#ExpressLove: Johnnie Ray Kornegay III's Address During the Amex Atlanta Pride Kick Off Event

"My name is Johnnie Ray Kornegay III, and I am the Network and Mobilization Director for The Counter Narrative Project. I’m happy to be here tonight to celebrate Pride and the local LGBTQ community with the help of American Express. As Pride kicks off, we are honored to be working alongside Amex, a company that has long stood behind the LGBTQ community, to raise awareness and funding for those who need it most.

My sincere thanks for your continued support of our work.

I stand here in the rich tradition of Marlon Riggs, Essex Hemphill, Joseph Beam, Assotto Saint, Tony Daniels and so many other Black gay men who stood before crowds, made films and wrote poems that proclaimed “We are here!” I’m struck and emboldened by the fact that we continue to need to say it. I stood here last year, and I said “Our work can not be done alone. While we are committed to advocating around issues impacting black gay men, we are equally committed to working in allyship with the broader LGBTQ rights and racial justice movements.”

So as we stand here, and we #ExpressLove with one another, remember that my grandparents once stood here, my great grandparents once stood here, my great great grandparents once stood here, so that I could have the freedom to stand in front of you and scream out again, In the words of Tony Daniels, that “WE ARE HERE!”

“We are proud black gay men standing tall with our heads held high.”

I challenge all of us to meet someone new tonight. I challenge all of us to empathize and really see someone new tonight. It’s all of our work to fight racism and the oppression of our most vulnerable. It’s all of our work to fight the criminalization of people living with HIV. It’s all of our work to interrupt the school to prison and the school to clinic pipelines to ensure that Black LGBTQ children aren’t disproportionately penalized for being Black LGBTQ children.

Once we leave here tonight, every moment, hour, day, month and year we need to #ExpressLove with every breath that we breathe. If not our children will one day stand here screaming that “We Are STILL Here.”

Essex Hemphill said:

“I’m not concerned

about the attire of a soldier.

All I want to know

for my own protection

is are we capable

of whatever

whenever.”

Once again thank you to American Express for your support, and thanks to all of you for being here! You can follow our work on Twitter @buildingdesire and @thecounternarrative everywhere else."

Images From The Event