Meet Eric Peters

Eric Peters is a social and community activist with a passion for and a commitment to ensuring that the lives of all Black people — including Black gay, bi, trans and non-binary people – matter, and that they achieve and sustain a good quality of life. His lifelong mission is to resist all measures of anti-Blackness and to protect our human rights and dignity.

I am usually a person who pushes back against guidelines or enforced rules

Presently, Eric works in health promotions concerning gay men’s sexual health using an anti-Black racism lens. His work is grounded in social justice and centres on building the capacity of service providers who work with two spirit, gay, bi, trans, queer (2SGBTQ) men to achieve and maintain their sexual health and emotional well-being. The goal is to help 2SGBTQ men develop and enjoy healthy, emotionally intimate, trusting and sexually pleasurable relationships. Eric is a lover of the arts and has a strong vocation for fashion; he launched his brand, Zavé, three years ago for custom and a clothing line (M/F).

How do you manage COVID-related stress/anxiety?

I am usually a person who pushes back against guidelines or enforced rules. However, early in the pandemic, I spiritually surrendered. My stress level was heightened by the videos shared on social media and other platforms for the world to see the modern-day lynching of two Black men, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, which triggered a global fight against anti-Black racism.

It was at this point that I was wrapped in perpetual emotional turmoil, moving cyclically from anger, fear, and rage to sadness/grief. I am not sure that I’ll ever be the same emotionally, psychologically, mentally or spiritually. However, to address these emotions, I meditate daily, exercise on/off, FaceTime and video chat with family/friends, and attend some social distancing backyard picnics. Recently, I was re-introduced to hiking (not sure how long this will last), I’ve limited my use of social media and have been making optimum use of the block/delete buttons. I have also been reading articles/papers (work-related) on the many new antiretrovirals, on PrEP coming down the pike, and Nigerian and South African fashion blogs. I just completed Pauli Murray’s “Song in a Weary Throat” and Rinaldo Walcott’s and Idil Abdillahi’s “Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom” (not to be read like a novel). This works best for me; of course, lots of quality time with my partner (dinners on our balcony and conversations).

Who is your favourite streaming DJ on FB or Instagram Live or what’s on your

D-Nice, who I recently discovered in early quarantine, has become my favourite Instagram Live DJ. He plays the genres of music that I enjoy and love to dance. My playlist stems from my early days of clubbing in NYC in the 80s/90s. It comprises mixes of Paradise Garage, Frankie Knuckles house, Kenny Bobien’s gospel house, Byron Stingily’s (Hate Won’t Change Me), Black Coffee, Robert Owens’s (I’ll Be Your Friend), DJ Chill X (Old School House Mix), Viola Sykes (Little Girl), Kimara Lovelace (When Can Our Love Begin), Shaun Escoffrey (Days Like This), lots of Anita Baker, Whitney, Luther, Regina Belle, our home grown (Toronto’s own Coco Brown) and 80s Dance music – think Alexander O’Neal, Kashif and Phyllis Hyman. I’ll stop there.

What led you to your current (career, art, activism)?

The mid-90s heightened Black community HIV/AIDS response coincided with a renewed intensity about the ever-evolving Black experience in NYC, especially for Black and queer men with multiple identities and intersections. In my quest for a space where I could actualize my Blackness and queerness, l became a member of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), participated in People of Colour in Crisis (POCC) meetings/rallies and, delved into Black queer radical politics, community organizing and HIV/AIDS activism.

This experience motivated me to volunteer at an AIDS service organization (ASO) in Harlem, NYC around 1995. It was a time when young Black gay/bi men were dying from HIV/AIDS complications and wanted to learn more about HIV/AIDS. At the time, I had no plans of leaving my then position in Corporate America. However, in 1997, I enthusiastically took an outreach coordinator position at that ASO.

Today, 23 years later, not only have I gained knowledge and skills in almost every capacity of this work, but I also learned about community and myself. This brought me to the realization that one must be consciously ready (WOKE) for this career because this is “Wake Work.”

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.

