Local Black gay and lesbian organizations are outraged that Uplift Chicago ( formerly the Expo For Today's Black Women ) features two anti-gay speakers, Bishop Eddie Long and Bishop Noel Jones.
On the second floor of City Hall on Friday, April 27, Black gay activists representing organizations such as Sankofa Way, Adodi Chicago, Affinity and others held a press conference, calling for action from the LGBT community and demanding that sponsors of Uplift Chicago denounce the anti-gay messages of these speakers.
'The City of Chicago is showcasing blatantly homophobic leaders,' Rev. Deborah Lake of Sankofa Way said. 'Bigotry should not be celebrated.'
Sankofa Way members and others expressed that hate messages from spiritual leaders, musicians and the corporate sponsorship of these messages, leads to violence, the spread of HIV/AIDS, a decline in education in the Black community and degradation of women.
Lake added that Sankofa Way and other Black LGBT organizations are not against Uplift Chicago, but are against the city celebrating speakers that bring hateful messages to the city.
That morning, Lake had received an e-mail from an individual from Nigeria, who shared stories of horrific anti-gay violence. 'This is what this kind of hate does to people's lives, specifically to Black people's lives, and it is being done by Black people—and that's what makes it double atrocious,' she said.
Black gay activist Max Smith said that it is incumbent on spiritual leaders to reach out to the LGBT community, not bring messages of hate. 'No African American minister should be about limiting civil liberties,' Smith added.
Long, of Georgia, led a 2004 march insisting gay marriage is the number one problem in Black America, and has been quoted as calling homosexuality and lesbianism 'spiritual abortions.'
Jones, of California, is known for traveling to Jamaica—the site of horrendous anti-gay violence and oppression—to urge people to resist pressure from gay activists to change the country's anti-gay laws, according to William Lockett of Sankofa Way.
Lake and others are urging sponsors of the event to make short statements in support of LGBT people and human rights. Sankofa Way has already met with event organizers, but said that no action will be taken unless the LGBT community vocalizes its opposition to the event inviting speakers such as Long and Jones.
They urge members and supporters of the LGBT community to contact the sponsors of Uplift Chicago, particularly primary sponsors ClearChannel and State Farm, and ask them to withdraw their sponsorship of Uplift Chicago until leaders stop inviting anti-gay speakers.
For more information see sankofaway.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .