The Complexities of Queer Black Women

"You May Sit Beside Me" showcases 12 intimate portraits.

Maria Elena "Ri Ri" Garcia: Vocalist, Lyricist, Drummer, Producer and DJ - In her latest exhibition, "You May Sit Beside Me," photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (not pictured) explores the community of queer Black women in her hometown of Brooklyn and beyond. Keep reading to learn more about the dynamic women behind these intimate portraits.  ?Patrice Peck (@speakpatrice) (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Maria Elena "Ri Ri" Garcia: Vocalist, Lyricist, Drummer, Producer and DJ - In her latest exhibition, "You May Sit Beside Me," photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (not pictured) explores the community of queer Black women in her hometown of Brooklyn and beyond. Keep reading to learn more about the dynamic women behind these intimate portraits.  —Patrice Peck (@speakpatrice) (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Angelique V. Nixon, Ph.D.: WriterArtistTeacherScholarActivistPoet - "I felt that there were many assumptions made about the community in general and not enough dialogue happening," Barrayn told BET.com. She embarked on the project hoping to "dismantle some fears" and draw parallels of the human experience. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Angelique V. Nixon, Ph.D.: WriterArtistTeacherScholarActivistPoet - "I felt that there were many assumptions made about the community in general and not enough dialogue happening," Barrayn told BET.com. She embarked on the project hoping to "dismantle some fears" and draw parallels of the human experience. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Candace Hanna: Social Worker - A diverse group of 12 women were photographed and interviewed for "You May Sit Beside Me," which is currently showing at the Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The photographer also had extensive conversations with others from the LGBTQ community. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Candace Hanna: Social Worker - A diverse group of 12 women were photographed and interviewed for "You May Sit Beside Me," which is currently showing at the Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The photographer also had extensive conversations with others from the LGBTQ community. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Audrey Smaltz and Gail Marquis: Fashion Icon and Olympian - "I've always known that art is political," Barrayn told BET.com. "But, it is becoming very clear to me that photography is most certainly political, both the subject, the intention and photographer behind the camera." (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Audrey Smaltz and Gail Marquis: Fashion Icon and Olympian - "I've always known that art is political," Barrayn told BET.com. "But, it is becoming very clear to me that photography is most certainly political, both the subject, the intention and photographer behind the camera." (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Lynne d Johnson: Afrofuturist, Professor, Marketing and Branding Expert - "I've never felt too strongly about having my identity tied to labels [...] Not even as a child did I feel comfortable having someone else define me, or I myself, using another's words to define what is me," Johnson said.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Lynne d Johnson: Afrofuturist, Professor, Marketing and Branding Expert - "I've never felt too strongly about having my identity tied to labels [...] Not even as a child did I feel comfortable having someone else define me, or I myself, using another's words to define what is me," Johnson said.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Krystal Brown - "I can finally SEE my path of self-identity, and I am finally accepting myself and clarifying my identity with the world," Brown told Barrayn. "I?d tell [my 19-year-old self] to love herself because God does, and that her standard doesn?t have to be stricter than His."(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Krystal Brown - "I can finally SEE my path of self-identity, and I am finally accepting myself and clarifying my identity with the world," Brown told Barrayn. "I’d tell [my 19-year-old self] to love herself because God does, and that her standard doesn’t have to be stricter than His."(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Dr. Kaila Story: Black, Feminist, Femme of Center Lesbian - "Being a feminine performing Black lesbian, I had to continuously ?out? myself, as many people would often conflate my gender performance with my race and often unintentionally label me 'straight,'" said Dr. Story.(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Dr. Kaila Story: Black, Feminist, Femme of Center Lesbian - "Being a feminine performing Black lesbian, I had to continuously “out” myself, as many people would often conflate my gender performance with my race and often unintentionally label me 'straight,'" said Dr. Story.(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Cheryl Smith: Mother, Lesbian, Artist. Fighter. Chef.  - "While I love the men in my life, my choice is to live with a woman as my partner and lover," said Smith in her interview. "I knew that early on. It comes from your gut." (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Cheryl Smith: Mother, Lesbian, Artist. Fighter. Chef.  - "While I love the men in my life, my choice is to live with a woman as my partner and lover," said Smith in her interview. "I knew that early on. It comes from your gut." (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Dana Givens - "I'm a lesbian," Givens said. "I don't know what queer means. I would like to say that's a more umbrella term that can include different expressions, such as transgender. I'm gay."(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Dana Givens - "I'm a lesbian," Givens said. "I don't know what queer means. I would like to say that's a more umbrella term that can include different expressions, such as transgender. I'm gay."(Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Alexa Birdsong: Jazz Aficionado, Festival Producer - "I was naturally attracted to women, but I wasn't interested in the roles of hetero-relationships. At 18, I didn't find men intellectually compelling ? at least the guys I liked. My last boyfriend was Spike Lee," Birdsong told Barrayn.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Alexa Birdsong: Jazz Aficionado, Festival Producer - "I was naturally attracted to women, but I wasn't interested in the roles of hetero-relationships. At 18, I didn't find men intellectually compelling — at least the guys I liked. My last boyfriend was Spike Lee," Birdsong told Barrayn.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

Kimberley McLeod: LGBT Media Advocate, ELIXHER Publisher - "Queerness is not an 'other,' it's something that is very much part of the Black experience. It's nothing new, there's always been Black queer people, we've always been here," McCleod said in her interview. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah) 

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Kimberley McLeod: LGBT Media Advocate, ELIXHER Publisher - "Queerness is not an 'other,' it's something that is very much part of the Black experience. It's nothing new, there's always been Black queer people, we've always been here," McCleod said in her interview. (Photo: Courtesy of Laylah Amatullah)