GSBA Scholar Lio O'Cain on Honoring Black Culture & Histories

by GSBA Staff
| Feb 19, 2020

In recognizing Black History Month, GSBA is working to amplify Black voices and histories by celebrating the undeniable impact Black LGBTQ activists have had on the LGBTQ civil rights movement, shed light on the specific intersection of Black and LGBTQ identities, and continue the crucial conversation about racial injustice in Washington State. As a part of this work, several GSBA Scholars who identify as Black and LGBTQ have generously shared their stories, thoughts about intersectionality, what Black History means to them, and about what actions make for a strong allyship. 

20190201_AmberZbitnoffPhotography_TotemStar_LIO12_0029_hiresFirst-Year GSBA Scholar Lio O'Cain (she/her) is an 18-year-old scholar born in Renton, Washington. She attends college in Mount Vernon, Iowa at Cornell College – where she is studying Child Development, Psychology, and Film. Her goal is to depict psychological, racial, sexual differences in the film industry with mainstream films that are entertaining, realistic, attainable, inclusive and overall mind-blowing.

GSBA: What is your favorite thing about being Black and LGBTQ?

Lio: My favorite thing about being black and LGBTQ is knowing I can be any number of things, and none of it has to define me negatively. I always have the chance to decide how being black will coach my interactions with the world and I love learning how being LGBTQ doesn't automatically mean I have it all right because I'm out about it. My favorite thing is knowing it is all still a journey, and I'm having fun. 

Lio O'Cain 1

GSBA: In what ways would you like to see people honor Black lives, histories, and experiences throughout the year, and not just in February?  

Lio: It can start with simply showing up to support POC events and helping to gather other POC's. One may know to get them involved in beautiful things; we hold quite an amount of control over situations that we encounter, and it’s up to us where we take the information we learn, and what we do with it. I'd love if people supported more black stories, black films, read from more and more POC novelists, poets, and writers - and then turned people on to those same artists. Honoring black culture - I believe - takes less energy than ignoring it, because we are so here.

GSBA: As an LGBTQ+ person of color, what are some of the behaviors and principles of a good ally which you appreciate and would like to see people do more of?

I appreciate when allies are not looking to be praised for simply being generous, genuine, and honest human beings. Of course, it is amazing when allies are stepping out of their comfort zone to be a version of themselves that some others may not be willing to put in the work to become. There is a limit, however, to the amount of recognition that is deserved for doing what an ally should do. A good behavior I expect of an ally: always using their platform to let LGBTQ+ POC's speak for themselves, do not use their platform to speak for LGBTQ+ POC's.

GSBA: As a Black LGBTQ+ person, what does Pride embody for you? What does this look like in your daily life?

Pride looks a lot like fashion for me; being able to develop my style and the self I want to be on the inside through how I look and feel on the outside-- that includes all the questionable days where I don't know who I want to be, because it gives me a chance to experiment and learn who I don't want to be. Pride looks like taking a chance, being the one to take the leap, being the one to answer the questions rarely asked and letting risk be the base of all passions. 

Thank you, Lio, for taking the time to share your perspective with us.

February is Black History Month, and we encourage all GSBA Members to celebrate Black lives, culture, and history not only this month - but all year long. You can dine and shop intentionally by supporting the Black-owned small businesses in our community. Check out this guide by GSBA Member Intentionalist of Black-owned businesses throughout the Puget Sound, including several GSBA Members.
GSBA Members can also take action by investing in regional organizations who work to address institutionalized racism, empower black communities, and ensure that Black histories are never forgotten. Please consider investing in GSBA community partner organizations POCAANUrban League of Metropolitan SeattleTrans Women of Color Solidarity Network, and NW African American Museum.

The GSBA Scholarship Fund is one of the oldest and most active LGBTQ scholarship programs in the country. The scholarship program works to empower students with marginalized intersectional identities within the LGBTQ+ community and provides not only financial support for LGBTQ+ students, but a network of support, skills-based workshops, and a yearly three-day leadership immersion camp. In 2019, $500,000 was invested in 50 LGBTQ+ and allied students, 46% of whom identify as trans and/or gender diverse, and 72% who identify as students of color. This year, we are proud to invest $600,000 in 60 scholars for the GSBA Scholarship Fund's 30th year. Meet your scholars and hear their stories during the 2020 Scholars Dinner on Friday, May 15. If you are unable to join us, please consider investing in our future leaders.

Recent Posts