Name: Darnell L. Moore
Who is he: Activist, public speaker, and author of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America.
How he’s made a difference: Moore has dedicated his career to helping marginalized communities find their voice. His writings on equality, race, gender, and human rights have appeared everywhere from the pages of Ebony and Out to scholarly publications such as Women Studies Quarterly and the Harvard Journal of African American Policy. And he has addressed a number of colleges, including the Yale Divinity School, NYU, Columbia University, Vassar, and Harvard.
Most recently, 42-year-old Moore published No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America, a critically-acclaimed memoir about growing up black and queer in New Jersey in the ’80s. The book touches on AIDS, masculinity, and living with an abusive parent. The title comes from an incident when a group of neighborhood boys doused Moore in gas and tried to light him on fire. It’s the kind of story that demands your attention, and his passion and flair for language draw you into an experience that few others have shared so deftly.
Why we’re proud: Long before publishing his memoir in 2018, named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Moore was speaking up for those who, for too long, have remained voiceless. Whether through launching YOU Belong, a youth sports initiative co-founded with NFL player Wade Davis II, assisting in organizing the Black Lives Matters Ride to Ferguson after Mike Brown’s murder, or participating in the first U.S. delegation of LGBTQ leaders to Palestine, he has been a tireless champion for equality the world over, raising awareness to intersectionality and queer issues both domestically and aboard, and empowering others to do the same.
The book is filled with moving, beautiful writing like this:
Too few are asking us the questions to get to the depths of black queer boys’ traumas. What is it that you desire but have been denied? What is that you need to feel safe? How do you actually feel about the person you had sex with? What is it about him you desire? What are the sources of your pain? Who hurt you? Who first told you that your sexual desires and attractions were wrong? Does it feel better when you use a condom? Do you feel more connected when you don’t use a condom at all? What is it about that particular connection that fulfills you? To ask those questions would mean black boys and men would have to be seen, first, as bleeding, crying, vulnerable and sometimes resilient human persons. We are breakable…Black same-sex love is revolutionary because we must first convince ourselves we are deserving of receiving and giving what has been denied us for so long.