Romano Ivory is interviewed by La Quinta Clark.
Podcast by Sara Landeau.
Article by La Quinta Clark
For Romano Ivory, a Bahamian native, New York City was his dream. “I’ve always wanted to live in New York. I saw Emerald City, like the Wizard of Oz,” he said in his oral history interview.
Ivory, a gay man from the Caribbean, has made a life in Brooklyn, although along the way he has faced many challenges concerning his sexuality. By facing his them head on and overcoming many obstacles, he is now advocating for others in the LGBT community, just like those who helped him along his journey.
But being gay is only one part of who he is. “I am a person, not a sexuality,” he said. The work he does for the LGBT community has solidified his role as a humanitarian and has opened doors that were once not available.
He is an active member of several organizations dedicated to the LGBT cause –Amida Care, MAC, Housing Works, and Act Up New York. He is also in the process of adding one more leadership role to his resume, to spread the word nationally about the affects of HIV and AIDS.
Ivory, 31, left his mother’s home in Paterson, New Jersey in 2009 after conflicts about his sexual identity, and moved to Brooklyn, looking to start anew. Fresh to the area he faced many trials a lot of young gay males do. Without the sufficient means to support himself and a decent place to live, he went into the shelter system; due to his immigration status it was hard for him to get assistance and proper work. At that point he realized he needed to do more with his life and had a lot of boundaries to climb over.
“All those rough times has sharpened me to be the person sitting in front of you today,” he said.
He now shares a two-bedroom apartment with his mom in East New York who has come to accept who he is. “I love the Brooklyn atmosphere,” said Ivory. The cool streets of Brooklyn continue to pull people in, not only for the culture, but for the welcoming feeling of the neighborhoods.
The brick building he lives in sits on a quiet street close by a community park and basketball court. The graffiti on the pavement, just noticeable through the chain link fence, displays the artistic side of Brooklyn’s residents.
Ivory welcomes the interviewer into his bedroom and settles himself on a king size bed close by an open window. The electric keyboard pushed against the wall and the guitar hanging just above it is a strong indicator that he is not only an activist, but also a musician.
“I am a recording artist, a writer; I love to create,” he said, “Music has always been a healing process for me, soul music is going to captivate you in a way were you feel the person has actually touched you.”
He has many interests and many directions he wants to pursue. “Entertainment, humanitarian work and fashion are my trinity, those are what I simultaneously work on at the same time,” said Ivory. “I have this spring inside me, that’s always springing with passion,” he said.
The open window lets in a cool breeze as he reminisces about his childhood in the Bahamas compared to the rest of his childhood in the states. “Living in the Bahamas I was more disciplined, more structured and more of a happy kid because I was in my natural habitat.”
When he initially arrived in Paterson, New Jersey at age 10, Ivory was bullied by fellow classmates for his West Indian accent. “I was really ashamed of my culture, because of the kids,” he said, “I appreciate my culture now.”
The need to fit in became a huge part of his growing up, which led to confusion during the most pivotal time in his life – coming to terms with his sexual orientation.
It is then when conflicts arose with his family as he came to accept himself as gay. “You don’t choose your sexuality, just like you don’t choose what family you would be born into,” he said.
This is why he has taken it upon himself to work with LGBT young people, who he feels face even harder obstacles than he did when he was growing up. “I want to inspire the newer generation to go after their dreams,” he said.