Get To Know Guy Anthony, Creator of Black, Gifted & Whole
On his weekend from DC to New York City, Black, Gifted & Whole’s creator Guy Anthony found himself stuck in the city on a rainy spring evening. Though we were unable to meet in person, the self-proclaimed ‘artivist’ was eager to conduct the interview, nonetheless, during his traffic-struck taxi ride back to Brooklyn.
After getting to know the man behind the organization, and the story behind the man, I’m honored to have been able to share a day of reminisces, laughs and unpredictable weather with Guy Anthony. He is the proud founder of a life-changing organization called Black, Gifted & Whole which highlights the different aspects of what it means to be young, gay and black. He shares the importance of the movement as being not just about sexuality, but about the person as a whole. Their website, while all-encompassing, is no match for the personal narrative Anthony lays out for me in during our chat. Black, Gifted & Whole comes layered with trauma, heartache and healing. It is the result of years spent in the dark, moving from city to city, overcoming the unimaginable and finally finding the light.
Have you ever been in a room with someone whose spirit instantly brightens the space around you? Now, imagine that feeling tenfold with Guy Anthony. He opened our talk with a rather touching story about life growing up on the East Side of Detroit. He was a professional dance kid, theatre geek, competitive actor and found love for art and oratory at a young age. He realized his sexuality early on which was not well-received in his religious household. His coming-of-age story proved to be more than I was prepared for, though is certainly a large part of him that he is willing to share. Cue tears: Anthony was forced out into the street while still very young, suffered from depression and attempted suicide while in college. He moved to Philadelphia and was sexually assaulted and given HIV, then received death threats from the man who infected him. He was able to finish school and later, moved to California which is where he was officially diagnosed. Following this tragic realization, Anthony found himself strung out on coke for a few years, and ended up being robbed and tied up at gunpoint. He shares that this was officially his breaking point.
Following these personal tragedies, Anthony began to turn his series of unfortunate events into something to be encouraged by. He explains how he “wanted to show the vitality of what comes with living with HIV.” He began volunteering at an AIDS organization that worked toward connecting him to the care that he needed. Soon after, he was inspired to write Pos(+)itively Beautiful: A Book of Affirmations, Advice & Advocacy. Anthony was encouraged by, not only sharing his story, but telling the narratives of other people. This venture landed Anthony in DC where he started booking his own community engagements, speaking with different types of people and spreading his message. While in DC, Anthony was inspired by BET’s “Black Girls Rock” and tells me that he wanted to start an organization like this one to help save his life. Black, Gifted & Whole was inspired by the BET award show as a platform that celebrated all black gay men and provided inclusivity for them, regardless of socioeconomic status. This event would be the “Black Boys Rock, too” statement that Anthony saw was missing in today’s society.
Shortly after Black Boys Rock, Anthony found the importance of simply having a conversation for other black, gay men. Through this realization, he began going out to local high schools and reaching out to young, black, gay men before they headed to college or into the real world. Thus, the organization was birthed. Black, Gifted & Whole was inspired by Aretha Franklin’s album Young, Gifted and Black. The album, Anthony shares, sums up how he felt as a black person in America. The organization exists to shed a light on black excellence through mentorship and education. Anthony describes it as “a call to action for black people, in general, to love their whole selves and to not allow anyone to treat them as pieces of a person.” The goal is to mentor, not sexualize, for there is a history of young gay men often preyed on by older gay men. What this generation needs, he explains, are mentors to help navigate through school, their own sexualities, and ultimately the world.
Though Black, Gifted & Whole is still getting off the ground, there’s been quite a few successes throughout its history. It is a learning experience for Anthony who claims that he and his business partner George Johnson are still mastering each day. “Our work is activism; we didn’t study business,” Anthony asserts, but the collective goal is to leave the community in a much better place than when they found it. The nonprofit operates under the mission of helping gay black men go to and get back into school. The goal is to help create as many connections as possible. The structure is informal—“when it becomes programmatic, it becomes less fun” Anthony says. The mentors are always just a call or text away. It’s about having someone, knowing someone, and gaining a level of access before the mentees’ next major step in life. The way Anthony and Johnson went about structuring the organization was with a keen understanding of the things they didn’t receive when they were growing up. Black, Gifted & Whole is truly a labor of love.
In the coming years, Anthony sees Black, Gifted & Whole having branded over 100 gay men as ambassadors, and they, in turn, are mentoring over 100 more black gay men. They are looking forward to having ten students and ambassadors per year, which will allow them to pay close attention to and keep up with each of them equally. He hopes to also begin a partnership with the United Negro College Fund, a merger that makes perfect sense, and eventually open it up all black students. In his spare time, Anthony stays grounded by continuing to relive his childhood through the art world by attending plays at the Kennedy Theatre in DC. He plans to remain as connected to the world as possible—poetry, rapping, museum-outings—and emerge himself in a culture that’s unapologetically black. His motto: “Saturdays are for adventures and Sundays are for cuddles” really puts into perspective the realness with which Anthony lives each day. After you get past the fact that this man is saving the future of young, gay black men one student at a time, you’ll realize he’s just like you and me.