Words of wisdom from 7 Black LGBTQ women
June is National LGBTQ Pride Month!
As you get ready to celebrate in a city near you, let’s honor and remember the work and the words of Black LGBTQ women who have come before us and are with us today. Because of them we are better equipped and continue to learn how to unapologetically love ourselves and each other in order to imagine another future where justice is not a dream, but a fundamental right of our lived reality.
If there is one person who has taught us about the strength and beauty of imagination, it’s Octavia Butler. She was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” and her legacy continues today with recent anthology Octavia’s Brood (2015). Some of her classic books include Kindred (1979), and her Parable series Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998).
“People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn’t bother me. It’s other people doing the calling that bothers me.”
Emmy-nominated actress and activist Laverne Cox has been capturing our hearts season after season on the Netflix television series Orange is the New Black through her role as Sophia Burset, becoming the first trans woman of color to have a leading role in a mainstream scripted television show. We’ll soon be seeing Laverne on CBS’s upcoming television pilot series Doubt. But offscreen we can find her advocating to amplify the voices of transgender women, work which helped her land a spot as one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year in 2014.
“Believing you are unworthy of love and belonging — that who you are authentically is a sin or is wrong — is deadly. Who you are is beautiful and amazing.”
Political activist/organizer, author and scholar Angela Davis has been at the forefront of fighting for justice and dismantling all forms of oppression since the 1960s, particularly regarding the prison industrial complex.
“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”
A writer and playwright, Lorraine Hansberry was the first Black woman have her own play performed on the Broadway stage for her iconic work, A Raisin in the Sun. She also dedicated her pen to activism, writing editorials for Pan-Africanist newspaper, Freedom, and addressing feminism and homophobia in The Daughters of Bilitis magazine, The Ladder.
“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.”
Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian poet and intellectual whose works, including her collection of essays Sister Outsider, serve as must reads for “Feminism 101,” not simply for the way they hold us accountable toward building a multidimensional feminism, but for the prolific ways she unfolds her ideas through prose.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
If you want to get the 4-1-1 on all things Bey, the person to go to is Janet Mock. While hosting her own show SoPOPular on MSNBC, she is also a writer and activist whose memoir Redefining Realness (2014) takes us on her journey embracing and honoring her womanhood as a trans woman of color. She is an example of the importance of telling your own story on your own terms and creating space for others to do the same. She’s the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, which serves to empower other transgender women to live authentically in their truth.
“Self-definition and self-determination is about the many varied decisions that we make to compose and journey toward ourselves, about the audacity and strength to proclaim, create, and evolve into who we know ourselves to be. It’s okay if your personal definition is in a constant state of flux as you navigate the world.”
Alice Walker is a writer and activist known for her book, The Color Purple (1982), for which she won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983. One of the great attributes of the book is its attention to the different types of intimate relationships Black women can have amongst one another.
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
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