Comedienne Wanda Sykes has been included in Ebony Magazine's annual Power 150 list of the most influential African-Americans and graces one of eight covers for this special issue. This marks the first time an openly black lesbian has ever appeared on the cover of Ebony Magazine. I know what you're thinking...Queen Latifah doesn't count.
Sykes has become the most high profile black lesbian after she made the decision to come out shortly after the passage of Proposition 8 in California;the amendment effectively banning marriage equality across the state.
Since then her star has continued to rise. Sykes' was personally invited by The Obama Administration to perform during the recent White House Correspondents Dinner in May and recently became the first black lesbian to host her own late night talk show.
"Unfortunately, the short blurb on her in the magazine makes a highly guarded, tiptoeing mention of her orientation", notes blogger Alvin McEwen.
McEwen also notes an article within the same issue of openly gay director Lee Daniels (Precious) in which he acknowledges his orientation.
The Power 150 list was compiled by the editors of Ebony in consultation with national experts and leaders in the field, the two criteria being:
1) In the past year, did the individual transcent his or her position and exhibit widespread national influence?
2) In the past year, did the individual affect in a decisive and positive way the lives, thinking and actions of large segments of the African-American population, either by his/her position in a key group, or by his/her personal reach and influence.
The inclusion of Sykes on the cover of a magazine that has become a staple in the (heterosexual) black community is a small step in the right direction. It may not break down doors or eradicate the pervasive homophobia in our community but it just may spark a discussion.