For Too Long I Denied Who I Was Created To Be: A Same-Gender-Loving Man, Minister And Artist
Living through the pandemic brought much pain and death to my family, but it has also been an opportunity for me to grow and get to know myself intimately.
July 01, 2021 at 1:11 pm
Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
Dear young Black America, I love you.
I wanted to start there because I want you to know how important you are to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how life has come together for me over these 50-plus years and, to be honest, it’s been a struggle and a blessing wrapped up in a dream.
Living through the pandemic brought much pain and death to my family, but it has also been an opportunity for me to grow and get to know myself intimately. In recent years I’ve answered not one but two calls on my life — to be a visual artist and to ministry. The inspiration to be an artist was easy to say yes to. I have the talent, the desire and the examples of other successful artists to lean on, and being an artist is accepted in society.
However, as a Black same-gender-loving man, the assignment to minister was a greater challenge to accept because it is not generally accepted by society. And like so many of you, I have been deeply wounded by the church and even contemplated suicide at one point. Thankfully, God saw to it that I didn’t follow through on that thought.
I denied the assignment to minister for years because of how people dictated and defined who Jesus is, who God loves and how I should be in the church. As a result, for far too long I denied who I was created to be. I denied my authentic self. The vision statement of FCBC (formerly known as First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York) sums up the teachings of Jesus in a way that make them directly actionable in life: “We are an ever-evolving community of visionaries, dreamers, and doers who have been called by God to live the lives we were created to live; commanded by God to love beyond the limits of our prejudices and commissioned by God to serve.”
We all come to the world bearing gifts, but those gifts are not meant for us, they are meant to come through us and to be used to serve other people. When we deny our true selves or seek to prevent others from living their own lives truthfully, we deny the world the blessing of benefitting from the unique gifts that are sent into this world through each of us. I have come to accept the truth that my gifts have made space for me and that space is creative, inspiring, affirming and faithful to God. My assignment to serve God and by extension to serve humanity will not look like anyone else’s because it is uniquely designed for me. The same is true of you. The life you build, the dreams you fulfill and the path you walk will be uniquely and divinely yours.
I share this with you because I love you and I see you. I see your boldness in resisting oppression, I see the blessings in your diverse expressions of self, and I sense the potential in your wonderful ideas and approach to living this life. In many ways, you are already free. But remember, freedom comes with responsibility. Nelson Mandela said it best, “To be free is not to merely cast off one’s chains, but to live life in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Reflecting on LGBTQI+ Pride month, pride for me is being conscious of one’s own dignity as a human being and creation of God, and an acknowledgment of the spark of divinity that lies within each of us. When we can see that same dignity and divinity reflected back to ourselves in the eyes of another, that for me is true freedom. Young Black America, I believe together we will overcome all the challenges we face and build a better world, but first, we’ve got to be free.
Ricky Day is a Harlem, New York, based interdisciplinary artist/filmmaker working primarily with themes related to identity, pop-culture and the African American experience. Ricky is also a graduate of the Certificate in Christian Ministry program at NY Theological Seminary and the host of the engaging and inspiring new weekly podcast 'Nothing to Lose but Yourself.' (NothingToLoseButYourself.com)