The Resilience in Black Queer Community and Its Perseverance in an Anti-DEI Environment

by Guest Contributors

This blog post is a contribution by Jayden McCree (they/them), a freshman attending the University of Texas at Austin enrolled in the Liberal Arts Honors Program. Their work highlights the lived experiences between their intersecting Black and queer identities and have had their work featured in TransGriot and ScreenDoorReview.

As a Black nonbinary person living in Texas, my advocacy is centered around creating space for and uplifting Black Queer creatives as a way to combat all forms of discrimination. On May 14, 2024, the Texas Senate's Higher Education committee plans on discussing free speech policies at public universities as well as the implementation of Texas Senate Bill 17, a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Through the passing of bills like SB-17 our institutions have declared our very presence as not only unnecessary to the integrity of our campuses but as pathogenic.

This legislation is one of excision and erasure, making the visibility of minoritized and intersectional communities even more essential. To me, visibility means a communal and perpetual understanding of our unalienable right to exist. Visibility means our social and formal institutions not only see us but also see our existence as non-negotiable. Despite Texas’ Senate Bill 17’s detrimental effects on our campus communities, it is only an appendage of a larger body at work to manifest a white cis-hetero hegemonic fantasy. The visibility that we need, deserve, and that advocates are fighting for is a visibility that recognizes the reality of the issue: our communities are here and are here to stay.

The Human Rights Campaign telling my story, which is in itself the story of many students on campus are incredibly empowering in this time of what feels like suffocation. At a time when entrusted lawmakers failed to prioritize and defend the rights and well-being of the diverse communities in the state, including LGBTQ+ communities, Black communities and student bodies, the impact of the DEI ban is both stunning and detrimental. Dozens of staff and faculty at both the University of Texas at Austin and UT Dallas have been laid off and demonstrations around the impact of the ban on campuses are ongoing.

I join the myriad of others who are deeply troubled by SB 17 and the harm its passage has incurred on the well-being of our students and educators.

DEI offices have become a mainstay on campuses across the country and a bastion for a diverse array of students who have often felt excluded because of who they are or who they love. Their presence is an invaluable resource to these students and their academic success.

Advocates and minority student leaders are often subject to extreme exhaustion, as you are engaging in work that is not only intellectually, but emotionally exhausting. This depletion in addition to the criminal cultural underappreciation of activist labor and stories is greatly alleviated by the efforts of these initiatives to amplify our voices. In the future, I hope to engage more with organizations like the HRC, as dense and interconnected communities are our greatest assets in a time like this.

My personal journey in advocacy in this current political environment has consistently led me back to assisting the cultivation and preservation of Black queer art practice. I believe that the level of community we need at this time is built in unwavering honesty and that through art, I find that we can be truly honest.

Jayden McCree

In my practice, honesty is the first and most essential step to the creative process. I must identify and face the emotion in all of its nuances before I can truly capture it in text or music. This cathartic honesty can discuss anything from who we are, where we are, when we are or even the intersections and realities outside of those paradigms. In art, you have packaged your nuanced feelings and experiences into something legible, and in frequency, that intimate exchange creates and enhances community.

For me, engaging with the poetry, music, and visual art of other Black queer creatives not only connects me to the artist themself–as it is through the intimacy of art that I love their loves and grieve their griefs with them– but connects me with the incessant creativity within myself. Art establishes this reciprocal and interdependent relationship between the self and the community because it is in seeing the beauty of your community that you see the beauty within yourself. In practice and without the recent opposition, this looks like organizing regular artistry-centered opportunities for Black queer and trans community building. However, because of SB-17, the organizations that would go about this essential work for many minority communities have been defunded, displaced, and dismantled.

Because of this adversity and the culmination of past struggles, this artistic practice is also an archival and survival practice. Art for many people is not simply for art’s sake but for history’s sake as it captures our cultural, political, and mental landscapes in something that will always be lucid to future audiences. In many ways artists are historians, capturing cultural environments in a variety of practical and emotional dimensions as well as declaring their presence and relevancy in them. Recognizing the importance and gravitas of this process leads us to understand the importance of creating and defending spaces for Black queer art practice and community building against legislation like SB-17.

However, in this grand practice of cultivation and preservation, I do not want us to lose sight of other essential elements to community building and preservation. One thing that I have learned recently is that nothing is mundane. Advocacy begins in coffee shops and solidarity in friendships. We must see the profundity in friends gathering to eat and the philosophy you create in conversation. The institutions for advocacy must be founded upon a pre-established connection and friendship, as it is that love and intimacy that is the impetus for the manifestation of a better world.

I would advise other aspiring advocates to first understand that advocating for your community means advocating for yourself and for those you love. There is an underappreciated relationship between the self and the community, it turns out that some of the most profound acts of rebellion and service are actually acts of self-love and compassion.

In these challenges, finding joy despite it all has been an essential practice. I experience the most joy when I am in my Blackness. To me, being Black means being an artist. I love being Black because I love being an artist. Being an artist means being an alchemist, performing emotional miracles by transmuting the very fiber of suffering into beauty. My people have been given straw in slavery and have made gold in our arts. To be Black means to make blues from blood, soul food from scraps, and jazz from Jim Crow. To be Black means that suffering is not an affliction but a medium asking us what we will make of it. To be Black means that creation is medicine, is rebellion. I am most in my Blackness when I am performing this alchemy in my poetry and music, and it is this performance that brings me the most joy. It is for these reasons that I love on-campus organizations like Obsidian, the Black Queer and Trans Collective, and the entirety of the African & African Diaspora Studies program and affiliations. I believe these programs recognize the importance of this often neglected paradigm of Blackness and have been great sources of rapture and reprieve for me.

Through my journey, I hope to build towards a campus that is saturated in the micro and macro level with community interconnectedness and interdependence. One thing that SB-17 taught us is that collaboration is survival and that survival is resistance. In a world that forces and institutionalizes isolation, true solidarity, artistry, love, and community are our greatest apparatuses for change. It is our duty to not only the Black queer community but to Gaza, to the Congo, and to humanity to salvage and maintain these avenues for interconnectivity in a post SB-17 campus.