CHARLOTTE — Scores crowded into the Afro-American Cultural Center (AACC) the Saturday after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to celebrate the visionary leader’s life and legacy, and to honor two members of the LGBT/Same-gender loving (SGL) African-American community.
CBPM Martin Luther King, Jr. Gala award
winners DeArcy McVay and Dorae Saunders.
Photo Credit: Moyé/moyephoto.net
Bishop-elect Tonyia Rawls of the Unity Fellowship Church waited in the wings and happily greeted those who came to participate in the Carolinas Black Pride Movement’s (CBPM) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Leadership Honors and Gala Reception.
In her opening invocation, Rawls stressed diversity, unity and strength. She praised her fellow LGBT/SGL brothers and sisters for all their organizing and work in the community. “There were people who said the Charlotte black gay community would never organize because we’d never come out of the closet. Seven years later, here we stand.”
Jermaine Nakia Lee, president of CBPM, addressed the audience and said that the African-American LGBT/SGL community of Charlotte is strong and vibrant.
“There are so many great organizations represented here tonight,” he said. “They’re not ready for us.”
Dorae Saunders, a transgender performer from Columbia, S.C., was honored with the Audre Lorde Community Leadership Award for her national visibility, mentorship and contributions to the South Carolina LGBT community.
“There is nothing like being honored by your peers — getting your flowers while you’re still living you could say,” she said. “I am moved and I am humbled.”
In a short acceptance speech, Saunders challenged the audience to continue their hard work for equality. “When I see each and every one of you I look around and see that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream is coming true. When I see us, I don’t see color — I see people. I challenge you to go out and show the world that we are a people. We are who we are and it is okay.”
Saunders’ mother, Gwen Wilson, was grateful for her daughter’s award. “This is remarkable,” she said. “This is very special to me, to have my baby honored.”
DeArcy McVay of Charlotte was honored with the Bayard Rustin Community Leadership Award for his impact as a youth mentor and men’s health educator.
McVay, involved as an organizer in the Carolinas “ballroom” scene, is a “Popular Opinion Leader” with d-UP!, a local project that targets young, popular and influential African-American men who have sex with men to disseminate information about HIV throughout the community.
As a Popular Opinion Leader, McVay helps to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS by working to change social norms amongst his friends by having more conversations about safer sex and risk-reduction.
“I appreciate you, I respect you and I admire you. I can think of nobody better to receive this honor,” said Storm Williams, McVay’s longtime friend.
After receiving his award, McVay thanked Metrolina AIDS Project and praised King and Rustin. “They paved the way for me, to express myself.”
After the awards ceremony, audience members viewed the premiere of a short documentary on d-UP! in the AACC’s Attic Theater.