Every year, Black History Month recognizes the accomplishments, journeys, and contributions of African Americans throughout history. This year, as in years past, GLAAD is working to ensure that the lives of black LGBT people are included in the celebration.
Throughout the month of February, GLAAD will be sharing graphics that honor black LGBT icons--including advocates, authors, entertainers, thinkers, and those who have done some of everything--and their insights. By posting these graphics on your social media, you can pay tribute to these admirable figures by reminding you and your followers to constantly strive to live into the icons' messages and to make their visions for the world become reality.
Check out the graphics we've released so far:
Janet Mock rose to success as an editor for People.com, and came out to the public as a transgender woman in 2011. Janet combines her roles as author and advocate to inspire dialogue and reach out to the LGBT community. She has strengthened the network of trans girls and women by creating the hashtag #GirlsLikeUs and, earlier this month, published her first memoir, Redefining Realness.
Though Audre Lorde passed away from cancer in the 1990s, her unabashedly personal and honest insights remain in full force. The theorist, advocate, poet, and author broke ground with her emphasis on the intersections of race, gender, class, and being LGBT. If you haven't read Sister Outsider, you should probably pick it up at your earliest convenience. New York City's non-profit for LGBT women of color, Audre Lorde Project, is named for her.
If you've ever read The Fire Next Time or Giovanni's Room, or any other work by this icon, you've most likely been struck by writer James Bladwin's eloquently subversive portraits of being marginalized in America. A dedicated advocate, James spoke out frequently on civil rights and participated actively in efforts to foster equality. He hung around with one of the most inspiring friend groups possible, which included Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr., just to name a few.
Emmy-award winning comedy writer and actress, Wanda Sykes has been considered by some to be one of the funniest people in America. She came out in 2008, after marrying her now-wife, with whom she has two kids. Since then, Wanda Sykes has displayed her dedication to marriage equality, and won a GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award in 2010.
Jason Collins became the first active male athlete from a major American professional team sport to come out as gay in 2013 on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Since then, Jason has continuously worked to increase visibility and understand of LGBT athletes. His bravery won praise and support from President Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Michelle Obama even welcomed Jason as her guest to the 2014 State of the Union Address.
Founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), Kylar Broadus became the first transgender person ever to testify before the US Senate when he spoke in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in June 2012. Kylar has a background in finance but was forced out of his field when he transitioned. A former attorney and current law professor at Lincoln University of Missouri, Kylar now works with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on matters of public policy and transgender civil rights.
Barbara Jordan was the first at many things. In the 1970s, she became the first black congresswoman from the south, the first woman in the Texas Senate, and the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction. Following her time in office, Barbara began a new career as a professor at the University of Texas in Austin. She remained active in politics, though, for the rest of her life; heading the Commission on Immigration Reform, counseling politicians, and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She even claimed one more "first" in 1994 when she became the first black woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
Brittney Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury, but has been receiving attention long before she joined the WNBA. The #1 high school women's basketball player in 2009 and the first NCAA player in her sport to score 2,000 points, this star athlete has a long list of awards and titles to her name, and she's hasn't even been out of college a full year. In April 2013, Brittney let the public know in a Sports Illustrated interview that she is open about being a lesbian. The ESPY Award winning best female college athlete of 2013 was recently featured in "Journey of the Gay Athlete," a CNN documentary.
As director, writer, and producer Patrik-Ian Polk is the main person behind movies like Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom,, The Skinny, and Punks, and the show Noah's Arc. While he also worked in development on cult classics like "Beavis and Butthead Do America," and "Election," Patrik Ian's previously mentioned works are perhaps his most significant for telling stores of the black LGBT community and the things it deals with, from dating to violence to parenthood and beyond. His latest project, a coming of age film called Blackbird, will be released this year.
Born with brilliance into a socially-conscious family, Angela Davis was essentially destined to be the determined, established advocate and academic she is today. Her counterculture teachings about black liberation, inclusive feminism, LGBT equality, the war in Vietnam, and the prison industrial complex, as well as her affiliation with the Communist Party USA led the FBI to track Angela, label her a terrorist and enemy of the state, and jail her in the 1970s. Her impact on social justice was palpable, though, as "Free Angela Davis" became a common slogan for those working for change. Angela's messages continue to inspire new generations, as she still actively speaks around the country about creating a more just society.
Bayard Rustin involvement with the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century extended back into the 1940s, and was rooted in his religious convictions and nonviolent approach. These principles, combined with Bayard's history of organized social action readied him to eventually become the Deputy Director and Chief Organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Bayard was also key in organizing the first Freedom Rides and, along side Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The award winning advocate and influential political strategist work tirelessly to bring about racial equality, workers' rights, protection for refugees, and international human rights. Arrested in the '50s for "homosexual activity," Bayard was often concerned that being openly gay would draw excessive eroticism to his advocacy work, yet he remained a proud, vocal supporter of equality for gay people.
Darren Young had been interested in wrestling professionally since he was a teenager, and stepped out in the independent circuit in 2002, then ultimately signed with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) a few years later. He's been wrestling wish the WWE ever since. In August of last year, during an interview, Darren became the first openly gay wrestler to come out while still signed, and was met with support from fellow wrestlers as well as the WWE at large.
