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Out In Buffalo Community Profile: Jon Jon Cooper

Where are you from & where do you live? Why do you call that place home?

Born and raised on the eastside of Buffalo, NY. I’ve since relocated to what we call “The Elmwood Village” in Buffalo. It’s a bit safer. All joking aside though, I call Buffalo home, and will always call Buffalo home, because of its rich tradition of family and the many different cultures that are present.  From the Bills Games, to Juneteenth Festival, Buffalo is blessed to be a city of diversity and talent. It is cold the majority of the year, but as a city we have always made the most of living in the snow capital.

 

What kind of work do you do at Pride Center?

Currently, I have the pleasure to serve in the capacity of a Community Health Specialist. In my position, I work with men who sleep with men between the ages of 13-29. My main objective in this role is to provide the young men I work with with CULTURALLY COMPETENT intervention, and access to any needed service. For far too long, marginalized communities, specifically gay men of color, have had fear-based messaging shoved down our throats, and it hasn’t been effective. Our team works around the clock to meet our community members where they are. We need to educate and engage whenever we can. I’ll do outreach and provide testing in a bathroom if I have to!!!! I’m here to be a part of the generation that stops the rapid spread of HIV.

 

What else do you do to serve the community?

Six years ago, a group of close friends and family noticed a need in the community. Not just in Buffalo, but in all of Western New York. It was clear to us that the gay, lesbian and Trans communities of color weren’t welcomed in bars, clubs, or even organizations that targeted the LGBTQ+ communities. In addition, if we were “allowed”, we were tolerated, not treated with respect. The poor treatment of people of color, coupled with refusals to play Hip Hop and R&B music, fueled us. We joined forces with a power team from the Cleveland/Akron Ohio region and developed Bad Boys Club Marketing & Entertainment. Created to give Gay, Lesbian, and Trans people of color access that was never offered before – ACCESS. Access to quality events

 

What’s your theme song?

It really depends on the mood I wake up in that morning. If I had to choose, I would say either Kanye West – Champion, or Hezekiah Walker – Grateful.

 

What’s a quote that you live by? 

The quote that I live by, and have lived by since exposed to it, is an excerpt from a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

“… If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much; if you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth a distance run, Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more you’ll be a man my son.”

 

Why is the work you do so important?

The work I do is deeper than what it means to me. Working in community health, one of the first things that you learn is that it’s not about you. The clients that I serve, and their needs, are what’s important. Someone has to be a voice for those who don’t know just how to protect theirs.

 

Something people don’t know about you? 

I’m pretty much an open book. However, my dream, that most people may not know of, is to be the first black openly gay Mayor of Buffalo.

 

Are there any upcoming projects or events you’d like the community to know about?

Come check me out at the Pride Center of WNY. We have a jam-packed summer full of events.

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