Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



by Earnest Edward Hite

This article shared 4686 times since Tue Jul 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

This is the time we band together in pride. We attend parties and outdoor gatherings that call upon our every social skill. Many of us will dive headlong with little sense of history either nationally or on the local scene. So, I thought it would be appropriate to get a view from a long-time Chicago activist. In the following interview, Max Smith speaks about the struggles of the past and the move into our future as an under-valued, underrepresented, and marginalized group.

Earnest Edward Hite: Let's begin by having you tell a little bit about your work in Chicago.

Max Smith: I think the most important work is being out there in terms of meeting people, seeing people, and getting to know people and the issues in their everyday lives. On another level I think people should read as much as possible and I think that it is important to know what is going on.

EEH: What motivated you to become involved in the Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) community

MS: To specifically go to the Black LGBT community, an article that appeared in The Advocate announced the Third World Lesbian Gay Conference to be held at Howard University in October 1979. I had never been in such an event until that time so three friends and I decided to attend. This event was held in conjunction with the National Gay March on Washington. It was the first time that I had been in a room with Black LGBTs who were seriously considering political, social, cultural, civic issues. Until that time the majority of groups were social.

EEH: When you mentioned that Black LGBT people should 'read as much as possible' did you mean just knowledge about self or on a more broader spectrum?

MS: All of the above. We don't live in isolation. In 1980 the national mood shifted to the right. I think it was an ominous thing when the hard-core staunch pro- military (presidential candidate) Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination.

EEH: Why do you think the history of Black LGBTs is important for people to understand?

MS: In order to live well you must have a vision. In order to anticipate opportunities you have to know exactly what you want. You must name it before you can claim it … understanding the dynamic forces in society that are working to your benefit and recognize the forces in society that mean you no good. This world is not giving favors to people of color much less to people of oppressed groups. Therefore we have to think in order to act. We are running against the tide and against the grain.

EEH: Do you think there is a tremendous change in the social climate in America or are we in the same place?

MS: Oh I have seen tremendous change. Instead of being a community with only social clubs and bars that almost always tried to hide by either running away from problems or drinking them away, our community today has enough people in it who have matured to the point that we do confront issues and in a way that is much more sober and insightful. ... In the late 1970s, people stepped outside the closet door. They were relatively young, 18-25 years of age, and it has taken 25 years for them to grow up.

EEH: What is the LGBT community's political clout as a result of these individuals stepping out?

MS: We are no longer boxing against shadows. When real people come out and real people present real situations, then we have something to work with and that is what happened now that was rare 20-25 years ago.

EEH: What is the Human Rights Amendment in the Illinois legislature about?

MS: It is the effort to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations. That does not exist statewide, however in the municipalities of Cook County, Chicago, Oak Park, Evanston (among others) there are ordinances.

EEH: How is Sen. Meeks involved in this issue?

MS: Sen. Meeks expressed opposition. Individuals came to Operation Push April 26 and had a protest.

EEH: What was the purpose?

MS: He has belittled gay men. We are people that you can kick around (is his view of us) and he treats us as cartoon characters. The picket around Operation Push [where Meeks is next in line to run the group] made it plain that the community would not sit in silence. That (action) brought Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and State Sen. Emil Jones to lobby Sen. Meeks and bring him up to speed and to make him aware that in the position of State Senator he ought not treat people as cartoon jokes.

EEH: What can people who are concerned about this behavior do to help in the passage of the Illinois Human Rights legislation?

MS: It is always good to: 1) Get registered and vote in every single election, no excuses. 2) Stay aware. Read a newspaper every day, a magazine every week, a book every month. 3) Write letters to the State Senate and House of Representatives and to Congress to express your views and make your views known. One letter represents the opinions of several people … it has a disproportionate impact and the few who do write have more influence than they could imagine.

EEH: You see a change in the economic issues today?

MS: Yes, in the 1980s there was rapid inflation at the rate of 12%. Today, it takes longer to earn the money to buy those items. A lot of family did not face the drain that families face today from the drug epidemic. The drug epidemic is the worst thing to hit the Black community in the last 25 years.

EEH: What impact did the Reagan Administration have within our community?

