Celebrate 29 Days of Black Queer Excellence

Celebrate 29 Days of Black Queer Excellence

The artists and activists making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community.

Published February 28th

Written by BET Staff

Throughout the month of February, BET has recognized the past and present accomplishments from the Black community. It's vital to understand that Black queer history IS Black History and our freedom would be impossible if not for the contributions made by those in the LGBTQ+ community.

So, we created #BETQueerAF to celebrate the beauty, power, and diversity of everyday Black queer artists, activists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Check out several, need-to-know Black members of LGBTQ community who are making a positive impact by being disruptors for change and then go to BET's Instagram to see the complete list of all 29 honorees under #BETQueerAF.

  1. Amira Shaunice

    I impact the Black Queer community by providing a platform exclusively for LGBTQ content.  In 2014, I created the 1st lesbian web series based in NYC: New York Girls TV (@newyorkgirlstv).  Since then, NYGTV has blossomed in to a network.  I’ve produced a podcast, reality series and will be adding five more scripted series to the network in 2020.  Storytelling makes me happy and it’s been a creative outlet since I was a child. It wasn’t until recent years that I asked myself how do I take this and put in service where I can make a difference? I’ve realized that my writing is important because it allows me to inspire others to live in their truth.  My work has provided undiscovered actors with opportunities. I am creating powerful LGBTQ characters while the industry denies these same actors because of their sexuality or appearance. My work spans across 20 countries. NYGTV has exceeded over 12 million views with over 100,000 YouTube subscribers and counting! 

    I moved to New York with $300 and a dream.  I was the only person in my family to go to college.  I didn’t have someone who was knowledgeable enough to guide me which is why my authenticity and visibility is important.   Whether it’s tips, advice or a platform for queers to showcase their talent, I am giving the next generation hope and opportunity to follow their dreams.  #BETQueerAF.

  2. Alfonso Ferguson- Haywood

    As a Black queer man, I pride myself in working specially with Black and Brown queer folks to provide culturally responsive counseling services in secure and affirming spaces. I work with individuals who have experienced gender or sexual orientation trauma within their ethnic and racial communities. I also provide services to individuals who are struggling with depression and anxiety. I found that our community has a unique set of needs that require a high level of empathy, training, and attention. I think it should be their choice to embrace their wholeness. We all have a journey to travel and I think people have the right and privilege to come out and embrace themselves when they are ready. I subscribe to a sexual developmental model that allows queer people to exist in the same community but in different stages. This model, the Cass Homosexuality Model how I view people in different phases of their journey. #BETQueerAF.

  3. Kiyanna Stewart & Jannah Handy

    In many ways, we're keepers of black stories. As the black, queer, women-identified entrepreneurs behind BLK MKT Vintage, we're in the business of uncovering and amplifying  black historical narratives, many of which belong to queer people and communities who have made our work possible. We empower these stories and voices by finding and making accessible vintage black and queer publications, photographs/archival materials, sourcing visual art by and about queer folk and articulating the cultural, historical, monetary and communal value these items hold. Also, building a network of queer-identified makers, creatives and entrepreneurs through community-centered partnerships and collaborations. One of the decisions queer folks have historically had to consider is the extent, to which, they lives their lives "out loud". We've chosen and continue to choose to be at the forefront of this work as partners in life, work and love.

    We think it's important to remember that each of us are whole, multifaceted individuals. Acknowledging our wholeness humanizes us, increasing empathy and opportunities for connection and community. Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” For us, this Lorde quote is so important because it illustrates the ways all the components of our identity are interconnected and why we need whole, holistic approaches to liberation. Seeing ourselves, wholly, is only the first step. #BETQueerAF.

  4. Kenneth Courtney

    It’s been extremely rewarding for me to intentionally position the work I do in PR and branding through @courtneycreativepr to elevate the profile of LGBTQ+ clients and causes. The brands I work with are real people and they have dynamic gifts and stories to tell. I can share their stories and help build their brands with care because we share the same community and sometimes even the same stories. 

