HRC Marks Black History Month and Celebrates Black LGBTQ Leaders

by Matilda Young

Event at HRC headquarters on Feb. 7 will feature prominent writers and advocates discussing and debating health, faith and relationships in the Black LGBTQ community.

Today, HRC marked the beginning of Black History Month — and a celebration of the long history of Black leadership in the LGBTQ movement, including the ways in which Black LGBTQ and allied trailblazers have been and remain at the center of the fight for equality. 

“As we mark the beginning of Black History Month, we celebrate those who made enormous sacrifices in their own lives to blaze a trail toward greater freedom and equality. At the same time, we must also confront the barriers that continue to exist for Black people and Black LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Black LGBTQ people were key leaders in the civil rights movement, and Black leaders have been at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTQ equality from the very start. At this juncture in our ongoing struggle to realize America’s promise of equality and justice for all, we know that our work is not complete until the most marginalized within our LGBTQ community have achieved equality. This Black History Month and beyond, let us celebrate our progress, let us be inspired by our history and let us recommit to the work ahead.”

Throughout this month, HRC will lift up the history of Black leadership within the LGBTQ community and highlight a new generation of Black leaders who are fighting violence, discrimination and injustice and building a brighter, more inclusive and healthier future for all. 

On February 7 in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, HRC’s HIV and Health Equity team is hosting an event at HRC’s D.C. headquarters with author and activist George Johnson, The Body editor Kenyon Farrow and journalist and LGBTQ advocate Emil Wilbekin for a discussion about health, faith and relationships in the Black LGBTQ community. Joining the conversation will be J. Maurice McCants-Pearsall, director of HRC’s HIV and Health Equity Program, Tori Cooper, director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative and Michael Vazquez, director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program. Those interested in this event may RSVP here:

In a recent op-ed in USA Today, David wrote, “racial equity and inclusion cannot simply be a sliver of our work — it must be the core of our work.” Building on HRC’s 40-year history in the fight for equal justice and opportunity, HRC is committed to ensuring that the organization is living into its principles on racial equity and inclusion and delivering on our mission of achieving full equality for all. 

That fight to protect and uplift LGBTQ people of color must include intensifying efforts to address major health and safety injustices the community faces — from the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on people of color, particularly Black and Latinx LGBTQ people, to the epidemic of violence targeting the LGBTQ community, especially Black transgender women.

  • One in two gay and bisexual Black cisgender men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, and almost half of Black transgender women in the U.S. are living with HIV. 
  • In the United States in 2019 alone, at least 26 transgender and gender non-conforming people, mostly Black transgender women, died due to fatal violence.

To address these injustices, HRC has deepened its efforts around combating the HIV and AIDS epidemic, and recently launched the Transgender Justice Initiative, which is informed, built and led by transgender and non-binary people. The initiative will advance new HRC projects and resources that address the urgent needs of the transgender and non-binary community. 

HRC is also working to protect one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy — the right to vote. Ahead of the critically important upcoming 2020 election, HRC and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight are partnering to help combat voter suppression — which all too often target members of the LGBTQ community, including people of color. This partnership is bringing together the organizations’ expertise in voter protection and voter mobilization to ensure fair and open elections in 2020 and beyond.