Social Architect/ Activist Cleo Manago Speaks Out About Proposition 8

Los Angeles, CA – A social architect, activist and visionary, Cleo Manago has always dreamed a world. A world where every man and every woman could live and love without being judged or disdained. Never one to mince his words, he originally coined the term “same gender loving” to embrace, describe and culturally affirm the relationship of his Black “gay” brothers and sisters.

With the current hoopla around the passing of Proposition 8 in Los Angeles which bans gay marriages, the finger pointing at the Black community for overwhelmingly voting “yes” to pass it, and most recently, the proclamation of her own same sex marriage by comedian Wanda Sykes, Manago has a lot on his mind. And as usual, he’s not biting his tongue about it.

Below is an open letter to the world at large. Read it. And then, Think about it.

– from Cleo Manago

By now, you may have seen or heard about the disturbing behaviors among the predominantly White gay protesters of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage in California. Protesters have sent a suspicious white powdery substance to local churches, apparently to provoke an anthrax type scare, and most notably have blamed Black folks for their defeat against stopping Prop. 8.

To express their anger, some have attacked Blacks with the word “niggas.” I even heard one exclaim that, “We gave you [Black people] your first Black president. How dare you turn your back on us now!” Apparently their vote for Obama was an attempt at a disingenuous deal maker with Black people.

The facts of the matter are: Black women constituted only 6% of the states’ voters. So few Black men voted (less than 4% of the state voting population), that exit polls didn’t even bother to calculate their vote. While 75% of voting Black women supported Proposition 8, Blacks only accounted for 2.3% of the total Prop. 8 vote. White men and women, who account for 64% of California’s voters, make up the majority of who produced the actual result.

An irrational affront on Blacks by the gay community is not unusual, but merely demonstrates symptoms of a larger historic issue of racism between the gay and Black communities. As a Black man who is committed to the education, health and affirmation of Black people, I have talked about being a Same Gender Loving (SGL) man, who has never identified with gay culture.

For example, over 20 years ago, I pointed out that Black HIV/AIDS prevention efforts should not be done in a way that blatantly prioritized gay identity over Black culture and diversity. Now close to thirty years later HIV/AIDS is still out of control in Black communities. That gay-identity politics was prioritized over the importance of Black cultural affirmation is a major co-factor.

Currently, Prop. 8 protesters are conducting rallies throughout Los Angeles, but they have not brought their demonstrations to historically Black communities. Why? Given that it’s the only community of color that they directly blame for their loss.

The gay community has never addressed the Black community in ways that build bridges on this or any other issue. Despite the civil rights dialogue employed by the gay community, many gay organizations still practice blatant forms of racial exclusion. Even to date, when you see Blacks in the gay press, it is extremely rare to see two Blacks depicted together. Blacks are typically depicted as a White person’s lover or alone. The term same-gender-loving (SGL) was distinctly created to provide homosexual and bisexual Black people with a descriptor that was more affirming and culturally reflective, and to break Black complacency with overt “gay” racism.

Yet, my concern is not the redundant problem of racist attitudes in the gay community. What I find troubling is the silence of the so-called Black gay leaders in Los Angeles. During this gay onslaught of hatred, where is the Black gay community? We cannot use the excuse that there are not any who are “out”!

Where is the Black AIDS Institute’s Phill Wilson, a long time Black gay identity advocate, or the leaders of the gay group called ‘In the Meantime’? Where is lesbian identified publicist and writer Jasmine Cannick? I believe this silence results from that White gays are often the philosophical parents of many Blacks who have defined themselves as gay leaders.

Consequently, I understand why people in the Black community question the relevance, safety and value of gay as a viable identity in the Black community. Not that I agree with any form of oppression, I merely understand the suspect. This is because the so-called “Black gay community” has yet, itself, to effectively address the Black community. It has rarely even been present in the Black community in progressive ways, only showing up when it’s time to call someone Black homophobic.

Similarly, the Black HIV/AIDS movement has been traditionally more concerned with pushing gay identity than pushing the Black community toward prevention and wellness. The Black gay movement doesn’t look like a “Black community affirming” movement, but instead like a group of co-opted Black folks running behind a White homosexual agenda. This exacerbates anti-homosexual attitudes and now anti-homosexual marriage perspectives in the Black community.

So, in solution, in the age of Obama, we need to be in real dialogue as a community about our cultural, philosophical, and sexuality diversity. As White gays protest against Blacks while disenfranchising the Black community in their political efforts for “gay marriage”, they establish yet another reason Blacks and others have not jumped on their bandwagon. As can be attested to by the lack of Black support, including Black homosexual support against Prop. 8, education about such bills need to be presented in ways that affirm and engage Black people. The current mixture of Black “gay” silence and White homosexual racism will not garner Black support of same-sex anything, let alone marriage.
About Cleo Manago

Cleo Manago is a nationally acclaimed “social architect,” a popular speaker, columnist and director/founder of the AmASSI Prevention, Cultural and Leadership Training Centers, where he is CEO with projects in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas and Harlem. He has appeared on national television networks including C-SPAN, BET – with Tavis Smiley, PBS and most of the major networks.

His work has been profiled in many publications including the American Journal of Public Health, Ebony, Essence and the Black Scholar-Journal of Black Studies and Research. Mr. Manago he has also been featured in most of the nation’s newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Final Call, Amsterdam News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and several scholarly journals and books.

Books include: Atonement (collected stories from the Million Man March) and Male Lust (an anthology on male sexuality). His views are presented in the bell hooks’ book: We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Most noted is his development of the Critical Thinking and Cultural Affirmation or ‘CTCA’ cultural competency strategy, featured in an American Journal of Public Health editorial. He is also the author of several noted essays, and founder of the Black Men’s Xchange (BMX) in 1989. His historic speech at the 2005 Millions More Movement served as a culmination of over 25 years of hard work.