    I manage the first openly gay Dancehall artist from Jamaica @rudebwoydemaro. Jamaica and the Caribbean have a history of being extremely homophobic, especially in the Dancehall genre. I think back to Demaro getting emotional after doing a round of interviews talking not just about his music, but being physically attacked in his home country for being gay and having to re-live it. I just remember being on the phone and telling him how he’s going to help a lot of people by sharing his music and his story. It’s moments like those that reveal a higher purpose to the work I’m doing. Demaro’s first single went viral in Jamaica and his mother, who he has a somewhat difficult relationship with because of his sexuality, read his feature on @billboardpride and offered him her support. That meant the world to him and I thought, “Wow! That’s the REAL power of PR. That’s the work I want to do for the rest of my life!” As the PR Director for Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI), I play a huge role in curating events that promote professional development, wellness, and connectivity amongst the LGBTQ community. I also run a monthly queer artist music showcase at The Delancey. It gives artists a platform to perform and share their talent with other creatives. We also produced a content series during Pride month that was shared on NYLON. Visibility allows the next generation to know that they're seen and can be their full selves. It's important for our community to embrace our wholeness because the example begins with us. We can't tell the world who we are if we don't know who we are. #BETQueerAF.

  5. Aaron L. Milton

    I empower Black Queer voices as a producer with House of Ease, a Brooklyn based art collective and production company that produces Black Queer + diaspora films, short content, and joyous experiences. I utilize my abilities with HoE to support the holistic care of the collective and meet our goals of making transformative work that raises the vibration of the world.

    I am a clinical social worker by formal education, and currently work with a nonprofit organization facilitating crisis intervention courses to law enforcement. Throughout all my work, from foster care, education, developing and sustaining housing opportunities, to producing unique and joyous content, it is always my goal to create safe spaces where everyone can live as their authentic self, in harmony with one another.

    My Life's work, in its many capacities, has been and continues to be to ensure that all voices are heard, all bodies are safe, and that all spirits are enlivened. As a Black Queer man, I have felt the pain of feeling like "the other" and have been in many spaces, professionally and personally, where my perspective was not taken as valid. I do my best every day in my work to ensure Black LGBT people are respected and treated with the dignity that has been too often withheld by showing up as my truest self and encouraging everyone else to do the same. We can't heal and grow in sequestered shadows; light and space are needed so we can get our full Life. #BETQueerAF.

  6. Bri Labossiere
    Bri Laboss shot for QueerAF in NYC on 1/16/2020. (Photo: Jocelyn Prescod/BET)

    Running a creative collective and opening a Brooklyn community center and gallery focused on the arts, wellness, and providing cultural representation has made clear the impact of SPACE.  Having space puts the universe in the palm of your hand and allows you the safety of feeling at home where you are. Gatherings at Remy Rouge Culture Center invite you in and offer room to be, see, and feel new versions of love, care and belonging; we get together to further meaningful conversations and grow community wellness, education and collective production. Storytelling and sharing information allows folx to visualize themselves and the circumstances of the people around them. This sparks experiences of connection and understanding. When we ensure space to represent ourselves, we strengthen our esteem and overall ability to lean into others.   

    I’d like to serve as an example of how we can harness our experiences and hard lessons learned to design our own legacies. We are capable of creating the futures we want as collective people. As a writer and community organizer, my goal is to broaden perspectives and offer space for reflection and more expression. Using voice creatively and being vocal about the things that occupy the lives we live catalyzes personal reckoning and healing. As we tap into the core of our experiences to shed light on the conditions of masses, we’re able to strengthen connections and communication between generations, classes, races, and many other differing groups (LGBTQ+). Great change will happen when we accept that the future is in our own hands, we just need to come together and tap in. #BETQueerAF

  7. Jordyn Jay

    I am Project Coordinator on a research study for the health and well-being of transgender women of color in New York City, however, more generally I am an Art Advocate for the black trans community. In September of 2019, I hosted a meetup for Black trans femmes in the arts to discuss roadblocks that Black trans femme artists were experiencing and how I could use my resources and expertise to help. After this meeting, I founded the Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective to support Black trans femme artists, to strengthen our community and to help build power among ourselves to support the work that we do. In November, I hosted an open mic night featuring 8 black trans femme artists with a variety of practices, including rap, spoken word, and film. This month, we will be launching a social media campaign that highlights members of the collective. I also use my personal networks and the collective Instagram page to highlight different artists and connect them to potential collaborators, supporters and funders. Outside of the collective, I express myself through living openly as a trans woman. I have always enjoyed expressing myself through hair and makeup, and through that process, found and learned to give language to my trans identity. As I have gotten farther in my transition, I have become more confident and have learned to live my life and express myself without fear. Even though I am often a soft-spoken person, the way I present and carry myself makes a statement every time I step into a room. #BETQueerAF.

