Affinity Community Services recently celebrated their 20th anniversary at Gallery Guichard in Chicago. The name of the event was Jazz N July. Affinity Community Services is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders, and bridge communities through collective analysis and action for social justice, freedom, and human rights.
With the news of gay marriage being recognized as the law of the land and the acceptance of transgenders in society by way of Caitlyn Jenner and others, it would be easy to say that the world has turned a corner when it comes to the rights of all human beings on the planet. It is clear some boundaries have been demolished but there is so much more to do. We spoke with Kim L. Hunt, the executive director of Affinity Community Services about these important issues.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Kim L Hunt, executive director of Affinity Community Services and we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. We are an organization that works with the Black LGBTQ community, we have always been housed on the South Side because we recognize that there just are not enough services for our community here.
You do a lot of work with this community and the youth of this community. Why do you think it’s important that a community like this exists?
Well, I think its important for people to recognize that the LGBT community consists of more that White Gay men, and in fact people of color are more likely to identify as LGBT before White people are and because of that we need to diversify the narrative of who the LGBT community is and what their needs are and as an organization that focuses on Black and LGBT people we are at the intersections of all the issues that affect Black people, women, queer and trans people.
How did you feel when the Supreme Court decided to make gay marriage legal?
It was great that the Supreme Court decided on the case so that it could become the law of the land. On the one hand we have people who need to be recognized as family member and their are a number of benefits that come with that, but we also have to recognize that marriage isn’t the end all and be all of the struggles and issues related to our community, marriage only impacts those who are coupled, if you will, but there are a lot of single people and we have to change the bias towards those who are married and really think about all people who need benefits. The decision in it of itself was fantastic.
You mention the trans community and now it seems like the nation is embracing the trans community, What are your thoughts towards individuals such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox and their visibility?
I love that there are visible trans women in the world and that people are recognizing them as human beings, but what I disturbed about is the assumption that all Trans people are glamorous, are able to pass and are not encountering some serious violence. When you look at violence against LGBT people 70 percentof those who are experience this violence are Trans Women and when it comes to violence when it comes to murder that is almost exclusively Trans Women of color. While there is a lot of visibility when it comes to the Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner and they have had tremendous journeys to walk, there are people who dont have that kind of visibility and access who are really suffering and their needs should be addresses also.
You do a lot of work with the teens of your community. What kind of activities are they participating in?
A lot of what we do is leadership development. We are a social justice organization which means that we dont have a ton of direct service, but we work on public policy and advocacy and as we do that work we try to involve the whole community, weather its educating them on issues, or providing them with opportunities to lead in the moment.When it comes to the youth its that leadership development that is done in a very safe and nurturing place, so as they make mistakes and learn it is not the end of the world there are folks who have been doing it for a long time who are there to support them in the work they are doing and honor the work they are doing.
In parting, what words do you have for our audience and the world at large?
What I would say is we have this movement around black lives matter and I would like to remind people that all black lives matter. This means the Trans-Youth and the older LGBT community. Their lives matter too. We also need to rally around the significant number of Trans Women of color who are being murdered on a regular basis.
We also spoke with Chris Smith co-founder of Affinity Community Services. We asked her what she would like to see happen in the next 20 years when it comes to Affinity and gay rights.
Affinity needs to have their own dedicated space, so there are dedicated resources that are available for folks to be able access on an ongoing basis. Affinity needs to become not just more visible as a local presence but a greater national presence in terms of its advocacy work and legislative work and in terms of its Health prevention work. We have to stay focused on the health of the Black LGBT community. Affinity needs to continue this work. Also more focus on the Trans community and all of the brutality that has been occurring over the years. Affinity needs to continue its advocacy work, its social justice and activism around making sure that those lives matter also.
To learn more about Affinity Community Services you can visit the link http://affinity95.org/acscontent/
Take a look at some pictures from the gala below.
Eddy Lamarre aka Precise is a hip-hop artist-writer-actor from Chicago. The Chicago Reader recognized “Ladies Love Mixtapes” his latest release as one of the best projects of 2014. Listen/Buy Ladies Love Mixtapes at: https://precise.bandcamp.com/album/ladies-love-mixtapes-the-ep