I have always drawn strength from my late mother’s life. When Eunice Johnson set up the first major fashion show for African-American audiences more than 50 years ago, she did so at a time when black Americans, especially black women, were still fighting for a seat at the table, any table.
At the same time that white-run shows would get the very latest samples from the biggest fashion houses for free, my mother would pay hand over fist to dress her models. She put up with it because she knew it was important for her charity shows.
She always told me, “Linda, a person should be able to wear anything they want to wear. This is your plumage. This is how you feel about yourself.” To my mother, even the worst kinds of unequal and unfair treatment shouldn’t keep people from expressing their true colors.
Her words are still with me today. They were running through my mind when JET, one of Johnson Publishing Company’s, flagship magazines, first featured a same-sex couple in August 2011, then again in March and December of 2012. When the December magazine hit newsstands, I received dozens of calls wondering whether our readers or advertisers protested. You know what? Not one did. They celebrated right along with us because they were celebrating fairness and equality.
Yet if the couples we featured walked into an Illinois courthouse and tried to get a marriage license, they’d be turned away. The same goes for couples in dozens of states. For millions of committed and loving same-sex couples, including African-American couples, fair and equal access to marriage is still a dream. For these couples, they can’t show their true colors in the way my mother believed was absolutely essential.