Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Where you can find it: http://www.amazon.com/Binti-Nnedi-Okorafor/dp/0765385252/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445846804&sr=1-1&keywords=binti
Why you should get it: Okorafor hits it out of the park again with this story. You have a strong, young female protagonist who is willing to take a risk. But this story is an interesting exploration of culture, what it means to defy it and the ways cultures clash when trying to communicate. An excellent space academy adventure.
Author: Valjeanne Jeffers
Where you can find it: http://www.amazon.com/Immortal-Second-Valjeanne-Jeffers/dp/1441480897/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445846535&sr=1-4&keywords=immortal+valjeanne
Why you should get it: This story almost gives a Blade Runner vibe when approaching some of its more dystopic elements. But you get a sensual love story in the mix of it that you can tell is scribed by the hands of an experienced black woman. It’s an interesting mix of genres in this first of three books.
Title: Once Upon a Time in Afrika
Author: Balogun Ojetade
Where you can find it: http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Afrika-Sword-Novel/dp/0980084237/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445846115&sr=1-1&keywords=once+upon+a+time+in+afrika
Why you should get it: Are you interested in Africa? Do you like action? Do you want your action to come from an authentic source? This book can satisfy all three of those needs. Not only does this book do our cultural heritage proper justice, but you can also trust the action is coming from lived experience. Check it out!
Title: From Here to Timbuktu
Author: Milton Davis
Where you can find it: http://www.amazon.com/Here-Timbuktu-Milton-J-Davis/dp/0996016732/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445845811&sr=1-1&keywords=from+here+to+timbuktu
Why you should get it: Have you ever wanted to see a world where the African slaves in American rose up and carved out a land for themselves? This book gives you just that along with strong black characters, a daring adventure and enough juicy visuals to match any high budget movie.
Name: RuPaul Andre Charles
Distinction: A huge figure in the LGBT community, particularly on the drag scene.
Brief History: Born in San Diego, RuPaul moved to Atlanta at a young age and the city would see the launch of a long and stories career. RuPaul achieved international fame as a drag queen with the hit song “Supermodel (You Better Work)” and later dueted with Elton John on the song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. RuPaul has written books, been in movies, had a talk show and most recently has been at the helm of a reality show.
Importance: I’ve haven’t heard this term applied to RuPaul, but it should be; mogul. And I think having people with that kind of versatility and power in the open does nothing but help the wider community.
Name: Langston Hughes
Distinction: One of the greatest poets of the 20th century hands down. He wrote countless works of poetry, prose and plays throughout his life. After spending some time in Mexico, he became a part of the roaring literary movement known as The Harlem Renaissance. He was among the first to incorporate jazz rhythms and dialect into poetry. Langston lived a global life and brought the issues facing urban blacks at the time to a global stage.
Importance: Along with Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes is one of my personal heroes when it comes to writing and just life period. Langston Hughes is another symbol of what we can achieve despite diversity. His accomplishments are many and he was never afraid to take on life. I think there’s a certain character and courage to this man that should inspire us. He wrote with complete honesty about race in a time when such honesty could very well get you killed.
Name: Wanda Sykes
Distinction: An American comedian, writer, actress, and voice artist.
Brief History: She earned the 1999 Emmy Award for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America. Sykes has publicly expressed being devastated after California voters passed state Proposition 8. She said: “with the legislation that they passed, I can’t sit by and just watch. I just can’t do it.” She has continued to be active in same-sex marriage issues hosting events and emceeing fundraisers.
Importance: She has a platform and she uses it. Social justice has to be the business of everyone.
Name: Frank Ocean
Distinction: An American singer, songwriter and rapper. Ocean started his career as a ghostwriter for artists such as John Legend, Justin Bieber, and Brandy.
Brief History: A member of alternative hip hop collective OFWGKTA also known as Odd Future, his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, was released to critical acclaim in 2011. Ocean became one of the first major African-American music artists to announce that he had once fallen in love with someone of the same sex.
Importance: Major, popular figures coming out into the public eye is important for representation and acceptance. His bravery will be remembered as a bedrock in the future.
Name: Ruth Ellis
Distinction: Was an African-American woman who became widely known as the oldest surviving open lesbian, and LGBT rights activist at the age of 100
Brief History: Her parents were born in the last years of slavery in Tennessee. Ellis’ mother died when she was a teen. She came out as a lesbian around 1915, and graduated from Springfield High School in 1919, at a time when fewer than seven percent of African Americans graduated from secondary school. In the 1920s, she met the only woman she ever lived with, Ceciline “Babe” Franklin. They moved together to Detroit, Michigan in 1937 where Ellis became the first American woman to own a printing business in that city. Throughout her life, Ellis was an advocate of the rights of gays and lesbians, and of African Americans. She died in her sleep at her home.
Importance: For those who think this struggle is new or someone the LGBT community materialized out of thin air twenty years ago, please check this woman out.
Name: B.T. Jones
Distinction: An American artistic director, choreographer and dancer. Jones has received numerous awards for his work.
Brief History: Jones choreographed and performed worldwide as a soloist and duet company with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. Creating more than 100 works for his own company, Jones has also choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, AXIS Dance Company, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet and Diversions Dance Company, among others.
Importance: Art is how you change hearts and minds. I think the LGBT community’s involvement in pop culture is one of the ways it has successfully maneuvered itself into the mainstream.