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Black gay men just won the Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and Drama

Queer excellence.

2020-05-05

Black gay writers have received two of the most prestigious honours at this year's Pulitzer Prize awards.

The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry has been won by Jericho Brown for his recent collection The Tradition, while the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to Michael R. Jackson for his acclaimed 2019 play A Strange Loop.

The Pulitzer Prize awards - which honour US writers and journalists and were first held over a century ago, in 1917 - took place digitially on Monday (4 May) after initially being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jericho Brown, whose winning poetry collection The Tradition offers personal and political dissections of modern terrors including mass shootings and the murder of unarmed citizens by police, was born in Louisiana and teaches English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The 44-year-old poet's previous collection, 2014's The New Testament, addressed what it mean to be a black gay man living in the United States.

In an interview with Dive Dapper in 2016, Brown, who lives with HIV, explained how his identity was a conduit for expression rather than something that constrained him.

"I’m not after a rejection of being a Black gay poet. I’m after understanding what being a Black gay poet might allow me", he said.

"I’m not the only, or the first, Black gay poet, so what does being a Southern-gay-Black-poet allow me? What can that bring forth in my work?

"That’s what I’m really interested in seeing."

Meanwhile, Michael R. Jackson helped make it a historic night for queer black writers after taking home the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Detroit-born writer's winning play, A Strange Loop, is a semi-autobiographical work which follows a young artist battling his inner demons. It debuted Off-Broadway in May last year.

The protagonist - named 'Usher' after his day job as an usher for The Lion King on Broadway - is an overweight, gay, black writer attempting to make it in a heteronormative white world.

Jackson, who like his protagonist has been carving out his own success despite being the namesake of a world-famous musician, was previously named one of the 'Black Male Writers for our Time' by The New York Times in 2018.

Taking to Twitter after his Pulizer Prize win was announced, Jackson wrote: "Never in my wildest dreams. NEVER. IN MY. WILDEST. DREAMS.

"Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to such an incredible honor.

"I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve caught my breath and looked at all these text messages and emails but for now, THANK YOU."