The first season of Being Seen, a weekly podcast about gay and queer Black male experience presented by HIV-focused pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare, took listeners on a journey of discovery. Its second season, says co-producer Darnell Moore, will delve beyond the surface and broadcast conversations that are often overlooked.

"I wanted to dive deeper into the impact that Black, queer and trans and non-binary people are having on this world and how they tell their stories," he says. "There are so many topics that come up, but so many that often get overlooked, specifically issues that impact trans Black men. Black lesbian folk. There are so many people that need to be in on these conversations and so much space that needs to be made for these conversations."

This season focuses specifically on concepts related to taking up space and giving others the space to tell their stories more authentically. Moore set the intention that everyone featured felt like they had the power to own both their stories and their voices — which Black queer people too often do not.

The goal wasn't just to highlight the lack of representation of our stories, but also ask questions about how much we need to challenge the status-quo when it comes to Black queer liberation.

"It's good when we are visible or legibly taking up space in a variety of different parts," Moore says. But for him and those connected to the podcast, it's about reading deeper into our narratives: "Yes, it's important to see us but how much power are we given over how we tell our stories? How are these stories uplifted? It's also about thinking about how to bring other queer Black people up with us and talking about things that we often aren't given space to talk about in a way that doesn't push us to hold back."

Moore wants to go there, tackling topics that are rarely discussed in the mainstream. Like Black queer fatherhood."In all my 45 years of living, I've never heard that topic discussed in the public domain," Moore notes, with emotion in his voice. "Like I never thought much about becoming a father, largely because of the way that fatherhood is constructed — specifically in a heteronormative society. However, this conversation, like many of the other ones we are having, I am hoping that people can really see and hear themselves in them."

It should go without saying that this season will also honor and give attention to critical topics referenced in season one of the podcast, like the need to de-stigmatizing conversations about Black queer health. Especially after a year of being in quarantine. This season, the goal is to center holistic health, thinking about the mind, body and — most importantly — our hearts. It's about centering the past in our present so that we can all move forward with purpose.

"To be a Black queer man, I can not talk about my Black queerness and not discuss the HIV epidemic and the impact that it still has on all Black queer men," Moore says. "Being a person who came up in the epicenter of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, so much of my experience was shaped by that. We lived through it and still deal with the stigmatization while also remembering all of those that we lost."

For folks like Marc Meachem, director of external affairs for ViiV Healthcare, the goal in coming back and supporting the podcast again was to amplify the conversation related to stigma, being that so many conversations leave out the impact that the HIV and AIDS epidemic has had on how Black queer people see ourselves in media.

"The conversations around the disparities that Black queer people face aren't as active as I would like," Meachem explains, noting that so many of the topics on Being Seen will help stop listeners from feeling isolated. "So many people feel like they are alone in the Black queer community, especially when discussing topics related to health. This podcast helps people find the community and the answers to so many questions they are searching for."

With featured guests this season like Steven Canals, Colman Domingo and Lena Waithe and guest curated photos by the likes of Miranda Barnes, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, and Widline Cadet, community is present all with one click of a button. Meachem notes that it's pushing the conversation on Black liberation forward, while helping people find meaning in their day-to-day experience.

But it's deeper than just hearing these stories, Meachem says. "Being a partner to this podcast means reminding folks that it doesn't have to be this way and that there are a lot of people taking risks to make sure of that." For him, it's about reminding listeners that this podcast in so many ways is an ode to those who are looking to disrupt a system that has long left us out of critical conversations. "It's about also reminding people that there is light even on our darkest days."

Season two of Being Seen will continue to be an archive of amazing Black queer thought if you will. "I want to make sure that the contributions of Black queer people don't get sidelined," Moore says. "This season is about making sure that people get to name their own contributions, all while being able to talk about their histories, their stories — all on their own terms without limitations or parameters. It's about documenting our proof of life and how we have been working for all forms of Black liberation and Black justice — and how we continue to fight for everyone, even if they don't fight for us."

Season two of Being Seen is available to stream and download now. To support the new season of Being Seen, "The B Sides" will take place weekly on Clubhouse on Wednesdays at 8PM EST.

Photography: Widline Cadet

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