Helicopters have been circling Alex D. Rogers' neighborhood for days. He lives in downtown Atlanta, less than a mile away from "the CNN sign you might've seen on the news," he tells Out, "behind the line the authorities were forming on that bridge that they weren't letting people cross."
Protests demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the many more Black people who have been killed at the hands of police violence popped up all over the world this last week. Moments from Atlanta's protests have gone viral over and over again, one on a live news broadcast showing officers breaking the windows of one couple's car, tasing them, and yanking them from their car. Seeing images like this one, over and over again, has been demoralizing for many of us.
This week, Out will debut our Pride issue highlighting Black LGBTQ+ folks. Rogers is the Guest Editor in Residence of the issue that's been in the works for months, but celebrating Black identities feels especially poignant right now.
"That is the strangest parallel," reflects Rogers. "Obviously, none of us saw that coming."
Given the history of this publication, Rogers' Out is one in a sseries of reimaginings we have embarked on over the last two years. Rogers says he was worried that in the midst of the current unrest, it might get scrapped. "It wasn't my view that this would be the type of issue that Out would do normally," he says. "So whenever there would be an uptick in racial tensions, I would be afraid that the issue might get pulled. Corporate entities tend to want to stay out of that type of... I was really anxious about that."
Flipping through the pages, the commemoration of Black LGBTQ+ folks feels cathartic, much like a recent dreamy episode of Insecure, a much-needed reminder of Black love, beauty, and resilience while so many of us feel crushed by the weight of current events. That makes Rogers feel "really proud."
Work from Ahmad Barber, Beija Marie Velez, Dyllon Burnside, Fred Sands IV, and more covers the pages, all artists Rogers has looked up to himself. "Some of them, I own their work," he says. "It's important to me, when I get an opportunity, to bring as many people along as I can."
In 2015, President Barack Obama appeared on Out's much-anticipated Out100 cover. For me, a queer Black man who was just coming into his identity, seeing an LGBTQ+ publication celebrate someone I related to was not only validating, but empowering. I ask Rogers if the thinks this issue could do something similar.
"If I can contribute to some other up and coming artist, or any kid who happens to look through the issue to see other people who look like them, to just know that they're not the only person like them.
"They're important enough, as they are, to be celebrated in the way that these people who are so similar to them are being celebrated on this platform. I hope it gives people something to relate to."
Out's Pride 2020 issue will debut tomorrow with storis rolling out in the days to follow.