- Who we are
Michael Roberson is a public health practitioner, advocate, activist, artist, curator and leader within the LGBTQ community, as well as an Adjunct Professor at The New School University/Lang College, NYC and Union Theological Seminary NYC. He is an international art and politics consultant and a member of the international sound art collective entitled ‘Ultra-red’. Michael is a recent TED Media Resident, where he performed a global TED talk about the underground black/Latino LGBT House/ball ballroom community. The TED talk was entitled ‘Ballroom has something to say, to teach the world over about being human, the struggle for freedom, in the face of catastrophe’. Michael has two Master degrees from Union Theological Seminary and as such is the Senior Scholar in Residence for the Center for Race, Religion and Economic Democracy. With a focused commitment on the health disparities of Black gay men and Black gay men within the House/ball community Michael created The Federation of Ballroom Houses, co-created the nation’s only Black Gay Research Group, The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Group, and the Nationally Diffused CDC Behavioral Change HIV Prevention Intervention “ Many Men, Many Voices.’ Michael was also the Executive Director of one of the largest black gay community-based organizations, and currently is a consultant working with several national community-based organizations focused on national HIV Clinical Trial/Bio-medical, and Homegrown evidence-based interventions, as well as national community capacity building assistance and mobilization strategies designed to combat the disproportionate health disparities impacting both the black gay and black/Latino LGBT house ball communities. Michael graduated with his MDIV from Union Theological Seminary and currently completed his STM (Masters of Sacred Theology) at Union as well. While at Union, Michael presented two thesis projects. His MDIV thesis project was a theatrical reading of a play called The Anointed, written by young black gay playwright Germono Toussaint. The project examined systemic homophobia in the Black church stemming from the religious dogma that institutionalizes homophobia in Black communities, leaving indelible marks of pain, misery, and damage on the collective soul, spirit and material bodies of the Black GLBT community, and directly impact the health disparities of this community, particularly, Black gay men. The Thesis Project’s aim was to engage this question by bringing a heightened awareness of the historical trauma inflicted on Black GLBT individuals by the homophobic hegemony intrinsic in Black church experience and to encourage enlightened conversation that will advance healing for Black GLBT people and within the Black community. His STM’s Thesis Project was examining the multi-dimensional and intersected labors of oppression impacting the house/ball community. It further examined the community’s history of resistance to oppression and their ability to use performance as a hermeneutics of the body as a means of resiliency. Thesis Advisors: DR. Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary-Columbia University, and Reverend Dr. Eboni Marshal Turman, Director of Black Church Studies, Duke University. In addition to his many roles as activist and leader Michael is a sought after lecturer nationally and internationally, managed Vogue Evolution, a national dance crew engaging in social justice and HIV Prevention through vogue. Over the last 6 years, Michael has been engaged in intense national and international intersectional work. This work includes: National community organizing, leadership development, and the creation of health disparity conferences, of and for, the LGBT community (National House/ball Leadership Summit Los Angeles (2012), Ball House and Pageant Conference Dallas, Texas 2012), Free Home University Residency Lecce, Italy (2015), House Lives Matters National Leadership Summit NYC (2016), Explode Residency/Queer Cities Sao Paulo, Brazil (2016), etc.); International Art and Politics (Lecce/Italy, Glasgow/Scotland, Sao Paulo/Brazil, Mexico City/Mexico, Barcelona-Madrid/Spain, Cologne/Germany, Toronto, Canada, etc.) as a member of The International Sound Art Collective Ultra –Red. Having 2 Master Degrees in Theology from Union Theological Seminary NYC, Michael has also been doing Race, Sexuality and Theological work through The Center for Race Religion and Economic Democracy (CRRED) as he was appointed it’s “Scholar in Residence” for the academic year 2014-2015 at Union Theological Seminary. Michael is also a guest lecturer at New York University through “The Black Lives Matters” curriculum created by Adjunct Professor Frank Leon Roberts, Ph.D. He is additionally himself an Adjunct Professor at both The New School University NYC and Union Theological Seminary NYC. Michael is also a consultant with VICE Media global, having co-created a “diversity/respect in the workplace” curriculum to train all of their 800 employees in their NYC, Los Angeles, and Toronto, Canada offices. Additionally, Michael is also a consultant with Ryan Murphy Productions and Fox Studios working with the writers and casting of a new upcoming television project about 1980’s NYC Ballroom and Club cultures. The project is being produced by Ryan Murphy the creator of such television series as ‘Glee’, ‘American Horror Story’, ‘American Crime’ and ‘The People vs OJ’.