That’s how Alisa Simmons describes Brother to Brother, a struggling local organization set up 14 years ago to provide a social network for black, gay, bi and “down-low” dudes (they’re not gay but have sex with men anyway).
That particular f-word also describes Simmons’ new role as B2B’s interim executive director—now that the group has decided to expand to include women and trans folk of African descent.
Simmons, a 30-year-old, out, black lesbian and one of B2B’s seven board members, insists the end of the old B2B has very little to do with the group’s last executive director, Darryl! Moch, who resigned at the end of July.
Although she refused to discuss his resignation, rumors swirled that board members encouraged Moch to leave after some of his behavior got in the way of his role as B2B’s top guy for the past two years. Moch himself admitted to “missteps” and “mistakes” in an email obtained by WW in which he “apologizes” for his “errors in judgment and in actions” (but would not specify what they were). Moch is said to be seeking employment in Southern California.
But still, to hire a female to run a male-focused group seems an odd choice. Especially for a group whose main goal has been providing a safe space for black males.
“I would have never signed on for this unless I knew it was changing,” says Simmons, who also served as B2B’s treasurer. “I wouldn’t need that challenge in my life.”
Calling herself an “agent for social change, period,” Simmons has faced plenty of other challenges. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Simmons worked both as a lobbyist in Oregon and on the aborted election campaign of state Sen. Ben Westlund. She also worked on the disaster that was former Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn’s re-election effort.
But even Linn’s historically huge loss in 2006 doesn’t compare to what Simmons is about to undertake with B2B.
Here’s one thought from a white gay guy about what Simmons and other black gays and lesbians should put on their agenda: ending the homophobia that runs rampant within the black community.
Maybe by opening this group to more than one gender it will become a de facto gay Urban League. And there might finally be a place at the family table for those who have had to live in a closet due to the color of their skin.
But the fact is, Simmons was guarded with me. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy. Or maybe it’s because I am white. Or maybe it’s just too early for her to comment, since truthfully, no one really knows how this one might turn out. I do think, after being burned so many times before, Simmons is anything but fragile—in fact, she’s the only person who’s ever bit me on the face after one of my stories she disagreed with had run in the paper. And truth be told, she scares the shit out of me.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” says Simmons in her typical fashion about whether her new job will work out or not, “and a whole lot to gain.” So do we.