Hosts Jazz and Taz are back for their second event in the #BlackandGay series, this time taking place at MeWe’s The Parlour, 13 Soho Square. Here they explain more about their next meet up.
Hi Guys, for those who don’t know, in basic terms what is #BlackandGay?
J: #BlackandGay is an event to encourage the black gay community from all walks of life to come together. Celebrating and talking about the experience of life as a black gay man.
T: It is about a creating a safe space for the community to come together and share, each event in the series will have a different focus. The undercurrent is to create a community we can all be proud to be apart of.
Who are the team?
J: The event is organised and hosted by myself, Jazz Rocket, and Taofique Folarin, aka Taz (@jazzandtaz). We both belong to Impulse London where I am director of operations & Taz is the director of events.
T: The team totals five directors and we have the support from the wider team. We also welcome new volunteers, so if anyone out there is interested don’t hesitate to get in touch. Impulse London belongs to Impulse Group, which contains 18 cities worldwide. Basically a volunteer group of gay men around the world working in collaboration with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). We promote healthier sexual lifestyles and raise awareness for mental health among gay men, through campaigns, events and online content.
This is your second #BlackandGay event – how did the first one go?
J: The first event was created as a result of a conversation that we had and this follow up really is due to the amazing response we received from those who attended the first. The community made it clear that it was something that they wanted and need. We didn’t know how the first event would take shape or if anyone would come, but it did and we sold out the 100 tickets within a month.
T: The reaction from the community has been great, and the response from publications supporting us has also been amazing. We learnt so much at our first event, which featured a discussion panel of four very inspirational and highly commended black gay men. This time we are giving it a new flavour and a new setup. We have a different location and the setting will be informal, so attendants can come, kick back and chat.
Are there any specific mental health issue that LGBT+ people of colour face that you will address at #BlackandGay?
T: Specifically we want to draw focus on coping mechanisms to alleviate depression and anxiety; it will be an open conversation, so it can be taken in any direction. Highlighting suicide rates and the experience of black gay men on accessing mental health services. That said, we are going to be celebrating black gay culture too, drawing a connection to knowing our black gay history in order to truly love oneself, live authentically and become better equipped at those times of doubt. I am a strong believer that a lot of the gay shame that we carry around with us is the cause of many mental health issues. If we can come together and highlight the joys and achievements of each other we stand a much better chance untied.
J: Research constantly shows that young African and Caribbean men are more likely to face negative experiences when using mental health services, which means they have poorer mental health as a result. We want to know our attendees’ experiences so as a community we can begin to shed the stigma behind mental health.
Racism on the LGBT+ scene is uncomfortable for some people to even admit happens, why do you think that is?
T: Well, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable because it is a fact and it happens. If people feel uncomfortable and are not happy to speak on it and address it when they witness it, then they are a part of the problem. There are many more positive things that happen for black gay men and minorities in general and it’s those things that we want to bring attention to.
Can you please give us an example of racism that you have encountered in a gay venue?
T: There are many times that I could choose from, however I don’t feel these examples are imperative to the #BlackandGay narrative which we are trying to promote. The gay community knows that racism happens and if they are unaware of the jewels we hold then they should drop into one of our events. Our events are not exclusively for black and gay men; all are welcome to join conversation. We are choosing not to dwell on the prejudice of some people with the community, or in fact wider world.
What will actually happen at this second event on 21 June?
J: This is time round we want it to be more of a chilled affair, something reminiscent of being at home in the kitchen speaking your mind with friends. We’re not having a panel, there will be food and some drinks provided, and we’ll be talking about topics that we have on our mind. The last event focused on sexual health and this time round we’re bringing forth the conversation on mental health and black arts.
You are making a donation to the Windrush Foundation too…
T: We both have Jamaican heritage and I was appalled at the recent handling of the Windrush generation by the government. A community of people that helped rebuild a war-torn Great Britain should not have been treated like that. As a black gay man I am still very much connected to my Jamaican culture as I am sure many are, though culturally there are many things that separate the gay black man from their Jamaican culture, such as the homophobia found in the country. However, we wanted to show our solidarity with those that have been affected.
J: There’s amazing work being done and we wanted to stand alongside them and help in whichever way we could. The first £15,000 raised will fund legal assistance, including a helpline by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants for those affected by these rules. Since the government removed legal aid from most immigration cases, donations are needed.
What would you like people to get from this event?
T: The event is about sharing and learning from each other, so I hope people leave with new insights that can help them on their individual paths. We want to encourage conversation, communication and nurture growth. If people leave with new friends and new contacts then I will be a very happy Taz.
J: My thoughts echo Taz’s but I’d like to make a personal plea to any young black gay man that may not have a social circle or have an insight to his fellow brethren to come along. This is for you. We work to reach a new generation of gay men who live in a modern and rapidly evolving world.