If you’re acne-prone, you know far in advance that a zit—regardless of size—is going to leave behind an annoying dark spot on your face.
Those dark spots, also called hyperpigmentation, continue to be the bane of my existence, even if my teenage acne has largely cleared up. People with more melanin-rich skin tones are more prone to dark spots post-breakout due to the excess production of melanin that forms in response to inflamed skin.
Hyperpigmentation doesn’t have to linger on your face for weeks, or even months. We’ve rounded up the best tried-and-tested products that fade dark spots fast. Here are a few of our favorites for every budget—from homegrown to holy grail.
This facial oil smells divine, which is to be expected from Diptyque. It boosts radiance, revitalizes, and smoothes skin due to ingredients like white iris extract and rose petals, which brightens skin over time. It also fights wrinkles, and as an added bonus, it looks great on your vanity.
This tonic gives your skin that “no-makeup makeup” type of glow. It exfoliates, hydrates, and brightens thanks to a mix of AHA lactic acid, BHA salicylic acid from willow bark, and azelaic acid, that latter of which prevents melanin production. This tonic is perfect for dry, textured skin that needs an extra boost of hydration.
This cleansing balm smells incredible and also removes all traces of makeup, pollution, and skin impurities. It will also reduce scarring, signs of aging, and improve texture. Ingredients include cocoa butter, which is high in antioxidants that soften and heals troubled skin. Calendula is present as an antiseptic and astringent, stimulating the production of collagen. It’s also great for treating acne and dark spots. Mandarin essential oil works to maintain moisture and balance the skin, which reduces scarring and helps with cell renewal.
This nourishing whipped shea butter contains vanilla oil, neroli oil, and sweet orange oil, which gives it a delicious scent. Rosehip oil, aloe vera, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil help in treating any skin discoloration.
This balancing blend of natural oils includes jojoba oil to help regulate oily skin, rosehip oil, and a high dosage of vitamin C to help regenerate skin tissue and correct dark spots. Additional oils include evening primrose oil, neroli, ylang ylang, frankincense, cedarwood, and benzoin essential oils for rejuvenation.
Mad Hippie’s Cleansing Oil is a radiance-boosting blend that softens and smooths while gently removing impurities and imperfections with organic pumpkin seed oil, vitamin E, zinc, and omega fatty acids to soothe and replenish the skin. Organic safflower oil, rosehip oil, and ginger help naturally tone the skin and reduce the appearance of skin discoloration.
Dark spots, meet dark angel. This black sugar and charcoal cleanser exfoliates and helps absorb excess oils on dull, oily or acne-prone skin, leaving skin fresh, bright, and matte. The rhassoul mud base deeply cleanses to help prevent breakouts, while cold-pressed organic avocado oil nourishes the skin.
Aloe vera gel from the actual plant—not pre-packaged and sold in-store—is a true force of nature. There’s almost nothing it can’t do. It helps combat acne and the scars left behind by stimulating the skin’s production of collagen. It moisturizes dry skin, soothes sunburns, and even reduces puffiness and dark circles. It’s also a natural exfoliant due to the presence of salicylic acid in the plant and it increases skin elasticity over time, slowing down signs of aging.
Raw honey does wonders for your skin thanks to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which can help you regain your glow and slowly fade dark spots. Applying a thin layer of raw honey to damp skin in a circular motion and leaving it on for at least 30 minutes will yield the best results and radiant skin.
Tomato masks are great for healing existing acne and blackheads. With regular weekly use, tomatoes help fade discoloration, acne marks, and dark spots. Tomatoes have astringent properties that tighten enlarged pores and contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent protecting skin from free radicals and signs of aging.
When Huda Beauty announced that they were releasing a new lip product this summer, the Very Good Light team absolutely HAD to try it out. The Silk Balm Hydra-plumping Lip Balm ($21) contains hyaluronic filling spheres, as well as soybean and licorice extract. Silk Balm claims to give lips a smooth, plumping effect without any tingling sensation. Did it work? The VGL team tested it out so you know what to expect before you buy. Below, here are four reviews from four very different VGL perspectives.
Huda Beauty’s Silk Balm Hydra-plumping Lip Balm (whew! what a name!) is not only the smoothest formula out there, it also makes your lips oh-so-juicy. I admit I don’t have the most plumped lips – they’re literally two pieces of thin flesh. This Silk Balm not only give it some added hydration (thanks, hyaluronic acid!), but went on without that sticky residue found in most, if not all, lip glosses. The doe-foot applicator was perfect even for lips like mine and didn’t give it too much pigmentation. For all lip types, it’s so hydrating and it feels like it lasts all day—meaning that yes, I can pretend I have full, beautiful ones for all of Instagram to see.
Silk Balm is perfect for going out since it’s super glossy, and I really like the finish it has on your lips. The product is high shine and super soft on the lips. Definitely better for short term wear as it is not the longest lasting product, but when it’s on, your lips will be shining from well over six feet away. Perfect for snapping a selfie!
The new Silk Balm by Huda Beauty is amazing in more ways than one! The balm itself is a soft, beautiful pink color with iridescent sparkles. I love the application—it goes on literally like silk, so the name definitely suits it. The color is very subtle, which I expected since Silk Balm is more of a lip gloss, offering a nice sheen while keeping your lips nice and plump with hydration. Additionally, the holographic packaging looks super cool, especially in sunlight, and the doe-foot applicator is amazing. 10/10 would recommend this balm if you’re on the hunt for the perfect amount of shine, in a non-super-sticky, hydrating, plumping gloss.
As someone who was cursed with naturally thin lips and is also terrified of needles, I thought I was sworn to a life of limp lips, never a lip injection in sight. The plumping scrubs have always scared me; the tingling is terrifying. Then, Silk Balm came into my life. With a gentle fragrance, smooth application, and natural finish, this product is easy and pleasant to use, and gives life and shine to my pout. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I’d be smooching strangers left and right. For now, you best believe I’ll be using it in all my summer selfies.
Whether you’re trying out a new makeup look, heading to a (virtual) festival, or just want to stunt on everyone at the grocery store, glitter is a must-have product to get your skin sparkling.
However, this bright product has a dark side.
Glitter is often made from plastic sheets, and when washed down your bathroom drain, it becomes microplastic. What are microplastics? “Microplastics, [marine plastic litter which measures] less than five millimeters in length, are found throughout the world’s oceans, from the surface to the deep sea floor,” writesLaura Parker ofNational Geographic.
“They are consumed by plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds, and other marine life. Plastic bits collect in birds’ stomachs, where they can cause them to die of starvation. Scientists have become increasingly concerned about its effects on fish and other marine life.”
