June 11th 2019
As Pride month comes to a close the African Student Organization at SUNY Binghamton, want to both acknowledge and celebrate the POC LGBTQ+ community. Unknown to many, since the late 1800s, saloons, cabarets, speakeasies, rent parties, and drag balls were spaces where LGBTQ identities were not only visible but openly and enthusiastically celebrated. At the turn of the 20th century during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, a specifically black LGBTQ culture began to emerge. Many of the movement’s leaders were openly gay or identified as having varied sexualities including Angelina Weld Grimké, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Alain Locke, and Richard Bruce Nugent among various others. In direct correlation with the eruption and evolution of black literature, art, and music, the movement revolutionized discourse surrounding conventional language, social structure, and the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality. For decades since, Harlem has continued to be a vibrant site of of LGBTQ art, activism, and culture. Developed out of Harlem's elaborate drag competitions known as "balls", a highly stylized form of dance was born. Between the 1960s and 1980s, Vogue took the neighborhood by storm and the once glamorous theatricality that used to define ballroom culture transformed into intensified contest's or "vogue battles." Using dance, the largely black and Latino Voguers would “read” each other, and those who “threw the best shade” would often be determined the winner. Several competing factions contended with one another to receive trophies and protect their "house's" reputation. In an environment of mutual respect and compassion, creative performances through voguing were used as an outlet for comfort, self-expression and a peaceful means to settle disputes among rivals. To this day, vogue offers a sense of identity, belonging, and dignity in a world that has yet to fully accept and value the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the globe. Facing both racism and colorism in the gay community, and homophobia and transphobia within the Black community, QPOC people often don't have the luxury to feel like, or be themsleves around other members of their own community, so they make supportive, inclusive spaces of their own. Now more than ever, as the crisis of violence against black trans people persists we must reflect on the will and determination of the LGBTQ+ community to not be silenced, for those who continue to fight everyday for gay liberation and trans rights in the face of marginalization and violence, there is no limit to pride month.