Pride 2020 provides us with an opportunity to consider the intersection of sexuality and race. This year’s Pride happens with the backdrop of anti-racism activism. We have been flooded with images of anti-Black racism and many people are joining together to take a stand against racism. In recognition of this moment, let’s centre the stories of some queer Black women whose activism has not only made history but changed it for the better.

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Marsha P. Johnson – Sometimes referred to as the Rosa Parks of the gay liberation movement, Marsha P. Johnson, an African American, Transgender woman is thought to have “thrown the first stone” at the Stonewall riots. Marsha P. Johnson was a staunch advocate for the transgender community and is recognized as a leader in the gay liberation movement. In the summer of 2020, it was announced that a monument would be built to honour Ms. Johnson in her home town of New Jersey.

Photo credit: Teen Vogue

Patrisse Cullors – Patrisse Cullors, age 37, co-founded the Black Lives Matters movement along with two other women. She identifies as queer woman and has created art and engaged in activism for years. Black Lives Matters originated in 2013 in response to the death of Trayvon Martin. Nearly seven years later, the three letters “BLM” have now captivated the world and Ms. Cullors’ efforts have ushered in one of the most significant social movements of modern times.

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Audre Lorde – Audre Lorde’s writing has had a profound impact on the feminist movement. Her brilliance as a writer is unquestionable and you may recognize one of her more prolific quotes, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Audre Lorde passed away in 1992 but has left behind a legacy of beautiful prose that tells the story of women’s lives.

Photo credit: The Guardian

Alice Dunbar – Alice Dunbar lived from 1875 to 1935.  She was an author, editor and activist who was an organizer for the group that would eventually become the National Women’s Party (after 1916). Ms. Dunbar is well known for her work in the suffrage movement however, she championed many causes, for example, campaigning for an anti-lynching bill and actively advocating for the rights of Black people. Alice Dunbar is the epitome of what would eventually become known as an “intersectional feminist”. In her 60 years, she tirelessly fought for Black men and women and women’s rights writ large.

This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many other trailblazing queer Black women who have influenced the many domains of our culture. In celebration of Pride, I encourage you to keep exploring the stories of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) women and find a way to centre their voices not just for a day or a week but on an ongoing basis. Celebrate their resilience and find ways to express your allyship. Keep their stories at the centre and remember, “Revolution is not a one-time event.” (Audre Lorde). A humble thank you to all the strong queer BIPOC women who have kept the revolution moving forward throughout the years.

Written by: Lana Bentley, Director, Program Strategy, YW Calgary