"I am gay and this is where I play," say the billboards featuring African-American athletes that went up in New York City's Bed Stuy, Brownsville and Harlem boroughs.
The New York State Black Gay Network intends the billboards to send the message that gay men are a part of the African-American community.
"We're here today to launch a campaign to save black gay men's lives," Mark McLaurin, the Network's executive director, said at a press conference reported in the Gay City News. "It is a campaign aimed at the heart of our community. It is a campaign that originates from the heart of the same community."
There are three versions of the billboard, bus shelter and subway ads. See them at WeArePartofYou.org.
"All of us stand here together in common purpose to say enough is enough," McLaurin told the Gay City News. "We can no longer allow our lives to be caricatured and demonized and condemned and somehow placed outside the circle of life in the black community when, in truth, as the campaign so simply, but plaintively declares, we have always been here. From the basketball courts to the corner bodega, from the church sanctuary to the school classrooms, black gay men have always played an integral role in the community."
The ads are paid for with $350,000 from the city's health department. The ads battle the anti-gay bias that health officials and activists believe are contributing to rising rates of HIV infection among African-American men.
The New York State Black Gay Network hopes to raise additional funds to keep the public awareness campaign up longer.