'Gaymer' night reaches out to young black GBTs
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Queer African-American young men and their friends clearly enjoyed themselves at the first black-oriented Gaymer night, held recently at Strut.
The event was organized by Black Brothers Esteem and DREAAM Project, both programs of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation that cater to black GBTs.
Black Brothers Esteem offers a variety of activities to promote sexual health and well-being among black gay, bisexual, and transgender men.
DREAAM (Determined to Respect and Encourage African-American Men) is a youth oriented group (18-30) that is funded by SFAF and the Black Initiative Fund, said Traye Turner, a program assistant for both groups and co-host of Gaymer night.
DREEAM also offers a weekly drop-in group every Friday night from 5 to 8 p.m. at Strut, SFAF's men's health center in the Castro.
A group of about 50 men of various ages attended the inaugural Gaymer night March 31. Some played video games, while one group gathered around a table for a game of cards. Others played board games. Music was played and non-alcoholic beverages were served along with pizza.
Turner, a 25-year-old gay black man, said he came up with the idea for the game night as a way to get more black men involved.
"The black gay community is underrepresented," he said. "Gamer nights have been on the rise for years – I wanted to think of something I was familiar with, and that I felt comfortable with to bring people together. People don't realize that black gayness is a thing, so I wanted to create a safe space. DREAAM Project is about creating safe positive spaces for gay black men."
Turner emphasized that all were welcome at the inaugural event.
"It makes me happy to see allies," he said. "There are times when I get emotional looking around the room seeing people having a good time. I want to say 'you have value.' There are so many resources here. I feel obligated to do the most I can."
Darius Bright, 26, who also goes by the name Jovon, spoke to Bay Area Reporter about why he helped to organize the event. Bright said that he prefers to identify as homosexual.
"Because I don't fit into the gay culture but I do have sex with men," he explained. "There are no spaces for black gay men to talk about and freely share their experiences being black males in San Francisco without meeting resistance to their truths. We chose this building in particular because of a history of blacks being pushed out of the Castro. We deserve a piece of San Francisco just like everyone else."
Bright spoke frankly about what he sees as inequality in San Francisco.
"There's an illusion that because San Francisco is a melting pot that diversity eliminates inequality," he said. "Gaymer night was organized as a way to provide interaction between African-American men and their allies."
Nicholas Turner, 24, who identifies as bisexual, told the B.A.R. that he was enjoying the evening.
"I love games," he said. "It's really significant that gay people today can come together and have fun without having to worry."
Terence Wilder, 28, is a gay African-American man who serves as DREAAM's program coordinator. "I want African-Americans and people of color to show pride," he said.
Wilder spoke to attendees about HIV prevention.
"Blacks are at great risk," he said. "Look after your sexual health so you can look after others. Knock down the stigma against getting treatment and go get checked out."
Wilder invited everyone to attend DREAAM Project's PrEP Rally: The Sparkle Edition Saturday, April 22 from 2 to 7 p.m. at Strut, 470 Castro Street. Like Gaymer night, PrEP Rally will combine HIV prevention education with food and fun. There will be a raffle drawing, a "twerk battle," and free incentivized HIV testing.
There will also be performances by Ms. Lady Bug and DJ Moscone.
Turner said he plans to make Gaymer night a recurring event.