By Marie Carrie Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“What is it about the GAY that makes you treat us this way”- Jonathan Spikes, school board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood and City Commissioner (and State Representative hopeful) Bobby DuBose took a bold and courageous step by hosting the LGBTQ Hear Our Cry forum on April 14 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC).
This program was the first of its kind for the Black Fort Lauderdale community. Long known as a taboo subject, Os-good and DuBose decided it was time to break the silence on an issue that is plaguing our youth, schools, families, neighbor-hoods and yes even our churches!
“I apologize on behalf of the church for all of our judgmental ways and attitudes. That we don’t show you the support that you need,” Dr. Osgood stated in her closing prayer and plea to the participants. As an ordained minister, her words had a definite and heartfelt impact.
“Out of everything that was said and shared tonight, those words at the end by Dr. Osgood touched me the most,” says Dr. Mark Strauss, School Performance and Accountability Director for Broward County Public Schools (BCPS).
As members of the audience (gay and straight alike) held hands, Dr. Osgood, speaking for her heterosexual peers, went on to say, “Every time that you reached out to us and we rejected you, I want to apologize to you tonight and I want to ask you to forgive us. Have patience with us. We want to love you, but we don’t necessarily know how.”
That’s what Monday’s program was about: Learning how to love a community and culture so different and yet so much like our own.
At the conclusion of introductory and welcome remarks by the event’s hosts, the audience was treated to special comments by several school board members and BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Immediately following, there was a twenty minute video segment produced by BCPS. The video illuminated the struggles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth face in public schools.
Jonathan Spikes, author of the book I Know What I Am And I’m Not What You Call Me took the stage armed with a sword sharpened and ready for battle: his tongue!
Spikes captivated everyone’s attention as he shared his own journey out of the closet and into the light. “I was called a sissy, a fa**ot and a punk so much that when I looked into the mirror, a sissy, a faggot, and a punk was all that I saw.”
He went on to share how his own “sin-filled” relatives decided to hold an intervention when he was a youth. “My absent-out-of-my-life- alcoholic father and my drug-addicted mother and my pastor who was stealing money out of the church and my brother who was a gambler and my auntie who had two abortions and my sister who had five children from six different men (you do the math) and my uncle the womanizer who beat his wife, all gathered around me to pray the gay away.”
(Clearly unsuccessful, Spikes went on to struggle with his relationship with God. “Do you know how it feels to be the one that your family hates? Imagine what it’s like to go to a place of refuge, where they say God is love and we all fall short and that we all are sinners. Only to find out that every sin and spirit is loved and accepted and forgiven accept yours.”
Never being one to give up, Spikes continued to draw closer to God and to scripture until finally he reached this profound understanding, “God said, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. So if God knew me be-fore I was born. If he felt there was anything lacking or wrong with me, he had every opportunity to change it. And since he didn’t….I am GAY and I am proud!”
Despite the electrifying words of Jonathan Spikes and the informative nature of the BCPS video, it was the personal testimonies of the LGBTQ panel members that touched the heart of every audience member.
Christina Emmanual, employee with SunServe (a social service and mental health agency serving the LGBTQ community in South Florida) shared how she wore a mask throughout high school. She was an overachiever who appeared to have everything together. It wasn’t until her junior year that she realized who she was and the secret she would have to keep.
Finally after almost flunking out of college she acknowledged, “This weight of living a lie is so, so, so tough on my heart.” She ultimately survived a severe depression and found the strength to come out to her family because of her relationship with God.”
“Even though I felt like if I came out everything would be considered wrong by my family and by my friends, I never honestly felt that way with how God would see it.”
Another employee of Sun-Serve, Richard Forbes, also struggled with his decision to ultimately live in his truth. As the product of a strong West-Indian family, homosexuality was severely looked down upon in his culture.
Forbes shared his battles with suicide as a solution to the turmoil that plagued him throughout adolescence and early adulthood. “I’ve thought about suicide, have you?” This simple question pierced the soul of everyone in attendance.
Dr. Osgood and Commissioner DuBose should be com-mended for bringing a relevant and timely issue to the forefront of the Black community. Up and coming hip hop artist Nicky Monroe said it best. “I feel like this was something that was well needed for the younger community.”
Regardless of what side of the issue you fall on, you can’t deny that this is an important issue facing our community. None of us wants to witness the senseless death or suicide of another Black youth… regardless of the circumstances.