Event Recap: Black, Queer and Here with Native Son

Sam Jay


\ ˈblak  \
1: having the very dark color of the night sky or the eye’s pupil
2: Black or less commonly blacka: of or relating to any of various population groups of especially African ancestry often considered as having dark pigmentation of the skin but in fact having a wide range of skin colorsBlack AmericansNOTE: Capitalization of Black in this use is now widely established.
b: of or relating to Black people and often, especially to African American people or their culture


“As a synonym for “not straight,” “queer” is a great umbrella word for a wide variety of people across a spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. I love the inclusivity of the term, but for myself, I prefer “gay” for its specificity.” Daniel Reynolds, Social Media Editor at The Advocate (he/him)


\ ˈhir  \
1a: in or at this placeturn
b: NOW
c: in an arbitrary location
2: at or in this point, particular, or case
3: in the present life or state
4: to this place : HITHER
5—used interjectionally in rebuke or encouragement

To understand the magnitude that Native Son delivered in New York you have to unpack the definitions of the deliverable itself. As such, my header paints a source picture of how we arrived at the Black, Queer & Here Town Hall.

As we celebrate and appreciate NYC Black Pride, Native Son – the leading organization championing Black gay and queer men – presented its inaugural Black, Queer and Here townhall exploring the intersectionality of the Black LGBTQ community on Thursday, August 11th at the iconic Apollo Theater. The event was held in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery and the Apollo.

With opening remarks from Native Son Founder Emil Wilbekin, Black, Queer and Here included an in-depth conversation with Nancy Santiago of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office focused on mental health in America as well as emerging health concerns around Monkeypox;  a discussion with Lee Soulja, Director of Black Pride NYC, about the gensis and history of Black Pride; and an engaging panel discussion centered around the experiences of Black queer people sharing their stories, challenges, and hopes while also engaging with other members of the Black community at large. Moderated by Wilbekin, this intimate discussion explored the realities of what it means to live in the duality of Blackness and queerness, facing shame and stigma, and unlearning homophobia and transphobia.

Panelists included: Kalen Allen (Award-winning actor, producer, singer and television personality); Lina Bradford (Actress, DJ and talk show host); Dr. Lena Green (Executive Director of the Hope Center in Harlem); Sam Jay (Standup comic and Emmy-nominated Saturday Night Live writer); Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (Author, host and Senior Minister, Middle Church); Greg Mathis Jr. and Elliott Cooper (stars of the E! hit series Mathis Family Matters); Tiq Milan, (activist, critic, thought leader and journalist); Chi Ossé (New York City Council Member, 36th District); Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey (National Affairs Contributor for theGrio, multimedia journalist, educator, and activist). The night included an electrifying first-ever mashup performance from drag legend Kevin Aviance and cutting-edge rap artist Cakes Da Killa with music provided by queer Afrofuturistic pop duo The Illustrious Blacks. LIBERATION SOUND

Kalen Allen

(L to R: Kalen Allen, Lina Bradford,Chi Osse, Sam Jay and Emil Wilbekin) Photo Courtesy of Native Son

In addition to being known as the epicenter of Black artistic innovation and excellence, the world-famous Apollo Theater has also been a safe space for the Queer Community from showcasing the famed Jewel Box Revue to Moms Mabley, Johnny Mathis, Josephine Baker, Little Richard and many more.

Since its inception in 1991 with DC Black Pride, the Black Pride movement began as a way to provide Black LGBTQ people – who are often marginalized even within the LGBTQ community – an alternative to the largely white mainstream movement. Black Pride global is a celebration and movement dedicated to ending racism and homophobia and serving as safe space for Black LGBTQ+ people to discuss specific issues that are more unique to their experiences such as racism, homophobia, and lack of proper health and mental care in Black communities.  The Black Pride movement has spread beyond D.C. and is now celebrated in more than 50 U.S. cities and across the globe including Chicago, NYC, Atlanta, and Miami.

Cakes Da Cakes Da KillaKilla

Cakes Da Killa Photo Courtesy of Native Son

About Native Son

Native Son is a movement that exemplifies the duality of being Black and gay in a society that often shuns and belittles their unique experiences. This movement aims to create a safe space where the Black gay male community can fellowship, celebrate and empower each other, and—most importantly—see themselves.  From the world-renowned to the up-and-coming, Native Son aims to connect and celebrate the members of this influential, yet long ignored community in the realms of arts, business, media, fashion, politics, and healthcare.

About Emil Wilbekin

Emil Wilbekin

Emil Wilbekin. Photo Courtesy of Native Son

Emil Wilbekin is the Founder of Native Son, a platform created to inspire and empower Black Gay Men. He has appeared On-Air discussing pop culture, fashion/style, entertainment and current affairs on The Today Show, NBC Channel 4 News New York, E!, VH-1, MTV, BET, CNN, The Insider, Arise 360, Revolt, and PBS. Wilbekin has an expertise in editorial creation, content curation and multimedia story telling (print, digital, social, video and live events) having served as Chief Content Officer at Afropunk, Editor-at-Large at Essence, Managing Editor of Essence.com, Editor-in-Chief of Giant and Giantmag.com, Style Guru at Complex Media, VP of Brand Development at Marc Eckō Enterprises, Editorial Director/Vice President of Vibe Ventures and Editor-in-Chief of Vibe Magazine. Under Wilbekin’s leadership, Vibe won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2002.

About The Apollo Theater

The legendary Apollo Theater—the soul of American culture—plays a vital role in cultivating emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, the Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world. With music at its core, the Apollo’s programming extends to dance, theater, spoken word, and more. This includes the world premiere of the theatrical adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and the New York premiere of the opera We Shall Not Be Moved; special programs such as the blockbuster concert Bruno Mars Live at the Apollo; 100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella; and the annual Africa Now! Festival. The non-profit Apollo Theater is a performing arts presenter, commissioner, and collaborator that also produces festivals and large-scale dance and musical works organized around a set of core initiatives that celebrate and extend the Apollo’s legacy through a contemporary lens, including the Women of the World (WOW) Festival as well as other multidisciplinary collaborations with partner organizations. Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo has served as a testing ground for new artists working across a variety of art forms and has ushered in many new musical genres— including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop. Among the countless legendary performers who launched their careers at the Apollo are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, H.E.R., D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Machine Gun Kelly, and Miri Ben Ari; and the Apollo’s forward-looking artistic vision continues to build on this legacy. For more information about the Apollo, visit www.ApolloTheater.org.

About Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery (NASDAQ: WBD) is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates and distributes the world’s most differentiated and complete portfolio of content and brands across television, film and streaming. Available in more than 220 countries and territories and 50 languages, Warner Bros. Discovery inspires, informs and entertains audiences worldwide through its iconic brands and products including: Discovery Channel, discovery+, CNN, CNN+, DC, Eurosport, HBO, HBO Max, HGTV, Food Network, OWN, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Magnolia Network, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television, WB Games, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, Discovery en Español, Hogar de HGTV and others. For more information, please visit www.wbd.com.

Definition Sources: Black, Merriam Webster / Queer, Daniel Reynolds, Social Media Editor at The Advocate (he/him) via Them / Here, Merriam Webster
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