The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition (YGB) is made up of Black Queer folks, women, and feminist men who are fighting for Black liberation. We are queer, gender non-conforming, transmen, gay, pansexual, bisexual – just to name a few of the ways we identify or express our genders and sexualities. Our communities and base of allies and supporters reflect these identities and also include those who are heterosexual, cisgender, married, divorced, and from families headed by grandparents or even neighbors. YGB reflects a wide and diverse continuum of people, relationships, and kinships.
In our organizing, the lives of Black transwomen are just as valuable as the lives of Black cismen as our work focuses always on the intersections of racial justice and queer justice. This is our vision of the fight for Black liberation. This means that we fight for the liberation of Black LGBTQ people, studs, transwomen, and femmes in addition to those whose genders and sexualities are more normatively recognized by the state and society. We fight for liberation of all Black people across the full spectrums of gender and sexuality.
We are creating and building a movement that not only ends racist police killings against Black folks, but one that also ends homophobic and transphobic killings of Black queer and trans folks. We have an organizing approach that supports this ideology. We center the voices of those most vulnerable and impacted and have a leadership that promotes this centering.
Within YGB, we all, queer and allied, collectively, are proud to walk in the footsteps and continue the work of many Black freedom fighters before us, many of whom themselves are queer—such as Angela Davis, Bayard Rustin, Miss Major, Cece McDonald, Alice Walker, Tracy Chapman, James Baldwin, and Audre Lorde.
We ourselves are recognized nationally as leaders of this very work! Many members of our leadership are leading theorists on the intersections of queer and critical race theory, have given keynotes at prestigious universities and conferences on the subject, and have been part of prestigious gatherings, such as the first White House Summit on LGBT leaders of color.
As leaders in this work, particularly as it relates to the new national legislation supporting marriage equality, one of the most common things we hear is, “the Black community is more homophobic than the white community.” This is a myth! There are homophobic people in all communities. Historically, the mainstream Queer community and the Black community have been pitted against one another, as a divide and conquer strategy that prevents creating an intersectional movement. It is when our Black liberation movements fully embrace all Black people that we flourish.
We also want to be clear about the subject at hand. YGB is not against marriage equality. We believe that all people should have the ability to be recognized in the relationships, intimacies, and families that they find affirming and supportive. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against people of different races who wanted to marry. In their most recent decision, they ruled it unconstitutional for states to use marriage laws to discriminate against people on the basis of their gender and sexuality. People who disagree with this latest move, or seek to limit who can marry whom on the basis of gender and sexuality, are clearly homophobic.
YGB seeks further expansion of who can be recognized as kin. Based on our experiences in Black communities we know that grandparents, neighbors, even whole communities are often doing the work of family, including getting food on the table, taking care of elders as they age, caring for ill loved ones, putting kids to bed at night, helping with their homework, and just generally keeping things together. We also know as queer folk that people in a variety of relationships, whether romantic or not, including those who are single, in polyamorous relationships, in families with nonresidential stepparents, or in families with loved ones who are incarcerated, in communally raised families, in communities of friendship, and those in the foster system, continue to experience discrimination on the basis of who they love, who they count as family, and how they express their sexuality and desire. We seek an end to those forms of discrimination as well.
The path to end all forms of state sponsored or condoned discrimination starts, we believe, with a focus on those most vulnerable and impacted. In the United States this means starting by asking what those at the intersections of Black, Brown, poor, trans, homeless, immigrant, and disability identities are experiencing and need. It also means asking those most impacted what ending discrimination against them would look like and how to make that happen.
Even as we stand against all forms of discrimination, we acknowledge that marriage is still a state institution. As queer Black people, our movement histories remind us that the state will never set us free. We dare to dream for a freedom far bigger than marriage, that truly addresses the needs of poor, Black, queer people. Victories like marriage aren’t unimportant – though largely symbolic, these victories create opportunities for hard conversations, in our communities and beyond. However, especially in this time, as Black folk are persecuted across the country, we need to center those most marginalized within our Black and queer communities.
Every 28 hours a Black person is murdered – and many of those Black people are queer. We need to put our energy into fighting for poor Black queer lives, for transwomen of color, for those living with and surviving HIV/AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and the many, many health issues impacting us. We need leadership from Black queer people, to guide both racial justice and LGBTQ liberation. When we follow the leadership of those most vulnerable and impacted, we will shift national conversations while also creating real policy change and impact. As YGB, when we say Black Lives Matter, we mean all Black lives.
Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, ygbcoalition.org
Freedom, Inc., freedom-inc.org