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It is that time of year again, when we honor queer people of color for LGBT Pride Month with BET.com's 12 Days of Pride.
This year, we are highlighting young Black queer folks who are demanding their voices be heard with no shame or apologies. Our 12-part video series tackles identity, activism, culture, politics, health, family, love and more.
12 Days of Pride launches today (June 1), the first day of LGBT Pride Month, with author George M. Johnson, Ugandan activist and sculptor Leilah Babirye, singer-songwriter Shea Diamond and choreographer Jeremy McQueen.
Each of these proud Black queer folks offer gems about how they claimed their identity.
Shea Diamond, a trans woman whose story is as powerful as her dynamic vocal chops, grew up with a strict religious upbringing. "It was read your bible, say your prayers, go to bed. And don't you act like no girl or get up out of my house," she shared. "So those were the rules and that's what I understood. So I couldn't live that experience anymore because that was just like torture for me."
Diamond recalls feeling like it was now or never to live her life. "I had to be myself. So I ran away from home. And I remember that that was me reclaiming my life," she said.
Babirye fled Uganda in 2015 after being outed as a lesbian. "Pride, to me, is holding yourself together. Your sexuality, your humbleness, yourself, your humanity — holding yourself in one simple package and loving that package," she shared.
Johnson, who recently released the critically acclaimed All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto, spoke out recognizing the power of living authentically. "Pride is rebellion, push back against everything that we were conditioned and taught that was wrong," they said.
"Our identity is not just some check box or some marker that could be thrown away," Johnson continued. "It is the lens through which we live our lives. Those two things operate together and cannot be separated."
McQueen, the founder of the Black Iris Project, a ballet collaborative project to create original ballets, shared his joy in attending his first Pride. “To be able to see so many different people in New York City, of all different colors, shapes and sizes, coming together to celebrate themselves and how far they’ve come and how far we’ve come, was just so incredibly beautiful.”
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LGBT Pride Month began 51 years ago on June 28, 1969, when a series of spontaneous demonstrations and riots erupted following a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The burst of fury was catalyzed by years of oppression and violence against the LGBT community by police. The day is also known as Christopher Street Liberation Day.
It's important to note that Stonewall was initiated by and included a number of people of color, including a Black transgender woman named Marsha P. Johnson. According to historians, when police raided Stonewall Inn, Johnson threw a shot glass into a Stonewall mirror and said, “I got my civil rights!"
The fight for civil rights clearly continues and LGBT Pride Month is one of many examples of the power when people resist, stand up and fight for their right to exist.
Watch the first installment of 12 Days of Pride, "My Identity,” below.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)