by Brian Goins | photo by Jenn George
David Long has been a fixture at OutCentral since his arrival in Nashville six years ago. Dedicated to uplifting, assisting and empowering black gay men who deal with social ills, he is a trained therapist and is devoted to initiating and participating in healthy conversations about race, health issues and anything else that needs to come to light.
Long, who is from Detroit, Michigan, also lived in New York and New Jersey before coming to live in Nashville in 2012. He was recruited to start a program at a local nonprofit called Project UNO (U. New Outstanding), that focused on empowerment, outreach, education and community involvement for black gay men dealing with HIV.
“When I moved to Nashville, I did not know anything about the city,” he said. “I knew Fisk (University) was there, because one of my mother’s friends went there. When I was tasked with leading this program, I had to find an appropriate place to house it.”
He found OutCentral, where the Project UNO program was housed from its beginning until its finale in September 2017. Long left the program in September 2016, and joined the OutCentral board of directors as Vice President.
It took some time for him to adapt to Nashville, but his passion for the work and making sure the community had a certain level of care is what drove him.
“I’m a bisexual man. I’m HIV positive,” he said. “Those are dual and triple minorities that really propelled me to help the community that bears me.”
The impact of HIV on his and others’ lives was a driving force.
“(Project UNO) was a six-month life coach session for gay men in Nashville between the ages of 18-29,” he said. “During those six months, they would talk openly and honestly about their health, their wealth, and be coached on how to live stronger and better lives.”
At the time, there was no other programming quite like it that served a unique and specific part of the community, and the open and honest conversations was a key part of it.
He’s committed, he said, to stay with OutCentral through the end of his term at the end of this year.
“We have some really tough decisions coming up as far as what the next step is for the Center,” he said.
He’ll graduate in May from Nashville State with a degree in Early Childhood Education. He hasn’t settled yet on where he’ll teach, but he’s set on moving to Florida.
“There’s not a lot of black male teachers,” he said. “I want to make an impact and teach young people about caring and understanding one another. That’s how I hope to continue my call.”
This summer, he is going to St. Croix to write a book about his life. He’ll be 40 in September, and he’s chosen to spend the last three months of his 30s on sabbatical.
“A quick pause to reflect, and write it all down and get ready for my new career as well as 40,” he said.
If he has any advice to people in general, it’s this:
“Instead of criticizing, look for ways to support,” he said. “We need to understand the blessings that we have. As vocal as you are about our shortcomings, be as vocal about the triumphs that we have made.”
It’s the one thing he says the community needs more of — open and honest conversations about and to each other, in and outside of the LGBT+ community.
“I recently spoke at a class at Belmont,” he said. “We just talked about trans visibility, and how you can speak to one another.”
That’s how you can make an impact, he said, is with those conversations.
“Until we can start having these open dialogues, and honest conversations with each other, we can’t change the conversation.”
To learn more about David Long’s book project, visit yourdailydime.com.
To learn more about OutCentral, visit outcentral.org.