2019 Fellow

Frank Leon Roberts

Frank Leon Roberts is an activist, professor, and political organizer based in Harlem, New York. The proud son of two formerly incarcerated parents, he is currently on the faculty at New York University, where his course on the black lives matter movement has been widely acknowledged as the first college course of its kind. Frank is the founder of Black Lives Matter Syllabus— the nationally acclaimed, open access curriculum that provides resources for teaching BLM in classroom and community settings. In addition to his upcoming anthology The Black Lives Matter Syllabus: Key Writings from the Movement for Black Lives (forthcoming from the University of California Press with a foreword by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza) he is also at work on a new book on author James Baldwin.

Frank’s career as a grassroots political organizer has spanned two decades. He began his career as a teenager; mobilizing disenfranchised voters in the wake of the 2000 Bush/Gore Election. Later, in 2004 Frank co-founded the National Black Justice Coalition—based in Washington, DC. He then went on to serve as the special assistant to civil rights attorney Johnnie Cochran, whom he worked with on the early legal movement for racial reparations. In 2015, for his career long commitment to doing racial justice activist work in an intersectional paradigm, he received the Bayard Rustin Award at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Frank is a past winner of NYU’s Distinguished Alumni Award; the MLK Trailblazer Award and the Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Project Description

The Baldwin Hansberry Project is a grassroots mobilization initiative with a threefold purpose: combating homophobia in black communities; combating racism in LGBTQ communities; and training a new generation of black LGBTQ activists. This work attempts to solve the following problem: at present, there are very few initiatives in the United States that focus specifically on the intersectional needs of black LGBT people. Mainstream black organizations whose work centers on racial justice activism often exclude LGBTQ experiences; and similarly; LGBTQ organizations throughout the country have continued to struggle with how to advocate for a queer activist agenda that addresses the unique experiences of black and brown people.

Loosely Inspired by the enduring legacies of two pioneering black queer activist thinkers (James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry) the Baldwin Hansberry Project will pursue its mission through the utilization of six proven-effective mediums: 1) teach-ins, 2) public dialogues 3) issue-oriented awareness campaigns 4) direct action initiatives 5) a series of leadership-development training workshops for young and/or emergent black lgbt activists and 6) and open-access public education courses.

Our measurable goals will include the creation of a database of activists and initiatives across the country that are aligned with BHP’s goals; the creation of a series of issue-oriented awareness campaign; the creation of a series of leadership development workshops for young black queer activists in each of the four major geographical regions of the US (north, south, east, west coast); and the creation of an open-access public education course (to be offered in Harlem) entitled “James Baldwin Now.”