This year, HRC is spotlighting the voices of African-American LGBT leaders and allies as part of HRC’s Black History Month series. This post comes from Alexis Wilson, a writer, artist, speaker, and the author of the memoir "Not So Black and White." Learn more about Alexis and her work here.
It was in the mid 60’s that my African American father and Dutch white mother fell madly in love and made the move from Holland to the states. She was the prima ballerina of The Dutch National Ballet and he would become a celebrated ballet and three-time Tony nominated choreographer. My father enjoyed a carefree dancer’s life in Europe for over a decade. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. we were in the midst of an ongoing racial and social shift. These things pulled him back “home”. It wasn’t until they arrived to a racially “hot” Boston, Mass. that they were met with difficulty and racism. I don’t know if they joined protest marches, but they made their presence and protest known through their love for each other and their art. By creating a culturally diverse ballet company and school, living at that time boldly and proudly as an interracial couple, pushing the artistic envelope, and raising their bi-racial children with that same openness to inclusion and pride, they were living their support of the civil rights movement and social justice.
Years later, after my parents divorced, my brother and I moved to Manhattan to live with our father and the new love of his life; another beautiful and talented African American man. They remained together eighteen years until their deaths from AIDS. Black men have been my heroes and my best example; a trumpet call we in the black community should hear loudly and often
Whether having interracial parents, growing up bi-racial in a largely black and white landscape, or being raised by two men, it has been the diversity, differences, and “otherness” of my experience that have been my greatest strengths. Black History Month to me means a national and international opportunity to celebrate a rich culture and its immeasurable contributions. It is a reminder of the myriad of shoulders upon which we have stood to arrive at a new and better place. It is our responsibility to champion the call and to continue the work until the conversation about social injustice and racism are no longer relevant.
Photo above (c) John Lindquist/Alexis Wilson Collection
Photo below (c) Everett R. Profit/Alexis Wilson Collection