Sustainability is becoming a major topic of conversation in our culture today, especially in the beauty industry, which is often guilty of excessive and non-recyclable packaging. As beauty consumers, we have to be aware of our unnecessary environmental footprint. However, as the industry continues to evolve, brands have created gorgeous eco-friendly glitter products, allowing us to sparkle without the harmful environmental impact. Here are five beautiful biodegradable glitter products to help you (safely) shine this summer.
Iconic glitter brand Unicorn Snot has a line of all eco-friendly products called BIO Glitter. Their biodegradable sunscreen has both SPF 30 coverage and a galactic sparkle. This SPF contains glitter made from renewable plant starches, which organically decompose over time. Perfect for looking absolutely glowy at the beach—no sunburns or microplastics necessary.
The trio of our dreams! This set of Fluide glitters in pink, silver, and gold hues is made of biodegradable cellulose, which is totally ocean-friendly. Paint onto your cheeks or dust onto your hair without fear of environmental damage.
Tarte can provide you with a full face of sustainable and eco-friendly glam, but an absolute must-try is their Sugar Rush Lid Poppers. This product is a cruelty-free, vegan biodegradable glitter AND adhesive. Tap the adhesive onto your skin and pop the glitter right on top for a stunning look on the eyes, cheeks, or anywhere on your body. Ultra-reflective, cruelty-free, and vegan. What more could you ask for?
Biodegradable glitter brand EcoStardust is creating a new type of glitter, derived predominantly from non-GMO sustainably farmed eucalyptus trees in the United Kingdom. They have tons of gorgeous products and colors to choose from, but this BioGlitter Soap combines ylang ylang essential oils with glitter to leave your skin feeling moisturized, clean, and shining bright (literally).
Bioglitz is taking the litter out of glitter. Purchasing this product will not only make you look beautiful, but it will help this brand work towards their mission of raising environmental awareness and encourage fearless self-expression through spreading sustainable shine. Bioglitz’s Glitz Mix offers different shades in one individual mixture to add unique depth to your look. This shade is inspired by Bioglitz’s favorite superfood, on and off the dancefloor: the ~beet~ goes on!
Alex Aiono on curly hair secrets, vulnerability and Maori representation in Hollywood
The five best eco-friendly glitter products for your face and body
We’re obsessed with Huda Beauty’s Silk Balm. Here’s why.
Alex Aiono hasn’t cut his hair since quarantine began in March, but even on Zoom, it looks like he just stepped out of a Pantene commercial.
His signature curly hair is hidden under a baseball cap. Upon my request, he graciously takes it off. Bouncy, voluminous curls come cascading out from beneath his hat, seemingly unaware that he had made any attempt to stifle them. If this is his hat hair, I’m insanely jealous.
“I’ll tell you my secret,” he says. “I don’t do anything to it. I just wash it and go.”
Of course – it’s just natural. Alex’s hair is thriving in quarantine and so is he. The singer/songwriter is getting ready to release his debut album, The Gospel at 23, His latest single, “Good Morning,” just dropped today. The album is a fully-formed reflection of Alex’s most pivotal year yet: his “Jordan” year aka 23. It’s simultaneously polished and raw, a feat made possible by Alex’s nearly ten years in the music industry combined with his brazen youth.
In addition to his latest album, Alex is also set to star in an upcoming Netflix film, Finding Ohana, which follows two siblings on an adventure to reconnect with their Hawaiian heritage. Alex is Pacific Islander himself; his dad grew up in New Zealand before moving to the United States and is of Samoan and Māori descent. In this debut role, Alex will join the ranks of prominent Pacific Islanders in Hollywood, which include the legendary Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Mamoa, and Dinah Jane, among others.
If singing, songwriting, producing, and acting wasn’t enough, Alex Aiono also just launched a podcast on iHeartRadio called “Let’s Get Into It,” where he’s joined by friends, sexperts, therapists, influencers, actors and comedians to discuss things like love, lust, addiction, heartbreak, grief, and more. The first episode dives into first times—and yes, it goes there—but it also goes way beyond *that* first time into things like the first time he knew he had a purpose. Sex and self-improvement? Sign me up.
We caught up with Alex Aiono over Zoom to talk about his latest album, the importance of representation for Pacific Islanders in Hollywood, and his surprisingly bougie skincare must-haves.
Tell me about your new album, Gospel at 23. What’s the theme of the album?
I wrote every single song when I was 23. It was almost like therapy, diving deep into my heart and trying to navigate every emotion that I’ve felt over the last 23-years of my life, from the struggles that I’ve gone through to the weaknesses I’ve tried to cover up. Especially living in today’s world, that took time to break down. I realized that music is my way of expressing myself, but I’m not even expressing myself with full transparency. That’s where the issue was. I made it a quest in all of my songwriting in 2019 to really try and push for the truth.
I started writing Gospel at 23 by writing about my love life, but there’s a lot of vulnerability and openness in my actual life—the other 80% of my life that I haven’t told yet. This album became a collection of the first wave of that real, raw, uncut storytelling. There’s no glamour in any of it. It’s just me, telling my story the way that it’s happened.
You feature a real-life Philadelphia gospel choir in Gospel at 23. How did that come about?
The first song we wrote on this album was “These Emotions,” and as soon as we started putting it together, we knew we had to have a full choir. Everything about it fell into place so naturally. It just so happened that we ended up in Philadelphia recording in the studios that some of my favorite mentors recorded their first albums in. What I love the most about the choir is that these people have regular jobs. They had to call into work and take off so that they could work on this project. It was so real and so raw. There was no LA or Hollywood dust on top. For this project where we’re telling a real story about real experiences, we needed that type of energy.
You’re a singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. Out of all the things that you do, what would you say is your true calling?
You know, I think it changes every day. Recently, I want to say that my answer would actually be none of those things. I think my biggest calling—the thing that really makes me feel fully purposeful—is being an equal rights activist. I was raised to stand up against bullies, whether they’re bullying me or bullying other people. I’m very fortunate to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Being the son of an immigrant, I’ve always fought for the rights of immigrants. Now most recently, obviously, I’m directing all of my energy and attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
I love music and I love posting on social media connecting with people, but what speaks to my heart the most right now is really how I use these platforms. It’s time for us, as us as the next generation, to really start calling the shots. It’s up to us to step up, and not allow inequality so that we can all actually be at a level playing field. That’s really kind of what has been driving my passion recently. So everything that I do—songwriting, singing, posting on social media, acting—are all now becoming ways that I can fuel that massive passion.
What is your experience growing up the child of an immigrant from New Zealand, and what is it like now that you’re one of the few Pacific Islanders in Hollywood?
