ABilly S. Jones-Hennin (2007)

BJones-Hennin_PL1 B&W 9.jpg

ABilly S. Jones arrived in Washington in 1976. 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

“We decided that there was a need for a gay political organization that was clearly black identified.  In the early days we spent a lot of time defining ourselves ...  I believe we were one of the earliest organizations, if not the first, that in our bylaws ...  went broader than gays and lesbians”

“I think I'm a quiet, softer activist now... I've just learned I don't have the energy to get too carried away.  But I am persistent.”

“I still don't feel that the black community is addressing AIDS in the way that it should address [it].”

ABilly Jones founded the first political organization, local and national, to represent the views and interests of African-American gay men and lesbians. For over thirty years, he has ensured inclusion and representation of people of color in gay community organizations and politics.

ABilly's experience in African-American civil rights, the antiwar movement and supporting the women's movement, prepared him for his activism in bisexual and gay civil rights for African-Americans. In the spring of 1978, ABilly organized the DC-Baltimore Coalition of Black Gays, now known as the DC Coalition. With the support of local politically progressive African-American gay men and lesbians, the Coalition quickly established a public presence. As news of the group spread, chapters formed in other cities, leading to creation of the National Coalition of Black Gays (NCBG) - later renamed the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG).

Early on, the DC Coalition partnered with Black and White Men Together (BWMT) and tackled racial discrimination within the gay community in a campaign against club owners' discriminatory practices. In 1979, the Coalition was among the few local organizations consistently supporting the first national march on Washington for gay and lesbian civil rights, for which Jones was logistics coordinator. The DC Coalition organized the first national Third World Conference for LGBT persons of color, at Howard University's Harambee Hotel on the march weekend.

ABilly participated in the first delegation of gay people of color to meet with representatives of the President, during the Carter administration. Organized by the NCBG, the event served notice to national gay organizations of the need to include African-Americans and other people of color. In the 80s, Jones was a founding member of the Langston Hughes-Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, an alternative to the Gertrude Stein Club which at the time was not widely embraced by women and racial minorities. He is one of the founding members of Gay Married Men's Association (GAMMA), formed after the 1977 Cinema Follies fire, and Gay fathers. ABilly is also active nationally with the bisexual movement.

ABilly is also prominent in AIDS education. In 1986, NCLBG mounted the first national conference on AIDS in the Black Community with support from the Surgeon General.  He was an early staffer in Whitman-Walker Clinic's HIV/AIDS education programs targeting commercial sex workers, injecting drug users, and homeless and incarcerated populations. ABilly served as Director of Minority AIDS Programs for the National AIDS Network before being employed by a national management consultant firm to manage several federal and state HIV/AIDS research and evaluation projects. ABilly chaired the DC Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee, served on the advisory board of the Max Robinson Center, and was a member of the operating board of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS).

ABilly passed away on Friday, 19 January 2024.

Learn more about ABilly S. Jones-Hennin from the RHP archives: