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National conference supports Black LGBT

By// Julius Rea

The National Black Justice Coalition — an organization advocating for Black LGBT people — is holding its annual “OUT on the Hill” leadership summit in Washington, D.C. for four days, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 19. Attendees — comprised of Black LGBT leaders, activists and allies — will organize and discuss strategies to educate the Capitol about Black LGBT policy concerns. Earlier this year, LZ Granderson of CNN and ESPN was named National Chair for the event. NBJC executive director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks responded to some of JET’s questions via email about the group.

JET: Is there a history of homophobia in the Black community?

SHARON LETTMAN-HICKS: There is a history of homophobia in all communities. The Black community is not monolithically homophobic, nor is it the only community that has homophobic people. In fact, polling of African-Americans shows that —when it comes to issues of violence — more than 50 percent feel that it’s a very big problem for gay and lesbian people.

Historically, the church has played a significant role in shaping people’s beliefs against LGBT equality, but we’re seeing more and more welcoming and affirming faith leaders speak out in support of their LGBT congregants.

JET: Has President Obama’s stance on gay marriage helped boost support for the LGBT community? Has support increased in the Black community?

LETTMAN-HICKS: Black LGBT people are part of the Black family and we’re not going anywhere. It was an honor to witness our President take such a strong stand in support of gay and lesbian couples across the country.  I’m proud that — at a time when there is so much anxiety over the advancement of LGBT equality — our president would exude courageous leadership to recognize that there is nothing more important than human dignity.

Since the President’s endorsement of marriage equality more and more Black public figures, celebrities and organizations — from Jay Z to the NAACP — have come out in support of loving gay and lesbian couples being able to get married. Our community is at a tipping point.

JET: Is the Black LGBT community becoming a stronger political force? How so?

LETTMAN-HICKS: Black LGBT people are owning their power and mobilizing at gatherings like “OUT on the Hill.” Just look at the inspiring line-up of events at this year’s summit. We have a Black LGBT Leaders Day at the White House and a day where we educate our Members of Congress on Black LGBT policy concerns. We will also have a strong presence at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference, where a panel of Black LGBT media experts will examine how the LGBT equality movement has affected Black America and the media landscape.

At NBJC, we’re about building informed and empowered Black LGBT leadership that will unapologetically declare, “We are Black, too!” Our Black LGBT brothers and sisters are claiming their seat at the table and advocating on behalf of stronger Black families.

To find out more about the NBJC and OUT on the Hill, visit their website.