In an effort to strengthen a community and build up a new generation of achievers; the Black, Gifted and Whole Foundation aims to inspire social change with the launch of their HBCU Scholarship Ambassador Program, where selected students will receive financial support and mentoring throughout their college matriculation. We recently had the opportunity to interview the foundation’s Co-Founders, Guy Anthony and George Johnson. Learn the inspiration behind the Black, Gifted and Whole Foundation, how it got started and where you can donate below!
What is Black, Gifted and Whole Foundation?
(GUY): Black, Gifted & Whole is a revolutionary attempt to change the collective narrative of Black gay men. We mentor young Black gay men and facilitate their connections to other Black gay men in corporate America, non-profit sectors, entertainment, higher education and sexual health. We are the Gay big brothers they never had but always wanted.
How did the foundation get started?
(GUY): I remember watching Black Girls Rock on BET in 2014 and realized that nothing like this existed for Black gay men. Sure, we had the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, but I felt I like it wasn’t enough. It didn’t specifically speak to Black gay/queer boys. So, in 2015, I began planning an event, in the same vein as BGR, entitled “Black, Gifted & Whole”. At the inaugural event, held in Washington, DC, we were able to honor 8 Black gay men for their immense contributions to our community. We had performances by 4 of DC’s most talented queer artists and packed out The ARC in Southeast DC. We had already been mentoring a young Black gay man named Jauan Durbin, who desperately wanted to attend Morehouse College. We realized that we could raise money on his behalf to help offset the cost of college and that’s exactly what we did. So far, we’ve awarded Jauan with over $4K in tuition assistance.
Explain why there needs to be a focus on Black Gay Men?
(GUY): In 2016, the government released a report that 1 in 2 Black gay men would be infected with HIV in their lifetime. With George and myself both being openly HIV-positive and college educated men, we knew we needed to implement a new strategy to reach young Black gay men. We knew that with more than 300,000 students in the HBCU system, a large percentage were Black gay men. Of the current 107 HBCUs, only 34 have LGBTQ/ally organizations on campus and most of them are defunct. There is a need to reach Black gay men before they even get to college, and that’s where we step in to connect them to reputable community resources. We are literally creating an effective education and social pipeline for young Black gay men wanting to attend these institutions.
Why is Education important to the organization?
(George): Education is one of the greatest tools we can possess as people, as it creates a pipeline into the workforce and opens the doorway to success. As someone who is a product of two HBCU’s, I know how they play a vital role in the community and ensuring that black people have institutions specifically designed for our betterment. Each generation continues to get smarter and achieve more access through education and we know that as an organization, it is important that we are helping the most marginalized throughout that process. Black students are more likely to need loans and carry more of a loan indebtedness versus white students. We also have fewer resources when sending our children off to college. With the reduction of Pell Grant from the Trump administration, we knew we needed to do something to pick up the shortfall that will affect our students.
Who are the men behind Black Gifted and Whole?
(George): Guy and I are both activists in our own right. We have done a lot of work in the field of HIV. Guy, specifically over the past 10 years has been in campaign ads, written a book, and has had a major voice in the black gay community around the HIV epidemic. I am a journalist and activist, with features in Ebony.com, TheGrio, TeenVogue, and several HIV publications discussing race, gender, sex, education and just about any topic my mind decides to write. Together, we knew that black gay and queer men were much more than what society shows us as. Many of the resources available to black gay and queer men revolve around HIV, and we wanted to start an organization that would start to view us as whole beings, rather than in pieces. Together, our backgrounds and passions help shape the organization that you see today.
How can people get involved with the organization?
(George): Donate. Donate. Donate. Ha! Seriously, Guy and I receive nothing in pay from the organization and all proceeds go to running programs and our scholarship foundation. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but you can find our website here at www.blackgiftedwhole.org. On the website, you can subscribe to our email list, and make donations towards our scholarship foundation. We have a goal of sending 10 kids this year and raising at least 2k for each of them to go towards tuition, books, and meals.
What can we look forward to in the future for Black, Gifted and Whole Foundation?
(GUY): We have so much planned for our community. We just expanded our Black, Gifted & Whole Merchandise line to include Unisex Tees, Tote Bags, Phone cases, Decorative Pillows and so much more! We are Co-presenting sponsors of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore’s first-ever Queer Week, presenting by their on-campus safe space, Uniquely Defined. We are currently preparing for the unveiling of the first 5 HBCU Ambassadors, and simultaneously planning our 2nd Annual Scholarship Gala to be held in the summer. We have a jam-packed calendar and that’s just the way we like it!