With this particular campaign, the THT is not pushing the health message up front.
And it is neither targeting those black gay men who have assimilated onto the gay
scene, nor those large numbers of straight Black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans at
risk from HIV (in 2001, 50% of new HIV infections in the UK were among heterosexuals,
and 71% of those were Black Africans).
Rather - through posters and postcards in public places - it is trying to help
the numerous black gay or bisexual men whose closeting puts them at risk, by making
them feel better about themselves, and indirectly - though Nelson says it will take
centuries to undo the work of the Church - by reducing the black community's
"The annual Black Gay Community Awards acknowledges the existence of black gay
people and recognises the struggle being black and gay represents in our society,"
says Nelson. "The Terrence Higgins Trust will use the Awards this year to launch our
Black Gay Equality Campaign - the first mass media campaign to target black heterosexuals
with a clear message that not every black person is straight. Indirectly it sends out
a message that homophobia is not acceptable."
So the Awards and THT Campaign are an antidote to the MOBOs?
"I think the MOBOs and all music awards should mirror our campaign," says Nelson,
"and show that no forms of hatred have a place in our society. And" - he teases -
"it is a shame that it takes events like the release of homophobic lyrics by black
artists before the gay press gives coverage to black issues."
But what do the black press think about gay issues I wondered?
Jesse Quinones, The Voice
"Black culture definitely has a harder time accepting homosexuality," says Jesse
Quinones, journalist on The Voice, the national newspaper of the black community.
"A lot of it has to do with the commonly held ideas amongst many black people of
what the man's role is in society. For many the man is seen as the one that
brings home the money. He is the provider, a figure of power, the one who has a
seed to spread and who gives his children a second name."
"In white cultures the roles of man and woman are defined but to a much lesser degree"
says Quinones. "There is more of a balance. In the black communities the roles are
very clear. A lot of it can be attributed to poverty. When you are struggling
for money you start to paint very clear lines as to where everyone's place is.
And so if you get out of place - by announcing you are gay - it is bold."
"And for many Black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, especially in this country," he
continues, "tradition is all they have. So for a black man, or even a black woman,
to announce that they are gay, for them to leave their role technically 'unfulfilled',
is considered a loss, a failure and a waste."
Says Quinones, endorsing the THT's Equality Campaign approach: "I think a big issue
in being black and gay is self-acceptance and expression. Because of the added difficulty
in being black and gay, they find it harder to accept themselves for who they are.
Many black men never accomplish this and end up in relationships, even marriages,
and are never able to honour that part of themselves."
Ah, a self-loathing breeding-ground of gay hate, an external projection of inner seething.
"And for the ones that do eventually accept this side of them, many find it harder
to express themselves: amongst black gay men things like holding hands or kissing
in public are rarer," says Quinones who fears that - unfortunately - in many cases,
that might prove prudent since black queers are the biggest victims of homophobic
violence - many attacks being both racist and homophobic.
So can black queers seek sanctuary on the gay scene?
"Black gay men do encounter racism in the gay community very similar to black men
in the heterosexual community," asserts Quinones of stereotypes and prejudice and
a responsibility the gay scene has yet to face. "It's interesting to note that many
black gay men want white partners for the same reasons that black straight men do:
because they see it almost as a prize. And many gay white men - or those I've met -
hold equally stereotypical views of black men: that they have huge dicks and fuck
Asante UK serves the UK's black gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community
and has details of support groups. Terrence Higgins Trust's
Chatblack is a useful resource too, including information
about the THT's forthcoming Black Gay Equality Campaign.