By Candice Iloh

At the same time every year it seems the whole country focuses in on the same extraordinary black trailblazers of the past. They are the ones that have made the cut into your history books and who have managed to remain on the tongues of even the youngest black kids coming up in 2015. But what about the future? What about the many black pioneers who are creating and continuing to build as we speak? There are actually entirely too many to include all on one list given the limitless nature of the diaspora. Even further, black excellence is commensurate with black queer excellence. These 13 writers, creators, and activists are pioneering ways of affecting change that impact the lives of those in either category, but moreover, for the oft-overlooked persons who check both designations.


Darnell Moore 


Darnell Moore does it all. He is a writer, cultural worker, critic, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. An ever-present voice in the queer black community, Moore has held several leadership positions in national LGBTQ organizations, including YOU Belong, a social good organization he recently co-founded alongside NFL player Wade Davis II. YOU Belong is the nation’s first ever LGBTQ summer camp that pairs queer youth NFL players. He is largely known for his work as national speaker and diversity trainer advocating for a myriad of LGBTQ concerns largely centered on black experiences. (Photo: Courtesy of Darnell Moore)


Tiona McClodden 


Tiona McClodden is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist residing in Philadelphia, PA. She is also the Executive Producer and Director of the Harriet’s Gun Media, a company that aims to produce and distribute multi-genre art that “critiques issues at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.” At HGM McClodden also facilitates the HGM Black Queer + Women + Trans Artist Booking & Management program in which emerging and and established artists are guided through the process of creating and getting their art out into the world. (Photo: Courtesy of Allison McDaniel)


Hadaiyah Bey 


Hadaiyah “Yaya” Bey is writer, educator, and community organizer who resides in Washington, DC but hails from Queens, NY. She is the curator of the Sanaa Project a creative initiative that operates as a growing guerrilla community organizing mechanism facilitated through house parties and arts festivals throughout the East Coast. An educator by day and an artist by night, Bey is one third of an up and coming band by the name of Gully Waters and the author of The Adventures of Trill Yeezy, a biographical collection of poems about love and childhood. When not organizing an event, teaching, writing, or performing, she donates her time protesting anti-black police violence. (Photo: Courtesy of Hadaiyah Bey)


Morgen Bromell 


Morgen Bromell looked into a space that carried nothing that welcomed her and created it. She is the Founder of Thrust, a new dating app created for those who are want to explore the world of online dating but couldn’t relate to the internet’s staple offers. Frustrated with the white-washed and heteronormative structures of these online romantic spaces, Bromell generated this new app for the young and single who has suffered tirelessly at the hands of limited and fetishized dating websites that continuously lock people like herself out of the opportunity to meet future partners. (Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Bromell)

Shantell Martin 


Shantell Martin is New York-based visual artist who literally draws on everything. Her recent exhibit “Are You You” at the MoCada museum in Brooklyn displays her genius with many of her musings drawn on the walls and, in some cases, on guests of the museum. Seen often throughout New York, Martin’s forte is creating thought-provoking visual messages centered on identity with the simple and skilled use of a black wide-tip sharpie marker and white space. Her hand-drawn illustrations can be found in several public spaces and she regularly facilitates live digital drawings at musical performances and conferences. (Photo: Courtesy of Shantell Martin)

Kai M. Green 


Writer, scholar, and filmmaker Kai M. Green is actively examining those awkward instances in which racialized violence and gender expression collide. In his film It Gets Messy in Here specifically takes a look at what often occurs with transgender men and masculine presenting women of color in spaces such as the bathroom. Beyond this, Green serves as a member of the Community Coalition to End Sheriff on Inmate Violence in LA County Jails and also the community advisory board for the In the Meantime Men’s Group, an organization that advocates for the health and wellness of black gay men. (Photo: Courtesy of Kai M. Green)




Formally known as the Peace and Bodyroll Duo, Boomscat is a musical experience. Made up of Asha Santee (BOOM), keyboardist-drummer-producer, and Jennifer Patience Rowe, singer-songwriter, the two are relatively new to the music scene as a duo but young veteran musicians in their own right. Their latest project, No Life Jackets, shot into the top 20 on iTunes on the first day of its release. BOOMscat opened for Kindred the Family Soul shortly after. (Photo: Courtesy of Boomscat)


King Texas 


King Texas is a photographer based born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Known widely throughout queer communities on the East Coast, he has spent a significant number of years capturing the downtown NYC nightlife while also honing his skill as a photographer that reels in on the vast spectrum of gender within the black diaspora. Texas is currently working on his ongoing black and white portrait series BLACKNESS. (Photo: Courtesy of King Texas)


Crissle & Kid Fury of The Read 


Writer and co-host, Crissle West, and self-proclaimed media-mouthpiece and co-host, Kid Fury, together are the highly-opinionated, poignant, and hilarious voices of the the infamous podcast, The Read. Together, the duo produce are refreshingly honest weekly show featuring recaps of the previous week in news and pop culture while also jam-packing the time with social commentary and the always highly-anticipated letters submitted by listeners with questions ranging everywhere from the dynamics of LGBTQ relationships to the qualms of navigating awkward moments with white romantic partners. The show periodically features a black excellence segment, as well as celebrity guests, and is liable to have you cry-laughing and shouting amen in public on your morning commute to work. (Photo: Courtesy of The Read)


Tiq Milan


Tiq Milan is a trans activist, author and the Senior Media Strategist of National News at GLAAD. Featured in several national LGBTQ campaigns, he is often responsible for training national trans activists, such as Cece McDonald, in best practices to ensure maximum impact when speaking to the media. He also works directly with several of these news media outlets to strategize on the most accurate and fair ways to report on transgender people. He has published articles on LGBTQ issues with The New York Times, Rolling Stone, VIBE Magazine, and is requested for workshops, panels, and trainings across the nation. (Photo: Courtesy of Tiq Milan)




Stas Irons and Cat Harris-White are THEESatisfaction. The musical pair, solely responsible for the writing, production, and performance of their own material describe their soulful tracks as funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics and have been known to rock several memorable parties and events, such as Black Weirdo, a magical black party experience put on in major cities the couple hosts together that aims to celebrate blackness in all of its facets. THEESatisfaction’s latest project, EarthEE, was released this month featuring their single, Recognition. (Photo: Courtesy of TheeSatisfaction)


Danez Smith 


Danez Smith is a blazing example of what poetry can be and who it can represent. Poet and Minnesota native, Smith writes transparently about his experiences as a black man; as a young black man; as a young black gay man and resists the urge to wince away when it gets too painful and real. His vivid citations of even the most seemingly minute components of this existence in his first full-length project, [Insert] Boy, are a colorful exploration of the beautiful and often times murky waters of everything from violence against black bodies to gay sex to partying to depression. (Photo: Courtesy of Danez Smith)


Allison “Alice Wonder” McDaniel 


Allison McDaniel is the co-founder and special projects director of Mambu Badu, a black female photographer collective, as well as the producer & graphic designer at Harriet’s Gun Media. Specifically invested in work that investigates and explores the idea of identity construction in marginalized communities, her work often focuses in on the lifestyle of queer black creatives in social environments. McDaniel’s keen sense of movement and eye for raw beauty in often over-looked spaces where black and brown bodies inhabit themselves freely will cement her for years to come as a bonafide documentarian of thriving black life. (Photo: Courtesy of Danielle Scruggs)



Candice Iloh is a poet, creative writer, and educator residing in Brooklyn NY whose work has appeared in Insight Magazine, Blackberry Magazine, and Fjords Review. She is a Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation Alum and the Managing Editor of Quiet Lunch Magazine. She can be contacted at