One of my fondest memories that I have as a young kid with my dad is learning the haka [a Maori war dance] and learning about this culture that he grew up in. When I turned 21, my parents, my sister and I went to New Zealand and I got to meet a lot of my family and connect with them. I got to learn more haka’s from our actual family lineage and eat things like kina, which is cut up sea urchin, which I actually don’t recommend [laughs]. So getting to just take that in and having that nostalgic experience with my dad was really special. I feel very fortunate to have a strong sense of culture and a knowledge of where I’m from.
There are some real trailblazers in the Pacific Islander community in Hollywood already, from The Rock, to Taika Waititi, who is a Māori native from New Zealand. I recognize that there is a responsibility to being a Pacific Islander in Hollywood. I just feel lucky to be able to look up to these massive icons and figure out how I can bring more of our culture into Hollywood.
Okay, this might be the most important question I’ll ask you. Can you please drop your curly hair routine?
I’ll be honest: I wash it, I put conditioner in, and that’s it. I wish I had some secret, but that’s literally it. I might add a cream to help moisturize it or I’ll do a hair conditioner mask sometimes. Since quarantine, I’ve just been letting it grow and let it do its own thing. Right now in my shower, I’m using Redken’s All Soft Conditioner.
What about your skincare routine? You have such amazing, glowy skin. Give us your holy grails.
My skin was not always like this; I’ve been on Accutane three times. But for me, it’s been about learning what works for my skin. Having three sisters helps a lot because we all have different types of skin and they’re always trying out new products. I’m currently using the Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream, which is literally one of my favorite products. I bought this witch hazel toner on Amazon that I started using at night, along with a night cream by Sisley Paris. My hairstylist, Kristan Serafino, put me on Sisley stuff. You know whenever you forget to put moisturizer on the night before and you wake up and your skin feels like Frosted Flakes? That never happens anymore. I really rock with that night cream.
In the age of COVID, many of us—myself included—are foregoing nail salons in favor of mani-pedis from our own homes.
However, making your own nails look gorg has proven to be a challenge. Perhaps we can’t achieve acrylics or complex designs on our own. But don’t you worry, it’s in your capable hands to keep your nails healthy, and experiment with some fun new nail art trends this summer! Celebrity manicurist Britney Tokyo, whose client roster includes everyone from Harry Styles to Beyonce to Bad Bunny, helps us out with some important tips. Here’s a comprehensive VGL guide to at-home nail care and art.
First things first: make sure your nails are healthy. Healthy fingernails should be smooth and uniform, with no discoloration. Keep a hand moisturizer in your bag to combat dryness. Make sure you’re practicing good hygiene. And you best be washing your hands already, but if you’re not, get scrubbing.
It’s also important to know what you like. Do you file, buff, clip, or all three? Do you prefer a round or square nail shape? When it comes to the painting itself, Britney says that men’s nails tend to be wider than women’s nails, which can make them “a little harder to paint.” Keep this in mind when prepping your claws.
Once your nails are clean and clear, it’s time to gather your supplies. Britney recommends straying away from complex acrylics as a beginner: “Doing acrylics yourself to create longer nails would be difficult, but it’s not very difficult to do self art using gel or regular polish.”
When it comes to polishes, you have options. If you’re balling on a budget, Sally Hansen has stunning shades typically ranging around $10 for the basics. If you’re looking for a vegan polish, non-toxic nail company Zoya has over 400 clean colors to choose from. If you’re impatient AF like me and need a quick drying formula, Essie’s Expressie line has a wide brush perfect for base coats, and literally dries in sixty seconds. It’s amazing.
When it comes time for details and designs, you can certainly invest in manicure tweezers, nail art tape, or thin tip brushes. However, Britney’s must-have is a wood stick. Not only can you use it for painting details, but “it’s great for correcting coloring overdone on the side of the nails. You can also use it for pushing up cuticles.”
Time for the fun part! There are countless colors, designs, and possibilities for your nails. In terms of what’s trending, Britney says it depends. “Women have strong preference in colors but men care more about fashion or art designs than colors,” she says. “Men used to prefer black nails a little while ago but there aren’t any particular colors trending anymore.”
So, where to start when dreaming up a design?“I, of course, gain inspiration from fashion and art,” says Britney, “but I often get inspired by buildings in the city and flowers on the street.” Take a walk and let your creativity flow—then let it shine on your nails.
If it’s too tough to dream up a design in your mind, head over to social media! Countless talented nail artists are putting nail art tutorials out every day. These easy-to-follow vids will give you a step-by-step tutorial to help you nail (pun intended) your nail art design. Here are three summertime trends that you can try.
1. Tie-dye nail art
Manicurist Michelle Humphrey, aka @nailsbymh, is based out of London and posts stunning original creations on her page nearly every week. Here, she explains how to create a tie-dye effect on the nails, using a rainbow of colors and a thin-tipped brush.
Cardi B’s nail tech and certified Swarovski nail artist Jenny Bui, aka @nailson7th, shows how to add some sparkle to your nails by using crystal adhesive and gel. Choose your crystals and get shining! Swarovskis optional.
The queen herself, Britney Tokyo, walks us through a how-to for a color French manicure, one of the cutest trends for summer. Check out Britney’s YouTube videos for tons more tips and dope designs that you can experiment with.
Welcome to our series, How I Made It, where we talk to beauty brand founders about their come ups, their origin stories, and how they finally, well, made it. The recurring series talks to beauty founders from all walks of life to uncover what inspires them, what pushes them, and the secret to success.
Born in Brooklyn with Caribbean roots, Loraine R. Dowdy decided to leave her high-powered job in finance to pursue her dream in beauty.
Longing for a cosmetics line that broke beauty barriers, she created Coloured Raine to encourage ultimate self-expression, unity, and invite diversity from all walks of life. The brand name is inspired by her first name, Loraine, and her love of color. As a masstige brand, customers get exceptional value and quality at affordable price points. Coloured Raine is often compared to Pat McGrath’s line in its quality.
The Coloured Raine founder sat down with Very Good Light to discuss her journey to success, the harsh realities of being a Black-owned business owner, and the future of the brand.
Why did you decide to take the leap from finance to beauty? Was it a difficult transition?
Leaving a secure job to rely 100% on myself can be tough, but leaving my job was a no-brainer. The pay was great but it wasn’t my cup of tea since I love vibrancy. Since I was little, I loved beauty and colors, and years later it’s still something I enjoy. So I’ve enjoyed the process of creating this business.
However, I went a good seven years without paying myself in order to reinvest any profit back into the business. I also couldn’t get a loan, so I worked a 9-to-5 to provide for the business financially and ran my brand in the evenings. I learned a lot about running a business along the way.
