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Tomorrow, the New York State Black Gay Network will hold a press conference in New York to announce their new billboard campaign designed to fight homophobia in the Black community.

The campaign will consist of transit/billboard ads that read "I AM GAY, And This Is Where I Stay."

The ads are not being launched in traditional gay communities like Chelsea and the West Village.  They will be seen in traditional Black neighborhoods like Harlem, Bed-Stuy, Jamaica, Brownsville and East New York, where the majority of Black gay men in New York live.

Helping the NYSBGN launch the campaign are Congressman Charles Rangel, Borough President Scott Stringer City Councilmember’s Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson and Yvette Clarke, Clarence Patton, Anti-Violence Project; Mark McLaurin, New York State Black Gay Network, and Maurice Franklin, Masons of New York and National Black Justice Coalition.

"Black gay men have always been a part of every aspect of the Black community, it’s not a matter of acceptance from the community of some foreign presence, it is about acknowledgement, love and respect from our own for us," said Mark McLaurin, Executive Director of New York State Black Gay Network. "If we want to stop the spread of HIV, Black gay men need to know that their lives matter in the very communities in which they live."

Twenty-five years into the HIV epidemic, Black Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the group most impacted by the HIV epidemic. A 2005 five-city Centers for Disease Control study showed a staggering 46% of all Black men who have sex with men may already be HIV positive. Other studies have concluded that the stigma of being gay in the Black community remains one of the reasons for high rates of infection among Black MSM.

"We hope that these billboards remind our neighbors, our family members, and religious leaders that we are part of this community," continued McLaurin.  "When you verbally or physically bash Black gay men, you are bashing somebody’s brother, father, friend or lover."

Black gay men in New York City have also been subjected to a rash of attacks and murders. Most recently, Black gay recording artist Kevin Aviance was attacked after leaving a club. Black gay activists say that much more harassment and verbal attacks go unreported.