For and By Philly Black Queer And Trans Artists

Wit López

Anita Cornwell. Nikki Giovanni. Alain Locke. Adrian Stanford. Clarissa Sligh. These are just a few of the elders and ancestors who laid the foundation for many Black LGBTQ+ advocates, thinkers, artists, and writers to be open about our identities in our lives and our work. Philadelphia is, and historically has been, a central hub for the cultivation of Black LGBTQ+ creativity in the United States. As a Black queer trans artist and cultural advocate, the Chronicling Resistance Fellowship gave me the space and resources to center the voices of Black LGBTQ+ creative elders and to archive the current experiences and contributions of some of my Black LGBTQ+ artist and writer contemporaries.

Anita Cornwell, Black Lesbian in White America (Tallahassee, FL: Naias Press, 1983)

Anita Cornwell personal and literary papers, 1949-2009, Ms. Coll. 127.
John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia, PA.

In the process of my archival research, I gained a new hero in Black lesbian feminist writer Anita Cornwell. This book, Black Lesbian in White America, was the first collection of essays published by a Black lesbian in the United States. The book shares personal essays of Cornwell’s, as well as an interview she did with one of her friends and fellow Black lesbian feminist, Audre Lorde. In the book’s introduction, from January of 1981, Cornwell writes,

I have included the interview with poet Audre Lorde because I believe she is one of our most courageous and compassionate role models and thus is an inspiration for all womyn everywhere.

On the back of the book, Ann Allen Shockley’s blurb review still rings true almost 40 years later: “A fine collector’s item of writings by a precursor black lesbian who dared to speak before it became fashionable.” While I don’t necessarily agree with all of Anita Cornwell’s views, I deeply respect her courage to speak up and out as someone living fully in her Black, queer womanhood.

Adrian Stanford, “remembrance of rittenhouse square” in Black and Queer (Boston, MA: The Good Gay Press), 1977.

LGBT poetry, prose, music, and photography chapbooks, 1965-2017, Ms. Coll. 58.
John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia, PA.

The depths of my appreciation for the works of Adrian Stanford and his book, Black and Queer, are immeasurable. I love that he was loudly Black, queer, and opinionated in ways that I haven’t read in any other book, ever. The book was published in 1977 and the poetry within was written some time between 1961–1977, possibly even before that. Stanford’s brutal honesty as a poet is refreshing.

One poem that is particularly entrancing is about a Black drag queen named Sarah in Rittenhouse Square Park, “remembrances of rittenhouse square.” There isn’t much in local archives about Sarah, but this poem captures how she is loved. I wonder if the poem alludes to her death, with lines like, “and we of lesser divinity paid homage to her,” and later, “our priestess has another temple now,” only to end with, “ah, good queen sarah, why did you never speak of reality?”

The very last poem is such a lovely way to end the book:

I love much
therefore I am greatly despised
yet as I am hated
so shall I be adored

May Adrian Stanford’s work, and the work of Black and queer artists everywhere, always be adored.

Tryna Keep a Straight Face Wit López, 2021

Digital Quilt Self-portrait
Digital photography

Resistance rooted in


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