Men of All Colors Together-Philadelphia is returning to its roots of social justice to challenge the current political climate threatening LGBTQ equality.
The grassroots organization is reintroducing itself to the community after leaning more toward social events and away from political activity for nearly a decade, said Gary Hines, MACT-Philadelphia’s membership development chair.
“What’s happening around the country under the Trump administration, and even what’s going on in our own backyard in the Gayborhood, reenergized me and our other members to become more politically involved,” Hines said. “We’re refocusing our mission and our vision to become more active within the community again. We’re needed now more than ever.”
MACT-Philadelphia was established in 1981 as one of 10 national chapters of the San Francisco-based National Association of Black and White Men Together, which advocates for diversity, equality and justice in LGBTQ+ communities. NABWMT also developed as a support group for gay men in interracial relationships. Each local chapter of the nonprofit organization educates the community on racism, homophobia and HIV/AIDS through a series of workshops and public forums.
MACT-Philadelphia stood in solidarity with the trans community after the Trump administration’s initial attempt to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Kyle Robin, a MACT-Philadelphia member, said the group will focus on voter registration as a way to reenergize its political involvement.
“Our voices matter. We’re starting in the streets and making sure that folks are registered to vote. If we want to see any real change happen, it starts with the local government. We have the power to put those in office that have our best interests in mind,” Robin said. “The first step is making sure that people are exercising their right to vote.”
The group was called to action in 2016 after ICandy owner Darryl DePiano was entangled in controversy following a video that surfaced of the nightclub owner repeatedly using a racial slur. Hines acted as opening speaker at the city’s townhall hosted by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in response to the incident.
“When I joined MACT in the early 2000s, it troubled me to see how racially divided the community was. Things haven’t changed much since I’ve moved back into the area two years ago,” Robin said. “One of our goals right now is to express the importance of teaching each other about our own individual experiences and seeing the world through each other’s experiences.”
MACT-Philadelphia currently has close to 30 active members from New Jersey, Maryland and other areas outside the city. The group is looking to expand its reach to include younger gay men, trans men, nonbinary-identified people and women, Hines added.
“We’re broadening the spectrum of our membership to include all members of the community. Most of our members have been around since the organization’s inception. With an aging membership, a lot of our members aren’t able to be as active as they would like to be. Our first goal is getting more millennials interested in being involved,” Hines said.
Would the group change its name to be more inclusive? It’s a possibility, Hines said. In 1992, Black and White Men Together Philadelphia underwent a name change to Men of All Colors Together. Hines attributed the change to the growing diversity within the group. Similarly, the NABWMT chapter in Cleveland changed its name to People of All Colors Together.
MACT-Philadelphia will host a fall membership drive Sept. 21 at William Way LGBT Community Center. Amber Hikes, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, will be the guest speaker.