OPINION: 10 of the most influential Black LGBTQ+ icons of the past and present

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Black History Month, a time to pay homage to the Black trailblazers who have made an impact on advancing African American culture, and American culture as a whole. While learning about this history throughout this month and the rest of the years to come, it is just as important to also learn about the Black LGBTQ+ trailblazers who get lost in the spectacle of this month.

 

Past


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 2. Bayard Rustin- Civil Rights leader, organizer, innovator. Rustin had a major influence in the behind the scenes work of major events like the March on Washington, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Freedom Rides. He also played a crucial role in advancing the leadership styles of other Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. 

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 3. Angela Davis- Writer, activist, educator. This revolutionary needs no introduction. Angela Davis is one many look up to when it comes to activism in the modern day movement. She was also a keynote speaker during Indiana University’s MLK Day of Celebration on January 18.

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 4. James Baldwin- Essayist, public speaker, activist. James Baldwin’s books are like William Shakespeare’s. From “The Fire Next Time”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, to “Giovanni’s Room”, Baldwin’s pen eloquently taps into the plight of the Black experience in a world that originated in anti-blackness.

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 5. Audre Lorde- “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. These words are what Lorde describes herself as. Throughout her life, she was dedicated to dismantling the oppressive systems of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism which is seen in works like “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” and “From a Land Where Other People Live”.

 

Present

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 6. Billy Porter- Actor, singer, model, activist. While Porter has been in the industry for decades, his accolades have come fairly recently. As one of the stars of the groundbreaking show “Pose”, Porter is the first openly Black gay male to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series as Pray Tell.

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 7. George M. Johnson-  Author, journalist, HIV advocate. This HBCU educated trailblazer burst onto the mainstream with his debut novel “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” in 2020 and has brought much needed visibility to many Black and queer youth who have never had the chance at reading coming of age books that highlight their experiences at the intersection of Blackness and queerness. 

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 8. Janet Mock- Director, producer, trans activist. Janet Mock has taken Hollywood by storm and paved the way for so many transgender people of color in the industry to feel visible both on and behind the scenes. Mock is also a New York Times Bestseller for her novel “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More”

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 9. Janelle Monáe- Singer, actor, instrumentalist. Janelle Monáe has intertwined activism and artistry in her work since her debut album “The Archandroid” in 2010. Eight years later,  “Dirty Computer” masterfully touches on subjects of femininity, queerness, and advocating for all marginalized groups of people. 

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 10. Laverne Cox- Actor, trans advocate, writer. Laverne Cox made history as the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy award. She is been a major advocate for transgender equity and inclusion. 


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