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With the current resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement coinciding with Pride Month, the contributions of Black LGBTQIA+ people have come to the forefront of cultural conversation. As millions protest the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others, attention has surfaced on ensuring that all Black lives matter — including those of Black LGBTQIA+ people.
There has never been a time more crucial to amplify the voices of Black LGBTQIA+ activists, authors and creators. Pride Month observes the commemoration of the Stonewall riots, which is considered the start of the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement. As history tells us, the riots are largely owed to the risk and work of Black and brown trans and queer people.
Black authors have, for years, chronicled the history and realization of what it means to be Black in America, but now the world is stopping to listen, working to break down mental biases and societal inequities. As acclaimed Black lesbian activist Angela Davis has said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Amazingly enough, Black American authors, including Michelle Alexander and Ijeoma Oluo, have surged to the top of the latest New York Times’ best-seller list, marking the first time the top 10 entries on the “combined print and ebook non-fiction list” are primarily titles that focus on race issues in the U.S.
There are countless voices of today that are still carrying the torch through education and analysis. Some of my favorite modern Black queer literature has included “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Dr. Carol Anderson, “HoodWitch: Poems” by Faylita Hicks, “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay, “Passing” by Nella Larsen and “A Garden for Black Boys” by W.J. Lofton.
To begin the conversation, we’ve rounded up nine Black LGBTQIA+ authors who you should know about. Read their work and share with a friend. This list is in no way exhaustive, but it is a place to start for active discussion and mental liberation.
1. Audre Lorde
Lorde, a self-described “Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior,” made lasting contributions in the fields of feminist theory, critical race studies and queer theory through her teaching and writing. Among her most notable works are “Coal” (1976), “The Black Unicorn” (1978), “The Cancer Journals” (1980) and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” (1982).
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t,” Lorde once said.
2. Alice Walker
Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, African American novelist, social activist, poet and story writer most famous for authoring “The Color Purple.” Walker is also cited as the founder for the term “womanist” to mean “a Black feminist or feminist of color.”
3. Janet Mock
Janet Mock is a trans activist who has also published two best-selling memoirs about her journey as a trans woman. She’s also been nominated for a Golden Globe and Emmy, and won a Peabody and AFI Award.
4. The Lady Chablis
The Lady Chablis, also known as The Grand Empress and The Doll, was an American actress, author and transgender club performer. She was a prominent character in John Berendt’s best-selling 1994 book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and her autobiography “Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah” two years later.
5. James Baldwin
Baldwin spent a majority of his literary and activist career educating others about Black and queer identity. He’s known for famous lectures such as his lecture titled “Race, Racism, and the Gay Community,” as well as literature such as “The Fire Next Time,” “I Am Not Your Negro” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
6. Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was a Harlem Renaissance writer. The critic Donald B. Gibson noted in the introduction to “Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays” that Hughes “differed from most of his predecessors among Black poets . . . in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to Black people.” With books such as “The Ways of White Folks,” “The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes” and “The Weary Blues,” Hughes is known for his insightful portrayals of Black life in America.
7. Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry was a playwright and activist best known for “A Raisin in the Sun,” and as the first Black playwright and youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.
8. Akwaeke Emezi
Credit: Theo Wargo/WireImage
Akwaeke Emezi is a writer and visual artist based in liminal spaces. Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi is currently working on their sixth novel. With works like “Pet” and “Freshwater“, their work has been revered by the New York Times, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed and more.
9. Andrea Jenkins
Jenkins made history in November 2017 by becoming the first openly transgender Black woman elected to public office in the U.S., according to LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups and researchers. Jenkins, a Democrat, was one of two openly trans people to win a seat on the Minneapolis City Council in 2017. She is also a published poet and an oral historian at the University of Minnesota.
Activism isn’t limited to standing on the frontlines. If you are interested in educating yourself, this bot will help you find a book written by a Black author.
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