There Is No Culture Without LGBTQIA+ Pride

By Tracey Onyenacho Jun 24, 2020

In honor of PRIDE month, Colorlines presents #PrideIsCulture, a digital series that aims to bring light to the resilience of artists and cultural creators of color within the LGBTQIA+ community. From drag performers, burlesque dancers and DJs to ballroom performers, poets and comedians, LGBTQIA+ folks of color have always contributed to underground and mainstream culture that still influences our lives today.

Historically, LGBTQIA+ artists of color have captured the grief and rage in the movement against individualized and systematic oppression, especially at the hands of the police, sexists, homophobes, transphobes and white supremacists. 

Icons such as Josephine Baker used her legacy of erotic dance as a comedic twist on Black stereotypes and as a successful cover for aiding the resistance against Nazis.

Frida Kahlo painted herself in lively portraits as an affirmation of her existence as a bisexual Latinx woman.

Artists like James Baldwin, Gladys Bentley and Chavela Vargas openly expressed their love for gay and lesbian romantic relationships through books and songs. 

LGBTQIA+ folks of color have always used their art as a means of resistance against oppression and as a contribution to the fight for queer and trans liberation.

We recognize in this moment that they are still fighting for their lives. During this time of grief and rage, we honor the lives of Tony McDade, a Black trans man who was killed by the police. We also remember Nina Pop, Monika Diamond and Dominique "Rem’mie" Fells, whose lives were also taken way too soon. We hold heavy the significance of this moment of mass protests for Black lives, especially Black queer and transgender people’s lives, who ask only to live in freedom, love and peace. 

In one epidemic stands another: the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to securing their health, queer and trans folks, especially many queer and trans artists of color who rely on steady gigs to financially survive, have experienced a large number of job losses due to the shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the companies who had to let go of their workers may not be hiring queer and trans folks back when the country reopens. LGBTQIA+ folks, especially Black queer and trans folks, have a lot to be mad about.

We are grateful to those queer and trans artists who are expressing the collective rage against the current moment with graphics, dances, chants, and posters. We also are grateful to the queer and trans artists who have reminded us to celebrate the joy and resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community. LGBTQIA+ folks have shown us that their pride does not stop after one month. It does not stop when queer and trans folks are killed by police. It does not stop when straight and cis people do not validate them. PRIDE is everywhere and every day. 

PRIDE is celebrating the fact that LGBTQIA+ folks are still here and will always be here. PRIDE is seeing their influence in every part of our world, even when straight and cis folks won’t give them credit for it. PRIDE is being seen by the community. PRIDE is saying their names when they’re alive and not just in death. PRIDE is a daily reminder that LGBTQIA+ folks deserve joy and freedom like everyone else. PRIDE is the daily reminder to live despite fear and oppression. PRIDE is the creativity birthed from the minds of LGBTQIA+ folks who have created new lanes whenever they’ve been blocked. PRIDE is finding love and comfort in the homes they have built for themselves. PRIDE is seeing that straight and cis folks will always try to imitate LGBTQIA+ culture but can never replicate it. Because queer and trans folks make the culture. Because PRIDE IS CULTURE. 

Throughout the series, we highlight different LGBTQIA+ artists and cultural creators of color, present and past, who have used their art form to build community, to express joy and resilience, to exercise creativity in being and to move in celebration of life. You can amplify their voices by sharing their responses and their art via FacebookTwitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PrideIsCulture. Be sure to tag Colorlines so we can see how you celebrate the brilliance of their community.