For years, I operated with no strategic order until I sat down with a financial strategist who told me to stop operating as a family-owned business and to separate business and personal accounts. A year ago, I started looking for investors and an accounting firm. The first two pitches with investors didn’t go well, but the third time’s a charm. We got around to a second and third conversation.
Give us the scoop: how are Coloured Raine’s products so good at such an affordable price point?
I made the decision to work with a custom manufacturer that offered traceable ingredients to be 100% compliant in quality. But it was hard to find a manufacturer willing to work with smaller brands because most of them require a minimum of 3,000 SKU product demand.
What is your experience as a Black-owned female founder?
Black-owned businesses, in general, have the stigma of being seen as not professional enough, but really that’s because we don’t have that mentorship from the very beginning, so we learn along the way, which inevitably leads to mistakes. We also don’t have the same access to outside capital funding. And press coverage doesn’t do much for us either. Even if you have plenty, investors are still dubious that you can reach a lot of customers. So in a way, the events that led to the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement have somewhat of a silver lining for us.
What was the first product you launched that propelled Coloured Raine to success?
It was all about the lips, and then in 2016 we launched the Queen of Hearts eyeshadow palette, and there was a real frenzy around that. Brands were ordering it and trying to reverse engineer the formulation. Allure even stated that it sold out in under 4 minutes—and this is pre-Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty.
With everything that’s been going on lately, Black-owned beauty brands are finally getting more recognition. Is it harder though to differentiate yourself from other Black-owned brands like Fenty Beauty and others?
We have a great variety of products, but the only downside is that we have to work a lot harder to capture an audience to build notoriety and trust. With someone like Rihanna, it’s easier to get a large customer base. So it’s challenging for small indie owners. But you can also tell who’s passionate from those who are just slapping their name on products, and Rihanna is extremely passionate about her products.
Is it more difficult, financially, to manufacture products in the USA?
Obviously the manufacturing prices are a lot more attractive in Asia, but there’s just no trust factor. When I first looked for an Asian manufacturer, there were quite a few mishaps. I decided to look for a lab that was easily accessible for me so that I can control what’s going on better and make sure the ingredients are compliant and traceable. I actually relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast just to be able to hop into the lab whenever I want.
Ultimately though, I want to sell my company in five years’ time, because it’s tiring to be involved in every step of the process from marketing, product development, and supply chains. But I need to ensure that the brand’s integrity will be maintained by the buyer, and I would remove myself from all operations and just do product development.
What’s next for Coloured Raine?
I’m looking to launch foundations in Spring 2021, blushes, counter powders, and also skincare! I’m now finally using more skincare because I’m getting older, but when I was younger I had no skin problems. I juice a lot so I want to do a skincare line that is based around fruits and vegetables. Oh, I also want to launch hair care serums!
This custom serum totally balanced my oily skin.
How I Made It: Coloured Raine’s Founder, Loraine R. Dowdy on being a Black pioneer in the beauty industry
We tried dermaplaning, where you shave your skin for instant exfoliation
Today’s Independence Day is the most patriotic day of the year here in the United States.
Americans everywhere will be celebrating with everything from backyard barbecues to parades, and beach parties to red, white, blue, starred and striped outfits.
What else is really American? Democracy. Perhaps the strongest pillar of America’s foundation, our democratic government is structured to allow each and every American a voice in our country’s future through the power of our vote. What’s not democratic? Voter suppression. It’s something that you’ve probably heard, especially with former gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost in Georgia due to voter suppression.
What is it exactly? “Voter suppression is disenfranchising people’s right to vote and have their voice be heard,” Grace Choi, who worked as Stacey Abrams’ director of Asian American outreach for her gubernatorial run, tells Very Good Light. “Usually, it’s systemic, and racism comes to play within our electoral process. There are people who are vulnerable, who are not being counted and whose voices are literally not being heard.”
For Grace, who’s also worked on Barack Obama’s campaign, she’s experienced witnessing voter suppression firsthand. According to her, voter suppression can be seen at different levels in all aspects of the voter process. These include:
-Broken voting machines on election day
-Voting machines found in warehouses that were not being used
-People having to wait five or six hours to vote on election day when they are working class folx who have to go make a living and can’t stand in line for most of the day
-Absentee ballots not being counted or being rejected because a surname is deemed ‘illegitimate’ or not being received in order to submit them
-A lack of transparency and information to voters on the status of their voter registration.
“Even on election day, voters waiting in line were not given a provisional ballot if they were at the wrong polling location because information was mixed up,” Grace says. Add limited English for immigrants, improper training, no access to transportation, and this erases thousands of ballots from being heard.
To show you the numbers in support of Grace’s comprehensive list: According to a report from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, between 2012 and 2018, there were 1,688 polling place closures in states previously covered by section five of the Voting Rights Act. Tw0-hundred and fourteen of these closures were in the state of Georgia alone. According to the ACLU, 70% of Georgia voters purged in 2018 were Black. One-in-thirteen Black Americans cannot vote due to disenfranchisement laws. Only 40% of polling centers in the country can accommodate people with disabilities. For the 2020 Kentucky Senate Primary just a short while ago, 616,000 registered voters in Jefferson County had one polling location. Half of the registered voters in Jefferson County are Black.
America is the world’s oldest democracy, built on the constitutional foundation of liberty and justice for all. And yet, it is rampant in the United States. Now more than ever, voter suppression is serving as a tactic to disenfranchise voters on a drastic scale, and in doing so, unjustly targeting the voices of Black and Brown Americans.
It’s absolutely essential that Americans take action on this issue ASAP. While at times, it may seem hopeless, there is a light in this dark political time: Generation Z. Gen Z activists are already proving how powerful they are. Recently, TikTokers and Kpop fans merged their efforts to meddle with Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally. And nationwide, they’re putting in the work in their own communities to combat not only voter suppression but working towards political equality for minorities everywhere.
Where is the best place to begin? Education is key. Jacqueline LaBayne, an activist in DC who has been on the front lines for a while, stresses the importance of continuously learning. “We continue on to higher learning to become better educated on subjects that interest and affect us,” Jacqueline tells Very Good Light. “We are human, we are always changing and evolving every day, and it’s important to keep educating oneself on matters that you may not identify with, but that doesn’t make them any less important.”
Beyond educating themselves and others, many use their social media presence in order to spread awareness. “Activism to me looks like fighting every day not necessarily on the front lines, but doing everything that you can to dismantle systems of oppression,” says Emma, who runs the account @intersectional.abc. The account has over 4,000 posts and 45,000 followers. When scrolling through her feed, you’ll see countless videos and pictures that discuss all spectrums of human rights issues globally, voter suppression included.
