Dr. Durryle Brooks recently took the helm as at the Center for Black Equity – Baltimore (CBEB), the organizers of Baltimore Black Pride, now in its 16th year. CBEB’s mission includes the goal of fostering “a sense of belonging and connectedness among the Black LGBTQ Community in the Baltimore metropolitan area and increase our capacity to be mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally and economically healthy.”

Dr. Brooks grew up in Cherry Hill in Baltimore, and was educated in Baltimore’s public-school system, graduating from the former Southern High School. He received a degree in religious studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and a master’s degree in Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University. Most recently he completed his Ph.D. in education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Bill Redmond-Palmer: Your life connects some very diverse contexts. What’s been your journey to where you are today?

Durryle Brooks: Growing up in Baltimore City in the late 1980s and early 1990s was for me a story of both challenge and perseverance. There were some strong beliefs in Baltimore that being gay was wrong or immoral. The church I was raised in was for the most part pretty good until we got a homophobic pastor, and life became a little more tricky and complicated. That had a negative impact on my sense of self-worth, and I spent several years trying to address the issues of my own religious trauma, as well as the religious trauma in our community. This was complicated because of my poor interpretation of scripture and the religious theology that was perpetuated at my church. By 16, however, I was slowly but surely making my way and redefining myself.

I think the most important thing that I’ve learned on that journey is that I’m both black and queer living in a society that constantly perpetuates anti-blackness.

Where do you hope the CBEB to be in the future?

I think the future for the CBEB is very bright. Baltimore is a chocolate city with an amazing and resourceful LGBTQ community. Our short-term goal is to grow our internal capacity, and my first priority is to continue to grow the membership of our board of directors to join the amazing people we currently have.

In the long-term, I’d love for CBEB to be able to provide direct services. It’s something that the board and I are carefully considering. We will identify niches that are not currently filled by other organizations in the city, and we’ll be able to refine that vision as we continue to analyze our community’s needs. Whatever we do in the community, I think our work needs to be trauma-informed, and centered on the narratives in the lived experience of black LGBTQ people in the city.

Where do you hope to see the queer black community go in the future?

I’m so excited to be a part of this community because we always make a way out of no way. I want us to come together and work collaboratively to pool resources to ensure the people we serve have all the things they need to thrive. I want to see us keep hope alive and at the center of all the work that we do, and to work strategically together to uplift the needs of our community.

I hope that there are more and more black LGBTQ people coming out and getting active, so the community can continue to grow. I want to see more black LGBTQ folks on the leadership committees throughout the city, and on city commissions and boards. I want to see more black LGBTQ people owning their own businesses, serving on the school board, heading up youth initiatives and more. I want us to continue being great, and for those who don’t believe that they are great, to discover that on their journey to healing and wholeness.