In our country, the LGBT community has a track record of unleashing some of the most pivotal and historic luminaries of all-time; bringing a rather neo-cosmopolitan flair to the times and introducing agendas that have influenced foreign diplomats to grandiose artists and everywhere in-between across the globe.
Here is a look at some of our black LGBT icons that have and are still influencing the world.
Carolyn Mobley was the first woman to co-chair the African-American Lesbian/Gay Alliance, which was a smaller part of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays. She was raised a devout Christian in a petite, segregated Florida municipality. But her Baptist Church condoned her lesbian sexuality despite her work as a Christian educator. The organization served to bridge the gap between the civil rights movement and the LGBT movement.
Inspired by her family’s court room mêlée against racially-segregated Chicago subdivision housing laws in her childhood, Lorraine Hansberry wrote a seminal piece of African-American history. Her magnum opus A Raisin in the Sun, bought the civil rights playwright and bestselling author a legion of fans and quickly turned her to a household name.
Some call her the “Créole Goddess.” Some call her the “Bronze Venus.” But the “Black Pearl” American expatriate entertainer and song-and-dance actress Josephine Baker is one of the most influential household names on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first African American was indeed a trailblazer: one of the first to star in a major motion picture, one of the first to become a world-famous singer (eat your heart our Beyoncé), one of the first black women to integrate an American concert hall, and she was the first American-born woman to receive the Croix de guerre, a high ranking French military honor of prestige.
Among her many feats as an entertainer, she made contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, lent a hand to the French Resistance in the second World War, and inspired a legion of pop artists across the world.
WBNA all-star Sheryl Swoopes was the Michael Jordon of female competitive basketball. The first player ever to sign with the WBNA when it was established, Swoopes was a three-time recipient of the WBNA MVP and won three Olympic gold medals. As of 2005, the LGBT icon averaged 4.3 assists, 85% free throws, 18.6 points, 2.65 steals and played 37.1 minutes per game.
E. Lynn Harris
Everette Lynn Harris’ untimely death shocked millions and for a short while, united both the black community and LGBT community in mourning his loss. The bestselling openly gay author is known for pioneering the notoriety for black and Latino closeted men who slept with men on the down low. Most importantly, the wildly entertaining writer penned 10 consecutive novels that charted on The New York Times Best Seller list, which technically makes him the most successful African-American or gay novelist of the epoch.
Named one of the 25 funniest people in the U.S. by Entertainment Weekly in 2004, Emmy Award winning stand-up comedian Wanda Sykes took gold in 1999 for her work on The Chris Rock Show before airing a successful Saturday late-night talk show. But it was the 2008 passing of Proposition 8 in California (that was recently overturned) that resulted in her public outcry and reveal of her sexual orientation that made her a face of black LGBT.
The duke of dance Alvin Ailey solidified his fingerprints on the universal conscious when he founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater located in New York City. The futurist choreographer transformed dance by popularizing and revolutionizing the concert experience via his masterwork Revelations, set to blues and spirituals showcasing the African-America expedition from slavery to autonomy despite trepidation.
His style: Slow, melodic, like the jazz swing of a big band turning in at twilight. James Mercer Langston Hughes is the most famous black poet of all-time. He’s essentially the go-to component of any literary prose expert when describing African-American poetry. He was a remarkable influence on the beat poets in the 1950s and 1960s, and he challenged everything from segregation, class conflict to the promise of Communism. He even encoded little passages that referred to closeted love among men. The Renaissance man was the chief innovator of jazz poetry; he helped turn the Harlem Renaissance fare into a flame that ignited an artistic zeitgeist in the black community.
His autobiographical bildungsroman first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain was a pivotal advancement in the forward-thinking civil rights movement. It showcased an introspective personal tabula rasa perspective that questioned racial and sexual issues and the pressures they imposed. The playwright, essayist and novelist essentially paved the way for every post 60’s civil rights era writer on this list.
André Leon Talley
A front-row regular at every international fashion show for nearly 30 years, former editor-at-large for the American edition of Vogue magazine, André Leon Talley has used his influence to endorse the likes of young fashion designers John Saldivar, Tracy Reese and Rachel Roy; and has ties to talk show divas, even judging Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model.
Currently serving as contributing editor, Talley is arguably second-in-command of the fashion rag world.
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