In recent years, there have been ongoing conversations about older gay men’s fear of returning to the closet, due to the lack of “culturally gay appropriate” long-term care (LTC) facilities and spaces for this population. Therefore, my vision is that there’ll be LTC facilities that are held accountable and, committed to providing racially and culturally sound, diverse care to 2SGBTQ men (along the spectrum of sex, sexuality & gender identity). They will be facilities whose entire staff/board are not only “gay friendly,” but trained and have comprehensive knowledge of providing adequate and appropriate care centred in dignity and respect. They must have activities and policies embedded in gay culture that are not limited to, for example, books, music, films, rooms that partners can live together, lounges for socials — tea dances (Sundays, 4 – 8pm)/Saturday supper club soirees (dragshows/comedians/etc.). They will also create routine opportunities for residents’ engagement to discuss ways of enhancing their quality of life.

Connect with the Black Gay Men’s Network of Ontario and join the hub of same-gender-loving men of African, African diaspora, Afro-Latino, Caribbean and Black identities.

Lyle Borden

Born, raised and educated in a small town in Nova Scotia, Lyle has lived and worked the majority of his 67 years in Ottawa for the federal government. In total, he worked for 35 years; the first 25 with the Public Service Commission and the next 10 with the Department of National Defence before retiring in 2012. Lyle specialized in human resources. In reality, his career choice did not match his academic studies as he graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science (Biology) degree. He accounts for this by noting that he was deeply rooted in social justice and civil rights in the Black community and became a people person. Excelling in person-to-person interaction has always been a defining feature of his career.

Lyle is the second youngest of 18 children whose family, relatives and friends from the Black community have a long and varied history of activism in Nova Scotia. This spirit of activism was a natural segue into the fight for queer rights, especially when he moved to Ottawa in the early 1980s, where he became involved in Egale Canada, Pink Triangle Services, Pride, and numerous volunteer projects within the queer community. Now, as a senior Black gay man, Lyle’s focus is on the Ottawa Senior Pride Network of which he has been a founding member since 2008.

His efforts are now directed to the needs and visibility of queer seniors, especially in relation to their social and physical health. Having been an athlete most of his life in physical body training, tennis and martial arts, Lyle is keenly aware of the need to maintain a healthy mind and body while ageing. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the shortfalls in the healthcare system for seniors and the fears of many queer seniors when entering and navigating this system.

How do you manage COVID-19 stress/anxiety?
My educational training is in science, therefore, from the beginning of the pandemic my approach has been to follow the science. This eliminates much of the stress generated by non-scientific explanations, conspiracy theories and panic remedies. I keep my eye on the target, which is an eventual vaccine, and take one day at a time.

How has your upbringing influenced you as an adult?
Nova Scotia, for many years, had the largest Black population per capita of all the provinces. Because of this there were numerous small Black communities, as well as the larger Black community in Halifax, and thus a strong network throughout the province. There were also numerous Black role models from whom I gained a great deal of insight and experience.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment is my 43-year partnership with my husband. To be a senior Black gay man today with a relationship that has seen the many ups and downs, good and bad, and all the pressures of a same-sex relationship over the past four decades, is proof of true love, strength and devotion.  

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.
My vision for the future is of a united world and for the respect of, and action toward, the saving of our planet. Along with that I would like to see a world with true full equality, respect and embracing of diversity, and a feeling by all people of safety and support. Without our planet nothing else can exist.

Taib’s Truths

Taib is a community developer, health and race equity researcher, HIV/AIDS educator, and queer rights activist based in Ottawa. As a consultant, Taib supports the development and implementation of online and in-person training on anti-racism and anti-oppression to build organizational capacity and create space for critical dialogue, which could lead to systemic change.

My family has always been my biggest supporter and I of them.

Taib has lived and worked on the continent of Africa, specifically Nairobi, Kenya, doing HIV/AIDS research and human rights consulting with local nonprofits and UN agencies. After two years there, he moved back to Ottawa and out of a sense of needing to connect, he co-founded Keepingit100 – a social discussion group for Black queer and trans guys.

What’s your favourite thing to do right now?

I’m enjoying the outdoors, biking, running, and rollerblading around to new places or just lounging at the beach in the sun. I’ve also started baking. Chapatis, cookies, and brownies are some of my specialties and favourites.

Who are some of your influential authors or books to read?

The most influential book I’d say was Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. It was the first book I read in high school where I felt like I was hearing a story I knew, but no one had described in such an eloquent way. Since then Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like (a last-minute purchase at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, the best decision), and The Nest Collective’s Stories of Our Lives (a collection of stories about LGBTI+ Kenyans).