MS: Well, in 1980 the nation of Iran held Americans hostage and former President Jimmie Carter had not done enough militarily. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and attempted to set up a communist government. People who elected Reagan felt the country needed to spend a lot more on military build up and the national budget took money out of the social budget to spend on the military. Therefore I saw the need for volunteer social-service organizations to step up and fill the gap … one year later in June of 1981 we saw the beginning of the HIV epidemic. The community needed volunteers to respond to HIV, which spread like wildfire. The federal government was doing nothing since most of its efforts where focused on the communist threat … by 1989 the Soviet Union had collapsed. Our community did not want to believe and did not want to respond to it and was caught up in past-closeted ways.

EEH: What in your mind are the banner moments for the Black LGBT community?

MS: Well, October 1979 was the starting point nationally for Black LGBT political organizing. The National Coalition of Black Gays was formed in Chicago in November of 1979 and interestingly it (occurred) in the office of the Alliance to End Repression, a group that came about after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (Black Panther Party members) were killed by Chicago police. In July of 1982 a Third World Gay and Christian Conference was held at St. Thomas Church (38th and Indiana in Chicago). For the first time in Chicago there was an effort to create a spiritual group that was out of the closet to attend to the spiritual needs of the lesbian/gay community and the outright mistreatment of people with HIV/AIDS.

In 1987, at the National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, Whoopi Goldberg stood and asked why President Ronald Reagan had said nothing about AIDS. In fact, it was Elizabeth Taylor's relationship with Rock Hudson and Nancy Reagan that moved the president to speak about AIDS.

EEH: Would you respond to the diversity of terminology we use?

MS: There has been a long standing resentment in Black communities, who have heard from white gays and lesbians … 'gay, straight, Black, white, same struggle same fight' is not an appropriate analogy. Anyone can see who is Black by looking at them, but you cannot always tell a person's sexual orientation. Many people have chosen not to self disclose, in fact they do everything they can possibly do to lie about their sexual orientation.

EEH: Is our struggle today one of race versus class or both?

MS: I think there is some overlap but not a complete overlap. Today about 60% of African Americans are considered middle class.

EEH: What is Stonewall about?

MS: There was a lot of police harassment of mafia-controlled bars in big cities. On June 28, 1969 [Black and Puerto Rican drag queens] became visible—they let their issues be known (that) they did not like being harassed by the police because the bartenders did not pay the mafia.

EEH: Why do we not hear a lot about our involvement?

MS: The individuals at Stonewall were people who were fighting back because they were angry and felt they had nothing left to lose but their chains.

EEH: What has this done to the Black LGBT community?

MS: The Gay Liberation Movement became co-opted by those who had more money, power and influence. There was a vast number of middle class in America of closeted gay people, understanding how they could benefit from (Stonewall) with their greater access to money, power, and control.

EEH: The civil-rights movement, the Black Power movement, women's liberation, and the gay liberation movement—how have all these movements affected the Black GLBT community?

MS: People sensed a mood and the '60s were a mood of rebellion … (it was time) to open the door to people who had been denied access, who had been shut out because of discrimination and prejudice. Over the years that mood has lost some of its steam—people have been co-opted. There are still plenty of people who are shut out and have less access now. It takes an awareness of all that to demand more and it also takes a level of esteem in the hearts and minds of many of the Black LGBT people.

EEH: Talk about Bayard Rustin, who helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington.

MS: My understanding is he did the work to put together the March. Many of the ministers did not have a positive opinion of him and accepted him grudgingly for what he could do for them and for the movement without giving him the benefit of recognition, acknowledgement and congratulations.

EEH: Why was Bayard Rustin pushed to the background?

MS: There was uneasiness in the movement of what the FBI would do with this out-of-the-closet man. At that time J. Edgar Hoover (Director of the FBI)—a closeted gay man with a lot of self-hatred—was making every possible effort to sabotage the civil-rights movement. In fact, Paul Robeson, a civil-rights leader from the 1940s, lost his acting career and the right to speak and was labeled a 'subversive' by the FBI. In the 1950s if you were labeled a communist you suffered a lot and were discriminated against. The civil-rights movement did not want that to happen to them. So, Paul Robeson's experience effected Bayard Rustin.

EEH: Today we have a tremendous amount of partying and celebration going on—is this a good thing, have we arrived?

MS: Real work has been done. The partying is a part of being co-opted. In the early days we struggled to get things done. The unfortunate thing is that if people forget the history of what it took to get to this point we may slow down. Maintain the momentum and take the corporate money—look at new opportunities because if you're not moving ahead you're slowing down.

EEH: Are Black Pride Celebrations a positive thing?

MS: People have varying needs. You have these venues that allow the dissemination of information to people in a culturally sensitive way.

EEH: What are the needs of our youth?

