Dear Pride Family,
In a time of so much struggle and strife I must recenter, realign, and ask myself, “what calls me to this work? What keeps me engaged and committed ?” This is the self-reflection we find ourselves toying with in the midnight hour. With all this 6 ft tall (depending on the heel) dark skin nonbinary bearded finery and optimistic demeanor, you’d probably think to yourself “oh wow, Amber St. James is so confident and brave”.
Yes, that is true. But, more often than not, I find myself trying to navigate a world that sees me and decides I am not worthy— a world that continues to fight for legislation that would see me erased before it sees me free. In a world like this, it is easy to be brought to rage almost daily. This rage quelled by the fear of white supremacy, whiteness and anti-blackness ever-punishing Black folks for their emotions. This rage is quelled by seeing so many of our family and community attacked and taken from us.
In those moments of activation and rage, I have found my fire. I have found my calling to this work. I push back and show the world we are worthy. We can rewrite the story. We can take the driver’s seat with the power of the ancestors who led us here. This is why I am called to this transformative, life-saving work that allows us all to be the history makers now.
I’ve captured the hearts and minds of many (both on and off the stage). I make history now and the impact is felt on and off the stage. I can’t help but reflect on the many amazing Black queer brains that have come before me. Those history-makers who brought me to this precipice, like Bayard Rustin, Marsha P Johnson, and Stormé DeLarverie.
I think of our very own local Trans and Queer Icons like Tracie Jada O’Brien, or Vertez Burks, the amazing mind and one of the innovators behind the founding of San Diego’s Lesbians and Gays of African Descent United in 1989.
I reflect on the work of Vertez and the ways she created space and opportunity for folks of color (specifically Black folks) to engage in the parts of their identity that the world critiqued, shamed, and silenced. I am inspired and filled with hope as I find myself mirroring her legacy as a space creator and community leader… and fighter. It’s nothing new for black and brown folks to be an oppositional force pushing back against systems of oppression and systemic institutions of discrimination. Black lives and Black existence has, and continues, to move us all toward liberation.
Shane James/Amber St. James