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and meet­ings, but they shifted their fo­cus to in­clude HIV test­ing as tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in treat­ment pro­gressed. NAESM con­sid­ers love to be their most im­por­tant value. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s motto — We Love You, Love Your­self, Be Healthy — was cre­ated to as­sure the tar­geted pop­u­la­tion that NAESM cares, vows to be a sup­port sys­tem, and ul­ti­mately helps in­di­vid­u­als live health­ier lives. NAESM con­nects peo­ple to health­care ser­vices re­lated to HIV/AIDS, while also giv­ing free STD test­ing for HIV, syphilis, gon­or­rhea, chlamy­dia, and tri­chomo­ni­a­sis with­out ap­point­ments. NAESM also pro­vides free men­tal-health coun­sel­ing for unin­sured HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple and their loved ones, and hous­ing as­sis­tance via their Ger­ald’s House pro­gram. Ger­ald’s House helps with per­ma­nent hous­ing place­ment, short-term fund­ing for bills and rent/ mort­gage, and rental lo­ca­tion as­sis­tance. NAESM host an an­nual con­fer­ence ded­i­cated to pre­sent­ing re­search and strate­gies for the fight against HIV/AIDS and to pro­mote well­ness among black, gay men. Next year’s con­fer­ence is sched­uled for Jan­uary 17–19 in Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia. The con­fer­ence was started in 2001 and is typ­i­cally hosted in a city with a high pop­u­la­tion of queer men af­fected by HIV/AIDS. Dur­ing the con­fer­ence, NAESM hosts a Build-A-Brother track. The track takes 20 “Young Black Men who have Sex with Men (YBMSM)” from the South and spends four days im­mers­ing them in cour­ses that pre­pare them to work on fight­ing the HIV/ AIDS epi­demic and other health is­sues that af­fect YBMSM. Their train­ing in­cludes in­for­ma­tion on per­sonal brand­ing, so­cial mar­ket­ing, new de­vel­op­ments in HIV/AIDS treat­ment, and grant writ­ing. Dur­ing the track, the young men are asked to pitch ideas and cre­ate a pre­sen­ta­tion to be ex­hib­ited on the last day of the con­fer­ence. NAESM’s ded­i­ca­tion to men­tor­ship ex­tends out­side of the con­fines of a yearly con­fer­ence. Their nSPIRE Men­tor­ship Pro­gram pairs newly di­ag­nosed, HIV-pos­i­tive young, black gay men, ages 16–29 with men­tors to help them nav­i­gate poz life. The goal of the pro­gram is to pro­mote viral sup­pres­sion, and men­tors are to model a health life­style for their mentees. The or­ga­ni­za­tion opened their com­mu­nity cen­ter, Da Cribb, on Au­gust 7. Da Crib serves as an ex­ten­sion of their ser­vices and hosts spe­cial events in a place where the com­mu­nity can hang out and kiki. NAESM is also host­ing a Spirit Week to co­in­cide with At­lanta Black Pride. Paul Con­roy founded Out Front Theatre Com­pany in 2016, be­cause he be­lieved LGBTQ sto­ries were miss­ing from At­lanta’s theater scene. Fresh out of grad­u­ate school, Con­roy stud­ied theater in other ci­ties and no­ticed some of them were LGBTQ-cen­tered. “I thought, ‘At­lanta has a theater com­mu­nity that fo­cuses on African-Amer­i­can work, one that fo­cuses on women’s works, even with that fo­cuses on Ir­ish work. But we didn’t have any­thing for a queer au­di­ence.’ It was around the time that mar­riage had be­come le­gal in all 50 states,” he tells Ge­or­gia Voice. The com­pany’s first pro­duc­tion, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Mu­si­cal,” de­buted in Oc­to­ber 2016. “Priscilla” was a show about a group of drag queens who take a cross-coun­try road­trip. Con­roy’s vi­sion for the com­pany is not out­wardly po­lit­i­cal, but he wants to make his au­di­ence think. “I want peo­ple to leave the theater and talk about the show,” Con­roy told The New­nan

Au­gust 17, 2018

Times-Her­ald. “In a pos­i­tive way, in a neg­a­tive way, talk about the is­sues that are brought up.” Out Front has lived up to that vi­sion. In March 2017, the com­pany found it­self in a swarm of con­tro­versy be­cause of their pro­duc­tion of “The Most Fab­u­lous Story Ever Told.” The idea of LGBTQ folks be­ing in­cluded in the Bible sto­ries ruf­fled more than a few feath­ers and re­sulted in a stream of ha­rass­ment. It got so bad At­lanta Po­lice and Home­land Se­cu­rity had to get in­volved. “They don’t ap­prove with what they feel is the un­fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Chris­tian faith. They’ve been call­ing us vile and dis­gust­ing and we should be ashamed and we’re go­ing to hell and all of that stan­dard stuff. Ev­ery time I open my email, I have 100 new mes­sages,” Con­roy said at the time. Still, the show must go on and it did. The con­tro­versy has not de­terred Out Front. Out Front’s cur­rent sea­son started on Au­gust 13 and goes all the way to March 2019. The sea­son will fea­ture a di­verse ar­ray of plays in­clud­ing The Ethel Mer­man Disco Christ­mas Spec­tac­u­lar and the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award win­ner “I Am My Own Wife.” On Septem­ber 22, Out Front will host “The Rain­bow Ball,” a fundraiser that prom­ises a “deca­dent” din­ner, live per­for­mances, and “more sparkle than any mir­ror­ball imag­in­able!” Out Front of­fers sea­son tick­ets that in­clude re­served seats, in­vi­ta­tions to spe­cial events, and flex­i­bil­ity to change show times and dates. The com­pany also sells theater plaques via their Have A Seat cam­paign for pa­trons in­ter­ested in im­mor­tal­iz­ing them­selves or any­one else. Now in its 31st year, Out On Film — At­lanta’s LGBTQ film fes­ti­val — is look­ing for­ward to a busy fall sea­son, with its reg­u­lar fes­ti­val and an ap­pear­ance by noted writer Ar­mis­tead Maupin over La­bor Day week­end. Maupin, who wrote the “Tales of the City” nov­els, is work­ing on a new ver­sion of the se­ries for Net­flix. Es­tab­lished in 1987, Out On Film has grown into one of the largest LGBTQ film fes­ti­vals in the coun­try. Jim Farmer has been with the or­ga­ni­za­tion since 2008 and is cel­e­brat­ing his 10th an­niver­sary as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fes­ti­val di­rec­tor and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. In ad­di­tion to a team of vol­un­teers, the fes­ti­val has a part-time staffer as well, Jus­tice Obi­aya. One of the things the or­ga­ni­za­tion has worked on over the last decade is brand­ing and con­sis­tency — keep­ing the event the same date ev­ery year, be­gin­ning on the last Thurs­day of Septem­ber. “There was a time when Out On Film bounced around a lot from month to month,” says Craig Hardesty, Out On Film’s board chair. “With so much go­ing on in At­lanta, we feel it’s im­por­tant to have it the same time ev­ery year.” An­other added el­e­ment is mak­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pro­gram­ming year round. In 2018 alone, Out On Film has spon­sored or co-spon­sored show­ings of “Love, Si­mon,” “Rais­ing Zoey,”

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