Over the past several days since I posted my recap about the CLIK Magazine Elite 25 Awards held in Atlanta, I have received numerous emails asking where were the lesbians?
Good question. Let’s discuss.
To begin, CLIK Magazine, to my knowledge, is magazine that caters to the Black gay male community. While there have been stories relating to Black lesbians and even Black lesbian contributors, the magazine has been primarily focused on Black males, be they gay, bisexual, or transgender. In fact, if you look at the covers for 2006, you will note that only one woman appeared on the cover and it was author Terry McMillan and that cover story had to do with the down low and her ordeal.
Dwight Powell, the editor-and-chief of CLIK specifically came up with the idea to host the awards due to a concern that Black gays were not being recognized for their achievements from either the white gays or the Black community. He felt that we shouldn’t be waiting on others to do what we can do ourselves. I agree.
The process through which the nominations came about was that CLIK Magazine’s subscribers (print and email) were allowed to cast ballots earlier this year for people in various categories. From the nominations, the list was narrowed down to the top contenders in each category thus providing the finalists for the awards. From the finalists, input was given from the CLIK staff and the honorees were chosen and awarded in Atlanta.
Add to that, the fact that nearly all of the Black SGL/LGBT bloggers mentioned something about the awards on their blogs and links on where to vote. This ensured even more that folks online would know about it and be able to have their say.
Now the fact that there were only three woman nominated out of 150 nominees I think speaks more about us as Black lesbians, than CLIK Magazine. After all, CLIK only used the votes that were cast to narrow it down to the finalists. In essence, our peers chose the winners.
So where is the Black lesbian community from a national perspective?
Sure, we all know Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Meshell N’Degeocello, and Cheryl Swoopes, but what about the rest of us. Where are we?
At one time Black lesbians did have Gay Black Female Magazine connecting us from coast to coast, but publisher Stephanie Wynn has long since put that magazine to rest. It was a great magazine, both online and in print, but not widely supported by the community through subscriptions and advertising dollars.
Granted in a few states there are magazines geared towards Black lesbians including Tomboyz Quarterly out of Washington D.C., but by and large most Black lesbian news is available online only. Which begs the questions, outside of ourselves, do people know who we are and what we are doing?
I agree with FemmeNoir’s Angela Odom that there are many Black lesbians doing big things in the community from coast to coast. To name a few that I can think of, I would include: Marquita Thomas of Out and About, Francine Ramsey of Zuna Institute, artist Hanifah Walidah, Zandra Conway with In the Life Atlanta, producer/writer Tajamika Paxton, bloggers Angela Odom and Pam Spaulding, writer Samiya Bashir , filmmakers Debra Wilson, Kamika Dunlap, and Amber Sharp, business owners Jewel and Rue Thais-Williams, political activists Brenda Crawford and Vallerie Wagner and I could go on. My point is, do those of us who are not in the life, in terms of belonging to this online network, even know that we exist and what we’ve done? I think at times, we take for granted that we do, especially if we are not on their radar.
Also, I remember with “Noah’s Arc” when we were just getting started the criticism from the lesbian community as well towards Patrik-Ian Polk for not creating lesbian characters on the show. I remember that Patrik would explain that “Noah’s Arc” can’t be everything to everybody and that he created his show to reflect what he knew, the lives of Black gay men. Sure, throughout the second season, lesbian characters were eventually introduced, but “Noah’s Arc” was always about the lives of its main characters, Black gay men. Did that make it a bad show? No.
I agree that Black lesbians should be recognized for their accomplishments in politics, media, arts and entertainment, sports, activism and everywhere else that we excel. Do I want to pressure CLIK into acknowledging Black lesbians if we’re not their focus? No. I’d much rather work within the lesbian community to see how we might be able to pull of our own awards ceremony. But how do we do that?
To date, I can think of a handful of organizations that cater specifically to Black lesbian woman and none of them have national recognition except for maybe United Lesbians of African Heritage (ULOAH) and the Zuna Institute, both based in California. Which is not to say that Black lesbian organizations aren’t doing good and relevant work, but we cannot take for granted that everyone knows what we are doing, especially those of us who are not activists, bloggers, or online. Look, I’m online and have to say there are things going on that even I don’t know about that involve Black lesbians.
I think the CLIK awards were fabulous and proved to all that if you want to do something there’s nothing holding you back except for you. And with that said, ladies, the ball is in our court. We can do the exact same thing but our way if we work together to pull it off.
Ideas off the top of my head include building it into the perhaps one of the national events like Zuna’s National Black Lesbian Conference or ULOAH’s Sistahfest for 2007. Or maybe, we can create a unique event that stands on its own. Either way, it’s going to involve us working together to pull it off.
Message to Stephanie Wynn: Bring back Gay Black Female Magazine, we need it!
Message to Black lesbian community: If she brings it back are we going to support it?