the court system and bank accounts.

I learned a great deal about myself and the world around me at that time. As teenagers, we were inundated with the messages of BLACK PRIDE, BLACK POWER and we how we were YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK. Honestly, I believe it’s what made it easy for me to come out. The messages of being proud and powerful were strong and consistent, especially from folx who looked like me. I brought that energy with me as I stepped out of the closet and have kept that tool handy as I have navigated the world over the past 45 years.

So, I was a bit uneasy coming into Pride season of 2022 when the feeling of Pride was barely perceptible. The exhilaration and excitement of past years was nowhere to be found and I wasn’t certain that it was retrievable. The two-year COVID-mandated break from Pride celebrations provided me with an opportunity to step back and do a little recalibration. I don’t think in the time that I’ve been out, I ever stopped for longer than a few weeks. This two-year extended hiatus afforded by the pandemic was both a curse and a blessing.

As I watched the country and those around me react to the killing of Black Folk, I couldn’t help but notice some cognitive dissonance between their words and actions. Trumpeting the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” so many expressed outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Ironically, those same folk were reluctant to address racism happening in their day-to-day lives. They refused to challenge racist comments because “it wasn’t a serious comment.” Or they patted themselves on the back for giving the perpetrators of racist comments “ The Look”: that look of parental disapproval that  may or may not have stopped us in our tracks when our parents turned that gaze on us when they disapproved of our behavior as children.

All the while, we have folx on Boards and DEI committees questioning the need for more BIPOC representation, while simultaneously expressing concerns the folx chosen would somehow be less qualified than their white counterparts.

Having started this work around the age of 14 in 1969, it was more than a little unsettling to hear verbatim the exact words I heard during similar discussions when I was a teenager. The fact that these words and actions were coming from other Queers has been disappointing. Unfortunately, it continues.

This was the framework with which I was entering Pride in 2022.

But then, Cincinnati Black Pride happened and for five days, I immersed myself in all things Black and Queer.

The Mayor of the City of Cincinnati (BIPOC) proclaimed Friday, June 17th as Cincinnati Black Pride Day. Our openly Black, Queer Councilmember Reggie Harris and ally Meeka Owner read the proclamation at the Kickoff Event.

Cincinnati Black Pride

Later that week at our Awards program, I had the opportunity to read the proclamation out loud for the attendees and awardees, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and wondering if this might be the same feeling the messengers had when they arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865.

As a Queer Black Man, I never imagined the day that this would happen. However, it did and we—both the Black Queer Community and larger community—are better for it.

Sometimes I wonder what my Black, Queer life would be like had these types of affirmations had taken place when I was a teenager or just coming out in my early 20’s. That is time gone so I’ll never know.

What I do know is that those affirmations are alive and well in 2022. This is all shade that I get to enjoy from trees that I and others planted over the years. That is a gift. However, the bigger, soul-stretching gift is to be able to look Young , Gifted and Black Queer folx in the eye and see the joy when they hear, “Your Black Life Matters.”

That’s my Pride for 2022 and beyond.🔥

About Author

Ron Clemons is a retired Social Worker, Educator and long time community activist based in CIncinnati. His passions are Photography, Writing and Story Telling. He considers himself a Grio.

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