It’s February once again. Black History month once again. It is that time again when we will see many Black History month programs happening around Phoenix that honor the legacies of important and influential African-Americans that have helped develop our country and define our community. As a member of the same-gender loving community I would often attend these events wondering when I would hear the stories of individuals like myself. I knew there had to be black gays and lesbians in history that were worthy of mention in these various programs.
That is the reason the Invisible Heroes program was developed. After doing a little research I discovered the hidden (invisible) history of many of our ancestors that some within the black community would probably wish you not learn about. We have countless community leaders, historical figures and role models that have been members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately these stores are not told at all or when they are told, the part of them being same-gender loving is omitted. I thought it was time for a Black History month program that remembered and honored the legacies of gay and lesbian African-Americans.
This is our third year holding Invisible Heroes and the event is getting bigger and bigger each year. The individuals we honored this year included Sylvester (the original disco queen), Paul Winfield (actor extraordinaire), Langston Hughes (Harlem Renaissance writer), Jackie “Moms” Mabley (the original queen of comedy) and Josephine Baker (star of stage and screen and phenomenal civil rights activist).
The evening was both entertaining and educational. The hosts of the event, Babe Caylor and Arcelious Stephens, gave the evening that extra touch of elegance and class that made it just that much more spectacular. The presenters were perfectly suited. Julian French, Valley DJ turned stand-up comedian started the evening off by talking about Moms Mabley had everyone laughing hysterically. Transgender activist Antonia D’orsay happens to be bi-racial and she identified with many different aspects of the life of Josephine Baker. Stanley Bain helps with the planning of the Phoenix Film Festival and attended the event to talk about the wonderful work and terrific legacy of Paul Winfield. Mychaeltodd Robinson was friends with Sylvester and shared with us many wonderful anecdotes about the times he shared with the wonderful diva of disco. And the life of Langston Hughes was so perfectly shared by Donna McHenry who carries the Hughes tradition by being both community organizer and writer and poet.
Last year we added an awards portion to the program because we thought it was important to recognize those individuals that are still doing amazing work. Each year the awards are based on the principles of Kwanzaa. The Imani (Faith) award recipient was Robbynne Archia who is apart of the praise team at Community Church of hope. She also sings with Arizona Women in Tunes and the Full Circle Women’s Choir. The Kuumba (Creativity) award went to Nicholas Murray who in 2010 created the Dupree Arts studio. And the Kujichagulia (Self-determination) award went to HIV/AIDS activist, advocate for homeless women, and ally of the LGBT community, Ms. Miasia Pasha.
The evening was powerful. The evening was inspiring. The evening was uplifting. The energy is the room was great and it was an awesome fellowship between the LGBT community and the African-American community and a wonderful collaboration between gay and lesbians and our straight allies. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring.