SAN FRANCISCO GAY MEN OF COLOR CONSORTIUM

SAN FRANCISCO GAY MEN OF COLOR CONSORTIUM
"CONCIL UNA GENS SUMUS"
(Joined together as one people)


One of the most innovative concepts to come along since the original San Francisco model of AIDS prevention, care and treatment, in my opinion has been the San Francisco Gay Men of Color Consortium. Webster defines a consortium as "a combination, as of corporations for carrying out a business venture." But this one was unlike any other consortium I had ever heard or known of before.

This was a group of five gay men of color coming together to examine what was and what was not being done for each of our specific ethnic communities by the "mainstream" organizations that existed at that time. This was around 1989-1990. The National Task Force on AIDS Prevention had been created and had been in operation since 20 August, 1988. But I had known of or had worked with all of these men in the past, when I was co-chair of S.F. BWMT AIDS Force, since 1984.

The group consisted of Douglas Yaranon, a gay Filipino American, one of the co-founders of the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA). He and I had worked together on a civil disobedience action at the Federal Building, where a group of us chained ourselves to the doors of the building, and all got arrested.(That was big fun!)

Steve Lew, a gay Chinese American, had heard me speak at the AIDS Update Conference, and afterwards, we met at a party given by S.F. BWMT. He was, at that time, Project Coordinator for the newly formed HIV component of GAPA called G-CHP, Gay Asian Community HIV Project.

Phill Tingley, a gay Native American (First American) and I had been together in meetings with the AIDS Office, to get them to change the way that they were reporting Natives, as other. We both were also involved in the Third World Advisory Committee. He was Executive Director of the American Indian AIDS Institute.

I was introduced to Rodrigo Reyes through Martin Ornelas, our first Latino staff member, who was at that time a project assistant. Rodrigo was the founder of the first Gay Latino organization in San Francisco, back in the mid-70s. He was just building a new Gay Latino AIDS Prevention volunteer organization (CURAS), and he was doing prevention work in the gay latino bars in the Mission district. We gave him access to our computers and copy machine to make newsletters, and flyers for fund-raisers in the bars.

And, of course, myself, an African American gay man.

So, here you have five gay men of color, representing the four major ethnic communities of the city of San Francisco, sitting down at a table together at early evening, after we all had already put in a full day of work at our various jobs. The discussions began with each of us talking about our communities, and what and what was not happening through the mainstream health delivery system and community organizations for gay men of color. All of us in the room were gay men of color living with HIV, which brought a heightened and increased sense of urgency to the nature of our discussion. The only white person in the room was Steve Feeback, one of the founders of NTFAP, and the Administrative Director, representing NTFAP staff, as a observer.

One of the most phenomenal things that happened in the meeting was that we all put all our cards on the table. This was a real learning process for all of us. To hear what the specific differences were in traditions and culture between our communities. It was truly amazing to listen, hear, and learn about all of our differences and sameness. To hear and learn about how we all felt that the mainstream had overlooked us, partly because of racism, and how our own ethnic organizations had failed us because of homophobia. There was some apprehensiveness on the part of all of us. We were not quite sure what and how to do it, but we all agreed that we had to do something. Rodrigo was a little resistant to the initial idea of us calling ourselves a Gay Men of Color Consortium, I think partly because he was still struggling with the issue of trust. For me, it was very understandable, because he had worked in the community for many years, and had been let down by others, in attempts to work with other people of color. And he had always wanted to develop a strong Latino Gay community, which is what we all wanted for our own communities. I think that he was not sure that he could trust that we would be as committed to the needs of Latino Gay Men as we would be to our own. But after that first meeting and by the time of the second meeting, at which there was a proposal for funding on the table for discussion, he was assured that we all shared the same issues. This was one of the building blocks, and the strenghts of this consortium, which I feel lead to our initial success. Trust, openness, and honesty built the bond of the Gay Men of Color Consortium. An even distribution of resources, equal share of the pie, no matter how big or small. This kind of co-operation, working together, respect, and brotherhood is what I will always remember about our initial consortium, and I believe it is a model that should be duplicated.

