I just saw this story in The Advocate (http://election2008.advocate.com/2008/01/speaking-your-t.html). I had the pleasure of working with Ken during our ballot campaign last year, and I have the utmost respect for him. He was more than a Board Member, he was one of a handful of people who volunteered his time and energy every time a need arose. Ken- if you’re reading this, please know that you deserve all the best life has to offer. I feel better for having known you!

Speaking your truth

It seemed only fitting that I would conclude my reporting from

South Carolina with an entry about Ken Hubbard, an openly gay

African-American resident of Charleston who is presently in nursing


Hubbard, a 45-year-old Arkansas native who moved to SC nine years

ago, came out to his highly religious family when he was 32. Although

they had attended church almost every day of the week when he was

growing up, they weren’t living in a bubble. His mother and two sisters

apparently already knew and were simply waiting for Hubbard to get with

the program. “I told one of my sisters and she said, ‘And?’ I told the

other one and she said, ‘So?’” Hubbard recalls.

He encountered a bit more tension with his two brothers, both of

whom are Pentecostal preachers. “It’s been a little rough — they both

had to balance it with their faith,” says Hubbard, adding that one of

them still struggles a bit. Even so, when Hubbard was home for

Christmas, the brother that’s still adjusting took Hubbard to meet his

church elder. “He may not be fully comfortable, but if he takes me to

meet the Bishop, then he’s okay,” he says with a smile.

Hubbard just finished serving a year on the board of the NAACP’s

Charleston Chapter and is taking a break right now while he

concentrates on his studies. But long before working with the NAACP, he

was involved with both of the state’s gay organizations, the South

Carolina Equality Coalition and the Alliance For Full Acceptance. He

says he felt more compelled to get political about his sexuality

because it might otherwise be missed by others. “People will always see

me as a black man, but not all of them will see me as a gay black man,”

he says.

He joined the NAACP Board when AFFA members were working to build

alliances and Dot Scott, the rather fearless president of Charleston’s

NAACP Chapter, told him that if gays and lesbians wanted her help, then

Hubbard should join her board. “It works both ways” is how he remembers

her saying it. (Hubbard gives her a lot of credit for having the

chutzpah to invite a gay man to sit on her board.)

Hubbard can count the number of out, established black peers he

knows in Charleston on less than two hands, and he knows another 15 or

so who are gay but not open about it. “The students and young adults

are getting much better,” he adds.

But for the older generations, it’s just easier not to discuss it

even if people know someone is gay. “It’s okay for people to know as

long we don’t have to talk about it,” Hubbard says, describing people’s

attitudes toward gays and lesbians. “But if it comes out in the open,

then I have to deal with my prejudices.”

Hubbard, whose unique openness makes him a widely sought after

commodity for all kinds of speaking engagements, said one seminar in

particular showed him the power of speaking out. At a diversity seminar

on a fundamentalist college campus in Spartanburg, SC, he was invited

to speak about his experiences as a gay black man. When he arrived to

the auditorium of 100-plus students, “it was already a hornet’s nest,”

he says. A dispute had broken out among the students once they realized

what the topic of discussion would be.

When the crowd began asking questions, “It’s fair to say, they were

disrespectful,” says Hubbard, who has a background in divinity and

served as a lay pastor at one point. He talked to them about

questioning how they could serve God in this situation, since no matter

what they said, “You’re not going to change my view about who I am.”

Things eventually reached a relative calm and then one

African-American boy stood up and said, “This is the first time that

I’ve ever told anyone that I’m gay, and I might not be able to do this

all the time, but I can take this first step.”

Says Hubbard, “That’s when I knew this is what I was meant to do –

open my big mouth. I can show people how to stand up with dignity.”

Hubbard’s faith beamed through him during our discussion, but he

admitted that religion had initially made it harder for him to embrace

his sexuality. “We all knew who was gay, but we just didn’t talk about

it,” he says of his church growing up. “That was etched in my mind.”

And lest we forget the presidential — Hubbard is torn between

Clinton and Obama, but is leaning Obama at the moment. And for the

record, the Donnie McClurkin deal really didn’t bother him that much.

“It was a little disappointing, but (Obama) is a man, he’s going to

make mistakes. If I’m ever going to ask for forgiveness, I have to

forgive others.” Hubbard believes that removing McClurkin from the tour

would have been “cowering down” in a way. “I wish Obama would have come

out against Donnie and said, ‘Please don’t do this on my stage. You

need to take that message elsewhere,’” says Hubbard. “But Donnie

doesn’t define who God is to me,” he adds. “It’s my job to get on stage

and talk back.”

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