We’re acknowledging and celebrating the thousands of historic contributions that Black LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history, paving the way not only for LGBTQ PoC but the LGBT community overall. Here are just a few of our heroes and the personal inspiration that they've given us.
1. FannyAnn Eddy, Sierra Leonean LGBT rights activist and campaigner
Yaz says ‘FannyAnn Eddy started the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association. In post-civil war Sierra Leone! In 2002!
Unfortunately, I only came to only learn about FannyAnn Eddy posthumously, when the work and life of this incredibly brave woman was cut short as she was brutally murdered in 2004, believed to be a direct result of her activism.
I am half Liberian and we share a complicated history with Sierra Leone, going back even beyond our entwined respective civil wars. As a teenager trying to reconcile my budding queerness with my African heritage, I was deeply inspired to know that in the midst of such devastation, there was a proud, resilient woman who saw that there was no way her nation could rebuild without taking into account the freedom and rights of all its citizens, even at the cost of her own life.’
2. Nicole Dennis-Benn, Jamaican author
India says ‘Growing up with a Jamaican background, I assumed that queer Jamaicans didn't exist, and if they did, they were forced to hide it. You can imagine the excitement on my face when I found a plethora of Black LGBT Jamaican writers and activists.
I had the amazing privilege of meeting Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun and Patsy and a proud Jamaican lesbian. I was so overwhelmed that I barely said a word, just asked for a picture and the smile on my face says it all.
3. Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement
Zahra says ‘She isn't afraid to wear her blackness or her queerness loudly. She started the whole movement with one Facebook post that ended with the words 'black lives matter' and forced a nation to wake up to the racial inequity that is so rife. She now holds many accolades and hasn't given up using her voice to occupy spaces where historically these parts of her identity were outlawed.’
4. Janelle Monáe, American singer and performer
Calu says ‘Janelle Monáe is just great - from albums like Electric Lady to Dirty Computer, films like Moonlight and Hidden Figures, is there anything she can't do? Her music videos are iconic, and she is just an incredibly inspiring person.’
5. Lady Phyll, British founder of UK Black Pride
Yeme says ‘She is an incredible force of nature who has been a much-needed voice for the black LGBT community. Going to the UK Black Pride event every year is an opportunity to be in a space with my community where I can feel safe and supported, and this is all because of her amazing passion and leadership!’
6. Josiah Wise, the music artist serpentwithfeet
Tajah says ‘He is so expressively gay in his music. He doesn't hold back at all, makes clear reference to male lovers (which isn't done often in RnB), he references poetry in his work, and frankly the vocal range is just out of this world. He makes me feel empowered to place my queerness in my creative work.’
It’s incredibly important to know the part these individuals have played in the history of making a more inclusive and safe future for the whole LGBTQ community. They’ve provided visibility in spaces which may not have been as inclusive and accepting.
There are also many others who’ve played their part. Here are only but a few amazing names:
- Josephine Baker: American/French performer and spy agent
- James Baldwin: American playwright and novelist
- Gladys Bentley: American/Trinidadian entertainer
- Munroe Bergdorf: British model and activist
- Staceyann Chin: Jamaican poet and activist
- Laverne Cox: American actress and activist
- Angela Davis: American activist
- Stormé DeLarverie: American Gay civil rights activist and acclaimed butch lesbian
- Justin Fashanu: British footballer
- Marsha P. Johnson: American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen
- David Kato: Ugandan teacher and LGBT activist
- Jackie Kay: British playwright and novelist
- Cleo Kambugo Kentaro: Ugandan actress and activist
- Audre Lorde: American writer, academic and activist
- MNEK: British singer and performer
- Indya Moore: American actor, model and activist
- Zinele Muholi: South African visual activist and photographer
- Billy Porter: American singer, actor and performer
- Lena Waithe: American screenwriter, producer and actor
- Alice Walker: American writer (Author of the Colour Purple)
- Gina Yashere: British comedian