Since Donald Trump was elected, marginalized communities have understood that life could become more difficult, but no one could have imagined just how difficult. From the moment Trump was inaugurated, we have borne witness to the ways in which his presidency has negatively affected our lives.
From instituting a Muslim ban to emboldening and supporting white supremacists; from banning transgender people from serving in the military to ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it’s clear to anyone looking that this administration isn’t acting in the best interests of marginalized communities.
DaShawn Usher is on a beautiful mission to push back against Trump’s dangerous agenda as the founder and executive director of the Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative. MOBI is a series of curated connectivity events for black gay and queer men to see their holistic selves. The mission of MOBI is to cultivate black and brown gay and queer men through MOBItalks, a three-part personal- and professional-development series starting in three locations in New York City: Brooklyn, the Bronx and Harlem.
The first of those events, “MOBItalks: Brooklyn,” is taking place Saturday and will feature world-renowned journalist and Native Son founder Emil Wilbekin; Real World: Philly alum, philanthropist and television host Karamo Brown; and social commentator, writer and Reparations-podcast co-host Richard Brookshire.
“Our biggest thing is around visibility of black gay men and being unapologetic about that,” Usher tells The Root. “When you think about the absence of [an] LGBTQ page on the [White House] website, when you think about the removal of ... other previous administrative initiatives, it’s almost as if this unsaid thing happened. How do we operate in an era of Trump? How do we write grants about being a gay man? This is not a time to be silent, but more of a time to be active, vocal and show more visibility.”
For many gay black men, promoting the concept of visibility is a double-edged sword because it often forces those who are marginalized to be seen for the sake of empowerment. But such advocacy often fails to fully consider what visibility can mean for their personal safety. This is less of a concern for people like Usher, though. “I don’t think about a balance yet because we haven’t always been visible. There have not always been sections in our community that have been visible, and there are many parts that have been more silent historically,” he says.
Karamo Brown says that MOBI is important because it will provide a space for gay black men, especially under a Trump administration, in which multiple parts of their intersectional identities are under attack.
“I’ve been in the South the past five months, and I didn’t think white people would be as comfortable calling me a nigger as they were. Racist folks have been so emboldened to be so even more,” Brown tells The Root. “We have a man tacitly giving permission [for white people] to feel the anger white people have always felt. We need MOBI—where people are sharing space with each other and uplifting each other.”
Brown says that MOBI is also critical to show what positive holistic health can look like. “It’s an initiative centered on mental health for black queer men,” Brown says. “As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe that God has given some of us the ability to be mental-health experts, and we should seek services as well as prayer.”
What’s more, Brown underscores the ways in which black queer men are negatively depicted in the media, and he wanted to help challenge that thinking by being more involved with black organizations.
“When I first finished Real World: Philly, I was only approached by white queer organizations, but there is something about coming home. I’m appreciative of the LGBTQ community, but when we start talking about black and brown people, there is something different about our experience that differs from our white counterparts,” says Brown. “There is something powerful about that.”
MOBI is not alone in its journey of empowering black gay men to speak on behalf of ourselves. There are media outlets like Slay.TV, mentorship and scholarship programs like Black, Gifted & Whole, which provides resources to black gay men enrolled in HBCUs; and Native Son, a safe space to empower black gay men and celebrate achievements in multiple fields. For Wilbekin, the founder of Native Son, MOBI is a revolutionary act.
“As we’re living within challenging, ignorant political times, it is important to mobilize ourselves. It is important to strengthen each other and uplift each other,” he said. “When we look at DACA, the transgender U.S. military ban, we know [Trump] doesn’t care. We have the power to come together in community together and finding intersections where we’re marginalized and create a force and stand up against this man. This feels like community organization and grassroots movements, but really, it is healing.”
“MOBItalks: Brooklyn” happens Saturday at Ilan Rubin Studio; “MOBItalks: Bronx” will be held Oct. 7 at the Bronx Museum of Art; and “MOBItalks: Harlem” will take place Oct. 21 at 213 E. 121st St.