In case you didn’t know, February is Black History Month. All month long, African-Americans are being recognized and celebrated for their contributions to science, politics, literature, sports, social justice, and so many other areas. AfterEllen.com has stepped in and will be celebrating both the out black women in America as well as the black women who have played gay or bi. We hope you enjoy and, as always, we encourage suggestions!
A Jamaica native and current resident of New York City, Staceyann Chin is an artist, feminist, activist, and true visionary. Those who have had the privilege of attending one of her many campus slam poetry performances (like myself) or reading her memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, know that Chin has the raw talent, passion, and purpose that continues to revolutionize the way we think about race, gender, sexuality, and discovering self-identity.
The 37-year-old’s wildly successful career is hard to categorize: she writes, performs spoken word, educates, and is active in the political community. Her work spans from published pieces in The New York Times and Washington Post, top honors in Poetry Slam competitions worldwide, co-writing and performing in Russell Simmons‘ Tony-nominated Def Poetry Jam, poetry workshops in Denmark and London, off-Broadway shows, films, and TV appearances on The Oprah Show and 60 Minutes.
Staceyann Chin has led a struggle since youth against violence, homophobia, sexism, and racism, and has emerged as a leader of a larger social movement. For a woman whose tumultuous childhood has provided fodder for her performance art, written work, and activism, Staceyann Chin represents the continued struggle that many of us still fight, regardless of class, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Whether Chin is electrifying the stage with her poetically irreverent spoken word or empowering the crowd at the National Equality March, we honor and thank Staceyann Chin for her endless contributions.
Comedian, actress, and TV host Wanda Sykes has quickly solidified her status as quite possibly the funniest woman on television (Ellen fans, please don’t kill me). From her HBO special I’ma Be Me, to her belly-aching gig at President Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner (Wanda Sykes does not need to see the President’s nipples, thank you very much) to her elusive late night The Wanda Sykes Show on a network notorious for being conservative, Wanda Sykes is now a household name and is breaking down all kinds of barriers for out African-American women.
Sykes’s humor combines cultural consciousness and political smartness that subversively provides social commentary and furthers her progressive ideals. Her spot in The New Adventures of Old Christine had her marry Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character just before the Proposition 8 passage and furthered an already queer-friendly show. Her acting work includes roles in Evan Almighty and Monster-In-Law, in addition to her starring role in the Comedy Central show Wanda Does It, which she also produced.
That Sykes is out and omnipresent in the media builds continued visibility for queer women and queer women of color nationwide. Her career will undoubtedly continue to thrive, encouraging more out African-American queer women and other queer women to be out and proud in the entertainment industry, while still captivating audiences and landing major roles. Visibility is essential and Wanda Sykes represents positive, commendable, and admirable visibility for all communities.
Happy Black History Month!