October 27, 2021: Michael’s Visions of Beautiful Things
“I’ve seen too many beautiful things, and I only want to see more.”
Michael Dorean Myers, Executive Director of BLACK&GAY, signs his emails with this quote. After speaking with him, it is evident he embodies this message in every aspect of his life. As a passionate visionary and advocate, Michael has already taken strides to make this world a more inclusive, loving one.
Coming to Covenant House
Part of his story includes Covenant House New Orleans, where he stayed for two months when he was 19. Originally from Texas, Michael left his hometown in search of a safe haven. Like many of our youth, his family did not accept him because of his sexuality.
Over a third of Covenant House youth identify as LGBTQ+, mirroring the unfortunate statistic that LGBTQ+ people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their heterosexual, cisgender peers (True Colors United).
At Covenant House, Michael found the breathing room and support to get on his feet. He recalled fondly of his relationship with Ms. Lynda and how Covenant House helped him land a job at Hard Rock Café. Covenant House helped Michael get his finances in order. As a result, he was able to rent his own apartment.
“If I never had that push, who knows where I would be,”
Michael reflected on his time at Covenant House. Later, he went on to become a student UCSD, majoring in Network and Computer Systems Administration.
Birth of BLACK&GAY
Eventually finding his way back to New Orleans, Michael noticed it was difficult to find a space for Black, Queer people. This past February, he decided that if he couldn’t find that space, he would create it. Thus, BLACK&GAY was born on his porch on Constance Street. From there, it would explode – a testament to the power and need for these safe spaces.
The organization’s mission is to “create a safe space where we can educate, amplify, and liberate our peers.” They also focus on “bridging economic inequality.” BLACK&GAY hosts support groups for LGBTQ+ people and other fun events. This summer and fall, they sponsored a virtual talent show with a cash prize, encouraging their community to share their talents.
Care for Others, Care for the Planet
Michael’s vision is inclusive of caring for the Earth and has manifested in his next project: an intentional living ecovillage on 40 acres of land in southwestern Oregon, neighboring an indigenous women’s tribe. Per their website:
We are making a home. A sanctuary. An “off-the-grid” housing, farmland, and camping ground where we will offer a multitude of incredible experiences and opportunities, such as workshops, meditation and yoga, transitional housing for those in need, as well as being an event space, community center, and a working farm, all within a clothing-optional, judgement-free environment. A space where you can let your guard down and find peace instead of pressure.
Several organizations in the Southern Oregon region have already supported the initiative, including but not limited to: NativeWomanShare, SoEquity, The School of Making Thinking, KXCJ, Beyond Boom & Bust, and IVCDO.
Building a Better Future
Not only does Michael want to re-envision community and safe spaces, but he also strives to change the way we interact with the Earth by promoting more eco-friendly building options. In line with its sustainable mission, the members of the ecovillage will cultivate the land in such a way to allow for the production of hempcrete blocks, a biocomposite that acts as a natural material for construction and insulation. Less brittle than concrete, structures with hempcrete do not require expansion joints, and its lightweight, insulating properties make it an ideal building material for most climates.
Hemp, like all plants, absorbs carbon dioxide. As climate change continues to threaten our planet, carbon-storing plants like hemp make a difference in the amount of carbon dioxide pulled from the air. In the case of hempcrete, the carbon dioxide is stored permanently within the blocks, giving it a negative carbon footprint and allowing for positive environmental effects compared to other types of brick (Life cycle assessment of natural building materials: the role of carbonation, mixture components and transport in the environmental impacts of hempcrete blocks).
To Michael and BLACK&GAY, caring for each other includes caring for the Earth.
Thank you, Michael, for your positive contributions to this world and for taking time to share your story with Covenant House New Orleans! We are so proud of and grateful for you.
This Alumni Feature was written by Haley Khoury, Covenant House New Orleans Development and Communication Associate.