Another activist who has not shied away from being vocal on social media is Haily, who runs the account @thoseangryactivists. In fact, she has been involved in activism since she was just 14-years old, and started @thoseangryactivists at 15. Five years later, she’s still fighting. “I’m 19 now and I fight harder than ever to try and educate people and make a change,” she explains. “I think that the goal of activism is to educate people and try to make a difference and help everyone you can.”
But activism for Gen Z isn’t only about sharing collective anger or protesting in the streets. Sometimes it’s about mental health, understanding that activism is all about self-preservation. Sequoia Paloma, director of advocacy and communications at Gen Z Girl Gang stresses the importance of mental breaks. According to her, everyone needs to “find a balance between activism and your regular life. It’s important to find time to hang out with friends and do other self-care activities.”
With so much information in the grasp of our hands, it can feel overwhelming when thinking about where to begin. But simply put: that’s just it. Starting somewhere, at your own pace, will help you in your own personal journey in activism.
Almost four million American teenagers will turn eighteen and become eligible to vote before the presidential election this coming fall. Small-scale actions, in combination with the power of Gen Z, can result in large scale change.
Grace agrees. “Be informed on what the rules are for voting,” she says. “Work with civil rights and voting rights organizations in order to get legal support, and to make sure your vote counts. It starts very locally. It starts in your own neighborhood, with understanding what your own voting rights are, knowing when election day is, when absentee ballots have to be mailed in, and understanding the board of elections.”
It’s time to mobilize, and combat this massive threat to our democracy before any more voices are deafened by political inequality.
That’s right, in 2020, we still have strides to make and a far ways to go when it comes to marriage equality.
Same-sex marriage is still illegal in the following 13 states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Ohio, and Tennessee. Globally, only 29 countries have legalized same-sex marriage, with the Netherlands being the first to do so on April 1st, 2001.
At the turn of the century, the question used to be what state would be the first to legalize gay marriage. Massachusetts won that race back in 2003. Other states soon followed, with Alabama most recently passing legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in 2015. So now, who will be the last?
There are plenty of state legislatures who still try to block legalizing same-sex marriage by using the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman—at least federally. This effectively allowed other states to use this federal act to halt the legalization of same-sex marriages at the state level. However, this act is no longer deemed enforceable due to wins in two court cases: United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).
“Today, for the first time, any couple — straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — may obtain a marriage license and make their commitments public and legal in all 50 states. America has taken one more step toward the promise of equality enshrined in our Constitution, and I’m humbled to be part of that.”wrote Obergefell.
The Obergefell v. Hodges case was a civil rights landmark, and effectively ruled that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples, through both the Due Process Clause (“..nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”)and Equal Protection Clause (“or shall any State […] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States’ Constitution. Basically, it argued that our founding fathers gave us the right to marry whoever the F we want.
“I can finally relax knowing that Ohio can never erase our marriage from John’s death certificate, and my husband can now truly rest in peace,” wrote Obergefell. “Today is a momentous day in our history. It’s a day when the Supreme Court of the United States lived up to the words inscribed above the front entrance of the courthouse: Equal Justice Under Law.”
Temporarily, Obergefell had issues with the Baker v. Nelson case, which claimed that denying same-sex marriage licenses to a couple “does not offend” the Constitution. This would be overturned on June 26th, 2015, which would establish same-sex marriage throughout the United States. This ruling was an amazing win for the LGBTQIA+ community, and just in the last year, there’s been some incredible progress made towards equality legislation, both in the states and worldwide.
In January, a New Hampshire law would allow for a third-gender option on driver’s licenses, while in Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage legislation went into full effect. Utah also banned conversion therapy for minors, becoming the 19th state to do so. Other states that currently have pending legislation towards banning conversion therapy are Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
“Now more than ever, we must unite against all forms of hate, show compassion for one another, and redouble our commitment to equal justice. We are a diverse community, and we recognize this diversity makes Virginia such a place to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” tweeted Gov. Ralph Northam in honor of #PrideMonth.
In March, Virginia would become the first southern state to ban conversion therapy, additionally creating a law that protects the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination. Gender identity and sexual orientation are now protected under these anti-discriminatory statutes, so a business or individual can no longer refuse service, credit, employment, or housing to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Now Virginia can really, proudly say that Virginia is for lovers!
“We’re going back to the plain meaning of those terms, which is based on biological sex,” says Roger Servino, who is the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The fight for equality is nowhere near over. With the recent removal of transgender legal rights in healthcare, the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies must further stand united and continue to tell our representatives in Congress that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in the court of law, or the court of public opinion. It’s important to recognize and celebrate the progress that’s been made, but there’s still so much work to do in terms of equality legislation. We need to keep fighting, keep advocating, and keep our representatives in check. None of us are truly free until everyone is free.
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One only need look at 2015’s film, “Stonewall,” which offensively erases PoC’s who lead the queer rights revolution. Of course, the movie isn’t the only example of rewriting history – it still happens today. It’s a reason why there was such controversy when the Pride organizations will being led by white leadership.
To prevent further whitewashing of the LGBTQ+ movement, it’s important to educate ourselves with its history so we can better amplify the voices that need to be heard while identifying where progress still needs to be made.
Since the nitty-gritty of the movement isn’t widely taught in school’s curriculums across America, Very Good Light has done the work. We’ve compiled a quick educational breakdown on the history LGBTQ+ movement below, with an emphasis on how intersectionality has impacted the cause. Here are key points of history you need to know.
Until the 1980s, most public establishments banned queer people, and the few bars that welcomed queers were owned and managed by the mafia. Stonewall Inn in New York City was known for catering to the most disenfranchised LGBTQ+ groups, like butch lesbians, effeminate young men, drag queens, male prostitutes, transgender people, and the homeless youth. Police raids were frequent in gay bars, but the mafia often bribed them with money, known as the gayola, to turn a blind eye and resume operations. But on one particular evening, things changed forever.
This PBS documentary is a must-watch to understand the exact series of events that took place and witness testimonials from those that rioted that evening on June 28th, 1969 at Stonewall. Police officers lost control of their raid when hundreds of Greenwich Village residents defied orders and began fighting back. This ensued for six nights, with thousands of rioters in total.
Micheal Fader, a patron of the bar and a rioter that evening explains: “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration… Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom.”
Garbage cans, bottles, rocks, and bricks were being thrown around, with the first projectile thrown by drag queens. Sylvia Riviera, a prominent Latinx transgender rights activist, said to the police: “You’ve been treating us like shit all these years? Uh-uh. Now it’s our turn!”
