Black History Month: Life at the Intersections

by HRC Staff

As HRC honors Black History Month, we want to highlight individuals within our organization that drive our work forward at the intersections of LGBTQ equality and racial justice.

As HRC honors justice warriors throughout Black History Month, we want to highlight some of the incredible individuals within our organization that drive our work forward at the intersections of LGBTQ equality and racial justice.  

As Audre Lorde, a Black lesbian poet, said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.”

Through her writing, Lorde eloquently captured the depth and richness of the crossways of those identities and experiences. She described herself using words like “Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet,” a testament to the strength of her enduring legacy.

Below, members of HRC’s staff share what it means to live and work at the intersections of Black and LGBTQ identities:

“To live and work at the intersections of a Black and queer identity means that I have a responsibility to ensure that my work is rooted in liberation and that the most marginalized communities are socially, politically and economically uplifted. In addition to considering my privilege as a cisgender man, it is my duty to continue to both create spaces for intersectional inclusion and recognize spaces where my input is not necessary.”
— Armonte Butler, HRC Foundation Health & Aging Program Coordinator
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“As a black queer woman, I live and work at the intersection of the systems of oppression defined by race, sexual orientation and gender. On my worst days, it is exhausting and feels impossible to safely navigate the world as my whole self. But on my best days, I feel like a queen; unapologetically harnessing the beauty and power that comes with all of my identities.”
— Cassandra Corey, HRC Major Gifts Officer
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

“To talk about the intersectionality of my identities feels almost utopian.  The worlds I navigate are often unsure of how to engage me in the wholeness and integration of my identities, so I often experience them as if a swinging pendulum - moving in and out of each depending on my context. It is not often that I feel seen and engaged as a Black lesbian in its fullness: that is being Black, female, and same-gender loving in the same space, at the same time.  Yet, it is who I am and I can not separate my experiences. We have a lot of work to do to create inclusive community spaces that truly engage and honor diversity, especially when it comes to Blackness.
As Black LGBTQ people, we have to continually strive to step into spaces demanding that we are honored and recognized in our fullness - not allowing elements of our identities to be extracted because they are too messy or inconvenient for others to deal with, or to be redefined in a way that is more palatable to others.  Our liberation relies on our ability to show up as, be seen as, and navigate spaces as, whole and authentic people and, above all, to define what that means for ourselves.”
— Nicole Cozier, HRC Director of Diversity & Inclusion
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

“As a Black, gay man from Trinidad and Tobago, my lenses as an immigrant influence my ability to impact the global social justice fight around social issues that disproportionately affect black people as they show up in the LGBTQ community. My responsibility here at the world's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization is to bring my unfiltered perspective to work each and every day. My duty is to honor all those who have paved the way for me to be here and the privilege I have to influence this work with ethics, intentionality and resiliency as a leader in this movement. I’m here for the Caribbean!!! #Trini2DeBone”
— Maurice Eckstein, HRC Communities and Volunteer Relations Senior Manager
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“When I’m speaking out and advocating for the LGBTQ community, I also voice issues and concerns of my queer Black family, a historically marginalized group in that space. When I’m with my family, I show that Black families are also full of rainbows. And when I’m with my friends talking about the legacy of James Baldwin, listening to Frank Ocean or watching RuPaul, we LGBTQ #BlackMenSmile knowing of the important contributions we’ve made and continue to make in all of the communities we belong to. In all of these ways and more, I get to share my gay #BlackBoyJoy everyday!”
— Jay Gilliam, HRC Senior Global Programs Officer, Co-chair of HRC’s POC+A Employee Resource Group
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“To live and work at the intersections of being Black and gay is to live in a form of double consciousness. It is to understand that you must navigate society wearing multiple oppressive and marginalized identities which you must be aware of and on alert at all times. It is exhausting. Living in this double consciousness fuels my desire to work for organizations that work to advance the civil rights of those marginalized and disenfranchised.”
— Leslie Hall, MSW, HRC Associate Director, HBCU Program
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“My queer identity cannot be separated from my real and lived experiences as a Black woman. We live in a world that constantly tries to separate us from ourselves, to divide me into groups and subgroups that only focus on one aspect of who I am. To live and work at the intersection of my experiences as a queer Black Woman is to know and trust that all the pieces of who I am show up in every space and are needed in every space - whether that’s work, the local coffee shop or the general assembly.
My showing up fully is a gift not only to myself but to all of those around, and it is one that I do not apologize for. No matter where my voice or other Black voices fall with respect to sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, our identities can’t be part and parcel for check boxes or convenience. Our contributions are great and our voices remain integral to the conversation on how we continue movement building in a way that no single part of who we are is forgotten or oppressed.”
— Hope L. Jackson, HRC Senior Regional Field Organizer
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

“To live at the intersection of Black and queer identities is like walking two tightropes at once. One community faces unique and very visible challenges and has since before the U.S. was formed; while the other has had to announce its presence, to come out, only to be ostracized by broader society. While the burdens of being Black have stolen from, jailed and separated our people, we have created amazing music, dance, food, art and scholarship. And while the burdens of queerness have left folks ostracized, homeless, humiliated and suicidal -- out of that pain has sprung a vibrant, beautiful culture that celebrates its pride every day. While the doubling of those burdens can be crushing, the beauty that they have wrought is our Black LGBTQ community. Our boldness, artistry, industry and intelligence are truly a sight to behold. From ballroom culture, to Stonewall, to the March On Washington, and from the top of the charts to the halls of the most elite portrait galleries and boardrooms in this country we have made an indelible mark on this nation. Indeed, ‘there is more music singing in us than crimes against our souls.’”
— Paul Lisbon, HRC Political Research Coordinator
Pronouns: He, Him, His