Phil Samba is ‘unapologetic and black and gay’ and he has inspired other gay, black men to take better care of their sexual health.
For the past two years Samba has co-developed and starred in a unique campaign to make sure London’s gay, black men are not only more educated about sexual health, but also more comfortable in getting tested.
‘Some black communities consider being gay a white thing so black men are erased,’ Samba tells Gay Star News.
‘Seeing themselves (in campaigns) will make them more comfortable and see that they need to take care of themselves.’
Samba admitted that he had to teach himself about sexual health and many in the gay, black community teach each other what they know. That’s why representation in sexual health messaging is so important.
Me. Him. Us
Launched last year, the Me. Him. Us. campaign is back for a second year. Samba worked alongside the GMFA – the gay men’s health project to make it a reality.
Even in the year since it started, Samba has seen an anecdotal jump in gay, black men feeling more confident to access sexual health services.
‘Last year, I had to hire three friends to be in the campaign because I struggled to find people willing to be a part of it,’ Samba said.
But when I reached out more this time more people were be willing to do it.
‘What it was (last year) to what it is now, is very powerful.’
Samba especially loves that this year’s cohort of 17 men reflect the diversity of London’s gay, black community.
‘There’s so many different kinds of black men in this campaign, we all look different, we have different hairstyles,’ he says.
The second year of Me. Him. Us. will focus on community, representation and home HIV testing. The campaign will feature on billboards and digital hubs in London and online over the course of the summer.
Marc Thompson, co-editor of BlackoutUK, worked as an advisor on the campaign. He also felt moved at the diversity of the men in the campaign.
‘The day of the photo shoot was powerful and moving. We had 17 black gay men who came together to make a difference in their community,’ he says.
‘They wanted to make sure that their diversity was represented.
‘It highlighted that the needs of black gay men, and the fact we are disportionately effected by HIV, is still at the forefront of the work we do. Leading these campaigns and being represented is still incredibly important.’
One of the young men in campaign said it felt good to have positive representation.
‘I originally wanted to do the campaign because it’s something fresh and new,’ Gus, 24, said.
‘You don’t see it every day. It’s nice to finally be represented in a positive way.
‘Usually you don’t see black men in a photo shoot or a campaign when you’re walking down the street. It’s refreshing to be shown in a positive way too, and not just seen in a negative stereotype. It’s something beautiful to be a part of, knowing that we are helping to effect a change.’