While we’re commemorating pride month during the pandemic, let’s not forget how we got here. As a queer woman in 2020, I owe my comfort and my privilege to the trans women of color who risked their lives for the gay liberation movement at the Stonewall Riots. The 1969 riots were a violent and necessary part of the movement, and would not have been possible without people like Marsha P. Johnson, a trans LQBTQ rights activist known for throwing the first brick at Stonewall. She went on to establish activist organization STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) alongside Silvia Rivera in 1970.
Today’s protests challenging the racist foundation and brutality of the police system echo Stonewall in ways that cannot be ignored. Trans women of color are still fighting for us, and being disproportionately violated for doing so. The HRC tracked 26 trans deaths caused by violence in 2019. The majority of the victims were black trans women. While it is essential to memorialize how far we’ve come, we must also be aware that the fight is not over.
Throughout history, music has played an essential role in activism. Protest songs speaking out against the vietnam war are still loved by many today. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind” to name a few.
Music remains a vital tool for radical joy, release, and resistance during this celebration of identity. That’s why I’m reshaping my musical library to amplify the voices of queer people of color. This playlist is a jumping off point including a range of genres, and I encourage you to check out the other music these artists have released.
Dua Saleh, originally from Sudan, has been a poet since childhood. Her latest song, released May 30th, “body cast,” addresses police brutality in the United States and commemorates the black lives we have lost. Rina Sawayama, a Japanese-British musician, expresses the complexities of bisexuality through infectiously danceable pop and house music. Her latest album came out in April, titled “SAWAYAMA.” This captivating work addresses race, sexuality, and familial grievances.
Josiah Wise, released the project titled “serpentwithfeet” in 2018. These otherworldly tracks blur the lines between spirituality and sexuality. Through a mix of rich gospel sound and sensual lyrics, we are invited into the mind of a gay man celebrating his experience with love and loss. Moses Sumney’s “Cut Me” brought tears to my eyes with buttery vocals and stunning range. Sumney’s newest two part album “Grae,” came out in May. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. The album is a stunning portrait of queer lust, defiance, and rage.
These artists and many others allow a deeper look into the nuances of sexuality, and identity. Through personal lyrics, music has the power to move the collective self and create an intimate world in which we are all welcome. Through art let’s enjoy ourselves and celebrate ourselves, while continuing to educate ourselves on the brave people who got us here!