Emon Chavers: Being the Change
by Mahkesha Hogg
LGBT+ Black Issues Columnist
It’s important to highlight the achievements of black LGBT+ leaders in our community.
I met Emon Chavers about 12 years ago at Guiding Right, Inc where I was an intern. Guiding Right is an agency providing services for our African American community living with HIV or AIDS. He always had a spirit of helping others while educating in a fun way.
A couple of years later I started my advocacy as an LGBT+ rights activist and again noticed the impact he made on our community. One year, I was pleasantly surprised to see him at OKC Pride representing the agency, Be The Change (BTC).
BTC is an agency which provides services to homeless youth in Oklahoma City. Chavers started with the agency in 2011 as an outreach worker with homeless youth. I’m proud a person like him decided to take the challenge up and fight for homeless youth.
He has been BTC’s housing director for six years, and said, “It’s a hard job; there are not enough beds for all the homeless LGBT+ youth in Oklahoma City.” He does his best with the funding BTC receives.
Statistics show LGBT+ youth account for about 40 percent of all homeless youth. And, according to Advocates for Youth, approximately 65 percent of these homeless youth are minorities/POC. These statistics disproportionately affect POC LGBT+.
I think it’s so important to donate time and funds to agencies such as these because we have to help our own. We are family and must take care of our people; especially the youth who will be the future leaders of our community.
“My inspiration to work with homeless youth is because I know people can change and need a second chance,” said Chavers. “My method is harm reduction. People relapse in their habits, but they need to have positive people to get them back on track. The young adults keep me humble as I strive to go forward with my goals.”
Many LBGT+ POC, specifically black LBGT+ POC, have been rejected by their parents, religious figures and institutions. They have been told they make black people look bad for owning their sexuality.
POC can change the minds of parents with POC LBGT+ youth, to be more accepting of them, he said, “It comes down to education. We may not be able to change their minds, but we can encourage them to show respect to their child. They will always be the child you brought into this world.
“I believe as the world becomes more progressive, parents will eventually come around. It just takes some patience for some.”
Within our community of color, speak out; you can be a game changer. Future generations of LBGT+ POC need you so they can go forth with confidence and pride. I love every one of you and encourage you to be your change. No matter how young you are, no matter how scared you may be to take on leadership roles and no matter how intimidated you may feel.
The Gayly. April 4, 2018. 9:52 a.m. CST.