“I will pour out my spirit on all people” -Acts 2:17 CEB
This past weekend, I had the pleasure to share space with over 80+ young black gay men from all over the country. They came from the swamps of Louisiana, the hills of Kentucky, lowlands of Georgia, and even the capital of our nation. They came from academia, HIV prevention and advocacy, activism, marketing, public health and ministry. They came with their pain, their struggles, their feelings of isolation, their hope, their joy, and their fellowship. We came to Baton Rouge as strangers, but left as brothers.
I must admit, I was not really “all-in” with the conference for the first couple of days. Throughout my experience, I have not had the best moments with young black gay men and black men, in general. Though I identify as a Black same-gender-loving man, I tend to stay away from the circles of black gay men. I have been taunted, abused, intimidated and hurt by the men whom I consider peers. I brought all of that into that space.
To top that off, I’m an introvert and it takes a while for me to warm up to people. These strangers were gorgeous, brilliant black men; some with accents, others with long beautiful locks, all of which made it even more difficult to communicate without begging the question in my mind, “what do I have to offer?”
As I proceeded to press my way through the crowd and talk to people (alcohol helped), I found something striking. I had stayed away from these spaces, not because of my pain and hurt of the past, but because these spaces did not exist. It was very rare for black gay men of all backgrounds to come into one room with the intention of loving and learning from each other. It was rare for black gay men to come into the room with all of their identities on display, vulnerable to their brother, and ready to simply be.
On the final day, Pentecost occurred. All of the love, learning, and fellowship of the weekend came together as we meditated on an experience many of us had never had before. For me, this was something different and I found myself cringing at the prodding of my spirit to break and let go in a room full of black gay men. As a brother held my shoulders, I felt his existential experience. I felt all of his pain, hurt, doubt, joy, and victory. I heard in the background the cries of young black gay men breaking and healing. I heard sobbing and wailing of young men who probably never felt this type of love before. This gave my heart and spirit permission to break as the tears fell on my cheeks. We were not in church. We were not in a mosque. Some of us were Christians. Some of us were Atheists. Some of us were simply spiritual. But, in that moment, we felt what Jesus said,
“I assure you if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them”. (Matthew 18:19-20 CEB)
We came to Baton Rouge as strangers and because we sought love and joy within each other, we left as brothers. God was present in the room this past weekend with these brothers. God showed their face as we broke to heal. I will forever be grateful for that space and be charged with the duty to recreate that space wherever the spirit leads me.
Personal Point of Reflection: Open my heart. Lead me, Holy Spirit to where I need to go.