Slowly but surely, the phrase “the first black person to…” has begun to disappear from our collective lexicon. There are many checkmarks on the list of African-American achievements, not the least of which is President of the United States.
For gays of color, though, there can be more obstacles: When he came out, CNN news anchor Don Lemon jested that he was “a double minority,” but tensions between the two communities have strained in recent years. (Whether true or not, the perception that black churches were heavily involved in the campaign to pass Proposition 8 opened old wounds on both sides.)
African-Americans, though, have always been a party of the gay community—both as members and as allies. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous told the audience at the recent Conference on LGBT Equality, “if you pick a fight with my brother—whether it is because you say we ain’t like you or he ain’t like us—you have picked a fight with me.”
Many gays of color have made their mark on America, including writers James Baldwin (above), Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde and E. Lynn Harris; directors Patrik Ian-Polk (Noah’s Arc), Paris Barclay (Glee, Sons of Anarchy) and Lee Daniels (Precious); pro basketball players Sheryl Swoopes and John Amaeche (right); singers Meshell Ndegeocello and Kele Okereke (Bloc Party)—and even a Republican mayor, Bruce Harris of Chatham, NJ.
Today is the start of Black History Month, and Queerty is taking a look at seven gay African-Americans who weren’t just pioneers in their chosen fields, but who paved the way for all of us.
Have someone to add? Share their names and accomplishments in the comments section below.
FIRST: There wouldn’t have been a civil-rights movement without Bayard Rustin
Photos: PBS, Orlando Magic