On Saturday, July 16, the Black Men's Xchange National, a forum for Black men to safely discuss issues that impact their lives, joined forces with the National Action Network and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement for the "I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity in the Black Community" forum in Harlem, New York.
The multimedia event featured film and video footage, live performances, a panel discussion and community dialogue. The panel consisted of National Action Network's president, Rev. Al Sharpton, "Our World with Black Enterprise" television host, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Black Men's Xchange National founder, Cleo Manago, activist and scholar, Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis, radio host Esther Armah and Bishop John L. Selders, Jr.
“I AM A MAN” sparked a lively conversation about how rigid constructs of masculinity and Black manhood can be confining and divisive. The event was "an affirmation of the common struggle of Black men, and a call for the inclusion of the SGL [same gender loving] men..." The term “same gender loving” emerged in the early 90s to offer Black women who love women and Black men who love men a way of identifying that resonated with the uniqueness of Black life and culture.
"There is absolutely a need to have this discussion," said Reverend Sharpton, who presented hip hop legend Russell Simmons with the Excellence in Media Award at the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year.
Black Men's Xchange-NY co-founder, John-Martin Green insisted, "This human rights struggle - for diverse Black men to be fully present, respectfully representing our range - can only be won as we muster our courage as a community to face our fears and end misunderstandings that produce unhealthy behaviors and division among us."
Black Men’s Xchange is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to promoting healthy self-concept and behavior, cultural affirmation and critical consciousness among same gender loving, gay-identifying and bisexual African-descended males and allies.