Meet the initiative that’s setting out to inspire Black queer men in New York.
The Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI) is a series of events curated to empower black gay and queer men.
Based in New York, the core focus of the initiative is MOBItalks, a three-part series that aims to cultivate black gay and queer men with their personal and professional development. The series has so far been held in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, with a further talk planned for Atlanta this month.
Founded by award-winning advocate, DaShawn Usher, MOBI sets out to inspire a community that is often marginalized by empowering them through peer-led programming. The programs involve development lessons that can help individuals to find ways of improving their lives both personally and professionally.
MOBI also provides an opportunity for attendees to screen for various services throughout the day including HIV, STIs, PrEP/PEP, and health insurance.
Speaking about the importance of the initiative, DaShawn says:
It was important for MOBI to be majority peer-led by other Black men from different intersectionalities of age, identity, and backgrounds who are experts in their respective fields. This allows those involved to feel immersed in a community of people who face the same obstacles and triumphs as them.
One of the experts heavily involved in MOBI is Julian Walker. As a celebrity ambassador for MOBI, Walker knows only too well of the struggles to find real representations of himself in the media, and it’s something he wants to tackle head on. Perhaps best known for playing the role of Ty on Being Mary Jane, Walker is a living example of a Black gay man making a successful name for himself in film and television.
During each MOBItalks event, the organisers try to bring together a vibrant and vast panel of experts who can share their learnings and life lessons. Previous events have focused on the topics of sexuality, identity, creative expression, and self-care, seeing each speaker take turns to deliver and impactful talk on their specific area of expertise.
The most recent event, MOBItalks: Harlem, saw a prestigious panel of guests including Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter, civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, co-organiser of Black Lives Matter Darnell Moore, and former NFL player Wade Davis – showcasing a diverse range of talent and expertise.
Things are set to get even bigger for MOBI, as the initiative is due to launch their very first MOBIfest in May 2018. With a date and location set to be announced, the four-day citywide festival will celebrate the very best in Black queer culture through workshops, talks, and exhibitions across a variety of interests including interactive arts, film, fashion, and music.
Speaking to QWEERIST about the upcoming festival, DaShawn Usher says:
MOBIfest will be primary centred around increasing health and wellness for the Black queer community. The events will be free to attend through MOBI’s “Test for Tickets” program, launching in March, which will link our community with various health services, wellness events, and activities.
MOBIfest will continue on the success of MOBItalks in building community and inclusive spaces for the Black gay and queer community. People should look forward to attending MOBIfest because it’s the only curated festival that is focused on seeing it’s attendees in their holistic selfs. Attendees will get to benefit by visiting our community partners and wellness events and then gain entry into this celebratory weekend experience.
As the initiative is peer-led, it allows people to connect individually with one and another and gain insights on a first-hand basis – something which members of the community may find is often unavailable to them.
MOBI is an important group speaking to a community of people who may often have felt like they had no-one to relate to or to speak with. By celebrating Black queer excellence, MOBI can help members of the community feel they are being listened to and acknowledged. By doing so, they are inspiring these Black queer men to be their best selves – who will then go on to inspire others in their daily lives.
For more information on MOBI and the upcoming MOBIfest, you can check out their website.