[Image description: a digital drawing of two queer black women sat on armchairs next to each other, seemingly chatting. The background has portraits of them both. The colours are very vivid and the art style is sketchy.]
Article by Emily Bourne and Ty Wilson.
Celebrating Queer Black Female Historical Figures
Black queer women have always been instrumental to the cultural identity and fight for liberation of LGBTQI+ community. Without their contributions and sacrifices,the LGBTQI+ community would not enjoy many of the rights and freedoms we have today. We would like to bright light to a few of our queer heroes in this article.
Stormé Delavarie[Image description: black and white image of Stormé in a suit.]
Storm Delavarie was an activist involved in the Stonewall Riots.
Affectionately known as the “Rosa Parks of Stonewall”
“Ms. DeLarverie had grown up in the South, of mixed race, and spent part of the first half of her life singing and performing as a man. Identity, for her, had been especially complicated, and she did not want others persecuted for theirs.”
Josephine Baker[Image description: black and white image of Josephine, laying in her stomach, looking up at the camera.]
Josephine Baker was a performer, civil rights activist & World War II spy.
“When Adolf Hitler and the German army invaded France during World War II, Baker joined the fight against the Nazi regime. She aided French military officials by passing on secrets she heard while performing in front of the enemy. She transported the confidential information by writing with invisible ink on music sheets. After many years of performing in Paris, Baker returned to the United States.”
Throughout her career, she adopted 13 children from various countries. She called her family “the rainbow tribe” and took her children on the road in an effort to show that racial and cultural harmony could exist.
Marsha P. Johnson[image description: black and white image of Marsha sat on the curb.]
Marsha P Johnson was a trans rights activist and founder of STAR House.
Following the 1969 Stonewall Riots, transgender sex workers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).Sylvia and Marsha saw that the needs of street youth and transgender youth were not being taken in account by other early gay groups. They founded STAR to fill this gap.
STAR opened their first STAR House in a parked trailer truck in a Greenwich Village parking lot later that year. It functioned as a shelter and social space for trans sex workers and other LGBT street youth.
STAR House was many firsts. It was the first LGBT youth shelter in North America. It was the first trans woman of colour led organisation in the USA. And it was the first trans sex worker labour organisation. STAR later expanded to other cities, before eventually collapsing in the mid-1970s. It has recently been revived in New York City.
Audre Lorde[image description: black and white image of Audre sat down.]
Audre Lorde was a writer and activist. Self-described as a Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet--Audre Lorde’s contributions to radical Queer Black Womanist thought have influenced and inspired others for generations since.
“Poet Adrienne Rich said of The Black Unicorn that "Lorde writes as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist, a visionary; poems of elemental wildness and healing, nightmare and lucidity."”
Throughout her lifetime, Audre Lorde worked as a professor, activist,and professional essayist based primarily in New York City. The daughter of Caribbean immigrants,”both her activism and her published work speak to the importance of struggle for liberation among oppressed peoples and of organizing in coalition across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability.”
Audre Lorde was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State’s Poet Laureate, Governor Mario Cuomo observed: “Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice…She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere.”
“I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out my ears, my eyes, my noseholes—everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!
— Audre Lorde, from “A Burst of Light: Living with Cancer,” The Selected Works of Audre Lorde
[image description: black and white image of Bessie smiling at the camera.]
Bessie Smith was a blues singer.
“Gladys Bentley (stage name, Bobbie Minton) was a Harlem Renaissance blues singer and cross dresser. She was one of the most well-known and financially successful black women in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. She was a pioneer in pushing the envelope of gender, sexuality, class, and race with parody and exaggeration, personally and professionally.”
[image description: black and white image of Lorraine sat down, looking at the camera.]
Lorraine Hansberry was an author and playwright.