As we commemorate World AIDS Day 2015 and recognize both the triumphs and challenges of our present moment, we also acknowledge the impact of HIV in the lives of black gay men. We offer in love some ideas in the spirit of carving out a path forward, to inspire an asset-based framework and programmatic and advocacy strategies, designed around our collective dreams and our most sacred spaces. Such proposals seek not to minimize or ignore the pervasive structural violence that shape our social realities. Rather, we seek to recognize the complexity of our experiences, which must encompass both our struggles, and our joys.

Nostalgia Need Not Be Propaganda

We continue to uphold the value of collective memory and movement history. We recognize the incredible tradition of black gay men whose legacies we hold and shoulders we stand upon, particularly black gay men in the South. Though many of their names and contributions have been erased from the more official AIDS movement history, we speak their names in our hearts and we speak their names in our work.

The Critical Present

We acknowledge that World AIDS Day is not only a call to commemorate but also a call to action. This means continuing the on-going fight to ensure health care access for HIV prevention and treatment, insisting upon culturally competent health care providers, community education around and the availability of PrEP, and an end to HIV stigma, criminalization, and other forms of structural violence that serve as barriers to HIV prevention and treatment for our communities. We must also fight the systems that seek to make the lives and deaths of black gay men invisible.

Freedom Is Our Future

As we imagine a path forward, Counter Narrative would like to offer the following considerations:

(1) Programmatic and advocacy strategies that recognize the role of trauma in the lives of black gay men

(2) Coalitions working to end criminalization that are intersectional. Strengthening efforts to integrate racial justice more robustly into HIV decriminalization efforts. And a greater consideration of HIV criminalization in the wider black anti-criminalization movement.

(3) Intergenerational spaces and community-building for black gay men

(4) Cultural competence training that acknowledges an actual black gay history and culture

(5) Research, advocacy and programming addressing the needs of black gay men around aging.

(6) An investment in black gay artists and cultural workers from the HIV realm.

(7) Greater visibility of black gay men in the South, and greater investment in the development of spaces to support community building and engagement

Taken together these proposals are only a step forward, but a necessary step. It’s not sufficient to merely “reach” black gay men, we must invest, we must build, we must inspire.