LGBT Rights and the Black Panthers: The Queer Revolution Begins with Self Love

Huey Newton Jpg

My Grandmother loves to give me self-care tips. Her basic premise is that the only person who can take care of you the right way is you; you can’t wait on your mama, daddy, sister, brother or grandmother to do it for you.

Her favorite to dish-out is this one: “Don’t tell anybody how much money you make or how much money you have. Telling people how much money you makes invites them into your household, tells them how far they can dig into your pockets and helps them dictate how you spend your money.” Of course she quickly follows up by asking, “How much money do you make?”

We live in a society that tells us in words that it is more virtuous to always place your brother ahead of yourself, but also teaches us that only the strongest survive, and that you must be able to fend for yourself. Where we are taught the value of hard work and doing things for you, yet the wheels of government and commerce don’t turn properly without someone depending on or owing something to another. It is in this climate that the words of black, lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, ring their truest meaning.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self –preservation and that is an act of political warfare. ~Audre Lorde

As a student of the civil rights movement, the organization that I revered the most was the Original Black Panther Party. I grew up in Richmond, CA, next door to the their home base of Oakland, and my first encounter with the BPP occurred on the day of Huey Newton’s death.

I was 10 years old, on a staycation at a local amusement park. My family and I were having breakfast when the news flash came on that Huey had been murdered. The newscaster went on to recount the Panther’s role in the civil rights struggle, complete with words like “notorious”, “gun-toting”, “subversive”, and every other negative word they could think of to drive the point home that we’d all finally been released from the “public nuisance” J Edgar Hoover had never been able to quite rid the country of. I made it my business, that day, to learn as much as I could about Huey and the Black Panthers.

To this day it, is still so shocking to me that so many negative words were attached to the Black Panthers for having the gall to love their community enough to make it their job to protect it. Imagine that. The original BPP believed it was their job to make sure children had food to eat, were properly tested for diseases, had affordable housing, and so on. They also believed it was their job to educate members of the black community on their rights, and arm them with resources that would enable them to thrive in America.

This is not to say that the BPP as an organization was perfect — we know that they were not. But was revolutionary about their existence was their platform; the idea that black people needed to be committed to loving each other. Loving yourself will push you to be the best you can be and to make sure everything around you is just as beautiful. Loving yourself will push you to fight for the rights of your brother because by extension they are your rights as well.

Don’t you let them tell you what to do… defy gravity. ~Donnie
The first step in queer black revolution MUST be self-love. As President Obama would say, you must have the Audacity of Hope. You must have a fervent love of every aspects of yourself. And, do not be ashamed to stand firm in who you are as the dignified beautiful person that you are. I tell myself how wonderful and smart and cute I am at least once a day and I’m not ashamed to share that here.

So, to my queer black family, make sure that the world acknowledges how amazing you are; how amazing your community is. Go out and receive every blessing that the world has for you; every legal right that this country owes to you. Don’t be ashamed to believe that you are deserving enough for anything. As Grandmother would say, “If you don’t, nobody else will.”

But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.