It is February – LGBT and Black History Month. Lucie Wirz invites us to think about the neglected and untold stories of LGBTQI+ and Black people.
Black History Month was celebrated for the first time in 1969 by the Black United Students at Kent University in the United States. However, its origins go back to 1926 and the Negro History Week, which Carter G. Woodsen introduced, one of the first historians to study African American History. The month of February was chosen to commemorate the birthdays of two important figures of Black History: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
In June, the Pride Month celebrated to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan is often more well known as the month during which the LGBTQI+ community is being celebrated. However, less known by the public, LGBT History Month happens in February.
Those two celebrations aim to give more visibility and insights into those communities’ struggles and achievements throughout history. This year, it seems that they happen at a time when the topics of race, gender, and discrimination have never been so much at the center of attention.
The recent events in the United States shed light on the everyday obstacles, violence, and structural racism that many black people face and made this reality hard to ignore. It also led to a world-wild conversation on race. In Germany, the conversation came with an underlying assumption that racism and police violence were not such an issue in the US. However, very soon, more and more people started speaking up about the everyday racism they were facing in Germany. The commemoration of the racist attack which took place a year ago in Hanau is a reminder of it.
The Black Queer community played an essential role in the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing more insights and awareness on the specific types of discrimination that Black LGBTQI+ people face and the need to unite and include different people in the fights for social justice.
LGBT and Black History Month should be an opportunity to think about the people who have been part of those different fights and are often not mentioned in our history books and classes. How many of us learned about figures such as Audre Lord or Georges Washington Carver? LGBTQI+ and Black people’s existence and contributions are still often ignored or deliberately erased from our narratives.
The events taking place in the United States have forced us to look at how our societies are shaped, how and by whom the rules are established, which norms and representations are normalized and valued, and which ones are marginalized. We believe that it should also be a time to think about how and by whom our histories are written and which stories are told.
Other people have too often told the stories of Black and LGBTQI+ people. As important as talking about those societal issues can be creating spaces where people can tell their stories on their own, where people can be true to themselves, where they can feel whole and valuable to shape the world around them. Because rethinking the way we want to shape our world means breaking free from the idea that there is a separation between the self and societal issues. As Emilia Roig expressed it when publishing her book Why We Matter, “we are societal issues, we live through them”.*
Storytelling can be a way to regain power over one’s narratives when this narrative has too often been taken away from you and sometimes even used against you. It is time to bring in new stories and new topics to the table, and we believe that the people concerned by the issues should be the ones doing it. This is why, in the coming weeks, we would like to present to you stories from our community, told by people themselves – see our call for contributions to the GSBTB Online Magazine!