MS: America has the highest incarceration rate of any civilized country. A lot of that has to do with the missed education of the African American. The enormously high drop-out rate and the lack of preparedness for work.

EEH: What must we do to develop a whole community?

EEH: Why do you do this work?

MS: In my own personal bible I have a list of 143 personal friends who I lost to HIV. My thought is what would they be doing today. One way in which I celebrate them is by doing what they might have done … they are my inspiration.

This article shared 4686 times since Tue Jul 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Sky win fourth straight; Fire prevail on Pride Night; Cubs win, White Sox lose
The Chicago Sky (14-5) defeated the Connecticut Sun (13-7) 91-83 on June 29 at Wintrust Arena, scoring their fourth consecutive win. A scorching start helped Chicago. The Sky set a new WNBA shooting record in a ...

Gay News

The group Stud 4 Life celebrates Pride
Local social club Stud 4 Life celebrated Pride on Chicago's South Side. On June 25, members held their Saturday Car Parade. A celebration followed at the Wild Blossom Winery, 9030 S. Hermitage Ave. Wanda B. started ...

Gay News

Twenty-six people arrested following Chicago Pride Parade
Chicago Police Department (CPD) made 26 arrests in the evening hours following the 51st annual Pride Parade on June 26, according to CPD Superintendent David Brown. Although few incidents occurred during the parade itself, "the drunk ...

Gay News

Pride in the Park pumps up the volume in 2022
From East Monroe Street to East Jackson Drive, Pride in the Park covered just the right amount of territory in the Grant Park area in downtown Chicago on June 25 and 26. Butler Field was overrun ...

Gay News

Politicians attend Equality Illinois' pre-Parade reception
Before Chicago's 2022 Pride Parade, Equality Illinois held a reception for elected officials, candidates and community leaders at Fat Cat Bar. Among those who were slated to attend were Gov. JB Pritzker and First Lady MK ...

Gay News

Back Lot Bash attendees party during Pride weekend in Chicago
The inclusive music fest known as the Back Lot Bash took place June 25-26 at 5238 N. Clark St., in Andersonville. Back Lot Bash started in 2004 in response to the lack of women's events and the limited presence of ...

Gay News

'All of this is historic' : Chicago Pride Parade returns after two-year hiatus
More photos to come - A month of celebrations culminated in the return of Chicago' Pride Parade on June 26, marking the first march of the decade after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic. Weather-wise, the day was perfect, ...

Gay News

Billy Masters
"I'm not gay. I'm not straight. I don't know what I am. I love people. … I refuse to be anything, really, except for open to it all."—Kesha (without the dollar sign) makes this revelation in ...

Gay News

WORLD Japanese ruling, Pride events, Colombia election, Boris Johnson
A Japanese court ruled that the country's ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution, and rejected demands for compensation by three couples who said their right to free union and equality has been violated, ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Elliot Page, NPH, Madonna, Chita Rivera, Jennifer Lopez
Elliot Page talked with talk-show host Seth Meyers about how her Netflix show The Umbrella Academy incorporated the actor's own personal transition into season three of the series, Deadline noted. "With Steve Blackman, the showrunner of ...

Gay News

Pride Live hosts NYC center groundbreaking, 'Stonewall Day'
On June 24, Pride Live held an official groundbreaking ceremony for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center (SNMVC), which is the first LGBTQ+ visitor center within the National Park System. Slated to open on June 28, ...

Gay News

Mass shooting takes place at Norwegian gay club
Oslo's annual Pride parade was canceled June 25 following a deadly shooting at a gay bar that Norwegian police are investigating as a possible terrorist attack, CNN reported. Two people were killed and eight others taken ...

Gay News

'Hawks to hire new coach; Cubs blank Cardinals; White Sox lose
Luke Richardson is expected to become the new head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, an NHL source confirmed to ESPN. Richardson would replace interim coach Derek King, who went 27-33-10 after taking over for Jeremy Colliton ...

Gay News

Chicago Pride Parade organizer talks event, security, diversity
For the first time this decade (and after at least two postponements), the Chicago Pride Parade will take place Sunday, June 26, starting at noon. The route will start at Montrose Avenue and Broadway, winding through ...

Gay News

Asians & Friends Chicago hosts former Miss Philippines at pre-Pride Parade event
Asians & Friends Chicago (AFC)—an LGBTQ+ social organization supporting the Asian community and those who have interests in Asian cultures—hosted former Miss Philippines Maria Isabel Lopez at an AFC member's ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.