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Black press steps up coverage of LGBT issues, GLAAD reports
Black press steps up coverage of LGBT issues, GLAAD reports
"The increasing presence of vocal activists and allies challenges...assumptions and we see the results..." said Katina Parker, GLAAD's Media Manager for Communities of African Descent.

Historically, Black press outlets have provided limited coverage of LGBT issues outside of marriage equality, religion and the down low. In recent months, these same outlets are increasing and expanding coverage of Black LGBT issues.

Part of that change is fueled by the growing visibility of openly LGBT people and allies from communities of African descent. Within the last year Kanye West and Rev. Al Sharpton have emerged as vocal combatants against homophobia within hip hop and Black church communities, respectively. Famed WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes came out as a Lesbian and Coretta Scott King was eulogized as an unfaltering ally to the LGBT cause.

"Many outlets are concerned that if they offer too much LGBT coverage, anything beyond news about same-sex marriage debates and religious posturing against LGBT people, their conservative readership will respond with letters of complaint and phone calls," says Katina Parker, GLAAD's Media Manager for Communities of African Descent. "The increasing presence of vocal activists and allies challenges those assumptions and we see the results through more stories with LGBT angles."

The Amsterdam News, a weekly New York newspaper, is leading the way with articles like "Black New Yorkers: 'Gayest great-grandmother in the country,'" (August 14, 2003) which profiles the life of Rev. Magora Kennedy, a former Black panther, a mother of 5 and grandmother of 15, and an out Lesbian whose activism dates back to Stonewall. Special attention is also paid to youth issues in "Kids with Gay parents talk about their families" (May 12-May 18, 2005). This article consists of several diary-like entries from teenage children of Gay parents exploring the journey to self-acceptance, becoming allies and the coping skills they've developed to explain their lives to friends.

Jet Magazine covered Sheryl Swoopes coming out story (November 14, 2005) and in the magazine's February 20, 2006 tribute to Coretta Scott King, reporter Margena Christian acknowledged Mrs. King's commitment to LGBT equality. Most impressively, the March 27, 2006 issue featured a story about Jennifer Jones, a Black Lesbian senior at Hood College who won her school's Homecoming King title after being barred from the competition the previous year.

With articles like "Two Mommy Household" (July 2002) Essence Magazine has given admirable visibility to Black Lesbians, in part due to the presence of Editor-at-Large Linda Villarosa, an out Lesbian who has since left the magazine. However, the magazine's extensive down low coverage has characterized Bisexual men as irresponsible disease carriers.

Like most media, Black press outlets face a number of financial and personnel limitations that impact their ability to break new ground on topics with which they may not be familiar, including non-stereotypical LGBT coverage. Even with these limitations, there are many stories to be told beyond same-sex marriage, religion and the down-low. "I'd love to see more profiles of LGBT activists and families, stories about people who've come out and who've been accepted by family and friends, and perspectives from affirming churches," said Parker.

In telling these stories, Black press outlets create visibility for and lend authenticity to Black LGBT people who have made indisputable contributions to their communities, schools, churches, and the world at large through art, invention, activism and sacrifice. Greater visibility also increases tolerance for LGBT youth and decreases the acceptability of homophobia and violence directed toward LGBT people.

To assist Black press outlets in their coverage of LGBT issues in March 2006 GLAAD held meetings with Essence, AOL Black Voices, the New York Beacon and vibe.com to pitch LGBT coverage ideas, to offer terminology suggestions and to provide spokesperson contacts. In addition, GLAAD conducted media trainings with the Los Angeles Wave and several community- and faith-based organizations to develop media protocols. Future meetings and trainings are planned for Black press outlets in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

GLAAD's People of Color Media Program works closely with media outlets to improve LGBT coverage and to identify LGBT spokespeople. GLAAD also works with community groups to mobilize activists around media defamation.



A GLAAD press release

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