Ads Target Homophobia; Billboards, Posters Aimed at HIV/AIDS Prevention in Black Community
New York Blade (08.28.06): Kerry Eleveld
"I am gay, and this is where I stay," proclaims a large billboard at the corner of 125th St. and Broadway in New York City 's Harlem . The ad, which depicts a young black man with his family, was unveiled recently by the New York State Black Gay Network (NYSBGN), a coalition of 16 community organizations serving black gay men across the state.
The campaign includes two other ads: black men on a basketball court ("I am gay, and this is where I play") and at church ("I am gay, and this is where I pray"). In addition to billboards, the ads will be displayed in subway stations in predominately black neighborhoods across the city. The campaign cost about $150,000 to produce and was funded as part of a larger $350,000 grant from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"We really wanted to impact the self-esteem and the resiliency of black gay men to combat the HIV epidemic," said Mark McLaurin, executive director of NYSBGN. Also present at the unveiling of the Harlem billboard were Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), state Assembly member Daniel O'Donnell and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
The idea for the campaign grew from a series of NYSBGN focus groups on HIV/AIDS. "The thing that came up over and over again was the homophobia in the African-American community," said McLaurin. "The sense that [black men] were forever having to demonstrate their blackness because they were gay, or demonstrate their authenticity to the larger community."
The campaign is generating lots of interest, said McLaurin, who hopes it can be extended beyond its initial 30-day run. To view the ads, visit www.wearepartofyou.org.
S. Alex Williams