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  • Jeremy Wells

To Be Young, Gifted & Black - Lorraine Hansberry

This amazingly talented author of the iconic 'A Raisin in the Sun' was the youngest of four children born to a successful real estate broker and a ward committeewoman. After the supreme court case against her family for moving into an all white neighborhood, Lorraine Hansberry was driven towards political activism and an enormous advocate for dormitory integration while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At only 20 years old, she moved to New York to become a writer and attended The New School in Manhattan. In addition to black rights advocacy, she was also an activist for gay rights and wrote about feminism and homophobia in 'The Ladder', a magazine founded by the Daughters of Bilitis--the first ever civil and political rights organization for lesbians; providing them support with coming out, educating them about their rights and their history.

"Hansberry believed that gaining civil rights in the United States and obtaining independence in colonial Africa were two sides of the same coin that presented similar challenges for Africans on both sides of the Atlantic." - Fanon Che Wilkins

Hansberry's works in the DOB's magazine gave hints to her life away from her husband as a lesbian woman. Opening on March 11, 1959, A Raisin in the Sun became the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. The 29-year-old author became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. Over the next two years, Raisin was translated into 35 languages and was being performed all over the world.

The following month, she was featured in an expensive photoshoot by 'Vogue' magazine, and the following year, she was named an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta. In 1959, Hansberry commented that women who are 'twice oppressed' may become 'twice militant'. She held out some hope for male allies of women, writing in an unpublished essay: "If by some miracle women should not ever utter a single protest against their condition there would still exist among men those who could not endure in peace until her liberation had been achieved." She believed in the right of people to defend themselves with force against their oppressors. This year, as we march in the San Diego Pride Parade, let us channel Lorraine Hansberry's talented spirit to inspire all of our creatives to thrive and make their best art, to revel in the fact that we are in a community that celebrates and encourages building safe spaces for people to come out!

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