As the riots gained momentum and coverage in the press heightened, the neighborhood’s residents quickly organized into activist groups, and three newspapers, called Gay, Come Out! and Gay Power were established to promote gay and lesbian rights. On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches occurred in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Soon after, gay rights organizations sprung across the U.S. and the world. Memorably, the New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill publicly apologized on behalf of the NYPD in 2019 for the officers’ actions that night at Stonewall.
The start of organized gay activism
The Mattachine Society and Daughter Of Bilitis, two homophile organizations created in the 1950s, were mostly concerned about asserting that homosexuals were respectable, normal people that conformed to society’s image, so the trials of being arrested for wearing clothing of opposite gender that most concerned effeminate men, masculine women, drag queens and transgendered people were considered separate struggles. Professor Susan Stryker asserts that the Compton’s Cafeteria riots that occurred in 1966 in San Francisco, where drag queens, hustlers, and trans women risked being arrested, was an “act of anti-transgender discrimination, rather than an act of discrimination against sexual orientation, where issues of gender, race, and class were being downplayed by homophile organizations.”
On July 4th, 1969, when the Mattachine Society performed its annual picketing in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, organizer Craig Rodwell felt restricted by the conduct rules set and convinced 10 couples to hold hands. These hand-holding couples garnered more press attention than previous marches, and it was clear then that the established quiet, meek ways of trying to get attention for the cause were gone. Rodwell’s first priority afterward was to establish Christopher Street Liberation Day in New York.
The Mattachine Society’s mild methods no longer worked for people who felt empowered by the riots, so the Gay Liberation Front was formed, with Marsha P. Johnson as one of the founding members. It was the first organization to use the word “gay.” The GLF aligned itself with anti-war and Black movements to restructure American society, but four months later it disbanded when members couldn’t agree on operations.
Frustrated members formed the more orderly Gay Activists Alliance. The GAA developed a confrontational tactic called a “zap,” whereby they would catch politicians off-guard during a PR stunt and force them to acknowledge their rights. The 70s had many victories, one of the most significant “zaps” occurred at the American Psychiatric Association convention, where activists interrupted the film documenting electroshock therapy that was used to decrease same-sex attraction. The APA subsequently voted unanimously to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Racism, classism and transgender inequality
But many groups were still marginalized within the LGBTQ+ community. Feminist activists Jean O’Leary protested the presence of drag queens and cross-dressers at rallies because she felt that it mocked women for entertainment value and profit. O’Leary also worked to exclude transgendered people from gay rights issues because she thought they would be too difficult to obtain.
Lesbian feminism in the 70s also conflicted with the gay liberation movement, as some lesbians refused to work with gay men. They felt that the gay men’s attitudes were often patriarchal and chauvinistic. Issues most important to gays, such as entrapment and public solicitation, were not shared by lesbians.
Sylvia Riviera worked hard within the Gay Activists Alliance group to promote citywide gay rights and anti-discrimination ordinance, but when it came down to making deals, the GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transgender rights and drag because it seemed too “extreme.” GAA was increasingly becoming more conservative since several founders were looking to run for public office and continued to exclude drag queens and transgendered people.
Riviera also dealt with issues of poverty and discrimination faced by people of color, which caused friction in the GAA since it was mainly made up of white middle-class gay people. Mainstream LGBT groups routinely dismissed Rivera’s Latina identity. Then, by 1973, Marsha and Silvia were banned from participating in the gay pride parade by the gay and lesbian committee, stating that they “weren’t going to allow drag queens at their marches since they were giving them a bad name.” But Marsha and Silvia defied this ban and went ahead anyways to the parade. The duo decided to found Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group that helped homeless young drag queens, gay youth, and trans women.
Thanks to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, people are protected to freely self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. Unfortunately, today there are still many cases where trans people particularly of color are disproportionately affected by harassment from the police, bias-driven assault, and fatal violence leading to murder. Recently, Trump even erased transgender civil rights protections in healthcare.
Just like Obama said during his second inaugural address in January 2013, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ history and the important figures who’ve made it possible for our queer brothers and sisters to exist freely, check out some of the films and documentaries listed below.
Black people have always been at the forefront of change in this country.
From voting rights to PRIDE to BLM, the Black community has always championed equality. While enacting change, they’ve also faced great odds stacked against them – being killed and discriminated because their skin color.
But for Black LGBTQ+ it’s even more difficult. Being a double minority means these folx are more susceptible to discrimination and challenges in life, including oftentimes being excluded from the Black community. One only need look at the senseless murders of Black trans people all across the world.
Statistics show how dire it is for those who are Black and part of the LGBTQIA+ community. According to this LGBTQ+ BIPOC are more than twice as likely to experience some sort of discrimination than their white counterparts in their workplace.
Black folx also are also 16-times more likely to be infected with HIV than white people, and have much higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
Even though there are many challenges, Black folx have always been ahead of the trends leading countless marches and creating various inventions that progress America and push it forward.
For Pride, Very Good Light caught up with various Black men in the LGBTQIA+ community from discussing the current climate of things to what brings them joy, these unapologetic Black men share their stories with us.
Oftentimes I say that “To whom much is given, much is required.” As the only Black and openly gay senior executive hired into my company; I have championed and spearheaded several initiatives that fight for fair and equal rights for black people in corporate positions.
I acknowledge that I am Black before anything; however, my sexuality like most young black boys was a tumultuous experience and harsh realization. I am of the thought that being black and gay means that I must be highly educated, speak well, behave, and perform so excellently in life that whom I choose to love is just an after-thought. I wholly feel that it is incumbent upon me to change the narrative of what many people perceive they think a black gay man to be.
Frankly speaking, I have always felt isolated from the black gay community. Within the black gay community, I just always found it hard to make genuine friendships rooted in trust, loyalty, and reciprocity. The current state of the world is disheartening, uncertain yet hopeful. I am a huge proponent of mental health therapy and have been so for years. Aside from speaking with a therapist, I remain prayerful and cling to my faith.
This year we will be celebrating the 50th year anniversary of Pride month. This year we too will be celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his infamous, “I Have a Dream” speech. 50 years later we are still fighting the same systemic racial and discriminatory injustices as my ancestors. We as a collective have made much progress; and this is our time to relish in the achievements of both the Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights movement. In addition, to celebrate our wins we mustn’t forget all the work that we still must do as a collective to make this country better for all of us. As the world will never forget the contributions made by leaders of the Civil Rights movement. I can only hope that we can keep the legacy of Malcom Michaels Jr. a.k.a Marsha P. Johnson alive as well.
One thing I wish people knew about Black queer people is that we are not monolithic. To meet one of us- is not meeting all of us. As with any human. Being Black empowered me to embrace being different. Historically, being a shade darker than our white counterparts, was something to be ashamed of! Now looking to the present, the world has adapted pieces of our culture as a way of living. The same could be said of the Queer community and our presence and contributions to the world.
