Converse has expanded its global "Forever Chuck" initiative, releasing this week a series of features on the diverse individuals who wear the classic sneakers. The campaign began with an open invitation, asking youth across the world to tell their compelling personal stories. Called "In My Chucks," the result is an inclusive lineup of subjects, from photographers to designers, including an award-winning black trans poet, named Lee Mokobe.
A TED Fellow and accomplished TED Speaker, Mokobe was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, where he eventually founded a youth literary organization, called Vocal Revolutionaries. In his "Forever Chuck" feature, the slam poet reflects on his upbringing, saying, "My mother said I could be anything I want. I decided to be boy. Coming out as trans is about loving my body enough to let it go."
\u201cA black African transboy got to star in a converse commercial. Y'all are welcome!\u201d
— Lee Mokobe \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\u26a7\ufe0f (@Lee Mokobe \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\u26a7\ufe0f)
Mokobe told OUT he's always struggled with seeing images of people like him in mainstream media. "There are no images of black trans men, especially African queer people or immigrants," he said. "So it's important to try and create a path others can follow, especially considering how black African trans men are suppressed where I come from."
His Converse spotlight is one small, but important, step toward achieving greater visibility for African trans people, Mokobe said, urging the media to continue highlighting marginalized communities. "I want to be able to see even South Africa embrace and acknowledge trans existence without erasing it," he said. "Not only that, I want to be able to point out trans African actors, singers and writers, who are [at] the forefront of American media, because we are here. It's [not only] acceptance, but respect, dignity and consideration I want cis people to focus on."
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