June 2, 2020. #blackouttuesday. I call it the day of awakening. The one single day that all industries noticed what largely marginalized and underestimated communities have been saying forever, “We are not included!” While the whole world marched and posted “Black Lives Matter,” the lack of Black and brown people being represented was finally being noticed. Industries, the wedding industry included, were called upon to look in the mirror at their own business practices.
As a Black wedding planner who is also an LGBTQ+ creative, this phase one of “awakening” is amazing and about damn time. It feels amazing to be recognized by everyone in the industry that I have loved for the last 21 years. However there’s a desperate need to examine the next phase of it. Being forced to look at the lack of inclusivity and diversity in the wedding industry during a month when we are focused on pride has a different meaning for me.
My fight for inclusion since 1999 has also included the silent topic no one wants to talk about: the intersectionality of the Black wedding industry and the LGBTQ+ community. We have to understand that based on strong Christian and other religious beliefs, it’s still very hard being LGBTQ+ in the Black community. Just look at the number of deaths in our trans community and the suicide rate of our queer brothers and sisters. It’s evident there’s a long way to go within the Black community.
I remember when I came out to my family; my mother didn’t talk to me for six months. Six months, it was the longest six months of my life. Then I wrote her a letter explaining what I believed being a mother meant. After that things changed and we talked, but it was one subject we didn’t cover and it was OK with me, as long as I had my mother.
Something that has always puzzled me is that in our history as Black people we were ripped from our country and our communities, sold from our families, and forced into a life of slavery. We are still living with the effects this trauma caused and then dealing with the injustices of the police, as well as the lack of inclusion in the world. We are fighting and marching to say, “Our lives matter.” How can we discriminate against someone else? How can we become the oppressor? How can we be OK with knowing that one of the highest rates of un-housed, runaway and suicides are BPOC LGBTQ+ teens? How can we not have the same passion for all our murdered trans sisters? Don’t their lives matter too?
So it’s not a big surprise that you don’t see a lot of BPOC LGBTQ+ weddings being featured. There has to be change and awaking for everyone. I notice when Black wedding publications such as Munaluchi Bride post BPOC LGBTQ+ weddings on Instagram, some of the comments are truly heartbreaking and mean. Even though there are more supporting comments, the hatred shown shows that we have an issue in our community. I remember when California began legally recognizing LGBTQ+ weddings in 2008, the publisher of Munaluchi Bride reached out to me to publish my clients’ wedding. I was surprised and excited that it would appear in the magazine. I thrive to make sure our couples see themselves in magazines.
Last week, I noticed another major Black wedding publication, B Collective, posted on their Instagram an LGBTQ+ couple and it was amazing to see the love. I feel as more Black wedding outlets start to publish LGBTQ+ weddings, there are more opportunities to start having conversations within the Black community. As we start to see more LGBTQ+ celebrations represented perhaps it will encourage our industry to have those conversations about what inclusion truly means. As we see more LGBTQ+ members in the church families, perhaps it will give the Black community the opportunity to get to know just one LGBTQ+ person. I feel once my mother let go of her perceptions of what being gay meant and just focused on being my mother, our relationship grew stronger. I feel that could happen to more people if they were given the chance.
The same way the Black wedding industry was excluded from the wedding industry is very similar to the way the LGBTQ+ community is excluded from the Black wedding industry. Inclusion means everyone. You cannot say “Black Lives Matter” without including Black LGBTQ+ lives as well. You cannot have a wedding industry and ignore the contributions of the amazingly talented Black and brown wedding creatives. In the end we all want the same things: to be heard, to be seen, to be respected, to be included and most importantly to be loved.
Hero image courtesy of Lauren Crew Photography
This post was originally published on Equally Wed. See the original post here. To find out more about the author Chanda Daniels and see her wonderful work visit her website or check out Aisle Planner's interview with her here.