Atlanta LGBT African-Americans open up about taking pride in their identity

It might be Black Gay Pride, but Atlanta’s black LGBT community is not limited by that narrow description. There is so much more to each person in the community than that, so we asked a number of people about what ways they identify themselves, and why it’s important to embrace their identity.

image005John Kimble III

“In a world where so many people are categorized and labeled, it is important to identify who you are early on, before the masses can do it for you. I have always identified myself as a mixed race individual, coming from a mixed home with an African-American father and an Irish/Native American mother.

I was told early in life by my father that I was ‘Not black, Not white, I could never be just one but I am the best of both and to never forget that.’ Him telling me this early in age helped me to embrace both of my cultures, without the fear of not being black enough or white enough in the eyes of my peers.

Being a proud gay multi-racial male has helped to shape me into the strong and open minded person I am today. I embrace who I am by simply embracing all of me and living in my truth.”

image004Darlene Hudson

“As a small I child I recall being very awkward – not feeling pretty. Later in life I was mistreated for being an out black lesbian. So I had to learn there were other ways to define ‘me’ that were positive. I began to think about those things that made me feel good—such as church, music, and helping others—and embrace them to shape who I am. Learning to see a ‘new beauty’ and embrace it ultimately led me to a wonderful life of service to people and my community.

There were times I did not feel good about myself because of what someone else may have said about me – I didn’t let it stop me. I would just practice playing my saxophone a little longer and as a result excelled in music and eventually would go to college on a music scholarship.

My Christian faith has been another foundation for my many successes in life. My belief that God called me to a world of service has enabled me to help both children and adults who are suffering from many forms of abuse and marginalization. This led me to complete a master’s in social work, to work with children in need, and to a life of activism to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There was nothing poetic about my life but my love of Christ has provided it with a rhythm of love, salvation, and hope.”

image001Tim’m West

“Fortunately, I’ve done the self-work to accept that my blackness, queerness, my various talents as a poet, lyricist, or as an educator and youth advocate, are part of the unique tapestry that marks my humanity.

Do I give voice or reason to those who’d disaffirm the things about me that make me special, being HIV-positive included? Should I be a slave to anyone’s dictates about how I live my best life in service to others? My ancestors knew a lot about being denied freedom; about others telling us how to live or be.

So I courageously flaunt every ounce of liberty I have for those who couldn’t. I dismiss identity politics that would ask if I’m more black than queer or other such ridiculousness. To accept that ‘I’m all that and then some’ is to accept the call that I have a bit more good to do in the world.”

image002Amina Abdul-Jalil

“Queer Muslim black femme would be me in four words. I love being black. Period. I love the words queer femme together. I love it because it is me in so many ways – from the way I dress to my meandering conversations, it is truly me.

I’ve found that being a femme in a queer world where femmes are overlooked makes me equally odd. Similarly, I was and still am the oddball in my family.

My siblings and I were raised Sunni Islam and for various reasons, I’ve looked at other religions. I can honestly say no matter how many times I entertain other faiths, my heart stays with it. I had no choice in reconciling these polarized ids because they live within me. I used to worry that I was alone until I realized that all I had to do is be.

It’s much easier said than done but it’s gotten easier with time.”

image003Damonte Pettygrue

“I identify myself as a young African American gay male, who is HIV positive. I do not allow my status to become my identity. I use it as a way to educate others. I embrace my status, and live my life like an open book.

Being able to do so required me to understand my value and potential.  It was imperative that I embrace my identity so that I am able to be the best, most successful man I can be. It is extremely important that men and women use ways embrace their identity in order to be the best in life and become the amazing people we were born to be! ”

image006Micky Bradford

“What a time to be alive! I’m always excited for Pride weekend. I can’t get the J-setting, the voguing, and otherwise dancing on beat at White Pride. I chuckle softly when non-black folks call Labor Day pride ‘Black Gay Pride’ all spelled out. Clocking the gap reminds me that now more than ever, we have to celebrate while we can.

Being proud to be black is less about buying into an individual identity and more about recognizing we need our culture, our joy, and (most importantly) each other. 20 transwomen were killed this year that we know of. The average life expectancy of a transwoman of color is 35. I’m 25 this year. My joy and where I find community are less about how I identify and more about how the state will or won’t value my life.

The world is still learning that gender comes in more than two; we are more than pink and blue. So I fight, I organize, I love, I laugh, I read, I vogue, and I pay no mind to the rest [insert nail emoji]. What a time to be alive! Black. Trans. Gender nonconforming. 25. Happy Pride, y’all.”

angela-davis-and-mary-anne-adams-1024x683-750x400Angela Davis

“To say ‘I am a colored woman,’ is a most succinct self-definition, but it can also be a misleading one. I use the word ‘colored’ because I am a black woman, in a rainbow community, and I use a white cane due to my legal blindness. I strive to not allow any aspects of the intersectionality of my coloredness to be invisible.

I think it is important to own all these dimensions of myself because this is what makes me free and accounted for in a world where I still make less than a man, where my ethnicity is considered inferior, my lesbian identity is deemed ‘unnatural,’ and my disability is said to make me deficient. Embracing all of my selves allows me to say ‘NO’ to all of that. It allows me to walk every day in my truth as a one-woman parade, singing and laughing down Main Street America.”