According to a study done by Northwestern University, Black queer men reported the highest levels of racial and ethnic stigma in LGBTQ spaces. That’s why, for the last four decades, the National Association for Black and White Men Together (NABWMT) has been combating racism within the LGBTQ community through education and connection. This year, NABWMT is hosting its 42nd annual conference in Atlanta.
The event, which will be held at the Atlanta Airport Hilton from July 26 to 29, will tackle racial issues and foster community while raising funds for scholarships and other work NABWMT does.
“A woman came to me once, and she was in tears,” Nat Martin, the co-chair on the conventions planning committee and a member of People of All Colors Together (PACT), Atlanta’s chapter of the national association, told Georgia Voice. “And she says, ‘Oh my gosh, I realized I’m a racist!’ And I say, ‘Yes, ma’am, that may be true, but that’s not all you are. You can change.”
It is that humanity that is at the center of NABWMT and the convention. While the conference will be educational, with keynote speeches and caucuses, it also promises to be a fun and social opportunity for people to learn from one another through empathy and togetherness. The docket includes a red-carpet event, a talent show with drag performances, and a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
“It’s like a family reunion type [of event],” Herman Sivells, another member of the conference committee and PACT, said. “A lot of the guys [have known each other] for years. I’ve known Nat for about 30 years now … A lot of the guys view it as kind of a vacation, a family vacation, where you know the people and you just see them once a year and get to enjoy yourself.”
Despite what the name may suggest, the conference will extend beyond gay men. Trans issues will be the topic of many discussions, and speakers include trans HIV advocate Tori Cooper and Monica Kaufman Pearson, the first woman and first nonwhite person to anchor the daily evening news in Atlanta.
That’s because NABWMT is dedicated to change on all fronts, from racism and homophobia to sexism and transphobia — change which Martin and Sivells say will take both work and time.
“One of the members in our local organization, he has a son or grandson who would ask him, ‘Why do you still need that? Because [interracial relationships are] pretty much accepted now, right?’” Sivells said. “But there are still a lot of problems.”
“I love Amazon because I can go on the computer, and I can say I want this thing and it’ll be here tomorrow,” Martin said. “Real life doesn’t happen that way. I tell people all the time, [we need] real change in real time. If I am awful to you for 10 years, and in the tenth year I say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’ve been a complete ass. I need to walk that back. I’m not going to be an ass anymore.’ And then for the next 10 years, you don’t tell me about what a jackass I was and what sort of things I did that made me [a jackass], 10 years down the road nothing’s changed. I think that’s the real problem in the United States … We want change [at the snap of a finger]. It doesn’t happen like that.”
First-time attendees of the conference and people under the age of 35 receive discounted registration rates. To learn more and register for NABWMT’s 42nd annual conference, visit nabwmt.org.