Homo History 101: African American History Month

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Bessie Smith.

Robin Roberts (1960) is an American television broadcaster. Roberts is the anchor of ABC's Good Morning America. After growing up in Mississippi and attending Southeastern Louisiana University, Roberts was a sports anchor for local TV and radio stations. Roberts was a sportscaster on ESPN for 15 years (1990–2005). She became co-anchor on Good Morning America in 2005. She has been treated for breast cancer and for myelodysplastic syndrome. ESPN awarded its Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Robin Roberts at the 2013 ESPYs. On December 29, 2013, Roberts posted a photo on Facebook with a caption that read:

At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude. I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health... I am grateful for my entire family, my longtime girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.

The post was a reflection of the past year and noted her health, the status of her bone marrow transplant, and her sexual orientation. Roberts and Amber Laign, a massage therapist, have been together since 2005. Though friends and co-workers have known about her same-sex relationships, this was the first time Roberts publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation. In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month.

Bessie Smith (1894 –1937) was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on other jazz singers. Smith's recording career began in 1923.She was then living in Philadelphia, where she met Jack Gee, a security guard, whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first record was being released. During the marriage—a stormy one, with infidelity by both partners—Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, and touring in her own custom-built railroad car. Gee was impressed by the money but never adjusted to show business life or to Smith's bisexuality. In 1929, when she learned of his affair with another singer, Gertrude Saunders, Smith ended the relationship, although neither of them sought a divorce.

Nona Hendryx (1944), is an American vocalist, musician, author, and actress. Hendryx is known for her work as a solo artist as well as for being one-third of the trio Labelle who had a hit with “Lady Marmalade” Her music has ranged from, soul, funk, R&B, hard rock and new age and. Her family's last name was originally spelled with an "i"; she is a cousin of American musician Jimi Hendrix. Nona Hendryx was one of the first artists to agree to perform at the first NYC Gay Men’s Health Crisis. This led other artists to give their time and talent to the organization eventually raising millions of dollars, educating millions, and contributing to the search for a cure for AIDS.

Frank Ocean (1987), is an American singer, songwriter, and rapper. Known for his idiosyncratic musical style, Ocean first embarked on a career as a ghostwriter and in 2010 he became a member of hip-hop collective Odd Future. He released his breakout mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra to critical acclaim in 2011. It generated his first charting single "Novacane." On July 4, 2012, he published an open letter on his Tumblr blog recounting unrequited feelings he had for another young man when he was 19 years old, citing it as his first true love. He used the blog to thank the man for his influence, and also thanked his mother and other friends, saying "I don't know what happens now, and that's alright. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore...I feel like a free man." Numerous celebrities publicly voiced their support for Ocean following his announcement, including Beyonce’ and Jay-Z. Members of the hip-hop industry generally responded positively to the announcement. Tyler, The Creator also tweeted his support for Ocean, along with other members of OFWGKTA. Russell Simmons, a business magnate in the hip-hop industry, wrote a congratulatory article in Global Grind saying "Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? [...] Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.


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