It hasn’t always been this way, when I was younger, I was forced to come out of the closet because an individual ‘bullied me into coming out’. Both my parents were not pleased with me coming out to them because they are from the Caribbean where homophobia is a norm. I am still trying to build a better relationship with my father but my mother accepts me for who I am now.
Through it all, one thing about me that brings me joy is my confidence. It helps me get through a lot of tough times in my everyday life. If someone wants to be an ally they should be present, be themselves, and be okay with the unfamiliar. Fight to build a relationship with the person not just their sexual preferences. Passionately advocating for a friend makes the fight that much more valuable for you to contend for and alongside.
When it comes to isolation: Isolation could potentially be viewed as an ambiguous term. Isolation, depending on the context, could be self- inflicted or community-driven. I believe the key to fighting past isolation should start simple and then expand.
Expand Your Circle – be intentional on creating a group of people who become your community who force you to stretch your thinking!
Break Bread Together – intentionality becomes intimate! Force yourself to enter into their world- and learn their framework
Join groups that align with your interests. That isn’t just Queer driven. Bring your queer experience to the table – when needed. Every fight isn’t a Queer fight. learn the healthy balance of fighting injustices for all.
I believe that being who you are and living your truth is one of the most important things ever! The first time I came out was freshman year to one of my best friends, and then to my mother two weeks later. With my friend, I feel like her response not only gave me the confidence I needed to be openly gay at school but gave me a sense of peace that no matter what, she would always be here for me. My mother didn’t blink twice, I knew nothing would ever change between us because to her I was still the same little boy that asked her to make me tuck me in at night.
Being Black and Queer to me means that every day I’m fighting against not only the odds but for change. I want to be the change that my generation wants to see. I don’t feel isolated from the Black community whatsoever I just don’t feel like there is a connection. To be Black no matter what is hard and to be gay and Black is even more difficult and I think it should make us want to band together and fight racism and homophobia head-on but instead it poses a problem that disconnects the black community from the LGBTQ+ community.
Things that allies could do is: eliminate hypermasculinity, educate yourself on our community, protect your brother, sister, or friend, but most of all make us feel comfortable! I wish people knew about all of the hate we experience, I feel like racism and homophobia are the two most prominent issues in the world today and for one gay Black person to have to endure and live through the hate all of their life is not okay. We just want equality, we want Black lives to matter and for pride to be more prevalent in our culture.
Growing up, I don’t recall having a coming out story. My mom told me she knew and that was that. I think it was the Bratz. #TeamBratz My family embraced me with open arms which aren’t the case for a lot of people that are in my position. My family supported me for who I am and I couldn’t thank them more. They allowed me to continue to become the person I wanted to be instead of what society told me I should be.
If you ask me I have nothing but flaws, but I feel my creativity is what makes me proud to be me. Also, I like the way I think most of the time. I make myself laugh. Pride Month, to me, stands for hope. It means at least we’ve been seen. It’s not enough because there’s so much work that needs to be done, but it’s a start.
I feel as if being Black is amazing and being part of the LGBTQIA community is just as amazing. I just wish those 2 sides could co-exist more in today’s society. I love who I am and I wouldn’t change it. My gayness somehow comes off to some Black people as a weakness. I wish that type of mentality was broken but unfortunately, it’s been passed down in the black community for years! ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER and anybody in the BLM movement that doesn’t believe in that really doesn’t believe in the words they are saying.
I wish people understood that we’re just people. We have wants and needs and we bleed just like everybody else. There’s no need to look at us like we’re going to ’steal your kids’. We want to exist just like everyone else.
I came out the Spring of 2010 when I graduated high school. Memphis was not a very inviting place. It was not welcoming to northern relatively eloquent persons and especially not to gay ones. I spent most of my time in high school hiding behind beards. However my senior year I decided officially that I did not want to take “the fake” to the next stage of my life. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was on the phone with my mother headed to a hotel my “guy friend” at the time had rented and it was pouring down rain. I just told her. “Mom, I’m gay.” The line went dead with silence. “Call me later when you get home. “ my mom replied.
My summer before college would be spent on a therapist couch because my Mom was convinced there was something afflicting me and my gayness was the result. It was intense, to say the least. However, what made the transition from that of angst and hurt was visiting Egypt in the Winter of 2010. My first time visiting the place where my parents met all those years ago. While in Egypt I became very ill I thought maybe I drank the wrong water, but as a medical professional, my mother was concerned.
“You have tested Positive,” the doctor said. I saw my mother crumble. I tell people to this day I don’t think I ever cried for me I cried for her. That day I told my sisters and nephew because again I didn’t want to start this new chapter with lies. It was heavy, but a major piece in the armor the universe would help me to develop. The next months brought many new lessons. However, my immediate family held my hand and I was determined. I returned to school not 2 weeks after my world changed. My mom begged me to stay home, but I was determined. That next semester I got a 4.0 at Morehouse compared to the 1.67 I got the semester prior. Weirdly, my diagnosis gave me something to live for.
Being a double minority has meant a number of things. I would be lying if I told you it was not hard. However, my pan-Africanist upbringing allowed me to be broader in my thinking and know that the issue is not that my people are inherently prejudiced or homophobic, but rather know that it’s is the same as any other prejudice this society has trained and in bedded in us to tear us apart and subjugate us. It’s comparable to colorism, classism, sexism. This helps me to take it far less personally and recognize that it’s the societal systems that need the adjustment, and my people’s homophobia is a byproduct.
Pride month is an opportunity to voice and spread awareness about issues that affect our community. Often these conflicts and issues overlap. So I’d say pride nonetheless is a space and time where people of all races, shades, sexes, sexualities can find commonality.
Fortunately, I was raised in a home where I was allowed to be myself. I used to date females now I talk to dudes. I never had a coming out story one day my mom came over and my dude was there.
To be a person of the LGBTQIA community has its ups and downs as it can be loving but also very judgmental. I myself at times even may unknowingly judge. I guess it’s because we are accustomed to being judged that we offer unwarranted improvements to each other. But at the same time, we understand that in the “straight world” we have at least 2 targets on our backs. One because I’m a Black male and two because of my sexual preferences. At the end of the day the community fights and fusses, but we come together to create some of the most amazing crafts, talents, moments, and experiences.
The community is a creative space of undeniable talent and excellence and I’m personally proud to have the pleasure of meeting so many unique individuals. I personally don’t feel isolated from the Black community, but again I know it exists. I understand that there are a massive amount of issues globally that need addressing. However, I think at this moment we have to focus on the biggest issue which also includes some of the unfortunate people who have lost their lives to hate crimes and violence.