How has your upbringing influenced you as an adult?

My family is the reason I’m able to have the confidence to make a profile like this. They’ve always been my biggest supporter and I of them. The system really tries to tear down Black kids to tell them they aren’t smart, cute, and strong. I’m thankful to have a family that believes blackness is excellent in all forms.

Emancipation Day!

As a community of Black gay men, we honour the past and paths that have led to our freedoms. We take the present opportunities to reaffirm those liberties. We continue to fight for a brighter future!

New profile-William Koné

William Koné

William Koné is a MA graduate in psychotherapy. He completed his degree at Saint Paul University and his BA in psychology at Carleton University. His studies initially focused on autonomy’s impact on romantic success. Later, he highlighted relationship satisfaction among gay men. William intends to practice individual and couples therapy to specialize in identity and interpersonal conflict, preferably among the Black and/or LGBTQ+ population.

With MAX Ottawa, he co-facilitated discussions on anxiety and body image among guys into guys. Currently, he co-supervises its peer support program. As an Ottawa native, William is eager to support community projects that celebrate and heighten its Black queer presence in the city. This prompted him to co-found the Cap City Kiki Ballroom Alliance, serving as the sister chapter to the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance.

How do you manage COVID related stress/anxiety?

Its been challenging having to process the amount of loss I endured this year. The alliance had just launched before the pandemic hit, so it hurt me knowing that our plans were shelved. My program underwent shifts so we could all graduate on time, but the journey to the end wasn’t satisfying given everything that was going on. Accompanied by the Anti-Black racism unfolding globally, it was a strain to get up and be productive for a while. I was even secluding myself from others because I was emotionally all over the place.

Long story short, I’m still figuring it out. Flagging depressive symptoms as they come up has helped by putting a name to what I’m experiencing. Loved ones have been holding me accountable for specific tasks, allowing me to focus my attention on what I’m interested in. Utilizing the resources that are available for me to vocalize my concerns was beneficial as well. I’ve always struggled to ask others for things, but the pandemic has made it apparent that many are grounded in the same pain. It’s validating to know that I can connect with others that hold genuine regard for me.

Who is your favourite streaming DJ on FB or Instagram live or what’s on your playlist?

With current music, the female rappers are giving it. City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, and Saweetie are necessities. Their unapologetic demeanor accompanied by their dismissal of the male gaze forever reigns supreme to me. My playlists are based on the mood I’m in, so I use a single-word adjective to paint the story I’m creating. Right now, I’m curating one for my birth year 1993 to draw inspiration for writing. Essentials like Jodeci, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, and Mariah are obviously a part of the vision. 

In general, I live for 90s Hip-Hop and R&B. The range and the style of that era remains unmatched, so I try to sprinkle favorites into playlists like Brandy, Janet, Nas, Gang Starr, Wu-Tang, and Foxy Brown. 

How has your upbringing influenced you as an adult? 

Being raised by a single mother was challenging because most expected her to fail. Raising Black boys as a young Black woman was considered detrimental towards our manhood. In the end, it was the biggest blessing I could’ve asked for. My mom taught me more about manhood by contradicting the stereotypes of what a provider looked like. Her teachings exposed me to the plights women endured, allowing me to embrace femininity as opposed to being threatened by it. 

Her resiliency and her authenticity shape the way I operate today. She wasn’t hindered by other people’s perceptions because she prioritized what mattered to her, which were my siblings and I. There were countless times where I doubted my abilities because social and academic circles centered on white heteronormativity. She was the one to stress the importance of being myself. For that alone I’m grateful. I owe it to her to live my truth because she gave me the care I needed to survive this life. 

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.

I want Ottawa to have options. For Black queer people to have the satisfaction in choosing different scenes/opportunities for personal fulfillment, whatever that may be. Many choose to sleep on what the city provides, but to me it’s a copout. With the number of driven yet inspiring faces I’ve encountered here, it’s inexcusable. There’s so much room for us to thrive and I want our presence to be known, point blank. 

As for me, I’m conscientious of legacy. I’m eager to leave something behind that not only reflects my passions but extends beyond my intentions to better my community. I want a practice that houses Black professionals in various sectors of mental health, so people understand that support was built for them to turn to. That would be one of my biggest accomplishments.