Profile: Getting to know ITLA’s Raymond Duke

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imageRaymond Duke is making his mark as one of the leaders in gay African-American Atlanta. He is the current president of In the Life Atlanta, organizers of the annual Black Gay Pride here each Labor Day Weekend.

Duke, 47, holds a BS in social work and a masters in divinity studies, which he uses to his and his client’s advantage in his role as a communicable disease specialist in Decatur. He has been active in the Human Rights Campaign and was most recently honored by the Atlanta Pride Committee as one of the 40 community building grand marshals at the 40th Pride march in 2010. We talked to Duke about his role, his aspirations and some personal details you may not have heard.

Are you a native to Atlanta?
imageNo. Jan. 24, 2011 marked my 13th year since my move here from Cleveland, Ohio.

What brought you here?
I was made an offer I could not refuse. A man had seen me speak on HIV on two different occasions. He told me about an organization he was running here in Atlanta and how he needed some assistance in understanding and reaching out to African-American community. I told him what I was making and that he needed to meet it or beat it. Before I got home, there was an offer waiting for me. Two weeks later, I was driving a diesel stick-shift U-Haul to Atlanta.

You’re very active in the many political and social arenas of LGBT Atlanta. If you weren’t investing your time there, what would you be doing?
I would spend more time with my partner, Jose. I would spend more time traveling with him and writing. I like to write poetry. I also have two novels that are in my head. One of them is about the challenges of being gay and a part of the black church community. I would write about it from my perspective.

How do you manage to balance work, your social activism and your personal relationships?
One of the best things about Jose is his ability to accept me as I am. He always has a look in his eyes that says he is proud of me. Somehow, he is able to take our relationship out of the equation and still see me as a person who makes him proud. He lets me do my thing, and he has no misgivings. After a speaking engagement, I might tell him that I want to go hang out with some friends, celebrate and just laugh. And regardless of the hour, when I crawl into bed, he is always ready to wrap his arms around me.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
After I had taken care of my family and a few charities, my partner and I would go on a long 30-day vacation somewhere exciting where neither of us have ever been. Then I would build myself a castle. I have always been fascinated with living in a castle. There is just something mysterious and romantic about them. Now, my castle would have a traditional look on the outside, but it would be fully state-of-the-art on the inside. I am not going to be walking around in some dark gloomy place. The whole interior would be painted white. I would also have an Avalanche in the driveway for Jose.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I will be in a new home with my partner, and we’ll have a child. I’d like to be an executive director of an agency or be in business for myself. I’d like to be a successful author or a radio personality. I can imagine myself doing anything, because I believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to.

If you had an opportunity to meet him, what would you say to your 10-year-old self?
Don’t ever let anyone else’s opinion influence the opinion you have of yourself. Know your self-worth.

Have you learned that lesson?
The Raymond that I am today, I am better able to understand and respect the different perspectives that people have. I can still be hurt. I am a sensitive person. But I don’t let those opinions change my perspective. Life is too short. I am solid in knowing my self-worth, and I have family and friends that do too.

imageAryc W. Mosher is co-founder of M-Square Photography, a digital art and protrait studio that has been capturing special moments across greater Atlanta for the past five years, including the ones on this page. He has been involved in LGBT Atlanta since his arrival from Michigan. {encode=”[email protected]” title=”E-mail him”} or find him on Facebook.

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