  8. Foxy Belle Afriq

    I work to educate people of colour and others about the intricate art of burlesque and drag king culture. I demonstrate how these art forms can be performative yet healing for the mind, body and soul; as it has been for me. I produce a monthly drag king and burlesque variety show Untamed Afroburlesque (@untamed_afroburlesque) that is an all inclusive space where we tell stories of black legends, icons and the black experience.  I also co-produce a weekly show - Mad Deep (@maddeepbk) which showcases queer & trans people of colour in comedy, drag and burlesque. 

    Gender fluidity isn't recognized by many where i’m from in  East Africa, and considered an abomination. I identify as a WOMAN but I am very much gender fluid in my day to day life and as a  performer. So the gender fluidity I am most comfortable expressing is in my performances. My burlesque persona is (@foxybelleafriq) and my Drag King persona is Uncle Freak (@unclefreak2020). 

    As an African queer woman my dream is that I can someday perform in my home country without the stigma attached to being a Burlesque and Drag King performer. Representations of all gender identities can be recognized without prejudice and fear. I think many people who are part of the LGBTQIA community in Africa don't necessarily feel safe coming out to their communities for fear of retribution. Being in this country and especially New York City affords me as a queer person to express myself freely, in a way in which I couldn't comfortably do so in Africa. In my everyday life I also educate my daughter on the importance of respecting people's pronouns and addressing them as such.  We must empower the next generation to be loving, caring and accepting of the queer community without question. #BETQueerAF.

  9. Assani York

    I am the founder of For The Gworls (@ForTheGworls), a collective that helps BLACK transgender people pay their rent and gender-affirming surgeries. We help Black trans people obtain these bare necessities through two methods: (1) by bringing the community together to fundraise through rent parties (2) using our burgeoning social media presence to crowdfund for Black transgender people that reach out to us with an immediate need. Over the last 6 months, we've helped raise over $28,000 for Black transgender folks in need. 

    For The Gworls began as a means of helping two Black, transgender women and femmes that we knew faced eviction if they didn’t raise money for their rent. I decided to host a party on the 4th of July where all proceeds would go towards their housing, and in less than three days, I was able to exceed this goal. It was then that I decided to make this an official monthly gathering! My goal is to create space, pay for housing, and help fund gender-affirming surgeries; as these are a reality for a large part of our community.

    Since the first party, I received many requests that led me to realize that a monthly party would not be enough to handle all of them.  I've recently started using our growing social media platform to crowdfund for those who need immediate assistance. In this way, we can help anywhere between 4-16 people a month, as opposed to 1-3 people with just one party. 

    This work is important because we put money directly into the hands of Black transgender people to make sure they remain housed. We don't deal with bureaucracy; we simply fundraise and make sure our community stays off the street.

    As a Black, gender non-conforming person, I express my full self in my everyday life by not allowing the world to tell me how I need to show up — I tell the world how I need to show up, and it has no choice but to listen. I dress how I want and where I want; I wear my hair how I want; I present how I want.Whether I am at work, on the train, or at an event, I show up as Asanni — unapologetically Black; unapologetically bending the rigid rules patriarchy tries to impose on me and other Black people; unapologetically me. #BETQueerAF.

  10. Candice M. Woods

    I play Diana Ross in the Broadway show, “Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of The Temptations” written by Dominique Morisseau.One of the things I love to do is bring Black QTPOC people within the Broadway/theatre community together. I enjoy cultivating a chill and safe space for folks to network, meet and greet, and share experiences on what it’s like to work and pursue work within the theatre community. My biggest way of expressing my full self is through transparency on and off social media. Bringing awareness and understanding to people outside of Black QTPOC experience is extremely important to me. People need to see other people who are like them represented. Those people need to know that there’s nothing wrong with who they are and what their authentic experience is.  They’re beautiful and worthy and capable of so much. We have to continue to embrace ourselves so that other people of all ages and backgrounds can know they too can walk in their TRUTH!

    As much as I can, I aim to infuse more conversation concerning issues and information ABOUT the  Black QTPOC community WITHIN the broadway community in hopes to spread knowledge and normalize the experience of others who live outside of the binary and who live within the colorful spectrum that make up the LGBTQ+ community.  #BETQueerAF.

Photos provided by BET Design.

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