Black History Month Spotlight: Shunda K and Sheryl Swoopes

 
 

As Black History Month comes to a close, AfterEllen.com continues to celebrate out black women in the entertainment industry beyond February. Our main goal is to promote visibility, and as a group that is often marginalized from mainstream media, out black women persist to further their careers and overcome obstacles of not only homophobia, but racism as well. We hope that you have enjoyed the weekly spotlight and continue to celebrate and highlight the out women worldwide that make our society a gay-friendlier, all-inclusive place.

Shunda K

As a former member of the Tampa hip-hop outfit Yo! Majesty, the outspoken Shunda K is now flying solo to spread her message of spirituality, social change, and — of course — having a good time. Though she left Domino Records — the indie label that released Yo! Majesty’s first EP because they didn’t “move quickly enough” for her — Shunda K presses on, having already released 42 new tracks since 2009. The tracks are divided up into Best Eva Written and Kollaborations, the latter of which features artists like Peaches and Scream Club’s Cindy Wonderful.

In a 2008 interview with AfterEllen, the quick-talking MC said, “I’m more than just an artist. I’m more than just a Black chick from the ‘hood. I have an education. The most important thing is I’m on a mission and I have a heart.”

Shunda K’s message of equality and acceptance is of primary importance to her solo career, as she wants to represent the struggles of oppressed groups, while still making danceable beats. At her high-energy live performances, she has showcased other queer black artists, such as Supahero GoGo Star, an electro-funk gay male duo, in an effort to increase representation in the music industry. A workaholic, Shunda K is also an entrepreneur, managing her own production company of upcoming artists, while trying to find distribution.

Shunda K exemplifies the combination of music and social commentary, and under her alias, “DAT GIRL” (“divinely attributed to God in real life”), she evokes her Christian upbringing. Though she has faced comments from DJs who claimed that her music was “too gay,” Shunda K continues to collaborate with artists worldwide in a manner that defies labels, categories, and traditions.

Sheryl Swoopes

Sheryl Swoopes is one of, if not the most, recognizable name in women’s basketball. Though she was dropped by Seattle Storm last year after an off-season of low scoring and a bulging disc that forced her to miss the All-Star game, Swoopes continues to be a household name, hero, and often hailed as the “female Michael Jordan." (I prefer to think Michael Jordan is the male Sheryl Swoopes).

The three-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA MVP was the very first player signed to the WNBA back in 1996, and from then on, helped to usher in a new era of televised, publicized, and valorized women’s sports. Though recently, women’s sports, including basketball, have experienced a decline in game attendance, audience viewership, and salary cuts, Swoopes is an established icon, able to fill seats and garner enthusiasm.

Not only is the 38-year-old a solidified all-star athlete, she also came out as the first out black female athlete in 2005, signaling a highly publicized struggle that involved her partner, Alisa Scott, whose coaching career with the Houston Comets took a fall as a result. That Swoopes was and still is one of the most famous female basketball players, forced Americans nationwide to come to terms with a talented, successful, publicly out lesbian. Nonetheless, her sponsorship with Nike flourished — she has her own shoe, “Air Swoopes" — and her game remained just as tight. She signed a prominent deal with Olivia Travel and, most importantly, she could live her life openly and happily.

Today, Swoopes raises her son with partner Scott, coaches middle school basketball teams, runs Boys and Girls Clubs, and promotes community outreach. While Swoopes’s career has taken a different direction, her legacy lives on as a high-profile, out Black athlete, who will continue to pave the way for other women in sports, both queer and straight.

Please help us to continue to celebrate out black women in entertainment and media by letting us know who you are interested in knowing more about on AfterEllen.com.

 
 

Tags: , ,