By Neil Armstrong
The stories of young black gay men were told on stage a theatre in the heart of Toronto during Pride Week, which wrapped up on July 1.
Titled Picassoís Black Canvas, the verbatim theatre, performance ethnography in development, shared real accounts of survival and resilience of these men in the face of homophobia, racism and violence.
It was a part of Young, G(ay)ifted & Black: (Re)Telling The Stories of Survival and Thrival for Young Black Men, which was one of the Queer Pride 2012 events presented at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Director Andrew Kushnir and playwright Antonio Cayonne of Project Humanity, working closely with the projectsí two chief researchers, David Lewis-Peart and Dr. Lance McCready, and four talented young actors brought the stories to life.
Project Humanity is a not for profit organisation that raises awareness about social issues through the arts. They are engaged in relationships that may be putting themselves at risk but they have also developed interesting ways about navigating that stuff as well, noted Lewis-Peart, who said each employs different strategies to cope with the hostile, social circumstances that each one is facing.
Lewis-Peart is the principal investigator of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network-funded research project, Evaluating the Impact of Black CAPís Modified 3MV Intervention on YBMSM in Toronto.
The theatrical piece shared the stories of the young men who are graduates of the 3MV Interven-tion program. The information is based on the key findings that have come out thus far from surveys and interviews with participants of the 3MV Intervention.
The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) adapted and piloted a modified version of the New York-based Many Men, Many Voices (3MV) Intervention in late 2009.
Even their ability to vision a possible future for themselves is a tool for their present circumstances.
A lot of them are experiencing poverty still, however there is a vision for something better that is almost commendable despite all of the things that they are experiencing, said Lewis-Peart.
He said the 3MV programme has helped in building a sense of community cohesiveness, and building esteem in their social relationships. There are also mentors who give them a sense of a possible future for themselves, he said.
Picassoís Black Canvas was performed by graduates of the program: Samson Brown, Daniel Ellis, Tawiah MíCarthy and Thomas Olajide.
Young, G(ay)ifted& Black was a collaborative effort between Black CAP, Project Humanity, Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) & Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to share key outcomes from Black CAPís modified Many Men, Many Voices Intervention (3MV).
This brought new insight, understanding and reflection of lived experiences of Young Black Men who have Sex with Men (YBMSM) to the community at large.