Starting out as 7 days of the second week of February, Black History Month is a time where we can further celebrate the contributions of blacks to society.
NLGJA, as part of their celebrations, honored black LGBT journalists inducted into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame including Alan Bell (2015), Thomas Morgan III (2005) and Marlon Riggs (2006) for their impact in journalism industry and society.
“Continuing to support and celebrate these legacies can only be beneficial. We live in a world compiled of very different individuals whose realities are not all the same,” said NLGJA Executive Director Adam Pawlus. “Journalists like Alan Bell, Marlon Riggs and Thomas Morgan III help paint a clear picture of those realities in the LGBT community and add much-needed balance and perspective.”
Thomas Morgan III
Thomas Morgan inducted into the LGBT Journalist Hall of Fame for his continual efforts to make strides within the journalism industry. The Times has honored Morgan by naming the Thomas Morgan Internships in Graphics, Design and Photography program to honor talented college juniors and seniors.
Morgan attended the University of Missouri on an ROTC scholarship, where he received an undergraduate degree in journalism. Until 1975, he served as an Air Force information officer and worked as a social aide in the Nixon and Ford White Houses.
Morgan demonstrated his aptitude for journalism as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post and late The New York Times. He also was the 8th president, elected in 1989, of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). When running for NABJ presidency, Morgan also applied for the Nieman Fellowship. Honored with both opportunities he pursed them both concurrently.
“During his NABJ presidency, Tom Morgan made training for professional journalists one of his top priorities. He established our Ethel Payne Fellowship, which provides NABJ members with an opportunity to travel to Africa to pursue an untold story in the Diaspora,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “I was an Ethel Payne fellow. The program greatly enriched my journalistic experience and I’m working to reestablish this very important program.”
Morgan publicly wrote and spoke on national television his experiences managing the disease in hopes of emphasizing the need for more effective HIV prevention and more AIDS funding. In 1995, he retired to focus on his battle personal battle against AIDS. During this time, he continued to volunteer and advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. As well as served on the board of several organizations such as the Gay Men’s health Crisis in Manhattan.
“President Morgan left behind a memorable legacy and helped grow our membership’s reach. He remained active after his board service and was instrumental in forming the NABJ LGBT Task Force,” continued Glover. “We will never forget his long-lasting contributions to our esteemed association. Fittingly, he was a recipient of the organization’s 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, one of NABJ’s highest honors.”
Marlon Riggs was inducted into NLGJA Hall of Fame for his work bringing attention to those he believed were going unnoticed in American society.
His talents as a writer, filmmaker and educator provided insight into the cultural tensions of racism and homophobia in America. His documentary works such as, Ethnic Notions, Tongues Untied, Color Adjustment, and Black is… Black Ain’t are noteworthy pieces that have impacted the LGBT community and the journalism industry as a whole.
Riggs first major film documentary was Ethnic Notions. This Emmy-winning documentary took an expedition through 150 years of heavily implanted anti-black stereotypes in the American consciousness.
Tongues Untied, Riggs’ second documentary, sparked a debate over funding of the arts. The documentary highlighted the lives of black, gay men through a blend of personal and fictional accounts. He articulated the prejudices they face from both heterosexual society and from the white, gay society. Riggs responded to conservative attacks with an opinion piece titled “Meet the New Willie Horton” and ultimately receive a grant of $5,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Color Adjustment challenged television. He analyzed 40 years of the misrepresentations of blacks on prime time television. The documentary was highly praised and awarded the George Foster Peabody Award.
In his last documentary film Black is… Black Ain’t, Riggs addressed sexism and homophobia within the black community. While filming he maintained his teaching position at U.C. Berkeley, went to speaking engagements and continued to write. Riggs passed away after a 5-year battle with HIV/AIDS before the film was completed.
Alan Bell was inducted to the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame this past year at the 2015 “Coming Home” Convention. He was the first black publisher of a mainstream gay publication, Gaysweek, in 1977, which became one of only three gay weeklies at the time. Gaysweek newspaper came to an end in 1979 when Bell created the monthly newsmagazine BLK. He used this platform to truly advocate and accurately depict the black LGBT community.
Bell’s work with BLK helped fill a void in news pertaining the LGBT community, especially black Americans and added a much needed perceptive. In a recent interview, Bell admits one of his first proud moments for BLK was a cover highlighting the best companies for black gays and lesbians to work for. His contributions are not limited to his journalistic works. He started Black Jack a safer sex club for black gay men in Los Angles, stating that he found it to be, “a more practical version of addressing the AIDS crisis.”
Bell continues his work to this day with non-profit organizations such as the Minority AIDS Project, Magic Johnson Foundation, Black AIDS Institute and the health departments of Los Angles County, Fulton County, Miami and Florida.
Bell’s constant aid to the LGBT community, Riggs reporting across mediums has reached different audiences and Morgan encouraging direction within organizations have all built a legacy.
These journalist and those like them are true heroes. Their stories inspire us toward diversity in our own perspectives. NLGJA is honored include Morgan, Riggs and Bell in the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame and will continue to search for journalists who embody similar qualities.