Adodi is the only space that in the past 30 years has continuously created warmth, security and safety for those traumatized in our community, said Curtis Lipscomb of LGBT Detroit, who sits on Adodis national board. BTL file photo: Andrew Potter

Adodi Spring Retreat a 'Safe Space' for Black, Gay Men

By Jason A. Michael

Attendees describe it as something special, almost magical.

Adodi is "important because you don't have that many black, gay organizations where you can lose all your inhibitions," said Tony Johnson, president of Adodi Detroit and chair of the sixth annual spring retreat that's scheduled to take place this weekend. "We also have a national retreat each year in July. You go there with all your stress and you come out and you feel relieved. You get to meet new people, share different ideals."

Johnson said the experience is hard to put into words. "There's camaraderie, compassion, warmth," said Johnson. "For me, you get to know somebody different, get to know something about someone a little different, and give and receive information.

Adodi was started in New York in 1986 and born out of the early ravages of the AIDS epidemic. It has since become one of the oldest, most affirming and spiritually uplifting movements of same-gender-loving men of African descent in history, according to their website. The ideals and principles of Adodi provide a code of conduct and a road map toward self-awareness and fraternal relationships based on agape love, mutuality and deep abiding respect.

"Adodi is the only space that in the past 30 years has continuously created warmth, security and safety for those traumatized in our community," said Curtis Lipscomb of LGBT Detroit, who sits on Adodi's national board. "Many people are alone. They are isolated. They are of a certain age. They have severe health issues. And this is the place where those barriers can be addressed. People can be healed. Thoughts and ideas can be exchanged safely. It's a place where people of different faiths can come together and celebrate life. It's a great organization and a great retreat."

The Adodi experience engenders community, self-awareness and empowerment as well as spiritual growth. The bedrock of the brotherhood is a mutual acknowledgement and affirmation of a common yet diasporic African heritage, coupled with an appreciative acceptance of same gender love among men.

"I've been involved with Adodi for 18 years now," said Bryan Glover, who is facilitator for the national board. "What attracted me to Adodi was the possibility of connecting to brothers in a way that was deep and lasting. I had heard of many spaces before I went to Adodi that women I knew had gone to that was affirming for them ... spaces where women bonded and created community and felt like they were affirmed. And I was looking for a space similar to that for black gay men."

Glover said he looks forward to coming to Detroit for the spring retreat. "It's like a family reunion in a sense," he said. "It's a chance to reconnect with brothers that I don't get to see often and share an intimate and personal space and to feel safe, like I could bring all of who I am into the space. When I come to Detroit, I feel that I get a connection to the brothers there that I really enjoy."

Steven Gaskill of Detroit is also on the national board and is likewise looking forward to this weekend's retreat. "There's a lot of celebration of just that we made it to another year," he said. "It's, 'What's up with you,' and catching up. Then we have the nerve to have workshops, special speakers, presentations and things of that nature. So it ends up being a really critical opportunity to take advantage of as we're maturing. Then also it's introducing younger people who can use some positive reinforcement."

This is Johnson's first year chairing the retreat and he said he couldn't do it without his Adodi brothers' support. "People see things in me that I don't see in my own self, which is kind of good," said Johnson. "But they're stepping up to help me. If I feel if I'm stumbling, there's always that Adodi brother that is willing to help me and work it out. I find that kind of rare because these days everybody is always about me, me, me."

The Adodi experience is a communion of commonality rather than difference or what the Adodi call the "fierce embrace." This allows the brotherhood to acknowledge yet adeptly transcend ageism, classism and internalized homophobia. Adodi, the plural of Ado, is the Yoruba word that describes a man who "loves" another man. More than just a description of partners in Africa, the Adodi of the tribe are thought to embody both male and female ways of being and were revered as shamans, sages and leaders. In addition to Detroit, Adodi has chapters in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Washington.

The Adodi Detroit spring retreat takes place Friday, April 15- Sunday, April 17. It kicks off with a welcoming celebration Friday night at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, which is located at 2930 Woodward Ave. Saturday's activities will take place at the Samaritan Center on Detroit's east side and Sunday's portion of the conference takes place at a private residence. The suggested donation for the entire weekend is $75, though organizers say no one will be turned away. For more information, call Tony Johnson at 313-671-3181.

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