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Articles of Faith: Sewing a Quilt of
Black Gay and Spiritual Pride
book of Proverbs tells us that "Pride goeth before a fall." In the case
of Black Gay Pride celebrations, Pride will go on before the fall and throughout
the fall, from July through October, as thousands of African-American lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people come together in cities across
the country to celebrate their lives. The celebrations will allow black
people to pull together the strands of their identities, to sew the patches
of race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality into one beautiful quilt.
But there must be another piece for this glorious Quilt of Blackness
to be complete. Throughout history, black people have found tremendous
strength in communities of faith. And yet those communities of faith have
sometimes been the first to reject their LGBT children.
And so, in addition to celebrating Black Gay Pride, we must also learn
to celebrate Black Gay and Spiritual Pride. In order for the Quilt of
Blackness to truly cover the feet of our community, it must be sewn together
with the Quilt of Faith.
I went to a conference in Chicago from June 23-25 called Soul's
Afire 2: Re-Imagining Black Religious Identity that gave me a foretaste
of the kingdom (or kin-dom) to come, where the different strands of my
identity as a black same-gender-loving man of faith could be brought together.
It represented the "already but not yet" of the coming time of justice
and equality for my LGBT brothers and sisters. Each attendee at Souls
Afire luxuriated in the richness of their religious and sexual experience,
contributing texture, color, brilliance and the woven complexity of living
authentic black gay and religious lives.
Pastors, elders, bishops, theologians, academics, musicologists and
social activists all participated, shared and enriched the experience.
This was in no way a reflection of stereotypes about queer communities
as anathema to faith. This was not a group of "godless gays." This was
out and proud LGBT people of color fully engaged and embracing faith as
foundational to their lives. This was liberation theology, womanist theology,
social gospel, social justice, civil rights and inclusivity: "God is Still
Speaking" in the flesh.
We were reminded of the equivocal nature of religion to bind, constrain,
restrict or to set free. The opening speaker, the Rev. Dr. Lynice Pinkard
of First Congregational UCC in Oakland, told us that "liberation is dissent."
In every movement for freedom, the status quo has had to be broken in
order for a new, liberative expression of life to emerge. She encouraged
us to be willing to break through these hard places, to leave behind binding
standards of normative behavior in order that others who come after us
will have a path to follow.
Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder and pastor of City of Refuge UCC in Oakland,
exhorted us to embrace that "we have been called out of eternity into
this time to do a specific work and to celebrate the prophetic call upon
our lives." She told us that an amazing opportunity is being realized
in our presence. The great social movements of previous centuries changed
society in amazing and unforeseen ways, and we are now involved in such
a social movement for positive change. The benefits of this push toward
greater justice are not always evident to us while we struggle, but there
will be benefits. Among these potential benefits for the LGBT community,
and the black community as a whole, are stronger family structures, a
healthier population, increasing economic equality, more children in loving
homes, and people realizing their full creative potential without fear
of rejection because of who they love.
Maurice Charles, an Episcopal priest and doctoral candidate at the University
of Chicago Divinity School, advised us to "Live to resist." Resist every
force that seeks to dissuade us from voicing our desires and dissatisfactions.
Resist the urge to be silent. Resist the safety of living quietly in alcoves
of apathy and complacency. Resist the labels foisted upon us by those
opposing progress. Resist and re-imagine. Ours is a mandate to grow. While
we are fully aware of the rich soil we grow out of, we must push our shoots
out of the soil toward warm sunlight of this new day.
Liberation is dissent. Celebrate the prophetic call. Live to resist.
These were among the messages worked into the quilt of Black Gay and Spiritual
Pride during Souls Afire. But there are more pieces to be sewn in. The
beauty of a quilt is not to be found in monochromatic color, nor in homogeneity
of material, but rather in the artful piecing together of various bits
of cloth, each with its distinction and color. So it is with the Quilt
of Blackness and the Quilt of Faith; distinctions abound, yet the skillful
sewing of these two aspects will reveal our beauty in all of its fullness.
Now is the time to pick up your needle and thread and begin the work.
Rev. Cedric Harmon, a member of the National Religious Leadership
Roundtable, is ordained in the National Missionary Baptist Church and
is director of religious outreach for Americans
United for Separation of Church and State. He lives in Washington,
in 1998, the National
Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force is an interfaith collaboration of more than forty denominations
and faith-related organizations. The Roundtable seeks to reframe the public
religious dialogue on issues involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) community by amplifying the voices of LGBT-affirming
people of faith, countering religious voices of bigotry and intolerance,
and working to advance full equality for all.
Copyright © by the author
All Rights Reserved
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