Black Joy is a weekly round up of how Black people are finding and cultivating joy in their lives in a world that is dedicated to oppressing them. How are you celebrating your Black Joy? Send me an email at jdunigan@reckonsouth.com and share your happiness and laughter with us! Also, take a minute to check out and join the Black Magic Project’s Facebook page where we celebrate and discuss Black culture and community.

Time to get unapologetically Black and queer up in here.

Hope you haven’t been in your own bubble lately because I’m about to pop it. Lil Nas X has taken over the internet and music charts with his music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” The new bop dropped on late last week and the 21-year-old queer rapper from Douglass County, Georgia dragged everyone to hell via a stripper pole while wearing high heels.

The religious and satanic imagery of the video made the haters big mad. And Lil Nas’ has been big unbothered by the criticism. The video was not only genius (You can read more about the symbolism here). It’s an artistic form of suicide prevention. Homophobia, fueled by religious persecution, and racism has caused many Black queer youth to take their lives. Lil Nas took a dehumanizing religious narrative and remixed it into an anthem of empowerment. The fact that the song is dedicated to his 14-year-old self made me cry and I hope that one day every Black queer teen can live as free and unbothered like Lil Nas.

To honor this Black brilliance, I asked our audience for more Southern Black Queer icons you should know and follow. A couple of celebrities and artists came up, like well-known celebrities such as New Orleans’ ambassador of bounce Big Freedia, Florida comedian Kid Fury, and Mobile, Ala., native and transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox.

Below are some local favs who came up. A few of them gave encouraging messages to those who have also been told they are going to hell if they remained true to themselves.

Da’Shaun Harrison

Da’Shaun Harrison is a transgender nonbinary activist, author and editor who was born and raised in North Carolina. They now live in Atlanta (Courtesy of Da’Shaun Harrison)

Da’Shaun Harrison is a trans nonbinary activist who was born and raised in North Carolina and now lives in Atlanta. They are a managing editor for the digital magazine Wear Your Voice, and write often about the intersectionality of race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities and fatness. Their book “Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness,” is set to hit the shelves on Aug. 10.

Harrison said they were also told their soul would be cursed to damnation if they accepted and expressed their queerness and transness. They said the Black church was the breeding ground for this culture and urged Black Southern queer to detox themselves from that messaging.

“I could tell you that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made; that you’re made in God’s image; that you’re the apple of God’s eye, but I don’t believe that either,” Harrison said. “I believe you are exactly who you’re supposed to be, whether the Christian God is the reason you are that or not. The source of your power is yourself and the community that holds you. And no one, no deity who cannot hold you in your entirety, can ever take that from you.”

Rummorah Lee Kreation, a.k.a. Rummorah Campbell

Rummorah Lee Kreation, a.k.a. Rummorah Campbell, a drag queen in Birmingham, Ala., cosplays as Rita Repulsa from “Power Rangers.” (Courtesy of Tony Haute Sinclair )

I’ve talked about my fave drag queen from Birmingham, Ala., Rummorah Campbell, in Black Joy before. But many of our readers suggested her for this list. After you check out their videos and cosplays, you will see why. The flips and headstands will make your jaw drop.

Campbell said there are contradictions in every religion.People shouldn’t use it as a mirror to see their worth. They can instead express their worth by being free to express themselves.

“You be will be held to a higher standard than others simply because you’re Black and doing something that is different and out their norm,” Campbell said. “You must quickly build a tolerance for ignorance in order to stand your ground to express yourself creativity the way you want to.”

Campbell also gave a shout out to other Black drag queens who give her inspiration, such as Paris Campbell, Dominique Divine, Jawakatema Davenport and Capri Dupree.

Quentin Arispe

Corpus Christi, Texas. and gender fluid artist Quentin Arispe has been popping out hits out of the music hotspot of Austin, Texas, for the past four years now. Some of my favs bops by them range from slow jams like “Rewind” to empowering anthems like “I’m that Bitch.”

Arispe told me the mood of their music is based off the story they want to tell. After taking a good listen at a couple of songs myself, I believe Arispe’s talent has created a musical anthology of their life. And we are listening to Arispe’s as they evolve. While their last EP “Fruit,” which came out in 2019, was about exploring their alter ego, their latest album “The Spiritual Waiting Room,” which dropped in February, is about stripping the ego down to find their true selves. Since they created the album during quarantine, they wanted to create a spiritual experience fans could enjoy in their own home. They even worked with a shaman to mix sound healing into the music.

The 34-minute album comes with some special instructions, Arispe said. Listen to it in its entirety. Don’t stop. Don’t shuffle the tracks. By the album’s end, Arispe said fans will exit the “waiting room” with what they need spiritually.

Arispe encourages Black queer southerners to break the rules of duality when it comes to gender.

“We don’t have to be societally feminine or societally masculine. We can live in the middle, still thrive and still be find happiness,” Arispe said. “It’s our job as queer people to explore the in between and maintain the in between and show that the universe doesn’t work on polars – Black, White. Man, woman. Democrat, Republican. It works on balance. You have to be comfortable in the uniqueness, the ‘gray’ that is you.”

Quentin “Que” Bell

Quentin “Que” Bell, Executive Director of The Knights & Orchids Society, stands outside of the TKO’s Black Sheep Relief Center in Selma, Ala. (Courtesy of TC Caldwell, TKO’s communications director)

Quentin “Que” Bell, is a Black trans activist and founder and executive director of The Knights & Orchids Inc (TKO) in Selma, Ala. The nonprofit that’s been has been empowering the rural LGBTQIA+ community by taking care of their needs.

TKO steps up in multiple ways, from work development clinics to name change assistance, support group meetings, at the Black Sheep Relief Center. Trans and non-binary people can also find free healthcare and testing for sexually transmitted infections from gender-affirming healthcare professionals through TKO’s Fast Affirming Innovative Testing Healthcare, or FAITH, program. When lawmakers started introducing anti-trans youth bills, TKO orchestrated a campaign to fight the legislation.

Currently TKO is raising $350,000 to purchase its building from its current owner so they can renovate the space and expand their services to include, short-term or emergency housing, business lab and other amenities. They have so far raise more than $87,000 so far. You can help reach their goal by donating here.

#ProtectTransKids and keep spreading your Black magic. See you next time!