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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

LGBT Community Center's first black chairman
Ranzeno Frazier working to restore broken trust
 
Published Thursday, July 10, 2014 7:07 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III
Ranzeno Frazier was elected as the first black and youngest chairman of the board of trustees for the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. Since taking office the last week of May, Frazier has been busy trying to restore the community's trust and repair the center's tainted reputation. 

Meet Ranzeno Frazier.

He’s young. He’s educated. He’s black, and he’s gay.

In May, Frazier, 26, became the youngest and first African American to be elected as chair of the board of trustees for the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. The center, which opened in 2003, has a mission of promoting diversity, acceptance and visibility of the LGBT community.

The announcement of its new chair was not without controversy.

Some detractors questioned Frazier’s age and readiness to lead. There was concern that the Livingstone College graduate who has served as president of the National Pre-Alumni board of the United Negro College Fund, Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputy and is currently a professional compliance trainer with OnStar, lacked experience.

Others took issue with his race.

Frazier said through menacing emails and text messages, he was called a “dumb nigger” and told he didn’t deserve the position. He said some in the community outright refused to work with him because he was black.

“Some people felt like I was going to make this ‘the black center,’” he said. “I never knew that the LGBT community had a race or a color, a specific gender or age.”

Frazier said initially the insults and criticism were upsetting, but in the end, he turned that pain into motivation.

“It kind of hurt, coming from the community that I love and care about,” he said. “But it actually made me stronger in wanting to prove them wrong… But it saddens my heart that we are still dealing with stuff like that.”

Despite a few bumps in the road, Frazier said that overall, most of the feedback has been positive.

“We are just moving forward,” he said. “We are rebuilding ‘the center today and tomorrow,’ and right now is the rebirthing phase.”

Moving forward

When Frazier took over the center, it was in the midst of a financial firestorm.

With just over $600 in the bank, the center owed at least $7,000 in state and federal taxes. Plus, the rent was past due, and the operating manager had not been paid in months.

In June, Qnotes Editor Matt Comer wrote a scathing editorial recounting how years of board mismanagement and financial woes had resulted in dwindling support for the center, which had to end much of its programming. Comer questioned whether the community’s broken trust could ever be rebuilt.

“Charlotte’s LGBT community clamors in near-unanimous agreement: We are tired of the hubris,” Comer wrote. “We are tired of the excuses. We are tired of the damage and the division this leadership has caused.”

It was a frustration that Frazier understood. Even though he was a member of the board, prior to becoming chair, he too was unaware of the financial crisis the center was facing.

“A lot of the community leaders were not pleased with what the previous board chair [Roberta Dunn] was doing,” said Frazier. “She wasn’t being 100 percent transparent with the community or with [the center’s] leaders by letting them know exactly what the current issues were here at the center.”

When Dunn resigned, Frazier was eager to take her place in hope of bringing change.

“I stepped up because I feel like the center is very needed, not only for the LGBT community but for the city of Charlotte as well,” he said.

After being elected, Frazier dug in and went to work. The first order of business was holding a town hall meeting during his first week. Things got nasty. People were demanding answers. Although Frazier couldn’t answer every question, he made a promise to be more transparent going forward. The center now produces a monthly summary of all board activity and progress towards addressing the center’s issues.

The next move was finding a donor to take care of the tax debt. It is still unclear how much the center owes, but Frazier estimates it’s in the $7,000 range. He has found an anonymous donor who is willing to pay the debt in full once the amount is determined.

Frazier’s also working with a financial advisor to get the center’s books in order. Doing so has required making some tough decisions, including eliminating the operations manager position because there was not enough money in the budget to pay for it. Frazier, who is an unpaid board member, now pulls double duty to fill the role.

Frazier’s also working on putting together an advisory committee made up of members from the broader community who can provide an extra set of eyes and objective insight as the center moves forward.

He’s also taking initiative to get out in the community and work to strengthen and build relationships with organizations and community groups, such as Power House, Time Out Youth, Lesbian and Gay Fund with the Foundation of the Carolinas and others.

He said he wants to mend bridges and repair relationships that have been broken.

“I really want the community to have faith in us and trust us again,” he said.

Accepted as I am

As an openly gay African-American man, Frazier is no stranger to adversity. It’s something he’s learned to take in stride.

“For me, being a black, gay man is not hard,” he said. “I am secure with myself, and I can’t let the words of someone else bring me down or let their opinion change my heart. I am what I am.”.

Frazier said people seldom take issue with him being black and gay, but when you add a little power into the mix it can become a different story.

“Being what they call a ‘high power’ black, gay man is where the problem comes,” he said. “You kind of have to prove yourself before people really get to know you and give you a chance. I feel like that is an issue not only in the gay community but any work place. If you are an African American male, then you have to work 10 times harder than the average Caucasian or Hispanic male, period.”

