To celebrate Black History Month, we are acknowledging a few of the people who have made history for not only the black community but also the LGBTQ community. Here are 5 inspiring black queer history makers.
Another big thanks to our intern East Bay MET School Myka for his work/research on this blog!
Photo by Dagmar Schultz
Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She had described herself as a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." During her career, she used her poetry to address the struggles of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Her 1973 poetry collection, ″From a Land Where Other People Live,″ was nominated for a National Book Award, she has won the 1990 Bill Whitehead Memorial Award, and the 1991 Walt Whitman Citation of Merit. She attended Hunter College and graduated in 1959, then later became a professor in English there. Overall, she published 32 books including The Cancer Journals which talked about her experience with breast cancer/treatment. She later died at age 58 in the comfort of her home after her breast cancer came back.
Photo by Micah Fink. Jamaica, 2013.
Maurice Tomlinson is a Jamaican lawyer, gay rights activist, and educator. He has been one of the few Gay Rights/HIV activists in the Caribbean for over 20 years. He is one of the only Jamaican LGBTQ human rights advocates to go against the country's anti-gay Sodomy Law. In 2011, he traveled to Canada to marry his husband and he came back to Jamacia to complete the filing process for Canadian residency. Unfortunately, his marriage was outed in a Jamaican newspaper when arriving home. He got many death threats and had to leave Jamaica. But he didn't let that stop him from coming back and continuing his work there. He is working with an LGBTQ organization called J-FLAG to establish a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth. Currently, he is 51 years old and teaching Canadian Human Rights and other law courses at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.
Marsha P Johnson
Photo by Hank O’ Neal- of Mother Marsha at NYC’s Pride march in 1977.
Marsha P Johnson was an American gay liberation activist and drag queen. She is most known for being a strong figure in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. The "P" in Marsha's name stands for “Pay It No Mind” which defines her attitude regarding discrimination against homophobia/transphobia. Marsha and Sylvia Rivera established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, in 1970. This group supported transgender youth experiencing homelessness in New York City. She was known as a "drag mother" who supported struggling youth in the community. Unfortunately, Marsha was murdered in an act of anti-LGBT violence in 1992. After her funeral, a series of demonstrations and marches took place due to the police not taking her case seriously and justice was demanded for Marsha. She had said herself that there is "no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
Photo by Micheline PELLETIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
James Baldwin was an American writer and activist most known for his work about race. He was a strong voice of the American civil rights movement and is now praised for writing about taboo topics of his time. His most popular works are Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, and Go Tell It on the Mountain. Being gay himself, he wrote some gay literature talking about homosexuality and interracial relationships. Baldwin was very open about his homosexuality and was often criticized for it. But in his words, "the most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose"; he never let others stop him from writing what he wanted. In his later years after watching racial violence continue, his writing became insistent. In 1987, Baldwin died due to stomach cancer at the age of 63. He had said he never wanted to be a leader but rather show the truth. He definitely succeeded in this throughout his writing career.
Photo by Steve Sabo, courtesy of Bike Newport
Allyson McCalla is the Director of Community Relations and Administration at Bike Newport RI, and a certified Bicycle Instructor. She is also a part of our Newport Pride volunteer committee. In September 2020, she brought the program "Black Girls Do Bike" to Newport After speaking to the founder at a national conference back in 2019. The founder, Monica Garrison, created "Black Girls Do Bike" in 2013 while living in Pittsburgh. This has now become a national organization with more than 90 chapters across America. Allyson says “Our chapter of Black Girls Do Bike brings together women of color to share a passion, ride together, motivate one another, and grow the community of black girls who do bike.” You can join the Facebook group for this chapter at https://www.facebook.com/groups/blackgirlsdobikenewport/
Super shero Allyson has been an amazing asset to our organization. She is of the outstanding leaders from Bike Newport for our Newport Pride Bike Ride. This is happening again this year on June 26, 2022.
We are so grateful and inspired by these wonderful people that have changed our community for all. Thank you to the folks who have helped us get to where we are today. Your efforts don't go unnoticed; our community is the strongest it's ever been.
Marsha P Johnson