One of Two: PFLAG Portland Black Chapter

Monday, April 18, 2011

By Khalil Edwards

[Editor's Note: This week I had the joyful opportunity to learn more about an organization that has joined our Strong Families Mama’s Day of National Action, Black PFLAG. If you are wondering why you have never heard of a Black chapter of PFLAG, that’s because there are only two Black chapters in the nation, and one is based in our very own west coast city of Portland, Oregon. Yesterday I spoke with Khalil Edwards, coordinator of Portland’s Black PFLAG, about the organization and how he got involved. Here’s what he shared. —Dana Ginn Paredes]

I got involved through my mom, Antoinette Edwards. She was one of the founders of Black PFLAG and has been an LGBTQ advocate for a really long time. She helped to start a Gay Straight Alliance group (GSA) at the local high school where she worked as a family resource center coordinator and has been a constant advocate for legislative action and policies that support acceptance of the LGBTQ members of the black community.

Many people may not know, but there is a long history of anti-LGBTQ organizing in Oregon, with state and local ballot measure fights being the most visible form of that. What is not highlighted in that history is the long history of organizing in the Black community in Portland in support of LGBTQ equality. In the 1990s, there was a very repression state ballot measure here, Measure 9, that would have placed being LGBTQ in the same category with pedophilia and bestiality. An organization called African Americans Against Measure 9 formed to hold discussions within the Black community, in our churches, in our community centers, in our homes.

My mom and others went to PFLAG Portland to ask for a black chapter that would meet the cultural and diverse needs of the black community and its LGBTQ members. Thus PFLAG Portland Black Chapter was born!

We are embarking on our second year as an organization and one activity that has already become a tradition is our Mother’s Day event. This is a chance for people to bring their mothers and share stories of inspiration and love. This is very significant for many of us who don’t often feel connected and support by our community. This event brings our community together! We come together to show other mothers who may be afraid for their LGBTQ children that they are not alone. We celebrate moms by helping other moms grow past what they are struggling with and share with each other.

We do so much in the community -- from leading panels for teachers on how critical their role is to ensure that everyone feels safe in the their classrooms no matter what their sexuality to campaigns that aim to change institutional policies so that there is better support for LGBTQ people of color and their loved ones.

We support, we teach, we advocate and celebrate! We are one of two black chapters throughout the nation with other Black LGBTQ communities seeking to model what we are doing. I am passionate about what we are doing and where Black PFLAG Portland is headed.

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