You may have heard about it — local clubs being called out for discriminating against people of color in the Gayborhood. A community divided, up in arms, and a group formed to try to get a handle on the situation. The year was not 2013 — it was 1981, and the organization was called Black and White Men Together (BWMT).
BWMT Philly was founded by Gerald Mallon, a planetarium director at a local school. In a 1983 interview, Mallon said, “Racism is something that I was always aware of and sensitive to throughout my life. However, it was not until I began my first relationship with a black man that it went from a more cerebral matter to something that reached to the very depths of my soul. In that relationship, I began to glimpse the hatred and turmoil that blacks must face in their day-to-day lives as they interact with ‘white’ society. That experience forever changed the course of my life and solidified my commitment to being an anti-racist.”
BWMT is now called Men of All Colors Together (MACT), but they are still dealing with many of the same issues originally faced by Mallon and BWMT. Luckily for us, MACT is launching a new chapter that is ready to bring in new members and make a difference in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
We caught up with the organization’s new chair, George Franklin.
PGN: So, I thought racism was over once we elected a black president. Why do we need a group like MACT? And that is said sarcastically, in case you can’t tell.
GF: Oh boy, I thought you were serious for a second! MACT is a place where people can come together in fellowship. Its specific purpose is to gather people from all different backgrounds to socialize and, considering what’s going on in the White House today, we need MACT more than ever.
PGN: I call it the whitelash.
GF: That’s perfect. Between the people who did not vote for him and those who did not vote at all, we have Trump in office and he has emboldened racists like never before. One of the things we’re doing is voter registration and outreach. So I think we’re particularly necessary at this moment in time.
PGN: Tell me a little about yourself.
GF: Born and raised in D.C., lived and worked here most of my life. I moved to western Maryland in 2011. I’m 64, and have an older sister and a younger brother. After my parents divorced, my brother and me were raised by my mother. I was married to a woman very briefly over 30 years ago for a few months. I’ve been pretty much single since, still haven’t found “The One.” My claim to fame is that I have a kidney transplant, and I am the second-longest-living African-American in the nation with a deceased donor kidney. Come November, I will have had it for 43 years.
PGN: So how did a Maryland chap get involved with MACT Philly?
GF: I have a lot of Philly connections: My dad lived in Philly, my grandad lived in Philly and most of my camping buddies are in Philly. So I’ve always gone up there quite frequently. And I’m a huge Eagles fan.
PGN: Give me the 411 on MACT. Was it originally formed to support interracial couples?
GF: Yes, the original name of the national organization was Black and White Men Together. Now we’re Men of All Colors Together, which is more inclusive. I’m of the mindset that it should be changed again to People or Persons of All Colors since we have had women in the group as well. Some of the chapters have already done that. We really want to update the Philly chapter. We have some new officers, including me and Gary Hines, who is going to focus on outreach. We need to get young people involved. With the rate of suicide and homelessness of our young people, an organization like MACT could really be helpful. And, of course, we want to address the problems we’re having in the Gayborhood right now.
PGN: What do you do for a living?
GF: I’m a computer operator, and have worked for several different companies, including NASA.
PGN: You’re your own Hidden Figure!
GF: Yes! And I had no knowledge of what was going on Hidden Figure-wise until I saw the movie.
PGN: What was the last book you purchased?
GF: I bought Bob Woodward’s book “Fear.” I read about that last line in the book and wanted to check it out.
PGN: Craziest camping mishap?
GF: The morning I slept so soundly I didn’t realize that my tent was taking in water during a rainstorm. My mattress had also completely deflated, so I woke up in a mini pool inside the tent. The other funny thing was something that happened to one of the guys who went camping with us. He accidentally pitched his tent on top of chipmunk holes. The next morning he yelled at us because he thought we were throwing stuff at his tent all night, only to find out that it was the poor chipmunks trying to get out from under. We could not stop laughing, especially since we knew he had a weird fear of little creatures. I still giggle at the thought of what would have happened if one of those innocent little chipmunks had clawed through the bottom of his tent.
PGN: Do you collect anything?
GF: Shot glasses. I have a couple-hundred of them. [Laughing] I live vicariously through other people’s travel. I used to collect coffee mugs until I ran out of space and changed to something smaller. If you know anyone who needs coffee mugs, I have a ton of them in the basement.
PGN: OK, I know what to get you next time I go away.
GF: Please do. I like to travel, but because of my kidney I can’t go too far, especially the last couple of years where the functioning has dropped from 75 percent down to 25 percent. I was supposed to go on a cruise with some friends, but I was afraid that if something happened, I’d ruin everyone’s trip and I didn’t want to do that. But they did bring me back some shot glasses from some of the islands they stopped at.
PGN: If you were to be reincarnated as an animal, what would you want to be?
GF: A dachshund. A friend of mine has three rescued dachshunds. One of them, Freddy, had one of those little contraptions with the wheels on it so he could walk. That dog and I just bonded; I guess he knew I was sick too, and took to me as well. I’m a big animal lover and those dogs stole my heart.
PGN: If you could have lunch with a historical figure, who would it be?
GF: Barack Hussein Obama, of course. I had a cousin who worked in the White House and I got an autographed picture, but I never got to meet him.
PGN: If you could bring someone back for one last performance, who would it be?
GF: I’ve always wanted to go to one of Lena Horne’s concerts, but never made it. I have missed so much in my life. I really feel that way. I have a lot of regrets about things I should have done.
PGN: It sounds like you’ve managed to do a lot in your life.
GF: Yes, I’ve done a lot for different organizations and different people, but I’ve missed out on a lot of living; not always doing things for myself that I should have, just for fun. Going to concerts, plays that I never should have missed, things that are too late.
PGN: What’s coming up for MACT?
GF: We do a lot of social events. We have a monthly potluck, sometimes with a theme, such as all red for Valentine’s Day. Our next big one will be a Thanksgiving dinner. People can come and eat together and hang out. We also have several committees within the group: Gary is in charge of membership, another person has decided to work on voter registration, and we also have a yearly awards ceremony where we acknowledge people in the community making a difference. Our next general meeting is on Sept. 21 at the William Way Center and it’s open to the public. The director of the Mayor’s Office on LGBT Affairs, Amber Hikes, is going to be speaking. The next meeting will feature Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU.
PGN: Favorite quote?
GF: I have a book of quotes that I like to look at, but of course now that you ask me for one, I can’t think of any. Maybe that quote from Maya Angelou about being a rainbow.
PGN: Tell you what, I’ll look it up for you and we can end with that.
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
~ Maya Angelou