Cheril Clarke, Monica Bey-Clarke; Black History MonthStay tuned to HRC Blog throughout the month for more from our Black History Month blog series, featuring a cadre of African-American LGBT leaders. This February we honor those who have paved a way for us all as we continue our work toward justice and equality together.

This post comes from guest contributors Cheril Clarke and Monica Bey-Clarke of Sicklerville, N.J.

For years people have discussed how difficult it is to be black and LGBT in America. Pundits, activists and clergy have all weighed in, but despite the obstacles black people face in this country, America is more of a place where all things are possible. Now is a time to acknowledge our challenges, yet celebrate our achievements.

This month we honor our ancestors who survived a racism that defies our ability to imagine. Yet black people in America have not only survived, we’ve thrived. Despite woebegone voices of those who acknowledge only our struggles, we are not just living the dreams of our ancestors but are exceeding them. However, much work remains, especially for those of us who identify as LGBT.

As we celebrate our more recent heroes, it is time we add to the list those who have been fighting for the last half a century for LGBT rights. Just as Rosa Parks stood on the shoulders of slavery survivors, there are many who have helped our modern civil rights movement: people like Audre Lorde and many others who were stigmatized because they loved like us.

Today we have activists who have won protection against bullies, workplace and military discrimination. We have LGBT brothers and sisters channeling the strength of those who once did sit-ins to protest against segregation, standing firm on their right worship openly. They refuse to allow bigots to force them to choose between their sexuality and God. Their presence is their choice of weapon. Let’s appreciate them all for their courage to live out and proud.

Contemporary filmmakers like Patrik Ian Polk, black LGBT individuals are ensuring that we will not be omitted or shamed out of history as we have been in the past. Our children now have books that accurately depict their families: black, happy and LGBT. Let us rejoice in these achievements and understand that if each of us continues to do our part, we can be sure to make it through this last lap of injustice.

Much of the work has been done and for what is left all we need is the courage to be visible and no longer silent, the discipline to be educated and politically active. We need to harness our indomitable spirits and secure what is rightfully ours: the right to love and marry, to raise a child and to worship and work in prejudice free environments.

For when the dust settles and this chapter of history has ended, our children should be able to look back with pride knowing that when their parents held the baton they made sure history arched toward equality for all people.

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