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Emil Wilbekin Drives the Black and LGBTQI+ Community Forward

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"My focus in life is to move culture, create new narratives and change hearts and minds. We live is an ever-evolving world, my goal is to continue pressing forward and living my dreams. Change isn’t comfortable, but it’s necessary." 

With the debut release of their new XT4 car, Cadillac, aligns with Emil Wilbekin to showcase his fight (or drive) to better the world. Cadillac has a history of supporting Native Son which is an intergenerational movement founded by Wilbekin with the aim of creating a safe space to empower Black gay men and celebrate their achievements in the arts, business, media, fashion, politics, and healthcare. Cadillac has been a long supporter of the foundation; especially as a lead sponsor during their annual award shows.

Cadillac's first-ever XT4 is an all-new compact SUV tailored for the next generation of luxury customers, because we all love to live a luxurious life. Or at least we try to. The car features a gorgeous outer design and inside, a bold, refined and spacious cabin which echoes the exterior design themes, offering a great balance of style and comfort. The car also includes an automatic heated steering wheel AND heated seats in the front and rear. Who doesn't love keeping their buns nice and warm?

With Apple CarPlay6 and Android Auto7 phone projection capability, you can stream your favorite albums or latest hit songs such as "Shallow" by Lady Gaga. One of the standout features in this hot rod is that there is a built in 4G LTE Wi-Fi(r) Hotspot in it. That's right, Wi-Fi in your car! There also is avaible wireless device charging. In other words, you never have to leave the car. Like ever. Why go into the office when you can just work from your car?

As Cadillac is a leader in design and automotive functionally, Wilbekin is a leader in the Black and LGBTQ+ communities. Out editors spoke with Emil to find what drove him to launch Native Son and what kind of future he envisions for the Black and LGBTQI+ communities.

What led you to create and start Native Son?

"I was raised by parents who were activists, community focused, and mavericks in their lives. My parents taught me to stand-up for myself and to advocate for myself. Native Son is my way of affirming myself and the community of Black gay men."

How do you manage to elevate the extraordinary and keep rising in a world that may not be as progressive as you and Native Son hope?

"My focus in life is to move culture, create new narratives and change hearts and minds. We live is an ever-evolving world, my goal is to continue pressing forward and living my dreams. Change isn't comfortable, but it's necessary."

You're often named as someone this current generation of Black queer writers and journalists look up to. How does that feel, to be a role model?

"I am grateful that my career, writing and work in media inspire Black queer Millennials and Gen Z creatives. I'm humbled to be considered a role model especially because of my journalism and media work. Changing narratives and amplifying Black queer stories is important, urgent and has the power to shift culture."

How has Cadillac's brand values aligned with your own to create such a meaningful and symbiotic long-term partnership?

"When I approached Cadillac about supporting my big idea about creating a platform to support and celebrate Black gay men called Native Son, there brand messaging was 'Dare Greatly.' They were the first brand to believe in my dream. It also didn't hurt that I was raised in a Cadillac household and learned to drive in a Coupe de Ville. Today, Cadillac's brand message has transitioned from 'Dare Greatly' to 'Keep Rising' which serendipitously aligns with my mission in Native Son as well as my hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community."

How have you been able to cultivate a village with next generation?

"My intention with Native Son is that it is intergenerational. That is what a real village looks like. What can we learn from each other? How can we teach and support each other? I believe there is so much wisdom from each generation that sharing is key to growth and wholeness."

As someone who's witnessed so many of the changes for the LGBTQ+ community, what keeps you going? Why are you still doing this work?

"What keeps me going as an activist is seeing more and more visible gay presence in Hollywood, politics, activism, sports, the arts, and media. It's clear that my purpose is to lead, empower and support my community of black gay men. I am grateful to be able to serve my brothers and make a difference in this world. I stand on the shoulders of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Marlon Riggs, Alvin Ailey, Willi Smith, Sylvester, E. Lynn Harris, Andre Leon Talley and so many other black gay men who came before me and stood in their truth. There is still more work to be done."

What are some of the challenges you are working with the future generation on?

"The challenges I am working with the future generation of Black gay men is about mental health, wholeness and self-love. I believe these are the issues that will give Black gay men more support and sustainability in the future. Strengthening our minds, bodies, and spirits is important in building a healthy community."

You founded Native Son to elevate & celebrate Black Gay men. What's next for Native Son in 2019 & beyond?

"Native Son is constantly growing and developing. This year I see it as a foundation building for the future. What does Native Son look like as part media platform and part non-profit? This year, we are hosting more events that are intentional about community building and self-actualization. There is a lot of work to do in the Black gay community and Native Son is just starting."

Lastly, what does Pride mean to you?

"In the past, I always felt that Pride was a Western construct. It never felt inclusive until recently. Seeing the visibility, empowerment and vibrance of LGBTQI+ communities of color gives me hope for the future. With the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall and the props that Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are receiving for being the catalyst of the Gay Rights Movement makes me feel proud. Seeing James Baldwin's life and legacy being revered by new generations of activists and authors makes me proud. Seeing Native Son grow makes me feel proud. I feel like Pride has become more global and inclusive. Proud!"

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