I was an undergraduate student at Georgia State University when I said these words, studying African American and Women’s studies. I had just learned of the rumored way in which Joseph Beam died; alone, in his apartment, found weeks after his death. Joseph Beam was a prolific writer, poet and visionary who often wrote about depression, loneliness and the trials of living in America as a Black gay man at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
His writings were the first time I had ever heard Black men speak about their feelings, their fears and struggles in such a vulnerable manner. His commitment to Black feminism, and challenging male privilege in both gay and heterosexual communities, became a central organizing force behind my own beliefs. The struggles he captured made it clear to me that mental and emotional wellness, were of an immediate need for our communities to be able to thrive.
When I was conceptualizing the creation of this organization, I wasn't clear on what to name it. I had numerous post it notes and cards all over my house, with words sprawled all over them. One evening I was sitting and writing out words and jotted down "Black Emotional and Mental" . I wrote the acronym for this out and it was B.E.A.M. My first thought was, oh wow, thats "BEAM", like a ray of light. Seconds later I heard a voice in my head say "No, that's BEAM as in Joseph Beam." In that moment it became clear that this entity was to not only be named after Beam, but to carry on his legacy. My hope is that BEAM honors Joseph by fostering community and connection, challenging inequity and creating a community where isolation is more unlikely for all of us. It is my hope that when his spirit visits our work; that he is proud. - Yolo Akili Robinson
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