So many unforeseen events have happened this past year — from the onset of COVID-19 to an attempted insurrection — and we’ve seen communities come together at some of the best and worst times in history. Through it all, the LGBTQIA+ community has continued to demonstrate resilience against all odds. This past year, Black gay men have creatively carved out physical and digital spaces and communities in a world that continues to remind us that we shouldn’t exist.
Black gay men, like most LGBTQIA+ people of color, exist at intersections that include race, gender, and sexuality. While managing pre-existing experiences of racism, homophobia, and transphobia, navigating a pandemic continues to remain a challenge. For instance, COVID-19 only worsened existing inequities faced by Black gay men, such as medical mistrust and the potential to be fired from work or refused health services or housing opportunities due to a lack of state laws that protect us from discrimination. These challenges, in addition to state violence, such as police brutality, have continued to impact Black gay men’s, in addition to the Black community as a whole, mental health.
Black gay men, especially up-and-coming creatives on the ground, are rarely highlighted for the work that they are doing in their communities. This Pride Month, check out how these Black DC-based creatives are thriving through it all.
Jaleel Dyson – restorative justice advocate
Jaleel Dyson (he/him) is a Black queer educator and mental health advocate for Black boys. He believes in hands-on learning, early introduction to social-emotional learning for Black students, and restorative practices in education versus harsh disciplinary practices that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. He currently serves as the Restorative Justice Coordinator for a public middle school in Washington, DC. In addition, Jaleel is the Editor in Chief of Into BlackStyle, a digital magazine that celebrates Blackness via fashion, food, travel, music, and thoughts.
When asked how he continues to manage mental health while supporting students, Jaleel noted that the magazine provides the space as a creative outlet and fulfillment of things that make him happy. In addition to the outlet of the magazine, Jaleel continues to seek guidance from mental health professionals to manage his mental health needs. This Pride Month, Jaleel hopes that other Black queer men look to their passions to fulfill their lives and engage with mental health supports that they find valuable and appropriate for them.
Arthur Claude Ndoumbe – arts and media advocate
Arthur Claude Ndoumbe (he/him) is a Cameroonian-born creative based in Washington, DC. He currently serves as a Paraprofessional at an educational campus based in DC and has worked in this position for the past three years. Outside of education, Arthur supports a variety of artistic projects. These projects have included leading the creative vision of Into BlackStyle.
The pandemic also provided Arthur with a lot of time to reflect on his future goals and ideas. This period of reflection led him to pursue several goals around his dream job as a costume designer/ stylist. To that end, Arthur will be attending Parsons School of Design for an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Design this fall.
When asked how creative projects support his mental health, Arthur notes, “Creating things has always been an escape from the harshness of this world. Working on creative projects has allowed me to bring to life all the amazing ideas that I spend time daydreaming about.”
Arthur hopes that other Black gay men stop pandering to societal expectations of what Black men should look and sound like and take the time to live in their truth: “You only have one life, and you should live it for yourself.”
Alexander Pryor – diversity, equity, and inclusion advocate
Alexander Pryor (he/him) is a Black Korean artist and communications expert. He uses digital media to build community through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. Alex currently provides consulting services to various organizations that work on issues related to advocacy and youth engagement to networking for professionals of color.
Alexander hosts a portfolio of his past work and believes in the power that creatives have in ensuring that our world is more inclusive. When asked about the crossroads of media advocacy, LGBTQ rights, and mental health, Alex notes how there were challenges in finding empathetic healthcare professionals & accessible services as he entered adulthood. He shares that these needed to be secured in order to make progress not only professionally, but personally and politically as well. This year for Pride Month, Alex hopes that other Black gay men take time to reflect on what they truly want as opposed to solely absorbing what the world says they should want so can genuinely live in their truths.
Several outcomes from this past year have shifted our social, political, and economic landscape. Black gay men, and other members of the LGBTQ community, have adapted to this new world by reimagining what brings us joy. Whether you’re celebrating Pride virtually or in person, it’s important to remember what keeps you going and the resources to support your mental health. The creatives mentioned above remind us that there is always hope at the end of the tunnel. This Pride, consider exploring up-and-coming projects created and led by Black gay men.