Resources and suggestions for developing LGBT-inclusive Black History Month features.
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Black History Month Resource Kit
For more than 85 years, Americans have set aside time in February to recognize the many accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. Originally founded by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week in 1926, Black History Month was officially exapanded to a month-long celebration in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
While the annual celebration has since expanded in reach to include festivals, public forums and celebrations across the country, far too often the contributions of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people are often left out of the picture. From civil rights leader Bayard Rustin to community advocate Mandy Carter to well-renowned inventor George Washington Carver, black LGBT people have enriched our nation and our lives.
GLAAD, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the Black AIDS Institute, the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), Black Men’s XChange, African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change (AALUSC), Southerners On New Ground (SONG), and LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent encourage journalists to include black LGBT people in their coverage of Black History Month.
FAIR, ACCURATE & INCLUSIVE
Consider including voices of black LGBT people in stories that survey African American history and civil rights progress. Interviews with and opinion pieces by LGBT people of color are good opportunities to increase the diversity of voices in Black History Month coverage.
Additional suggestions for inclusive coverage:
- Recognize that the black LGBT community is diverse and that no one voice can or should represent an entire community. Black LGBT people encompass a broad spectrum of life experiences from doctors and lawyers to hip hop artists and literary figures. Seek out their and others’ stories.
- Consider the daily lives of black LGBT people. So often, stories about LGBT communities of color revolve around HIV/AIDS or hate crimes. While these are important stories to tell, also try to think about positive or upbeat stories that might be of interest to your readers and which reflect the daily reality of the black LGBT experience.
- While it is okay to use terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender when writing in general terms about the black LGBT community, do not assume that all people identify using these terms. Some have adopted the term “Same Gender Loving” (or SGL) or other identities that are more inclusive of both sexual orientation and race. Others may not identify with any terms at all. As you would ask a transgender person which name and pronoun they would like you to use, please ask LGBT people of color how they would like you to identify their racial and sexual orientation identities.
- Avoid stereotypes when covering AIDS, the black community and the “Down Low.” While silence around sexual orientation stems from anti-LGBT beliefs and attitudes, one should not make the distinction that black communities are more anti-LGBT than any other community or that concealing one’s orientation or identity is a uniquely black phenomenon. These sociocultural complexities should be examined with respect and dignity for the people they represent.
- Consult with black LGBT leaders and organizations if you have questions about complex issues. When dealing with an issue that is unfamiliar, these community leaders and experts can offer invaluable resources that can assist you in providing the best possible coverage.
There are a wide variety of stories that are inclusive of black LGBT lives:
- Black LGBT people don’t have to represent just black LGBT issues. If interviewing people about general LGBT issues, include black LGBT voices and perspectives.
- February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Events are being held around the country. Check http://www.blackaidsday.org for more information.
- Profile a prominent figure within the black LGBT community. See below for a list of famous and notable black LGBT people.
- Cover positive stories of inclusion in black churches. Many churches are inclusive of black LGBT people. The Unity Fellowship Church, for example, is a very prominent coalition of churches reaching out to LGBT communities of color. The Fellowship is another movement of affirming churches of color. The Metropolitan Community Church, Arc of Refuge and Glide Church are other churches inclusive of LGBT people of color.
- Explore some of the sociocultural factors that contribute to many black LGBT people not identifying with standard terms dealing with gender identity or sexual orientation.
National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)
Black AIDS Institute
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Wilhemina Perry
LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent
Audre Lorde Project
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
Assistant Director- Community Relations
Black Men’s XChange National
Rev. Yvette Flunder
FAMOUS AND NOTABLE LGBT AFRICAN AMERICAN PEOPLE
Alice Walker: author, poet, and advocate
Alvin Ailey: choreographer and advocate
André Leon Talley: editor-at-large for Vogue magazine, current contributing editor
Angela Davis: political advocate, scholar, and author
Audre Lorde: author and advocate
Azealia Banks, musician
Bayard Rustin: chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, advisor to Martin Luther King Jr.
Bessie Smith: blues singer
Bill T. Jones: artistic director, choreographer and dancer
Countee Cullen: poet
Darryl Stevens: actor
Don Lemon: reporter for CNN and news anchor
Doug Spearman: actor
E. Denise Simmons: mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the 2008-2009 term, first openly lesbian African American mayor in the United States
E. Lyn Harris: author
Emil Wilbekin: former openly gay Editor-in-Chief of Vibe Magazine, current managing editor of Essence.com
Felicia “Snoop” Pearson: actress
Frenchie Davis: musician
Frank Ocean, musician
Glen Burke: Major League Baseball player
Isis King: America’s Next Top Model contestant
James Baldwin: author
Janet Mock, activist, author
Jasika Nicole: actress
Jean-Michel Basquiat: artist
John Amaechi: former NBA player
Josephine Baker: dancer, singer, and actress
June Jordan: author
Kevin Aviance: female impressionist and entertainer
Kylar Broadus, lawyer, first trans-identified person to testify before Congress
LZ Granderson: ESPN.com columnist
Langston Hughes: poet and social advocate
Laverne Cox: actress, producer and transgender advocate
Lee Daniels: film producer and director
Linda Villaros: author, journalist and public speaker
Ma Rainey: blues singer
Maurice Jamal: filmmaker and director
Meshell Ndegeocello: singer
Paris Barclay: television director and producer
Patrik-Ian Polk: director, producer, screenwriter, singer and actor
Roy Simmons: former NFL player
RuPaul: actor, drag queen and singer-songwriter
Sheryl Swoopes: WNBA player
Stacy Ann Chin: author and poet
Tracy Chapman: singer
Wade Davis, former NFL player
Wanda Sykes: actress and comedian
For GLAAD Media Institute Alum Kevin Anderson, interviews with journalists have become increasingly prevalent in…