SEPTEMBER | 2018 | BLACK, GAY & GIFTED
KEITH R. GREEN, Ph.D, MSW
There are three types of lie-- lies, damn lies and statistics. Statistics can do one of two things, they can either tell us what we need to know or tell us what the person presenting them wants us to believe. The city of Chicago is far from exempt from the bullshittery of statistics as the fake news media would be all but satisfied if we believed that you couldn’t step outside without being shot up or at or that the south and west sides of the city are as popular for crime as the city is for it’s beyond brutal winters. The truth about statistics is that while they do their best to explain the frequencies in which certain phenomenon occur, they’re not always right.
We’d like to introduce you to Keith R. Green. Doctor Keith R. Green, to be more precise. Keith probably shouldn’t be alive right now but he is. The forty-one year old has accomplished way more in his life than he was supposed to which is why we’ve chosen to feature him as this month’s Black, Gay & Gifted feature for the month of September. Keith has served as the associate editor of Test Positive Aware Network’s (TPAN), Positively Aware, a monthly magazine that’s served as the most trusted source of HIV treatment news since 1990. Some of us were seven at the time while others may have been a little further in their life’s journey.
Doctor Green is also one of the founding members of Chicago’s Black Gay Men’s Caucus and recently completed doctoral studies as a NRSA Health Services Research Program Pre Doctoral Trainee at the illustrious University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. He is currently an assistant professor at Loyola University- Chicago’s School of Social work. Between completing a dissertation that explored the ways in which varying Affordable Care Act Implementation strategies impacted CBO efforts to engage with vulnerable populations across the country and purchasing a shiny new iPhone / dry erase board combo, he apparently got engaged as well.
Keith’s journey hasn’t been without a challenge or two and according to the good doctor, his biggest challenge has been himself. “I have a tendency to self-sabotage. To operate out of feelings of unworthiness because, for so long, I allowed myself to believe that who I am at the core is unnatural. And unworthy of the many blessings that God continues to bestow upon me.” Keith credits his mother and his partner Michael as well. “And I’ve never had anyone in my life believe in me as much as Michael does. He sees my brilliance in ways that I rarely do and always pushes me to bring my best and authentic self to the table." Green states that he’s still working to overcome his challenges and that he’s learned “ to be more aware of my instinct to self-sabotage and to combat it whenever possible. I combat it by trusting that the God I know wouldn’t bless someone so unnatural in such unnatural ways.”
The one thing that Keith has in common with the rest of us is that he often deals with misconceptions people have about him. When asked about these misconceptions Keith recalls a situation where someone he holds in high regard thought that he was arrogant. “I’ve actually been told that a time or two but, because I have so much respect for her, I was really interested in why she thought that.” He was told that the assumption came because she (his accuser) felt he came across as always feeling like he was right, or as always having the best ideas. “I thought about that for a second and then asked, “But am I open to alternative suggestions when they’re presented?” And she said, “Yes.” And, at that moment, I was okay with coming off as arrogant in that sense. I know that I have good ideas. And they are oftentimes made better by input from others. So, I’m always up for a good ideas debate. And anybody around me should be prepared for it and know that I’m only trying to get us to better.”
This is a very typical Keith Green response in that it demonstrates his confidence and in that it is absolutely right. In fact, it is this confidence that has fueled his impressive trek throughout academia. Keith jokingly credits coffee as being one of the things that has aided him in his academic career, but the most telling propellant was and is his unwavering desire to teach. “I’ve always known that I wanted to be an educator. So, having that job for life is like the world wrapped up in a bow for me. But, within that, is knowing that such a position gives me more leverage to be a force for and with the communities that I identify with. That gets me up in the morning.”
All of this makes perfect sense when you consider Keith’s journey. He graduated with his Bachelor’s in Social Work at the top of his class from Northeastern Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2007- and by ‘top of his class’ we mean Summa cum laude. From there he conquered the University of Wisconsin’s (Madison) School of Social Work’s MSW program where he not only got a t-shirt, but a MSW with a concentration on mental health as well. And while we’ve already mentioned his exploits at the University of Chicago we failed to cite his dissertation title, which was “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and the Expanding Institutional Logics of HIV Prevention: Implications for Community-Based Organizations.”
Depending on who you ask, the quote “With great power comes great responsibility” either came from Ben Parker or Voltaire. Those words may look good on paper but an even better look is an applied knowledge of the quote. Knowledge is not only power but privilege as well- and this isn’t lost on Keith. Dr. Green recently posted about being the only black male employee in a room of 60. That experience provided him with a very sobering reminder.
“That experience made me even more aware of both my privilege and responsibility to be fully present in that space and represent well. I was also reminded of my responsibility to turn those numbers around. To be involved in the growth and development of future scholars. Black scholars. “ Developing future scholars is not small feat, but we’re beyond confident that Keith will find his way in making that happen.
One of the goals Green has set forth for his future is to turn his dissertation into journal articles so that they can be published and returning to the cities he collected data from to share his findings and to get their thoughts on what he should focus on next. He’s also working with the Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum and the Urban Affairs Coalition as well. While he couldn’t share the details at present, we’re beyond certain we’ll hear about them soon enough.
As same gender loving men of color it would seem as if the odds are anything but in our favor. We must work twice as hard to get half as far and we must rely on confidence and hard work to overcome every pitfall society sends our way. We are at risk of becoming another statistic the moment we walk out of our front doors but much like Dr. Green, we’re all capable of getting in our own way, but if we learn from his example then we too can be mold breakers.