“We need each other as African American gay brothers more than ever through support, love, communication, intimacy, and spirituality,” reads the sobering proclamation on the website of Brothers of the Desert. It is but one of many bold truths that Tim Vincent, the nonprofit’s board of directors’ president, stands by and will focus on as the organization heads into 2024.
“The organization came from a small group of people wanting to create a space where Black men in the Valley felt comfortable, safe, and seen,” Vincent says. “When we organized, it wasn’t only to be social, to connect to people, and to support people identifying in the Black LGBTQ+ context, but so much more. We also realized that the people we were finding and organizing with had incredible talents and skills and assets.”
Vincent adds that since the organization’s birth in 2017, the nonprofit has been able to harness new talents in ways designed to give back to the community.
“We built our community and connected our community, then we were clear that we needed to demonstrate the breadth of talent we had,” he says.
It’s a noteworthy achievement. In just six years, the nonprofit has grown considerably. The mission remains rock solid: To “nurture and support Black gay men and allies through philanthropy, volunteerism, mentorship, education, advocacy, and social networking.”
One thrust is to change the paradigm that fuels isolation, disconnection, and inequities among Black gay men.
“We’re looking to grow our organization as we head into 2024,” Vincent says. “We’re a member organization—we have about 75-80 members—and we call members people who identify as Black and gay and cis-gendered or transgendered male-men. We’re also looking to reach a younger demographic and a larger place in the Valley besides the central parts we have been more focused on.”
Recently, Brothers of the Desert received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation through the IE Black Equity Fund. Vincent was quick to note that the resources helped the nonprofit accomplish ways to strengthen and fortify a recent annual wellness summit it hosted.
“The summit brought together several public health experts, but not just public health,” he adds. “People who speak on the topics of relationships, financial freedom, and a variety of things that support the health and well-being of black gay men and also our allies.”
The annual event, typically a big draw, expanded this year. In addition to the speakers on hand, Vincent points out other nuances that affect the nonprofit’s reach. Some of those elements include the addition of chronicling stories and filmed interviews.
“We hadn’t done that in the past,” he says. “People had gone to the Wellness Summit, then wanted where they could see somebody’s presentation later. We were able to hire people to do that and grow it as a resource.”
The recent grant helped draw in several noteworthy speakers, including Greg Millett, Vice President and Director of Public Policy for amfAR’, the Foundation for AIDS Research. Millet was also one of the principal writers of the National HIV-AIDS Strategy in the Obama administration.
Also on the roster: Malcolm Kenyatta, a Pennsylvania State Representative, and Bishop Yvette Flunder Flounder, well known as an interfaith bishop and minister.
Looking ahead, Vincent notes the continued forward movement of community and organizational collaborations, special advocacy groups, select film screenings, and unique factions that unite individuals, such as the Barbershop Discussion Group, Speaker Series, and New Year’s Eve Fundraiser.
On that note, the event, dubbed “Dancing Through The Decades,” takes place at Margaritaville Resort at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.
“We started with a New Year’s event and someone at that event basically said that it was nice to start a social networking, but in order to sustain this group and give it any kind of life, it had to have some meaning,” Vincent says of the annual event. “We decided that night that we had to do more than just hang out. So, every New Year’s Eve, we celebrate our approach and look to the future.
“This New Year’s Eve we will be celebrating different decades in terms of the bands and music,” he adds. “And we’ll also give legacy awards to people who have contributed to who we are as Black LGBTQ+ people.”
This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun December 2023.
Learn more about Brothers of the Desert at brothersofthedesert.org.