Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus held its first full-scale fundraiser, and launched an awards tradition on June 4.
The event, entitled A Spring Fling, featured a full brunch buffet, a raffle, live music and an art auction. Chicago Poet Laureate avery c. Young was in attendance, along with surprise guest Mayor Brandon Johnson. The event was held at Hangout Lighting at 450 W. Leavitt, with guests instructed that the event would be "in all white with a splash from the rainbow."
According to its website, "The Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus is the oldest and only organization in the city focused exclusively on improving the overall health and well being of Black gay, bisexual, and same-gender loving men."
After a relaxed reception, the awards giving began with a message from CBGMC president Keith Green, who said, "There is a larger LGBTQ Hall of Fame...but we wanted our own."
The inaugural Ben Montgomery Civic Award went to Ald. Lamont Robinson (4th Ward), whose prize was accepted by his mother Mary Robinson.
Robert Williams, the creator of the legendary Warehouse, was unable to present his namesake award, the Creative Visionary Award, to iconic choreographer, creator and founder Joel Hall of The Joel Hall Dance Company, who was in attendance.
Speaking on the current political climate which has seen an uptick in anti-gay and anti-trans laws nationwide, Hall said, "We have to look out constantly and make sure we are together. We have to make sure that we come together and look out for our young people, because they are our future. We must listen, engage, and not be afraid of them."
He added, "I'm in a political state, and it's not too cool. We went through this in the '70s and '80s, so we know how to do this. The next wave of people attacking us and running over us? ... We are not having it."
Hall closed by exclaiming, "I am a serious revolutionary bitch! Revolution is evolution!"
Award recipient Lora Branch spoke on the roots of her LGBTQ activism, which came from her family. She said, "When I was growing up, I felt I had to look after my little brother, who is here with us today. I told myself, 'I am my brother's keeper' and I've never forgotten that."
While presenting the first Sidney Thomas Health Advocacy Award, Sidney Howard said, "HIV is still here. Covid is still here. We need to be aware of the other things that are killing us...heart attacks, strokes, diabetes."
Award recipient Dr. Christopher Balthazer of Taskforce Prevention and Community Services said, "It takes a village to do the work that Taskforce does, and i want to thank my village."
Before the awards part of the afternoon concluded, Green presented awards to the founding members of the CBGMC including Allen Wright, Antonio King, Kevin Tindell, Michael O'Connor, Dana Powell, Dr. Simone Koehlinger, Craig Loftus, Michael Hunter, Charles Nelson, Thomas Sampson, Pastor Charles Straight and Ariq Cabbler.
Mayor Johnson then arrived and spoke about the city-wide perception of a lack of resources, which he felt was a fallacy.
He said, "I believe Chicago has more than enough for our communities, and no one group should have to do without." The mayor then met and spoke with well wishers for almost an hour.
The event closed with a dance party hosted by DJ Craig Loftus.
Sponsors of Spring Fling included Bariano Prosecco, Uncle Nearest Distillery and AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Pre-awards live music was provided by Erthe St. James, with brunch provided by celebrity chef D'Andre Miller.
For more information on The Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus go to ChicagoBlackGayMensCaucus.org .