How to build Black LGBTQ+ power in 2023

How to build Black LGBTQ+ power in 2023
Jalen McKee-Rodriguez Photo: Provided

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, often reminds folks that with so much at stake every election for LGBTQ+ Americans, “there is no such thing as an off year.” For Black LGBTQ+ people who continue to face rampant homophobia, transphobia, and racism, that could not be more true.

In 2023, we can make real inroads in state and local government, from state legislatures to school boards. Across the country, exceptional Black LGBTQ+ leaders are stepping up to run for public office. Here are some of the candidates running this year.

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago

Provided Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

In 2019, Lori became the first Black out LGBTQ+ woman ever elected to a major U.S. city. Since her historic election, she’s undertaken an ambitious agenda of expanding opportunity and inclusive economic growth across Chicago. She led the city through the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic with tough, fair leadership. In her role, she has been a powerful voice for equality in Chicago and nationally. She is running for reelection to continue delivering for Chicagoans, including the city’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

Leslie Herod, Mayor of Denver

Provided Leslie Herod

In 2016, Leslie made history as the first Black LGBTQ+ person ever elected to the Colorado state legislature. During her time in the state House, she passed over 150 pieces of legislation, including championing a successful alternative policing program that deploys trained mental health workers and paramedics to respond to 911 calls involving mental health crises and substance misuse. Leslie will be the first woman ever elected as Mayor of Denver if elected.

Rozia Henson, Virginia House of Delegates

Provided Rozia Henson

Rozia is a community leader, activist, and grassroots organizer committed to being a voice for those who feel voiceless. He is a successful federal contractor and Program Manager for the Department of Homeland Security, a small business consultant. Currently, he serves as Commissioner of the Historical Commission, appointed by the Woodbridge District Supervisor. If elected, Rozia would be the first Black out LGBTQ+ man elected to the Virginia legislature.

Aja Owens, Mayor of Jennings

Provided Aja Owens

Aja is a poet, author, educator, peer support specialist, and former city council member. She has spent over 20 years creating innovative programs and initiatives serving the unhoused, youth, and senior communities. She strongly believes in creating an equitable city – one that is inclusive, affirming, and forward-moving. Aja would be the first out LGBTQ+ Mayor of Jennings, Missouri.

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, San Antonio City Council

Provided Jalen McKee-Rodriguez

Jalen was first elected in 2021 and made history as the first out gay Black man elected in Texas. During his time on the city council, he has fiercely advocated for equitable investment in the city’s infrastructure, increased focus on the social determinants of health, accountability, and transparency in city operations, and worked to reimagine public safety. He takes an organizer’s approach to governance and often walks neighborhoods, conducts ride-alongs with city departments, and leads community clean-ups. In 2021, Jalen was ranked #71 on The Root’s annual list of 100 influential African-Americans.

Crystal Hudson, New York City Council

Provided Crystal Hudson

Crystal was first elected in 2021 and made history as one of the first out gay Black women ever elected in New York City. Crystal is a community organizer and public servant committed to making government more accessible for more people and delivering a just recovery for all New Yorkers in the wake of a global pandemic, economic crisis, and racial reckoning. Her commitment to public service is personal and began when her mother first exhibited signs of what would later be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s. She serves as Chair of the Committee on Aging and is unwavering in her commitment to ensuring older adults have access to the services they need to age safely and with dignity.

Chi Osse, New York City Council

Provided Chi Osse

Chi first entered politics as an organizer and prominent Black Lives Matter movement figure. At 23 years old, he was elected in 2021 as the youngest New York City Council member and its only Gen-Z member. He is committed to meeting the needs of his community, including improving neighborhood sanitation, reimaging public safety, building and protecting safe and affordable housing, promoting local economic development, and strengthening schools. He is the first out LGBTQ+ person ever elected to his seat.

Lamont Robinson, Chicago City Council

Provided Lamont Robinson

Lamont, who currently serves in the Illinois House of Representatives, is a lifelong Chicagoan who has dedicated his life to giving back to the city through public service and as a businessman, college professor, and director of a youth mentorship. If elected, he will focus on holistically tackling residents’ safety concerns, ensuring that Chicago schools are equitable, and continuing to be an approachable, accessible, and responsive public servant. He previously made history as the first Black out LGBTQ+ person ever elected to the Illinois General Assembly. If elected in 2023, he will be the first out Black man to serve on the Chicago City Council.

Juliana Bennett, Madison Common Council

Provided Juliana Bennett

Juliana is a young, queer, Black leader in Madison, Wisconsin. Juliana became a community organizer during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and co-founded the Madison BIPOC Coalition. They then ran for and won her election to the Madison Common Council. During their time on the city council, Juliana championed affordable housing policies, violence prevention initiatives, community investment, fair maps during redistricting, equal access to transportation, and uplifting the voices of those most underserved. She was the first Black person ever elected to her seat.

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