Tokes Osubu Resigns as GMAD Leader After Reports of Financial Woes

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Gay Men of African Descent's Tokes Osubu. | GMAD

Following revelations that New York City’s sole agency that focuses exclusively on HIV prevention work among gay and bisexual African-American men was struggling financially, Tokes Osubu has resigned as the agency’s executive director.

“No comment, no comment at all, it’s done, that’s it,” said Osubu, who will relinquish the helm at Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), a Brooklyn-based AIDS group, on September 14.

On the evening of September 12, Zachary Jones, a senior bishop in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement and the GMAD board chair, confirmed Osubu’s resignation and the date of his last day.

Vaughn Taylor-Akutagawa, the current deputy executive director, is expected to head the agency at least temporarily. Jones said the board would issue a statement soon.

Osubu took over the agency in 2003. Founded in 1986, GMAD is the oldest organization dedicated solely to serving black gay men. In 2003, it was also the largest, but it was eventually eclipsed in size, accomplishments, and prestige by People of Color in Crisis (POCC), also a Brooklyn-based AIDS group. POCC closed in 2008 after Michael Roberson, then the executive director, was accused of pilfering nearly $80,000 of POCC’s cash.

“We’re back,” Osubu told Gay City News in 2003. “Our doors are open, we’re ready to make some changes, and those who want to help make that a reality are welcome to come onboard.”

Prior to joining GMAD, Osubu was a project director for the HIV Alliance of New York City. Osubu had a vision for the agency.

“There are so many components to GMAD,” he said in 2003. “Of course, without question there is the health and wellness component. But, without downplaying those, I would also like people to be more aware of the advocacy and youth programming we have to offer. I want to make things more exciting, create a youth scholarship fund, bridge the generation gap.”

GMAD did not keep pace with how government funders, GMAD’s primary source of revenue, were addressing HIV prevention.

GMAD did not keep pace with how government funders, GMAD’s primary source of revenue, were addressing HIV prevention. Increasingly, federal, state, and city agencies want private contractors to move away from behavioral interventions and toward more HIV testing. The theory is that those who test positive will change their behavior to avoid infecting others. All who test positive will also be treated with anti-HIV drugs so even if they do not alter their behavior, they will be less infectious and less likely to infect others.

GMAD lost some city resources and cash this year because the city health department asserted the agency was not identifying enough HIV-positive clients and the worth of some its interventions, notably an anti-stigma campaign, was questioned.

“It just says a lot about the value they attach to that,” Osubu said in July. “Stigma is not that important, which is very unfortunate... The work we do is just as valuable. We’re really talking about the structural, environmental impediments to good prevention work.”

GMAD relied almost entirely on government contracts for its funding. In the first six months of 2011, roughly 85 percent of GMAD’s budget came from government contracts. In the first six months of this year, all of those contracts were cut, and one was eliminated entirely.

In 2010, the most recent year for which a full year of data is available, $1.15 million, or 88 percent, of GMAD’s $1.3 million budget was from government contracts. In 2009, $1 million, or 76 percent, of the agency’s $1.3 million budget came from government contracts. The agency spent $5,300 on raising private dollars in 2009, and nothing on such fundraising in 2010. GMAD raised just under $6,800 in private funds in the first six months of this year.

GMAD’s revenues were just under $358,000 for the first six months of this year, and just over $657,000 for the first six months of 2011. The group’s deficit as of July 12 of this year is nearly $284,000. The agency’s expenses in the first six months of this year were just under $642,000 compared to just over $624,000 for the same period last year.

Like many small AIDS groups, GMAD has not raised private funds that can come without the strings that attach to government dollars nor has the agency been able to tap into other government sources, such as Medicaid.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

