Growing up in rural Mississippi, I wish I had known about the incredible Black LGBTQ leaders who paved the way for future generations. As a young gay man of African heritage, I was often faced by the reality of the growing racial, social, economic, and sexual orientation differences between me and my peers. It seemed like everyone around me had someone to look up to. I didn’t know there were courageous activists fighting for me. Sure, I was aware of prominent Black or LGBTQ leaders in their respective movements, but I was unaware then of the many Black LGBTQ leaders I could be inspired by.

I’ve been working in social justice for over 7 years now. I’ve been deeply engaged in national and local organizing, including with the National LGBTQ/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group and as the Founder of Queeri, an organization aimed at bridging the gaps between intersections of race, class, gender, sexual identity, and orientation. I am so proud to bring my passion and experience for social justice to GLAD as Community Engagement Manager, to lift the voices of LGBTQ Communities of Color and help ensure that everyone has equitable access to justice. I look forward to coordinating with local leaders who inspire me across New England to do this great work.

Leaders can challenge, encourage, and embolden us, and can be an anchor against harmful or trivial distractions. They can empower us to accomplish our goals, to fulfill our dreams. I am a leader today because of the many great leaders before me and those who work alongside me.

The most important thing I look for in a leader is someone who speaks truth to power in my life. I find it helpful when not only can I relate to that person, but when that person looks like me, loves like I do, and fights for causes that are important to me.

As our nation recognizes and celebrates Black History Month, it is important to take a moment to remember and honor the contributions of Black LGBTQ figures who have shined throughout the course of our nation’s history, and those who shine brightly today.

These Black LGBTQ icons, while often invisible or erased from the dominant queer narrative, have always been at the heart of our struggle for rights and inclusion.

In fact, what many refer to as the LGBTQ movement’s beginning, the rebellion against the police at the Stonewall Inn, was predominately led by queer and trans people of color, many of them youth.

In celebration of Black History Month and the journey of Black LGBTQ people, GLAD will feature the stories of Black LGBTQ people whose bravery and dedication to justice help to create a more inclusive world for us all. From trans liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson to civil rights leader Bayard Rustin; from community advocate Zahara Green to well-renowned activist Angela Davis – Black LGBTQ people have enriched our nation and our lives.

While it would be impossible to feature all the many Black icons to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their tireless work, I encourage you to recognize those leaders who look like you, love like you do, and fight for causes that are important to you., especially those leaders in your communities.

We’ll continue to update our website with Black LGBTQ leaders, so keep checking back as the month goes on. What other Black LGBTQ leaders would you add to the list?