Metro Weekly

NBJC to Honor Black LGBTQ Women at 2nd Annual Wisdom Awards

Awards, which coincide with National LGBTQ Elders Day, will be broadcast live on YouTube at 1 p.m. on May 16.

Rayceen Pendarvis — Photo: Julian Vankim

The National Black Justice Coalition will host the 2nd Annual Wisdom Awards, which honor Black LGBTQ and same-gender-loving women and feminine elders and their contributions to America’s literary and communication arts traditions. 

The awards, which will be held virtually at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 16, will be broadcast on NBJC’s YouTube channel, coincides with the celebration of National LGBTQ+ Elders Day. 

Being honored this year are: Sheila Alexander-Reid, the former director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the founder and former executive director of the Women in the Life Association, a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the rights of lesbians and queer women of color; Ann Allen Shockley, the author of Loving Her, published in 1974, which was the first novel with a Black lesbian protagonist, and a librarian at Fisk University who led initiatives to encourage other libraries to include collections of works from African-American writers; and Cheryl Clarke, an American lesbian poet, essayist, educator, community activist, and co-owner of Blenheim Hill Books.

Other honorees are: Anita Cornwell, one of the first lesbians to be published in The Ladder and The Negro Digest, who also authored the first collection of essays by and about Black lesbians; Jewelle Gomez, an African-American poet, author and playwright and one of the original staff of Say Brother (now Basic Black), WGBH Boston’s longest-running public affairs program produced by, for, and about African Americans, and one of the co-founders of GLAAD; and Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins, a poet, writer, performer, activist and the first Black trans woman elected to public office in the United States.

Other honorees are Rayceen Pendarvis, a host and emcee for various Black LGBTQ events and the former host of The Ask Rayceen Show; Barbara Smith, a feminist, author, and founding member of Combahee River Collective and Kitchen Table: Women of Color press, which enabled women to write and publish books relevant to queer women of color; and Linda Villarosa, a journalist and novelist who was the first out LGBTQ executive editor of a significant Black magazine when she worked for Essence magazine, who has written about various important issues like the Black maternity health crisis, the impact of COVID-19 and environmental injustice on Black people, and an article on medical myths as part of the New York Times‘ 1619 Project.

For more information on the Wisdom Awards, or to register, visit

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