During Black History Month, Center’s Social Group for Black Seniors Provides Perspective

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By Greg Hernandez

The first meeting of Ebony Sage Circle to take place after the killing of George Floyd last May had to be virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the devastation and rage among the participants was palpable on the computer screens.

“There was lot of emotion—heavy emotion,” recalls Clarence R. Williams (pictured, above), one of the co-founders of this Los Angeles LGBT Center Senior Services social group. “For once, this modern-day lynching of a Black man before the world just brought up everything—with participants saying, ‘No more! This needs to change, and change right now, because we cannot step into the rest of this century with all of this lingering from 50 or 60 years ago. We have to fix this now.’”

Floyd, handcuffed and lying face down on the ground, died in Minneapolis after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The killing—captured by cell phone video—triggered worldwide protests and support for the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and all racially-motivated violence against Black people.

“Many of us grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Some of us participated in the early protests and marches for gay and lesbian rights,” Williams says of his fellow Ebony Sage Circle participants. “This group is even more important now. We want to keep the space open because people need the reason to connect because of isolation and personal needs—even if it’s just a good conversation and an opportunity to cry and commiserate.”

Promoting Self-Awareness

Open to all Black–identified participants, Ebony Sage Circle aims to promote self-awareness, quality of life, learning, and unity of the Black voice in the LGBT community. The group’s programming combines social, educational and instructional elements.

The group normally meets in person each month and enjoys activities such as visits to the California African-American Museum, dance parties, and annual trips to the Pan-African Film Festival.

In 2019 the group was presented with the inaugural Freedom Riders Award at the Center’s The Future is Black celebration held during Black History Month. The award is given to an organization or group that strives to do outstanding and impactful work in the Black community.

Williams, who spent years working for Congressional Black Caucus,accepted the award for the group on that day.

“There’s an African proverb that says: ‘Until the lion gets to tell his story, the hunters will always tell theirs,’” he told the audience. “Through our lens, we are hoping to make a difference here at the Center and actually create more of our living history with millennials here and to continue our stories.”

How Group Began

Ebony Sage Circle was an outgrowth four years ago of a group of seniors who had been part of the Center’s Black History Month planning committee.

“You become a certain age, and the clubbing thing becomes something that you no longer care about. But, you still want to meet people, you still want to have social intercourse in a meaningful way,” Williams explains. “With expansion of the Center, we have so many youth here—a lot of Black youth — and it’s really important right now for us to start doing more intergenerational work.”

Once it is safe to do so, Williams hopes the group can resume recording oral histories in the form of conversations with Black youth.

“There’s a learning that takes place in that,” he says. “Many of our older folk have an incredible, rich history that never gets told, that never gets shared, and that has value especially to a younger person. They can be supported and be inspired and know they can reach higher, they can be more, they can be great.”

Ebony Sage Circle’s next virtal meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 19, from 1–2 p.m. (Williams also facilitates another group MOCA 50+ on Saturday, February 20, from 2–4 p.m. for Men of Color 50 years old and beyond.)

Black History Month Special Events

Senior Services has an array of special activities scheduled during Black History Month including movie screenings, a book club, and workshops.

“In order to move the country forward, we all need to be part of a movement for racial justice and equity,” Senior Services Director Keira Pollock writes in this month’s issue of the Center’s 50+ Magazine. “This means listening, reading, learning, and engaging with each other, especially when it’s hard. Senior Services will continue to offer programming and opportunities for this growth and activismnot just during Black History Month but every month.”

  • Allies for Racial Justice Book Club meets on Mondays from 11 a.m.–Noon. The RSVP deadline for the upcoming reading selection How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi is February 9. The group will have in-depth discussions to analyze the complexities of racism and encourage meaningful and respectful dialogue. RSVP by emailing [email protected] or call 323-860-5830 in order to receive the book and virtual meeting details.
  • Screening of two films highlighting Black queer icons: T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s (Saturday, February 6, from Noon–1 p.m.) and Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (Saturday, February 27, from Noon–2 p.m. Discussions to follow each screening.
  • Black Queer History (Thursday, February 11, from 11–11:30 a.m.) will highlight the unsung heroes and uplift their accomplishments and their impact on our world.

On Friday, February 26, from 1–2 p.m., Luckie Alexander will lead a discussion around the inequity and inequality of Black lives both in and out of the Black LGBTQ community during this time of civil unrest. The session is designed to motivate and educate community members regarding activism and to explore different ways to activate the Black LGBTQ community.

To learn more about the Center’s Senior Services, including upcoming activities and workshops, visit lalgbtcenter.org/seniors.

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