Responding To Harlem's Anti-Gay Pastor With Love And Beauty

The recent homophobic rant by Pastor James D. Manning of Harlem based Atlah World Missionary Church is a chilling reminder that despite remarkable progress in the quest for LGBT equality in the last few years, there is still a long way to go. The guffaw worthy rant is out of sync with how most Americans feel about LGBT issues. Gallup polls show that most Americans view LGBT individuals and their relationships favorably. However, this pastor reflects back to us that despite a shift in national zeitgeist regarding LBGT issues, local communities may be slower to change.

Connect 'N Unite (CNU) is a National Institutes of Health funded research project in New York City dedicated to promoting healthy relationships between Black men and their same sex partners. Many of the participants we work with report that although legislation has become more accepting of the LGBT community, they still feel uncomfortable being affectionate with their partner in areas of the city that are not traditionally associated with LGBT visibility. This discomfort is the result of the pervasive homophobia and heterosexism that continues to exist in many neighborhoods and communities. The ignorance of Pastor Manning allows us to look closely at how Harlem will respond to this hateful vitriol and hopefully create a catalyst for change in the community that results in love and acceptance. Unfortunately, just a year ago, Harlem bore witness to how unchecked hatred and ignorance can turn into violence against LGBT individuals with the senseless murder of young Islan Nettles.

Considering our project is housed in Harlem, we want to make sure that we not only point out how deplorable Manning's hate speech is, but that we also respond to this hatred with overwhelming love and acceptance. Our hope is to make sure that the community we love and work in is welcoming to same gender loving individuals. Often Black men and their same sex partners are pushed to the fringes of society and forced to endure ignorance and hatred alone. Our project is dedicated to making sure that folks do not continue to feel this way. We want to empower Black men and their same-sex partners to express their #loveeverywhere.

#loveanywhere #Harlem #OurHarlem #NewHarlem

Learn more about CNU at


Photographs: Richard Yumang