Everyone in the gay community doesn’t act a certain type of way. Everyone isn’t masculine or feminine or like what you see on TV. We are just people who are attracted to something different from the “normal”. So I wish that all people knew just because someone identifies as something sexually it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else.
Me personally like most in our community, we live out loud. So pride month is just a month for us to continue to come together and show the world we are here to stay and are having a great time doing it.
I am a product of a single-parent home, an only child born to a strong Black mother who unfortunately passed away from cancer when I was 21 years old. My personal and professional passion is to facilitate opportunities for communities of color, specifically Black people, to gain exposure and access to spaces and key individuals that will support their individual pathways to success. Through my life coaching practice, I partner with individuals to identify barriers to embracing their authentic life and develop strategies to overcome them.
My “coming out” experience has been perpetual and gradual in nature. I was raised in a Black Baptist church tradition and community with strong heteronormative ideals and it was ingrained in me that being gay was not favorable in the eyes of God. I was one of the fortunate ones because my mother never rejected me and continued her same intense level of love, compassion, and acceptance for her child that had always existed. It was not until the age of 36 when I relocated from CA to New York City that I for the first time entered both my personal, academic, and professional spaces, unafraid to explicitly identify myself as a gay man.
I am in love with my ability to be vulnerable. It is an attribute of my humanity that allows me to connect with people on a deeper level. Over time embracing my vulnerability has resulted in a personal paradigm shift that views my vulnerable state as a place of power and not weakness.
I am proud to be BLACK and I am proud to be GAY! With that being said, I acknowledge the complexities of the intersection of those two salient identities.
I recognize certain privileges that allow me to now show up as my full authentic self in these same spaces, such as my economic independence and my emancipation from toxic religious ideology. It is my purpose to use this privilege to inspire others to live their truth, while also challenging those same traumatic environments for members of the LGBTQIA community to confront and eradicate their biases and hate. As a young gay Black boy, I felt different and ostracized which led to more “performance” of masculinity. In this current climate, I choose to use my platform to reinforce the importance of the inclusion of ALL representations of Black people in the conversation about lives that matter! If Black Lives Matter, then ALL Black Lives Matter!
Imagine being outed by your best friend in high school. My best friend and I were super close, during our senior year, I was shocked to find out he was gay when he came out to everyone in our school. I remember feeling relieved. Finally, I felt like I had someone I could talk to about my struggle with my sexuality. When I first disclosed to him that I was curious about guys, he was very supportive and even encouraged me to go to a gay club with him a few times. However, that all changed very quickly when I found out that he was telling people that I was gay as well.
Since we were from a small town in North Carolina, and I was pretty popular, it didn’t take long for rumors of me being gay to spread. It changed everything for me. Until I left home for college, everything had become awkward. In addition to that, my family and friends began to distance themselves from me. Being outed that way was one of the most painful experiences of my life. After some time, my family did eventually come to a place of understanding and acceptance, However, the experience made something very clear to me: No one should be forced out of the closet like I was, especially by someone they trust.
I think my charisma and my talent brings me the most joy. I love the way that I am able to connect with people because of that. It means everything to me to be a part of the Black and LGBTQIA community! I’m honored to be a part of two of the world’s most dynamic communities. Both communities are filled with incredibly talented and creative people.
We [Black LGBTQIA] are some of the most resilient people in this world. We are able to push through our oppression with such finesse and flair! Pride month is a time to stop and reflect on my journey to accepting and loving myself as a black gay man. Moreover, a time to reflect on the history and progress of the LGBT community. A figure that stands out to me is the visionary and prolific writer Joseph Beam. He once said, “I am angry because of the treatment I am afforded as a Black man. That fiery anger is stoked with the fuels of contempt and despisal shown me by my community because I am gay. I cannot go home as I am.” Pride month allows me to stand witness to all the ways we have built our home.
Since I am a part of the Black community and the LGBTQIA community, I am doubly privileged because both communities possess a rich history and heritage of brilliance and resilience. I really benefited from having strong mentors, particularly my gay father Michael Roberson, that instilled in me the importance of having a solid understanding of the history of our community and what it means to uphold such a legacy. One thing from Michael that has always stuck with me is when he said,“It is utterly important for us to be reflections over and against who we have been told we are and reflect back that that is not our truth!”
Inspiration and hope were the last things I expected to be feeling during a time of such political and social turmoil. However, the recent Black Trans Lives Matter rallies across the country changed everything for me! The fact that thousands of people marched nationwide for the black transgender community is monumental. I can vividly recall being at a Black Trans Lives Matter rally in Boston a few years ago and feeling disillusioned as the rally had almost no turnout. This progress has given me a sense of hope which has helped with allowing me to cope with everything that is going on right now.
When I think of what being black and queer means, the first word that comes to mind is a possibility. A possibility that allows people to exist outside the space heteronormativity imagines for them. I wish people had a more solid understanding of the many significant contributions the Black LGBTQIA community has had in shaping our current culture and society.
My understanding of pride is ever-changing. It is interesting to compare World Pride in New York City last year to pride month in 2020. I remember that amidst the sea of bright lights, what shone the most were the rainbow logos and the word pride etched on virtually every window or billboard. I looked at everything with such wonder and awe as I pumped through the streets hand in hand with my boyfriend. However, at that same moment, I began to feel a sense of dissonance. I noticed that holding my boyfriend’s hand was still causing so many reactions from people. While to some degree, we are used to the fact that we together will make people react; the reactions made me think that society is still not used to seeing two black men together. Even in New York City, during World Pride, with all of the Pride Advertisements, two black men holding hands is still something foreign to some.
For the longest time, I have not seen anyone who looked like me in the queer community who represented for ethnic queers, I am hoping to be a voice in the queer community and be someone people can relate it.
I love being Black despite the downfall the world “tries” to give us, we age amazingly. Even though I am a queer man and an ally obviously to the LGBTQIA community. I’m not much of a label person. I am just my own alien visiting and leaving my mark before I leave this earth. What brings me joy, is seeing platforms given to ethnic queer people and those people using those platforms for the better.
With what’s going on in the world people are becoming more and more aware of how LGBTQIA Black people are treated. So I think if someone wants to be an ally to our community, you sit you listen you ask questions and learn, educate yourself. That’s the only way.
Being Black and queer to me means being Black, queer, and unapologetic, those words in itself say it all. How I cope with being a double minority, I just continue to stay confident, and stay off social media and distract myself in other ways that bring me happiness and joy. Pride to me means being your authentic self and unapologetic despite whatever obstacles come your way.
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A very necessary look at LGBTQ+ history, and how intersectionality has impacted the movement
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