January 29, 2016 by hrcatlanta
“The Greatest Love of All” by Juan Session-Smalls
I believe the children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride.
Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All recently came on the radio. As I listened a bit more closely, I had an epiphany. I realized these lyrics reflect my mission to touch people’s lives. It’s one of the reasons my husband Gee and I created The Gentlemen’s Foundation and the mPact2 mentoring program. Since 2014, our foundation has been committed to supporting and empowering gay, bisexual and transsexual men of color through mentorship. My husband and I are thankful for and celebrate our rights as a married couple, but also understand the fight for equality is not over for us, the men of color we mentor or men of color in our community.
The issues of sexual and racial discrimination still affect us, as well as the obstacles that come with belonging to a minority within a minority. The negative stereotypes fueled by ignorance and fear become the litmus test by which gay, bisexual and transsexual men of color are judged and in turn, how we judge ourselves. This internal conflict leads to emotional and psychological issues that manifest as depression, participation in risky behavior and the alarming rate that men of color in our community commit suicide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American gay and bisexual men, especially those who are younger, are the group most affected by HIV. LGBT youth also make up 40% of homeless and at-risk youth, a majority of whom are Latino or African American. This makes the work we do literally a fight for lives. We started our foundation and the mPact2 mentoring program to show this group of men you can love, be loved, be accepted and be happy with who you are.
Hearing from our mentees on the value of the program reminds us of the importance of what we do. Seeing them develop into confident and healthy leaders is truly is the greatest love of all.
January is National Mentoring Month and we challenge you to BE THE CHANGE by mentoring a teen or young adult in the LGBT community. Being a positive role model in their lives helps them make better decisions, minimize participation in risky behavior and strive for healthy development, which would make the next generation of our LGBT community even stronger.
Our community has come far, but there is still work to be done “Beyond Marriage” on the road to equality.
Learn more about the Gentlemen’s Foundation and their mentoring initiative click here.