A New York-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group hoped to send a powerful message when they posed outside of a notoriously anti-gay church in the city's Harlem neighborhood.
Members of Harlem United's H.O.M.E Program, which educates at-risk young LGBT adults of color on HIV/AIDS transmission, struck a unified pose April 26 outside of ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church which, once again, was displaying a vehemently anti-gay sign.
"Many of these homos moving into Harlem looking for some black meat," the sign read on one side. On the reverse, it declared, "The homo demons metastasized in Harlem restaurants possibly transmit sexual disease."
At the time the photo was shot, Harlem United H.O.M.E Program participants had been coming from a session at Three and a Half Acres Yoga, and were out and about with photographer Robert Sturman. Once they spotted the ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church's sign, the group immediately wanted to take an unified photo in front of it.
Sturman later posted the image to Instagram:
"Our clients struggle daily with being made to feel like they are invisible," program coordinator Francisco Lazala said in an email statement. "To be the subjects of Robert Sturman portraits echoes what we already know: these lives and these stories matter. When the group walked past the divisive sign, our young adult participants and Robert all agreed they needed to make a response: Harlem is our home, too."
The ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church has earned a reputation for anti-gay signage over the past year. In February 2014, a sign was posted that read, "Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may take your man." The church later replaced the sign with one that read "Jesus would stone homos," along with "Stoning is still the law."
A few months later, another sign appeared in front of the church, which read, "Harlem is a sodomite free zone. Stop sodomizing our children in schools across America."
Meanwhile, ALTAH Pastor James David Manning has sparked controversy with his anti-LGBT remarks. In October, he labeled Starbucks "ground zero for Ebola" because franchises, particularly in urban areas, are meeting places for "generally upscale sodomites" interested in "clandestine sexual activities."
He later argued that the coffee giant has been using "sodomites' semen" in their flavored coffee drinks.