francisco says:
what a shame....another lgbt agency closing!
Sept. 12, 2012, 10:07 pm
Isabel says:
I give my thanks to the staff that took the risk, the person that was willing to attach thier name to the blog and to this reporter who help shine the light on the blight that was on GMAD.
Sept. 13, 2012, 11:19 am
Marcus says:
Amen, Isabel! The African American community needs GMAD desperately but it needs leadership!
Sept. 13, 2012, 4:10 pm
Jacquie Bishop says:
As a former consultant for GMAD I am saddened to hear this. As a friend to Tokes and former staff members I am very saddened to hear this. What is lacking in this article is a review of the board's fiduciary responsibilities (Get or Give) to the agency. As an event planner I could raise $6,800 on a handful of poetry and fashion show events. No agency should have 85% of its income from a single source. Also, sticking to your vision is very noble. Not having the resources to realize such is unfortunate. As a woman I had the pleasure of working with members of GMAD starting in the 1980s/ I know how much they have meant not only to the men who passed through those doors but also to the men and women they have touched through their workshops, services, and presence in the community.
Sept. 14, 2012, 12:49 am
Robert Vazquez says:
I have mixed feelings about this. Although I understand the problem with government contracts, many organizations are forced to depend on them. They are forced to compromise themselves in order to get the funding to keep their doors open. Community financial support can be almost non-existent , which is always strange to me. I find it strange because these organizations say they represent the community but the community doesn't come out to help them. That happens with all sorts of organizations. It seems to be a sad reality for many community based organizations. I agree with Jacquie (hey girl!) that ideally no organization should depend on so much government funding. But in reading this I wonder what were GMAD's efforts at non-governmental funding. . Many non-profits are bad at fundraising which is why they depend at government contracts. Many are also bad at business management which is why so many are closing their doors. I have worked as both a fundee and a funder so I understand how difficult it is for an agency to get the funds they needed without compromising their vision and how hard it is for funders to find organizations that are financially viable. Sticking to your vision is certainly noble but nobility don't pay the rent. If your doors are closing because you are sticking to your vision, you have to at least question the viability of that vision. However I don't understand how an organization can end up with a deficit of a quarter of a million dollars. Maybe I am being naive since I have never run an organization. I have refused that "honor' several times. In this situation, I would venture that both the Executive Director and the Board of Directors are at fault here. Because of their combined mismanagement, the community is losing one of the oldest organizations for black gay men. So many of our organizations are lost because of mismanagement. It is a real shame.
Sept. 14, 2012, 10:02 am
Kevin Hardy says:
It saddens my heart to see such a good friend as tokes resign he has brought this organization to Fruition.
Sept. 14, 2012, 9:48 pm
Joey Pressley says:
I wonder if the organization will do an all-out search for a new executive director capable of providing sound leadership and direction in mitigating the seemingly large deficit and simultaneously serving to increase its visibility and profile. I am someone who thinks that something like GMAD is needed but if that "something" is GMAD, then it has to undergo a substantial re-invention. I also think the time for finger pointing is past. Let's learn from the past to make a better today and tomorrow! Moreover, all of us Black gay and same gender loving men (myself included) have to do some soul-searching to assess how we can be factors in bringing about success. With the right team positioned at GMAD coupled with true partnerships from community members and allies, I think that the organization can survive and grow to be a force in providing social and economic justice to not only Black gay and same gender loving men but to traditionally disenfranchised peoples hailing from various communities. I remain in the camp of those who think that GMAD can be a political and organizing force in the Black and LGBT communities.
Sept. 15, 2012, 10:40 am
Craig BeBop Gibson says:
I am in a state of shock over this devolopmement. As a former HIV Educator for GMAD. I know first hand how hard it is the identify new positive with the people of color demograph. I always wondered why the funders are always using funding as a tool to force identifying newly Dx positive in order to gain the funding to operate. During the year I was employed by GMAD I must have tested over a thousand people & only a small fraction test positive for HIV. I know that's not what was wanted but in my heart I was happy the numbers were low. As a humna being it was a relief every time I gave a negative result. Don't get me wrong I thing newly Dx positive needed to be identified so they can get into care. Who is to blame? Well it was determined at conference I attended the out success is our biggest failure. Why do you think that is? The education is out there, the meds are working wonders toward prolonging life, and people finally are behaving in a much more responsible manner. Well that is excluding the bug chasers. Over the years I have developed a fondness for Tokes. He was always willing to tell you when you doing good and never hestated to tell you when you need to improve in certain areas. How he conveyed that message was not always the lightest or most gentle but rest assured you got message. This is not a sad day except for lack of funding which mean GMAD can't afford to service it's target population as much as they once did. I guess & hope the new E.D. Can magicallydo something to turn things around, but we know the same challenges that Tokes faced will be the the same for incoming excutive body. I wish Toke all the in his future endeavored BeBop Pride Net, Blog, Show
Sept. 15, 2012, 12:10 pm
Gloria says:
Blessings to GMAD staff and many clients. Thank you for your comments. Solutions for our many unresolved issues are needed. It is time for us to look for real leaders willing to put in the work. Non profits are a business. We must remain relevant and competent. When we find someone with passion, business savvy and fresh legs, and they are out there, we must support them and lend our expertise. Gay Black Men --how can your sisters help? Tokes, thank you for the good work we did together at POCC and GMAD! It's not easy running a marathon, hopefully you will stay in the race.
Sept. 20, 2012, 8:35 pm

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