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IGNITING THE POWER OF BLACK SAME GENDER LOVE

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SUMMARY: FILM SCREENING | PIER KIDS: The Life


Posing the question, “As SGL Black men, do we bear any responsibility to SGL/LGBT Black youth who have been discarded by their families and by society?”, The Gatekeepers Collective welcomed filmmaker, Elegance Bratton who screened excerpts from his film, PIER KIDS: The Life.

Bratton characterizes the experience he depicts in the film as the “perils of invisibility.” Attendees began responding:

“If you have an opportunity to impact a youth, even with just some words of encouragement, then [you should]…”

Facilitator says, “The thing is, whether or not any of us have ever parented, or wanted to parent, these youth are our children, and [talking to the youth present] our baby brothers and sisters, and, if we don’t take up the responsibility to help them, no one will…that said, the reason we’ve invited Elegance to share this important film is as an opportunity to take up the consideration…

If we wanted to, how might we help to bring ‘throwaway’ Black SGL, gay, bi, lesbian and Trans youth out of invisibility, and provide them adequate support and encouragement…a platform and resources by which to become as powerful as they can be?”

Bratton responds, “The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) program is the main hope of many of these young people…If you get the virus and get sick enough, you can be on a fast track to find housing [and other support services]…[One of the characters in the film] told me one day… ‘Every day I think to myself, why don’t I just get HIV?’…The infrastructure of hope is built around pathology and disease…”

“They’re trying to get AIDS?”

“That’s crazy…”

“It’s called 'bug chasing'…”

Facilitator says, “Yes, precisely…The circumstances under which our children are living is crazy…The choices with which they are faced are crazy…And, that we are not aware of, or engaged in efforts to support them is crazy…which is why we’re taking up this conversation…”

Talking about the value of the social sciences as tools for healing and empowerment, Bratton shares with the group that he intends to use income generated from his work to start “The Pier Kids Foundation…” He asks, “Imagine you’re the son of a crack-head who never said, ‘Did you do your homework?’…” He mentions that he has frequently urged these young people that “the most valuable thing they have [may be] their stories…”

A participant mentions, “The Jericho Project owns a new building in Brooklyn…some apartments are for vets and others are for youth who age-out of [the] foster care [system]…”

Bratton responds, “We need to figure out how we can do our own Jericho Project…There are 400,000 homeless youth, 60% of whom are LGBT, and 60% of those are Black and Brown…Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were the first ones to stand up to the cops during the Stonewall rebellion…a lot of the Pier Kids are the children of Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera…”

“We need to buy houses…”

“We have our internal class issues [which we must take into account if we would hope to intervene in the lives of the Pier Kids effectively]…The way these young people talk and act, it’s very hard [for many of us] to identify with them…and they also don’t look very homeless, they way they dress…As we strategize to attempt to help them, it is important that we get the right people to help them deal with all the mental and spiritual brokenness they’re navigating…”

Facilitator says, “They are very proud, and part of their armor is their dress and their adornments, and their defensiveness [lest anyone ‘come for them’]…If they can help it, they will not provide opportunities for anyone to demean or belittle them…”

“Let’s not forget that when these kids are operating out of desperation, a lot of older men are preying on them, including some of the [Ball Community] Houses, which are operating as bordellos where everybody is for sale…”

“This is a marathon, not a sprint…”

Bratton urges, “When you’re watching porn, marveling at the shape of one of the asses, trust and believe, that’s a pier kid who someone threw away…I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch porn, but [as a matter of perspective], it’s something to be aware of…”

“How has the pier changed from the time you were a youth out there, to now?...”

Bratton responds, “Marsha P. Johnson claimed Silvia Rivera, who died on the pier, as her gay daughter [as an homage]…The summer before Stonewall, a White guy went down to the pier and had sex with a Black guy…A White cop in plain clothes shot and killed both of them…The Mattachine Society took up the murder of the White guy…No one took up the murder of the Black guy…There’s no Gay Rights Movement without Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson…They are your gay parents…[Today] there’s a curfew on the pier [as efforts are made to further marginalize and erase the Pier Kids]…”

“We have to find ways to help the young Brothers and Sisters out there…”

“We always think we have to fix what is wrong when, if we would just listen sometimes…Just ask them, ‘What do you think?’…The answer is standing right in front of us…”


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