In the end, it’s a challenge that he said has only made him stronger and a better professional.

“Everything is not easy,” he said. “Nothing is going to be handed to you. You have to work.”

Growing up, Frazier said he dated women, but never felt that he never quite lived up to society’s definition of a good boyfriend.

The Charlotte native said it wasn’t until he started attending Harding High School that he began to crack out his shell. He stopped being so careful of other people’s opinions. He joined the band and gained a reputation for his witty humor and outgoing personality.

In college, he joined the cheerleading squad.

“I guess you can say that’s when I started experimenting a little,” he said.

He started going out on dates with guys but nothing became serious until his junior year when he met an older man, who is now his life partner.

For a while he kept the relationship under wraps. He decided not to publicize his sexuality because he still worried about what other students would think. He also worried about what his family and members of his A.M.E. Zion church would think.

“I know my religion doesn’t agree with my sexuality,” he said.

Frazier said his coming out process was a slow one. The first person he told was one of his two sisters. He sent her a picture of his “boo thang” via text and asked if she thought he was cute. Her response to learning that her brother was gay was simply that she was happy for him as long as he was happy and protected himself.

Coming out

For a while it was their little secret. He said other family members eventually figured it out on their own.

“After my boyfriend started coming around to family events, it was obvious,” he said. “They are not dumb.”

Still, he felt like he was hiding something and wasn’t being forthright, especially with his parents. So he decided they needed to sit down and have the talk.

His father, whom Frazier suspects already knew, took the news relatively well, but Frazier said his mom did not.

“She kind of lost it,” he said. “She was in shock… She fought it for so long. She’d tried to keep me from certain things throughout my life to keep this from happening, and I think she kind of blamed herself.”

Frazier said after he fessed up to his mom, they didn’t speak for almost a year.

“But we’ve since gotten back together, and it’s been good,” he said.

Although, it was a conversation he needed to have with his family, Frazier said he does not feel the need to necessarily “come out” or share his sexuality with anyone.

He said it’s not about concealing his lifestyle, but it’s just no more necessary for him to share the details of his love life than someone who is heterosexual.

He admits that sometimes when he meets people, particularly in a work or professional setting, he will let them believe their assumptions that he’s married to a woman and when it comes to light that he’s involved with another man, he’s found that it’s often no big deal. He’s even found support in his church.

“No matter what we do, everybody lives in sin everyday,” he said. “No one sin is greater than another. A lot of religions frown upon it. What you believe is what you believe… All I can say about my church family is that I appreciate them for not judging me.”

Going forward, he said the biggest challenge he hopes to see addressed in the LGBT community is that they become more accepting of each other.

“The city has embraced us, but getting support from our own is an issue,” he said.

He said various organizations in the LGBT community often find themselves at odds with other organizations. Competition can be fierce and gossip abounds.

“Sometimes in the gay community we work so hard against each other trying to be better than the other,” he said. “We are all one family, so why not work together?”

Comments

Why should we need laws against hate and prejudice, the idea to me to hate someone because of their skin color is ridiculous. Nevertheless, in our society we do have bankers, shopkeepers, employers, politicians and people from all lifestyles who HATE people because they have a different skin color, so making laws against bigotry , discrimination and prejudice is a must in our country. I grew up in the 1950ty?s when racial hate was at its peak and in those times is when the KKK was strong and inflicted fear among people of color, just because. Just recently, someone in our very own LGBT community here in Charlotte has reminded me to remember the past, by making threats along with racial slurs to Ranzeno a man whom I know and respect. I know if I were he, I would just want the hate mail to stop and go away.
You know people, Life is nothing more than a short dream and to live it hating people is no way to live. I have a lot of respect for people, no matter what color they are or wherever they come from. However, to have a Gay person from my community, that?s right a person who should know better, attack a man because of his skin color, is against my grain. To the person who is doing this you short lived self-centered fame is over, STOP NOW.
Posted on July 14, 2014
 
I am not in the least bit surprised by the racism spewing from the white LGBT community. I am now 65 years old, and I was startled by it 40 years ago here in Washington, DC when I noticed that black men were not permitted to enter certain bars based on arbitrary and sudden ID requirements. Although I was never refused entry, I stopped going. I saw it when AIDS started devastating the gay community and I chaired the Board of the principal Gay community health organization. A "representative" of the clever white boy set called me to complain about seeing too many black people at the main facility and then later opposed spending resources to locate a branch facility in a predominately black neighborhood. The facility in that section of the city had to be moved to larger space at least once per year to meet the exponential growth in need. Oh yes, make no mistake about it, white gays and lesbians can be among the most rabid racists in America. I know; I seen it and felt it's sting.
Posted on July 11, 2014
 

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