It was August 14, 2016 when I learned about the passing of Stephen Maglott. At first, I didn’t believe the Facebook status I read. Soon after, I saw another status confirming what I feared. Stephen is no longer with us. We lost an important figure in our community, and our hearts go out to Stephen’s loved ones. He will truly be missed.
If you’re an artist, activist, or figurehead of African descent within the LGBTQ community, then you know of Stephen Maglott. A historian, writer, and politician, Stephen was a man of many talents and titles.
Of his known works, many are familiar with his Ubuntu Biography Project (UBP). The UBP is a collection of biographical tributes to SGL/LGBT/Queer Men and Women of African Descent.
According to Stephen’s biography, he started the UBP after realizing the lack of resources that recognized and celebrated our lives as LGBTQ people of color. Needless to say, it is an incredible honor having your bio among that collective of 450+ people.
Back in April, I received a message from Stephen, asking me to submit my bio to the project. Honestly, I was shocked, yet honored.
You can say that I lacked confidence, but I couldn’t believe someone of Stephen’s notoriety wanted to know my story. However, this speaks to the passion and care Stephen took to recognize our contributions to the community. The recognition of LGBTQ people of color’s work is important. I’ll say it time and time again, our narratives are necessary.
Because of Stephen, we have an inspiring catalogue of men and women behind extraordinary narratives in one space. For many of us who feel invisible and underrepresented, Stephen had our backs. The unfortunate question is who will have our backs now?
April would be the first and last time I’d have the pleasure and honor of interacting with Stephen. Aside from our FB exchange, he emailed his submission instructions for the project. The email included all the information needed to create a well-rounded bio. Stephen was helpful.
In his email, Stephen even explained the reason why the project was important to him:
Who wouldn’t want to be part of something so special, by someone so passionate about telling our stories? I feel terrible that I had not submitted my bio sooner. This isn’t to be self-serving. I wanted to support a man that has been supportive of Bama Boi Blues since it began. Even in an age where we see the lives of Black and POC easily taken, we can still take life for granted.
Though my rapport with Stephen wasn’t close, he was familiar enough for me to be affected by his loss. He was in my thoughts enough to believe he’d continue procuring thousands of resourceful bios. All of us are deeply hurt by this loss.
However, we will celebrate Stephen Maglott’s life and memory. His legacy will live on, and it’s not just because of Ubuntu. If you take a look at Stephen’s Facebook profile and UBP page, you’ll see an outpour of love and support from people all over who knew him. Author, artist, and activist, Tim’m West posted a wonderful tribute in honor of Stephen. In his tribute, Tim’m includes Stephen’s own Ubuntu Biography, which Stephen wrote himself only after Tim’m urged him to do so. I’m glad Stephen allowed us to know him.
Stephen Maglott was a phenomenal man. He had a desire to amplify and celebrate the lives of men and women of African descent. He has affirmed so many of us, and we are thankful for his service and dedication.
Although you are no longer with us, I want to thank you for seeing us. I thank you for affirming who we are and what we do. Your capacity to care will never be challenged. You’ve done so much in the time you’ve been here. I understand that you used the word “Ubuntu” as a means of empowerment and connection. You’ve brought our narratives together under one space for all to see. I am, because we are. We are, because you are.
I hope that your life’s work continues on, and the Ubuntu Biography Project remains. I also hope that we see a collection of these biographies in a book. That’s what you wanted. May it still happen.
We will miss you dearly, brotha. Thank you.