Around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Black gay men who are estranged, ostracized or marginalized from their families often feel isolated, abandoned and alone. “We Are @ the Table– Celebrating Togetherness” is an effort to bring these men together for a sense of belonging, if not to biological families, then to a Brooklyn community of people who share and identify with them.
With the repeal of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, many Black gay men are now able to celebrate being accepted by their country. The organization Depressed Black Gay Men will host its third annual “We Are @ the Table– Celebrating Togetherness” on Nov. 16 to benefit the inaugural “Recognition of Resilience” awards at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, One University Plaza, on Flatbush Avenue between DeKalb Avenue and Willoughby Street in Brooklyn, N.Y.The benefit continues and enhances DBGM’s work of raising awareness of depression as it affects Black gay men, and in so doing, encourages and emboldens a Black gay man to source a mental health professional and begin treatment, so that he can realize and achieve his potential.
The event features an exhibition of Black gay artists, with a live auction of select art pieces; a concert of Black gay performers; the Recognition of Resilience awards presentation to Tree Alexander for Perseverance and Mark Travis Rivera for Creativity; Gay Men of African Descent for Community Service; and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine as a Community Partner; and a reunion of interviewees from the documentary You Are Not Alone, which has been screened around the country and internationally, in communities and in film festivals. Award presenters are Wade Davis, a former National Football League player; Jeffery Gardere, Ph.D., called “America’s Psychologist”; and Terrie Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.
DBGM Inc. is an organization that consists of volunteers who believe in the maxim “If, by what I’m doing one Black gay man could be prevented from killing himself, then my job is done; his healing begins.” As an organization, the DBGM mission is to raise awareness of the scourge of depression that destabilizes, debilitates and robs Black gay men of their joy, their sense of purpose, and is a significant hindrance to realizing and achieving their potential. It seeks, through education and information, and using the recently produced documentary as a tool, to encourage Black gay men struggling and suffering in silence from depression to break the taboo in the Black community that says “you don’t talk your business to strangers” and to strengthen their confidence to speak with a mental health professional to begin their healing.
After seeing the You Are Not Alone documentary, Dr. Franz Cole-Smith, a Jamaican-born physician, said, “The documentary came at a crucial point in my journey. At that time, I was truly ‘sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.’ The documentary showed me that my story was not an aberration; there was a community of people who had overcome depression and were there to support others in their own struggle….It was liberating.”
“Phenomenal! A very compulsive video conveying depictions of the sorrows and challenges of gay Black men. Gripping, never boring, many voices. Ends on a positive, hopeful note. In my opinion, very accurate, that depression is multifaceted, also that therapy helps,” said Dr. Michael Myers, a professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, of the documentary.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention estimates (based on 2010 data) that every 13.7 minutes, or 105 deaths every day, someone in the United States commits suicide. The World Health Organization suggests that depression is projected to become the leading cause of disability and the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020. Estimates are that up to 50 percent of people with HIV have a mental illness such as depression. Research estimates that at least 1 in 5 Black gay men is dealing with depression. The Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that as many as 1 in 3 persons with HIV may suffer from depression. Studies show that people who are depressed and infected with HIV, and who do not know that they are infected, are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors associated with HIV transmission.
Some research suggests that gay men described as engaging in unsafe sex when depressed did so because they were less concerned about the consequences.
Tickets for the We Are @ the Table benefit in Brooklyn can be obtained through Kumble Theater’s site www.kumbletheater.org or at the box office, (718) 488-1624 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations and sponsorships for the benefit can be made through the DBGM Website at www.dbgm.org .