In summer 2011, CeCe McDonald's life changed forever when she was brutally assaulted in a racist and transphobic attack. As a result of defending herself against her attacker, she was arrested and sentenced to 41 months in a men's prison facility. All over, people rallied in support of CeCe, launching the "Free CeCe" campaign to advocate for an end to discrimination against her as a trans woman and for her to be released. After serving 19 months of her sentence, CeCe was released from prison. Since then, on Twitter, #BecauseofCeCe became a way for users to express the ways they've been inspired to continuously work towards justice for the trans community, for women of color, and for prisoners. Currently, advocate Laverne Cox is co-producing the documentary "FREE CeCe" to further explore CeCe's journey and further the dialogue about trans women of color.
Grammy-winning artist Frank Ocean debuted his solo album in 2012 and, just a few months later, bravely became one of the first major hip hop artists to be open about having been in love with a man. He shared details about his past relationship on his Tumblr, and received much support throughout the industry. Musicians and moguls like Beyonce, Russell Simmons, and T Pain have continuously expressed pride in Frank's courage and openness. His ability to break free of rigid categories, in conjunction with his emotionally provocative lyrics and unique melodies that have garnered a wide range of awards and nominations, make Frank a modern icon.
Alice Walker's seminal book, The Color Purple, perfectly captures the author's emotional beauty, critical eye towards injustice, and fearless spirit when it comes to speaking hard truths. Like her literary works, Alice has long confronted society's inequities, working to bring about racial equality, human rights, international peace, and fair treatment of the trans community. In her advocacy and her writing, violence, gender, race, poverty, and seeking love are perpetual themes. The openly bisexual, award winning humanitarian and artist has many accolades, including being the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Thirty years after the release of her most popular novel, The Color Purple continues to reach new audiences in print, on screen, and on the stage. A documentary on Alice's life, American Masters--Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, recently premiered on PBS. Both Alice and her career have proven to be timeless inspirations.
Robin Roberts has been a part of viewers’ lives since joining Sportscenter in 1990 and Good Morning America in 1995—eventually rising to co-anchor and lead the show to some of its best ratings. She’s often entertained, inspired, and informed, such as when she reported from the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Robin had the world rooting for her in a new way when she fought against breast cancer and, a couple of years later, a bone marrow disease. Having courageously battled against these hardships, Robin expressed her joy and gratitude in December 2013 for her health and support network, which included her girlfriend of ten years.
Multi-platinum singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman is best known for her stirring, thoughtful works like “Talkin’ ‘bout a Revolution,” “Fast Car,” and “Give Me One Reason” in the 1980s and ‘90s, and has released new music as recently as 2008. The four-time Grammy Award winner has used her art as an avenue for advocacy by bringing attention to social and economic injustices, with particular focus on race and gender issues. Tracy remains active with numerous non-profit organizations, just as her songs have remained international anthems.
Raised mainly in England, John Amaechi defied odds by becoming an NBA star throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, despite not playing basketball for the first time until he was 17 years old. After retiring from the sport, John came out as gay to the public in 2007 on ESPN, making him the first NBA player ever to do so. Since then, he has detailed his experience in his book, Man in the Middle, and now works as a mentor and high-performance coach, encouraging others to grow as strong leaders.
2013 seemed like the Year of Laverne Cox and, so far, 2014 appears to be heading in the same awesome direction. The actress, producer, reality star, and writer has been on the scene for a number of years, but skyrocketed to new heights of fame last summer when the world fell in love with Orange is the New Black and her trans character on the series, Sophia. Just as her role broadened dialogue about trans women of color's experiences, Laverne is dedicated to rendering cultural change by uniquely uniting her mainstream visibility with hard-hitting social insights. Among the many contributions to trans equality she's made, the most recent include standing closely by CeCe McDonald. Laverne brought attention to CeCe's story, joined her this week for an hour-long conversation with Democracy Now, and is co-producing the documentary "FREE CECE." Laverne is as emotionally stirring and thought provoking on screen as she is in her advocacy.
Marsha "Pay it No Mind" Johnson was a Greenwich Village artists from the 1960s to 1990s. Her legacy is grounded in her compassion for the trans community and her dedication to LGBT visibility and equality. Marsha worked alongside Sylvia Rivera, co-founding the organization Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and the STAR House to provide resources to and advocate for disadvantaged young trans women and drag queens. Marsha was one of numerous trans advocates involved in the Stonewall riots of 1969. Despite such contribution to the historic events, many gay groups of the era excluded the trans community from their efforts, which left Marsha both frustrated with the state of the movement and further determined to work on behalf of her trans peers.
Kye Allums is a young trailblazer who has channeled his status as the first openly trans college athlete in the history of NCAA Division I to advocate for cultural change. While he no longer plays basketball with George Washington University, Kye keeps busy by speaking on panels and to large groups, mentoring and taking stands for LGBT youth, and promoting visibility in the media. His honesty mixed with his inviting nature make Kye an effective and relatable inspiration.
If you've seen the movie The Butler, Precious, Shadowboxer, Monster's Ball, or any other of the award winning director and producer's critically acclaimed work, then you know Lee Daniels doesn't hold back when portraying trying experiences--particularly, when confronting, head on, matters of race and sex. He has used his cinematic work to bring attention to important yet often ignored issues, like AIDS in the black community. Not only is Lee talented and successful, and his work gripping, but he is also barrier breaking; he is the first black person to be nominated by the Director's Guild of American and the second to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. Lee is also the first African-American to be the lone producer of an Academy Award nominated film.