Here are just a few of our black LGBTQ+ American 2019 Pride movers and shakers.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. As LGBTQ people, we face hate every day, due to the simple fact of our existence.” — Billy Porter, (Grammy winner and Pose Star)
SGL = Same Gender Loving
LGBTQ+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus whoever else feels a connection to the LGBTQ community
By BWSTimes Staff
Little has been said or recorded regarding our black American LGBTQ+ trailblazers.
The history books have seemingly left out the queer side, of many, of yesterday’s black queer-and-out movers and shakers — as if being queer was some kind of weakness for them as individuals and the race as a whole.
Their authenticness, courage and resilience to eventually be public, in who they are, have not only ushered in more acceptance for black queer people across America but for black people in general, regardless of how each individual identifies.
Some of these trailblazers were people behind such iconic American figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yet they were intentionally left to operate within the shadows of white supremacy and heterosexual hegemony for black liberation.
For the month of June 2019, we honor some of the Black LGBTQ+ community’s movers and shakers, from the yesteryear’s and today.
Thank you for being brave and demonstrating what Black Excellence looks like in the LGBTQ+ community and in America.
LGBTQ+ Icons of the Yesteryears
Black Americans have always been the first to put their bodies on the line, fighting hate for the liberation for themselves and others. Therefore, like Crispus Attucks was the first to die during the American Revolution, we honor the first to die for LGBTQ+ Rights in America: Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman and drag performer.
Marsha P. Johnson
“She is most famous for playing and a key role in the 1969 Stonewall Riots – an uprising against homophobic police raids considered by many the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. The activist co-founded the Gay Liberation Front and the early trans advocacy group S.T.A.R, and she would later also play a role in AIDS activist group ACT UP.” — Pink News
Ernest Owens is an award-winning journalist and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. As an openly gay black journalist, he has made headlines for speaking frankly about intersectional issues in society regarding race, LGBTQ, and pop culture.
Billy Porter is an LGBTQ+ black American icon. He is a Broadway theatre performer and singer. “Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots at the 67th Tony Awards. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. Porter also won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots. He currently stars in the television series Pose for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination.” — Pinkpose
“Wanda Sykes got her big break in the late 1990s as a writer and occasional guest performer on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show, but the comedian had crisscrossed the stand-up circuit for almost two decades before making that splash on late-night TV. These days her humorous supporting roles in film and television have made Sykes a household name. In 2008, after 10 years appearing in roles on the big and small screens, Sykes publicly announced that she was a lesbian during an anti-Proposition 8 rally. (In 1991 she’d married music producer Dave Hall. The couple was divorced in 1998.) Now wedded to wife Alex, Sykes continues to advocate for LGBT equality and received GLAAD’s 2010 Stephen F. Kolzak Awardfor promoting the image of the LGBT community in the media.” — The Root
Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was a leader in the social movements for socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Rustin was a leading strategist of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1968. A practitioner of nonviolence, he helped to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge racial segregation. Alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. he also helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin became also led the AFL–CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of previously all-white unions and also advanced and campaigned for A Freedom Budget for All Americans, linking the racial justice to economic justice. As a gay man, Rustin was attacked as a “pervert” and “immoral” leader by opponents as well as black leaders. As a result, he rarely served as a public spokesperson and instead acted as an influencer and strategy shaper behind the scenes. In the 1980s, he became a vocal advocate for gay and lesbian rights. In 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, and activist. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America. “Considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, literary icon and civil rights activist James Baldwin spoke openly about same-sex relationships and wrote several brilliant works featuring gay and bisexual characters.” — GLADD
Nehemiah D. Frank
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-and-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and from Oklahoma State University with a degree in political science. He is an educator, public speaker, writer, journalist, thinker, and blogger. He’s been featured on NBC, Blavity and Tulsa People magazine. In 2017 he became a Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018.
