“We have contributed so much, from science down to social work, and a lot of people don’t get that notoriety that they deserve.”

In just over two years Stephanie Bell has worked her way up from Specialist to Manager to her current role as Director of the Metamorphosis Project (Youth Emergency Services.)  We couldn’t think of a better way to close out our Black History Month Spotlights, and start our official 30-day countdown to the Metamorphosis Project Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, than to highlight Stephanie Bell as she talks about what Black History Month means to her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community:

“To me, Black History Month means the opportunity for not only the Black community, but the opportunity for other individuals, to understand our history outside of slavery and being field hands. Black History Month is the perfect opportunity for schools to really allow people to shine.”

Q: What advice do you give to African American youth that you work with?

“Never let your color stand in your way. And I’m saying this from personal experience because I was told so much that a black kid can’t be an actor, a fat kid can’t be an actor, black people don’t go into this area of study, so never let that keep you from being who you want to be.”

Q: How has your intersectionality shaped your identity or impacted you?

“Being Black and Queer has been a huge driving force for me because there has never really been a good support system. There has always been this taboo within the community about being gay, being lesbian, being transgender, or even for me just not falling into the mold of the traditional ‘stud’ or ‘butch’ lesbian, and I’ve had struggles with that. So I would really like to see more notoriety on the Queer community during Black History Month for those of us who don’t fall in that spectrum of one aspect or another. To show the different levels of Queerness within the African American Community. I feel like I’m starting to see a lot of notoriety of Black Queer people during Black History Month now, but it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that I started connecting with African American literature who were actually Queer individuals, like James Baldwin! He is actually one of my heroes.”

 

Q: What else would you like to see in future celebrations of Black History Month?

“I would love to see more of us in Psychology, more of us in leadership roles in social work, more of us standing out in the political field, more of us actually getting out to vote. Because these are the areas that I don’t see my community being a big voice in, and I want us to step up and be more active in these areas. For me, mental health is a big thing. In the African American community it has such a negative stigma around it. It’s like if you are somebody that is suffering from some type of mental illness, you’re just ‘crazy’. I just think that as a community, Black History Month should focus on those in the Psychology field as well as therapists, counselors, or any type of work that is trying to better the movement of African Americans and mental health.”

“So it’s just really nice to be able to be a role model for not only my own community, but for my family members as well.”

“Back home, I’m finally starting to talk about what I do. I’m humble, so that’s hard for me. And when I talk community members, they’re like, ‘I’m so proud of you, you’ve gone from this little quiet, shy little girl who would barely talk to being a voice for a whole population and a whole bunch of youth and just Queer Black People in general, which is so important. And when I shared the post about the Metamorphosis building, my little sister shared it and said, ‘Oh my god look at my big sister doing big things.’ And that meant a lot to me because my brother and sister are my rock, they never made it a big deal or difference that I was a lesbian. When we were in highschool, the bullying didn’t effect me, so the bullies would turn on my brother and bully him about having a sister who identifies as lesbian, but he never let that stop him from loving me and being there for me.”

With the Metamorphosis Project Youth Emergency Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony only 30 days away, Bell is excited to have the opportunity to better serve and provide for those 18-24 LGBTQ+ youth who are experiencing homelessness and insecure housing.

Join Stephanie Bell and the rest of the OUTMemphis staff on Saturday March 28 to celebrate the the Metamorphosis Project Youth Emergency Center Ribbon Cutting & Open House. For more details on the event, click here.

 

Metamorphosis Project Youth Emergency Center Ribbon Cutting & Open House

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