By By George T. Nicola and Khalil Edwards, Special to PQ Monthly
An enthusiastic crowd gathered Saturday, April 26, for the PFLAG Portland Black Chapter (PPBC) Fifth Anniversary celebration. The event was held at the facilities of Self Enhancement Inc. in North Portland, and was filled with great performances, inspiring speakers, delicious food, and many memorable moments.
The celebration was planned and conducted entirely by PPBC’s members and participants. Miss Gay Pride 2013, Alexis Campbell Starr, was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening and even took a moment to share her own personal story about what PFLAG has meant to her. Pioneer African American gay activist John Garlington began his keynote speech by calling into the room all of the African American LGBTQ icons, pioneers, and leaders whom we have lost that brought us to where we are today. The celebration included spoken word, guest speakers, soul stirring musical performances and moving testimonies from PFLAG members sharing what has made PFLAG so meaningful and special for them.
Keith Edwards, husband of PPBC co-founder Antoinette Edwards and father of the group’s coordinator Khalil Edwards, presented a lifetime achievement award to Portland African American lesbian activist Kathleen Saadat. It was her fourth lifetime achievement award to date. In the future, this award will be named for Kathleen.
PFLAG stands for “Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays.” PPBC is one part of PFLAG Portland Oregon. PFLAG had its start in Portland in 1977 as Parents of Gays (POG). PFLAG now has 13 chapters in Oregon, many of them in small towns where they are sometimes the only organization advocating for equality based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The groups have helped parents accept their LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer) kids, and have worked effectively against bullying. About half the participants today are allies, while the other half are LGBTQ,
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter is the first PFLAG group in the nation specifically founded by and for the African American community. However, it is an inclusive group and its participants are diverse, with some of them being active in the local LGBTQ movement since the 1970s. Among other things, it has worked with the schools and with the broader Portland African American community to foster mutual support.
The anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate the tremendous growth of the chapter in a short 5 years, which includes expanding its program to include Member Support ; Portland Black Pride; Faith Outreach; Advocacy; Youth Outreach; and its Mini Grant Program.