“Hughes was very private about his personal life, but most scholars and academics who have studied his work have concluded he was homosexual, as he included gay codes and references within much of his writing, according to the University of Illinois, Springfield.” — GLAAD
“Angela Davis is best known as a radical Black educator, author, and activist for civil rights and other social justice issues. She began her life as an organizer as a teenager when she organized interracial study groups, which were then broken up by the police. In her early life as an academic, she was hired to teach at the University of California in Los Angeles, Davis was fired for her association with communism. She fought the administration in court and was reinstated. Outside of academia, Davis had become a strong supporter of three prison inmates of Soledad Prison. These three men—John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Lester Jackson—were accused of killing a prison guard after several African American inmates had been killed in a fight by another guard. Many thought these prisoners were being used as scapegoats because of political work within the prison. Davis was charged with aiding the attempted escape of Jackson and served roughly 18 months in jail before her acquittal in 1972. She later co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish prisons. In 1997, she came out as a lesbian during an interview with Out Magazine. Davis now works as a professor and activist who advocates for LGBTQ rights, gender equity, prison abolition, and anti-racism. She also lectures at events nationwide and was an honorary co-chair at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.” — GLAAD
Everette Lynn Harris
“Everette Lynn Harris was an openly gay American author who was best known for his depictions of African-American men who were on the down-low and in the closet. Many of the emotional struggles his characters experienced mirrored his own history of struggling with his sexual orientation. He wrote a dozen books, ten of which reached The New York Times Best Seller list including If This World Were Mine, A Love of My Own and Any Way the Wind Blows. He also penned a memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, which chronicles his rise to fame and his struggles, including his suicide attempt in August 1990. Harris was among the most successful African-American or gay authors of his time.” — GLAAD
“Elle Hearns is an accomplished organizer, speaker, strategist, writer and a co-founding member of the Black Lives Matter network. She has been honored with the Young Women’s Achievement Award for Advocacy and Organizing by the Women’s Information Network, the Black Feminist Human Rights Defender award by Black Women’s Blueprint, and was named a Woke 100 honoree by Essence Magazine. Hearns is currently the Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization founded in 2015 that works to create a crucial entry point for Black transgender women to advocate for an end to violence against all trans people through advocacy, transformative organizing, restoration, civil disobedience, and direct action.” — GLAAD
Frank Ocean has been unapologetic about his queerness. He is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, and record producer, who began his musical career as a ghostwriter. Ocean is currently signed with Def Jam Recordings. Attitude Magazine honored the artist for inspiring and making a positive change for the LGBT+ community and their acceptance in pop culture. “Attitude Awards winners are those who use their platform to show how talented and diverse the LGBT+ community is, whether they identify as LGBT+ or not, take the time to fight our corner. Ocean has received one award from one nomination.” — Attitude Magazine
Cleo Manago is an African American activist and social architect who coined the term same gender loving (or SGL) as an alternative for African descended or black people who do not wish to identify as gay or lesbian due to the perceived European centered nature of the terminology and community practices. Along with his activism, he is also a blogger and columnist. Manago rejects the terms gay, bisexual and lesbian because he believes they are white, eurocentric-constructed identities which do not culturally affirm the culture and history of African descended people. Manago is also the founder and CEO of AmASSI Health and Cultural Centers and Black Men’s Xchange.
Risha is an international speaker and author who has been awarded numerous honors such as (November 2018) The Inclusive Leadership Award, One of Four to Watch by the Tulsa World, one of the Most Influential African Americans, and one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs by Engage Magazine. She has also won the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s Top Inclusive Award two years and been nominated for the Journal Record Woman of the Year award several times. She’s author of That’s B.S.: How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures and the Power to Attract Diverse Markets. She’s a monthly contributor to the Tulsa World Newspaper, and a diversity and inclusion contributing correspondent for TV News.
The most publicized out player was Michael Sam, whose story became national news when he came out in 2014 prior to the NFL Draft. Sam was drafted by the-then St. Louis Rams and played in all four preseason games prior to being released.
“Last year CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed much more than his status as a gay man in his memoir, Transparent; the newsman also shared his bleak commentary on the black community’s uneasy relationship with the LGBT world. ‘It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture,’ he told the New York Times in May 2011. Lemon’s frank comments led to a bandwagon of criticism from many blacks. ‘I’m black, I live in the world as a black man, and I know how our culture thinks about homosexuality,’ Lemon told AOL Black Voices. Despite that uneasy reception, Lemon’s coming out bodes well for the underrepresented community that he now represents in the public eye.” — The Root