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The lack of focus on older brothers is one of the most troubling aspects of federally funded HIV prevention and its influence on dialogue and media coverage about Black gay men. I cannot tell you how many discussions I have been in where black people, black gay men and/or allies have resisted engaging Black gay men of all ages and through an either/or paradigm defaulted to those under 25. Specific engagement of young men (HIV prevention, education, activism) is obviously warranted. However this focus nether requires nor justifies the lack of intergenerational focus, or public attention and innovation committed to older men.
The wisdom and resilience of older Black gay men who survived the early holocaust years of the epidemic should be more widely acknowledged and utilized in our HIV prevention and other efforts. Gay men do not live their entire lives in exclusive age bubbles even though age does shape our personal networks. I know that I benefit greatly from the presence of younger brothers in my life, that we benefit mutually across generations. As an HIV prevention worker, writer and activist and most directly as a 54 year old Black gay man who has been HIV+ since 1985, I have spoken/written about the significance and perspectives of men from my generation. I have also recently joined a group called Men of Color in Motion not only because it affirms poz Black men but it is comprised of “men of a certain age”. We are developing a project that will honor poz Black men who have been living with HIV for 20 years or more. I need to connect with other older men for my own support/gratification and my community building work.
As one committed to social change, I want to help ensure that other older men are not isolated, disconnected. I want to find/create more intergenerational spaces as well as spaces/groups/activities tailored for us.
By: Craig Washington
Craig Washington is the Manager of Prevention Programs at AID Atlanta and a co-founder of Atlanta’s Bayard Rustin-Audre Lorde Breakfast . He has written various articles and editorials for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Arise, Atlanta Voice, the Black AIDS Institute, Southern Voice, Venus Magazine, and the Washington Blade.