Brother II Brother: An interview of Ariq Cabbler

Photos Courtesy of Ariq Cabbler

Ariq Cabbler has carved a career for himself in the health services sector. Cabbler’s works for several organizations including Brothers Health Collective, The Black Gay Men’s Caucus, where he’s a board member and the Black Treatment Advocacy Network. He always knew that wanted to be working in community services. Chicagoans first became familiar with Cabbler in 1998 when he arrived from Washington, DC to work with Bernard Johnson of the Rails Marketing Group, a party production and marketing firm. Its days away from The Rocks Coordinating Committee’s Pride Parade After Party and Chicago Black Pride, we thought it would befitting to speak with the Cabbler, the man who was involved with both events; and someone you should know.

PRIDEINDEX: You’re currently the Executive Director of Brothers Health Collective; on the board of The Black Gay Men’s Caucus, The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition and the Black Treatment Advocacy Network, the Rocks Committee and a founding organizer of Black Pride in Chicago. What factors lead to your decision to become an activist with so many LGBT related organizations?

ARIQ CABBLER: Actually, I don’t consider myself an activist; I just apply my passion to facilitate others to be empowered to self-manage their health care and to know their rights to care.

PI: When did you first know that you wanted to work in social services?

AC: Always, I stem from three generations of family members serving in some form public services or community service.  My maternal Great-Great grandparents were very community involved as well as my paternal great-great grandparents.   Each generation has contributed to society in some form of service.

PI: Why is activism so important to you?

AC: Well, I play a part in activism; I don’t actually march or demonstrate, but I do stand up for my brothers who are less fortunate and require a pit bull in the yard; or better yet someone on guard to assure their not taken advantage of or used for organizational gain.

PI: Where are you originally from and how did you end up in Chicago?

AC: I originally traveled back and forth from Washington, DC in 1998 and later moved here in 2002 permanently, to work with Bernard Johnson, who is the founder of the Rails Marketing Group at Krush, formerly known as the Prop House and now at Circuit night club.

PI: Does your professional background include experience not related to the LGBT community or African American community?

AC: Actually, my background has always been geared towards working with African-Americans since transitioning from college. I mostly work with women and children and I later enhanced to working with the GLBT community of color.  Due to the loss of family (two male cousins) and a very large number of co-workers and close friends; I knew there was a need to work in the field of sexual health due to the devastation of HIV/AIDS and cancer related deaths in our community.  I owe credit to three individuals (Bernard Johnson, Lora Branch and Brandon Armani) all three were very encouraging and actually pushed me into the field and I haven’t looked back since.  Most people are unaware but Bernard Johnson is very prevention creative.

PI: What is your ultimate goal?

AC: My ultimate goal is to play a part in ending racial health disparities.  I’m so tired of reading and hearing how “blacks are X more than likely or less likely” to suffer from every ailment known to man” least likely to seek help. This should not be the case; we’re a strong people and we’re allowing others to define us a weakened race – and I choose to dispute the statistics or allow another race to define my destiny.

PI: You’re known to be an unapologetic demanding person.  Is it a fair assessment to say that you’re a “Type A” personality?

AC: I see you have done your homework or constantly viewing TMZ…  I’m actually an Enhanced Type A to be exact.  I’m a workaholic for sure and dedicated to the task at hand.  When I lock on; I’m down for the count; but again I’m driven by passion to help others at all cost.  I refuse to allow my people to enter the near extinct chapter of our lives.  We’ve suffered too much as a people to allow others to define our destiny.

PI: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about you or your work?

AC: That I’m mean, self-absorbed and/or selfish; I’m the complete opposite.  If a person really knew me; they would find a completely red tape person but yet unapologetically complicated. However, I’m the first to say that I’m flawed for a number of reasons and I require continuous quality improvement.

PI: Do you have any hobbies?

AC: Remember, I’m a workaholic; so “no”.

PI: Talk to us about the mission of the Brothers Health Collective?

AC: BHC’s mission is to implement innovative strategies to remove fiscal, psychosocial, socio-cultural, behavioral, and access barriers to care for Black Men, their families and intimate partners at risk for sexual infections and chronic diseases. We believe in empowering our community to make sound choices to improve their preventative care.

PI: In 2010 YPS (formerly Youth Pride Center) honored you and other youth rights advocates with their Living Legend Award.  What do you believe is the biggest issue facing today’s youth?

AC: I think – the lack of passing the torch of wisdom to from generation to the next generation and chronic apathy.  Today’s youth aren’t surrounded by positive and affirming role models to support their decision making and to serve as sound boards of logic.  I grew up with a very healthy mental diet of strong male role models in my life to shape my future and when those encounters were bad; I had someone in my life to steer me back in the right direction.

We’ve loss so many great men in the last 30 years; due to HIV/AIDS and substance addiction such as heroin and crack.   Often we don’t see male role models in our lives and we feel there isn’t hope. My grand-father was a Morehouse graduate and I have plenty of other males in my family and social networks who are high achievers; so I knew my path could be one of greatness if I chose to apply myself.

PI: What’s next for you on the horizon?

AC: Well one never can tell the future; but I would very much like, to see both Keith Green and Jamal Edwards excel to excellence in my lifetime.  These two men possess soundness and they remind me of the men who were once plentiful before HIV/AIDS devastated our professional networks and they both have hidden untapped power to uplift our community at large.  I know personally, how one can be attacked, misunderstood and threatening all at the same time.  It’s an invitation to be boxed and defined as an “angry black man” but they must be supported by our community at all cost if we’re to prevail and I know there are other younger men like them who must be championed if we’re to survive these uncertain times.  Remember, I refuse to allow us to be victims of genocide; our lives are too important as we represent a race of greatness.

The Rocks Coordinating Committee’s Pride Parade After Party takes place on Sunday June 24 at Montrose Harbor located at 601 Montrose Harbor, Chicago from 11:00AM-7:00PM it’s free to the general public.