So, the RFP (Request for Funding Proposal) was from the Northern California Grantmakers AIDS Task Force, a non-profit consortium of funding organizations (>> now: AIDS Partnership California APS). The maximum amount for funding was $50,000. This would be the true test of our ability to be a true consortium, and a real demonstration of our trust in each other. So at the 2nd meeting to discuss the proposal I stated that the maximum amount of funding would be too small for the Task Force to receive any type of indirect, which is what usually given to the lead agency for administration cost. We decided to develop a program of HIV risk-reduction and training of gay men of color, and we called it R2-T2 (Risk Reduction Train the Trainer). At the Task Force we already had a risk-reduction training model, that had been developed for Black Gay Men by Phill Wilson, our Prevention Education Director. So I proposed that our model be used just as a basis for the others, so that they would not have to try to "reinvent the wheel". So starting with that model, each community would take it, shape it, and make it ethnic-specific to each of their community needs. G-CHP was the most successful in the beginning with developing an Asian/Pacific Islander model. The Native Americans developed the "Two Spirit" prevention model, keeping in-line with their traditional beliefs. The Latino component was taken under the Task Force, since by then we had developed a Latino program, which became headed up by Martin, our Latino staff member. Because the pot of money was so small, $50.000, and we went for it and got the max, we knew we had to be strategic and plan the use of the money well. So we created two part-time positions, one as an out-reach worker for the Latino community, to work with Rodrigo in the bars, and a half-time project coordinator, to work with the other communities, to develop their models. Guss was hired as the out-reach worker, he was a young Latino man whom Rodrigo wanted to groom for AIDS work. Jaime Geaga, a very bright and talented Filipino Gay man, was hired as the project coordinator. There was a management team developed, to oversee the work of the project, which met weekly. It had a representative from each community and I attended, representing the lead agency. These weekly meetings not only served to monitor the project, but also to discuss other issues that would come up out of the gay community, which we would address as a collective body. This proved to be very successful in setting us up as a cohesive force to be dealt with around HIV prevention for gay men of color. It went on to become the basis for a National Program delivering technical assistance to gay men of color organizations and an education/advocacy effort, the Campaign for Fairness.

The next venture for the GMOCC was a project we developed in response to The Ryan White Care Funding which had become available to the AIDS Office. This was to become our biggest endeavor yet. Like the Consortium, it was the first of its kind, ever. We named the project, EACH, (Early Advocacy and Care of HIV) for gay men of color. The EACH program was based on the premise that a team of peer treatment advocates can be there for clients in every sense, when gay men of color tested positive. The advocate was responsible for assisting his client's access to early medical intervention. The advocate met regularly with medical facilities and lined up culturally appropriate services for his clients. Since each culture is different and each person is unique, the treatment advocates were trained to recognize individual needs and to work with the client in developing a health treatment plan. The treatment advocates received over 160 hours of training in the areas of medical, legal and social services, as well as alternative treatments and clinical trials. This was one of the most successful projects, besides the GMOCC itself, that was ever developed by and for gay men of color.

The consortium went on and developed another project called HOPES. We gave the model of EACH to other cities across the country to use, Los Angeles, Boston and New York/Newark N.J.. And it has inspired many other ethnic-specific programs for gay men of color in the U.S.

The national off-shoot of the GMOCC, The Campaign for Fairness, which advocated and lobbied the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US Conference of Mayors, and other federal branches of government for more and equal funding for gay men of color, was instrumental in the CDC funding of National LLEGO to begin a national HIV prevention technical assistance program for Latino gay men and Latina lesbians.  And the National Task Force included in it's reapplication to the CDC a component for the GAPA Community HIV Project to develop a national program for Asian and Pacific Islander gay organizations.

All of this began with five Gay Men of Color sitting down to talk!

I shall be eternally grateful to those men, three of whom have since died, Douglas Yaranon, Phill Tingley, and Rodrigo Reyes, as well as one of the original Task Force management team member, (...). Their legacy will live on forever. And my love for Steve Lew has grown, since the loss of the others.

CONCIL UNA GENS SUMUS (JOINED TOGETHER AS ONE PEOPLE)

Reggie Williams, 1996