Moving from the middle of June and winding toward the end, Pride Month 2021 has yielded greater awareness through a number of informative campaigns—grassroots, non-profit, and corporate—yet much work remains, particularly within the portion of the LGBTQIA+ community that is represented by Black people.
Names such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Nell Carter, Luther Vandross, RuPaul Andre Charles, Janelle Monet, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Billy Porter are well known within the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. A new generation of Black LGBTQIA+ artists and activists is rising to continue the important work performed by those who came before. Some of these names are already recognizable, while others are emerging, yet one quality that they all share is that they are making a great impact on the world as young people who are talented, Black, and proud members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The three artists listed below are helping elevate their craft and educate regarding the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and their experiences as Black people in this group.
First-generation Nigerian American artist Serena Isioma blends a unique sound of hip-hop, R&B, and indie sounds. Within the last six months, Isioma has released two EPs—“Sensitive” and “The Leo Sun Sets.” Identifying with the pronouns they, theirs, and them, Isioma is also a storyteller, drawing from personal experiences as a Black member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In their “Stop Calling The Police On Me,” Isioma shares their message through lyrics that demand: “Stop calling the police on me, yeah; This is not the help I need, no; You don't live the life I lead; You don't see the path I see, no; You don't breathe the air I breathe; We're on different frequencies; So if you had believed in mе; You would have stopped calling the police on me.”
For Pride Month, Isioma secured a place as a member of skate-lifestyle brand Vans’ “Together as Ourselves” campaign that celebrates artists within the LGBTQIA+ community by showcasing the processes through which they create.
“I know that there’s a lot of people like me, but they’re just not shown,” Isioma explained in a press statement through Vans. “So, it’s cool now that there’s people like me flourishing in whatever career they have.”
Isioma will next appear during July’s Lollapalooza, which will take place in Chicago’s Grant Park.
“Music is fun because it doesn’t have to make sense. That’s how a lot of my feelings are,” Isioma explains. “My music changes with my style and my style flows with my identity. On a song, I can just yell over a beat and people know exactly how it feels and that is the beautiful thing about music.”
A multifaceted creator, Tyris Winter engages in artistry connected with painting, dancing, and fashion, but his true calling is poetry. Originally from Palmdale, Calif., a small, rural town on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, Winter has performed at the Sundance film festival and has won different slam titles. Winter is also a social-media curator for the poetry initiative Get Lit. Recently, along with Serena Isioma, Winter was named as an ambassador to the Vans’ Together as Ourselves initiative.
“Poetry allows for me to not only escape the world but document it,” Winter said in a press release from the Vans initiative. “I grew up not really seeing my representation so I thought if I can’t see it why don’t I be it.”
Winter has also set his sights on opportunities in film. An acting role in the movie “Downfalls High,” afforded him an opportunity to enter the world of cinema. This July, Winter will appear in “Summertime,” a film in which he acts and also secured writing credit.
“I grew up not really seeing my representation so I thought ‘If I can’t see it why don’t I be it?’” Winter said. “Over the past year, I’ve been able to really hone in to who I want to blossom into. Everybody is going into his world the same way we are. Just trying to be their most authentic self. I’m able to hide less behind metaphors or what-ifs by taking the space for myself. And I celebrate my existence. I am so thankful to have found my community.”
The actor known for her roles in “Colombiana,” “The Hunger Games,” “Everything, Everything,” and “The Hate U Give,” had come out as pansexual in 2016, eventually confirming that she is gay. While 22-year-old Stenberg had often spoken out regarding cultural appropriation, Black Lives Matter, and racial inequities, the actor also encourages truth to self.
In 2018, LGBTQIA+ nonprofit organization The Trevor Project awarded Stenberg with its Youth Innovator Award. Upon accepting the award, Stenberg shared how she was proud to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, yet also noted that she had been fortunate to receive support and love, which is not an experience shared by all as during the processes of their coming out.
“It is so exciting to witness so many of my queer peers shine and grow and grow and grow,” Stenberg said. “It can definitely be daunting to be vulnerable in matters of personal identity when you’re navigating it in a public manner. I am really thankful for the recognition of that challenge, but I also know there are so many others who do not have that support and receive no recognition because they haven’t been afforded a public platform.”
Later in 2021, Stenberg will appear in “Dear Evan Hansen.” This film adaptation of the award-winning musical follows the experiences of high-school senior Evan Hansen, who suffers from social anxiety while searching for his true self.