Black Families and Friends (BFF) began in 2008 following a forum called ‘It Takes A Village: the Role of Black Families in Supporting their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) Youth’. The forum was delivered by the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) and Gays and Lesbians of African Descent (GLAD) at the Sherbourne Health Center in Toronto and was focused on the challenges that Black LGBTQ youth in Toronto experience. The event was also a launch of a new Black CAP booklet called, ‘Dealing with Being Different: A Coming Out Resource Guide for LGBTQ Black Youth and Families’.
Feedback from those participating in the forum suggested that organizations and community members must work together to increase services to respond to the support needs of Black LGBTQ youth. Following the forum, Black CAP began to identify local organizations that deliver culturally specific services for Black LGBTQ youth and began a search for similar programming internationally with Black and Latino LGBTQ youth. As a result, Black CAP identified the Families of Colour Network (FOCN): a program of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National in New York. We found that the FOCN was doing some great work in addressing issue of homophobia and transphobia within racialized communities and in educating parents and service providers about the needs of their LGBTQ youth.
In consultation with the FOCN members and PFLAG Canada, Black CAP decided to register a branch of PFLAG Canada that specifically focuses on Black youth and their families. Over the next year, Black CAP identified agencies and community members working with Black LGBTQ youth to sit on a planning committee for the newly formed branch. The branch was name BFF and members included the Griffin Center, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Substance Abuse Program for African-Canadian, and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY), Gays and Lesbians of African Descent and a number of parents of Black LGBTQ youth.
In consultation with FOCN, PFLAG Canada, and the diverse members of the BFF Committee, it was decided that a BFF online resource was needed as a first step in engaging this specific community. FOCN in New York faced similar challenges in the formation of their organization, in that the existing PFLAG template of parent and youth support groups were not an effective way of engaging the hesitant communities around this issue of LGBTQ youth and coming out. Through workshops, and an online resource, FOCN has been able to create a strong community network of families, parents, community groups, agencies and other allies from within the Black and Latino community. BFF followed suit to develop a resource for Toronto’s Black community, at least initially, with the development of this online resource, and the adjacent Love, Acceptance, Support print campaign.