June is celebrated as Pride Month each year. This month commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The Stonewall Inn was a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City, and after it was raided on June 28, 1969, it sparked 6 days of protesting. This led to the gay liberation movement in the US and has impacted the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community across the globe.
This June, the US is also experiencing days and days of protests as people campaign for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Both the gay rights movement and Black Lives Matter are incredibly important causes and are intrinsically linked. These movements share some core qualities. People are tired of police harassment and brutality, and they will no longer tolerate discrimination against their respective communities.
The first pride was a riot led by Marsha P. Johnson, an African American trans woman. She was a drag queen, and activist who tirelessly fought for the rights of gay people. She was not the only Black, queer activist who lead the way for LGBTQIA+ rights. There have been others like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Gladys Bentley, and Bayard Rustin, to name just a few. It was their words, poems, novels, plays, political engagement, art and activism that has led the way for activists today.
There are amazing people from the LGBTQIA+ community that are now fighting for the liberation of Black people across the world. This Pride Month, to honour Marsha’s legacy, and the other Black activists that have led the way, I’d like to shine a light on some Black or Indigenous, queer activists who are doing important advocacy work. Their voices are important because they speak from the intersection of multiple marginalised communities and give insight into how we should give these communities equity, not just equality. Their lived experience and knowledge is what we need to listen to moving forward.
It is important to remember the work that the Black and queer activists of the past have contributed to human rights movements. They paved the way in the past and their work and spirit carried through into the activism of today.
We know of the names and work of legendary advocates but here are some powerhouses who should be following.
Blair Imani is queer Muslim woman who has done a lot for a 26-year-old. She is a historian, author of 2 books, former organiser, public speaker and has a podcast called America Did What?! She founded the non-profit Equality for HER, worked for Planned Parenthood and has delivered powerful public speeches including a TEDx talk.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Imani is a proud bisexual woman and LBGTQ advocate, and proudly speaks about that intersection with her Black and Muslim Identity. She has protested for many causes, most notably for the shooting of Alton Sterling.
You can use her books Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History (2018) and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and The Black American Dream (2020) to learn more about Black history and the experience of people traditionally overlooked and under-celebrated communities
You can find her @BlairImani on Twitter.
Munroe Bergdorf is UK activist and model that has been a vocal advocate for the trans community. She is a patron for Mermaids, and LGBTQ+ charity that supports trans and gender-diverse young people and their families. She is also an advocate for UN Women UK (notably supporting their #DrawALine campaign) and is the LGBTQ+ Editor for Dazed Beauty.
Most recently has been in the news after addressing L’Oreal for firing her in 2017 when she spoke out against systemic racism. She was their first transgender model to front a L’Oreal campaign but publicly dropped her when she spoke about white supremacy and violence. When the brand posted a statement to support the protests for George Floyd’s death, the model spoke out again about their treatment of her.
Showing how to truly make change within brands, she has now been rehired by L’Oreal, sitting on the UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board they are forming.
You can find her @MunroeBergdorf on Twitter.
Laverne Cox is an American actress who is also a loud and proud LGBTQ+ advocate. She rose to fame for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black. She has had a lot of firsts in her career; she is first trans woman of colour to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show, first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category and first openly trans person to win a Daytime Emmy Award. She is a documentary film producer, a SAG Award winner and has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine.
She has spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, famously being apart of the (BAND-AID®)RED campaign. She has used her platform to campaign for trans women of colour and fights for gender equality. She speaks out about the importance and need for inclusion of trans representation on screen and within award nominations. She even pushed for IMDB to change their birth name policy, and now one can remove their birth name if the person no longer voluntarily uses that name.
You can find her @Lavernecox on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson is an activist, organiser, author, and former 6th grade math teacher. He is a high-profile Black Lives Matter activist, recognisable by his signature blue Patagonia vest. He also hosts the podcast Pod Save the People and is also known for the time he ran for mayor in his hometown of Baltimore.
He has organised many protests over the years, fighting for police reform, and launched the platform Campaign Zero that uses community demands and research to make policy recommendations and solutions seek to end police violence in America.
He spoke about how important it is that he is open about his identity as a gay men to show there is no need to hide your identity when you want to make an impact and to show that black identity is complex and not monolithic
His work centres on the dialogue about race and education and won the Howard Zinn freedom Award for how he has contributed to social justice and changing the policing system. His activism for Black Lives Matter continues to be even so important now.
You can find him @deray on Twitter.
As I’m from Australia, I wanted to include a queer Indigenous activist, and Aretha Brown is truly a powerhouse. She is a youth activist, artist and proud Gumbaynggirr woman. She was elected as the first female Prime Minister by her peers at the National Indigenous Youth Parliament. She is only 19 years old.
She has spoken at the Sydney Opera House at the All About Women festival in 2019, numerous rallies and panels, and her painting “Time Is On Our Side, You Mob” is the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2019 Top Arts exhibition. She has made appearances on radio and television such as the ABC and NITV. She is proud of her queer and Indigenous identity and campaigns for her beliefs through community organising, public speaking, and practising art.
She continues to make art in Naarm (Melbourne) and makes content on YouTube that includes history lessons and speaking out about racism. Her passion for making change within Australia will truly see her make a great difference in the country.
You can find her @_enterthedragon_ on Instagram.
It is these people (amongst many) that are carrying on the legacy of black and Indigenous activists from the past. Pride Month makes us reflect back on the activists who made the first crucial moves for liberation and we now celebrate the emerging activists that are continuing to fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalised communities. It is with their drive and advocacy that we will see true human rights change.
If you are looking to support or donate to Black or Indigenous LGBTQIA+ organisations:
In Australia: Black Rainbow