Just a little over six months ago, this past August, marked the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship that reached America. That ship arrived at Point Comfort in what was then the British colony of Virginia, and it had onboard 20 to 30 enslaved Africans.
To mark the occasion The New York Times launched The 1619 Project, asking us to reframe what it would mean to seriously consider 1619 as the start of our nation’s birth, as opposed the date we’re all taught in elementary school, 1776 (the adoption of Declaration of Independence). Doing so requires placing the fights and contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country. But more than that, it requires never losing track that anti-black racism is at the very root of what we even call America. Project curator Nikole Hannah-Jones reminds us that black people have always been “the prefecters of this democracy;” after all “No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it.”
When I sat down to write this post on Autostraddle, a queer and proudly indie digital magazine, I didn’t expect that I’d open by referencing a large-scale media corporation like The New York Times, and certainly not quoting a project that’s over a half-year old. But Hannah-Jones’ demand that we reimagine the stories we’ve told ourselves about who we are as a people still hasn’t shaken from my bones. Without consciously knowing it, her words rumbled in the back of my head as I planned out the month ahead.
This February – in the year of our (Audre) Lorde 2020 – at Autostraddle we’re talking about 20/20 vision and dedicating our Black History Month in observance of “Black Clarity.” If it’s one thing that not only the Americas, but the global black diaspora, has taught us – it’s that there is no such thing as “winning” within a system inherently designed on the degradation of your own humanity. Or to quote queen mother Audre, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to burn that fucker to the ground first. We have to tell our own stories, and create our own timeline; we have to nurture ourselves on our own terms.
As we imagine new worlds for ourselves as queer black women, we want to know –who were the visionaries of our past? And who are those visionaries right now? As queer and trans black people, who have we’ve loved or looked up to? When did have we found clarity about our purpose? Who helped us imagine our own future?
We want this year’s Black History Month to be serious, as the month’s title often implies. But also – we want it to be sexy, fun (and funny), JOYful. We want it to reflect the multiple ways that black people see ourselves and walk through our world.
And so, we begin it here. By writing ourselves back into our own history.
To kick off this Black History Month, I’ve collected some the best of Autostraddle’s past. These are only some of the ways that black lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans women and non-binary folks have found ourselves and written ourselves. We’ll here all month, and every month thereafter, giving you content that’s uniquely black and feminist and queer, much like what you’ll read below.
Spend some time this weekend, this month (and far beyond February) reading black queer people.
Happy Black History Month.
What to Read and Leave Feeling Inspired
What to Read and Learn Something New
What to Read and Remember That Not Everything About Black People Has to Be Traumatic
What to Read When You’ve Got Time (#Longreads. Group Projects. And Personal Essays.)