For the 19th year, NAESM, Inc. will host its annual National African American Leadership Conference on Health Disparities and Social Justice from June 7 to 11 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. The theme of this year’s conference will be “All Hands-on Deck: Deploying a Syndemic Response to HIV.”
The conference will include numerous workshops facilitated by presenters from 20 cities across fifteen states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.
“It’s the oldest conference for Black gay men,” Doug Anthony, conference meeting planner, told Georgia Voice. “It’s a conference for Black gay men, by Black gay men.”
Anthony added that the target audience is Black gay, bisexual, queer, same-gender loving, and trans men. The aim of the conference is congruent with NAESM’s mission to provide national and local leadership to address the myriad of health and wellness issues confronted by Black gay men through advocacy, services, and education. Additionally, the conference celebrates national brotherhood where Black gay men and allies convene not only to address health inequities, but also to share the same space at the same time in the spirit of love and unity.
From a social justice perspective, Anthony said that the community must be continually steadfast in the pursuit of social justice and nurture advocates who can help lobby for and craft policies to help address these disparities. Disparities which, Anthony said, Black LGBTQ men face today through challenges such as access to health care and treatment for HIV.
“Each year, under the leadership of Executive Director Alvan Quamina, NAESM sets a conference agenda with a theme to encourage provocative and enlightening discussions with a holistic approach in combating the HIV epidemic and other health disparities” Anthony said. “The conference is all-encompassing of a holistic view of how we deal with HIV and health disparities, and on the same token … finding solutions and being lobby in the social justice realm.”
The non-profit that founded the conference, NAESM, Inc., also has a long history of advocating for Black men in the LGBTQ community. It was founded in order to address the health disparities that Black gay men were facing during the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s. According to its website, the organization “envisions a Black gay men’s community that enjoys legal, civic, social, health and wellness equity with all other communities.”
Reflecting on the long history of the conference, Anthony said that the achievement he is most proud of coming out of the event is the Creating Responsible Intelligent Black Brothers Fellowship Program, commonly referred to as CRIBB. The yearlong fellowship is a leadership development course for 10 or more Black gay or bisexual men (ages 19–30) who are selected to participate. The aim of the fellowship program is to “provide Black gay and bisexual men with leadership training and mentoring support that will strengthen their capacity to contribute to local and national efforts in reducing and ending the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, other health disparities, and social injustices, impacting Black communities,” according to the NAESM website.
Anthony said he’s also proud of the CRIBB program because it gives purpose to why we need our young Black gay and bisexual men to continue the work that others have fought for the right to be heard and seen to bring about change legislatively for access to health care and treatment.
“When you can harness the talent of Black gay youth and groom them into becoming competent advocates of the community to lobby on behalf of Black gay, bisexual, same-gender-loving and trans men, that is the beauty of it, because you see the effort of the Fellowship in the Black gay youth leaders of today,” Anthony said.
Along with focusing on important issues such as the HIV epidemic and health disparities faced by Black LGBTQ men, Anthony says the conference will also incorporate a celebration for Pride Month. Atlanta’s Pride festivals usually take place in September and October, so NAESM will be hosting a Pride block party on June 9 to celebrate the month. The party is open to the public and will take place at the Loudermilk Conference Center from 4pm to 9.