By Miko Evans for Meak Productions
Photos by Meak Productions, Mark Morin, and Elijah Nicholas, PR
Sources: National Black Justice Coalition, Wikipedia, History of Black Gay America Archives, PR
Dr. Elijah Nicholas
Dr. Elijah Nicholas is a 12-time published Author, Actor, and Trans Advocate. Assigned to the female sex at birth, Elijah spent almost half his life in the US Military as a woman. Retiring from the US Air Force as a Lt Col in 2012, Dr. Elijah now fully lives and embraces his core values: authenticity, integrity, and transparency. Dr. Elijah further resigned from his pastoral duties when he started his gender reassignment from female to male in 2018.
Dr. Elijah holds a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from The University of Phoenix, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Masters of Science in Leadership and Operational Art from Air University, a Masters of Art in Education Training & Leadership (MAET), and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Administration of Justice. Dr. Nicholas attended the Harvard Divinity Executive Education program in 2021.
Dr. Elijah currently serves on the Transgender Expansive Committee for OUT Georgia Business Alliance, the International Transgender Advisory Group for the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association’s Foundation, and the LGBTQIA+ Liaison for The Atlanta Veterans Administration Mental Health Advisory Committee.
As an author, Dr. Elijah created an LGBTQI+ friendly family and children’s book featuring Madoodle (aka Madison), a ten-year-old girl whose uncle Pete was once her favorite auntie Mary. Madoodle is based on Dr. Elijah’s personal experiences with family as he navigated his gender transition. Dr. Elijah creates stories of love, family, compassion, inclusion, awareness, and authenticity. As an actor, Dr. Elijah provides trans visibility in media and entertainment and can be seen in several films, television, and award shows. As an Advocate, Dr. Elijah delivers talks and training entailing authentic conversations around gender expression, LGBTQI+ inclusion, transgender awareness, and equitable employment for all.
Dr. Elijah resides in Atlanta, GA, with his two dogs, King Duke and Queen Tillie. Find more information about Dr. Elijah at www.ElijahNicholas.com.
With a global reach of over 20 million across all social media platforms, Tyshon Lawrence does it all: fashion, podcasting, comedy — he is the ultimate entertainer, constantly pushing boundaries and setting new norms. Tyshon stands out from the pack while coupling his bold personality to his liberated sense of style. In addition to comedy and fashion, Tyshon embraces authenticity as an LGBTQ+ influencer, positively impacting social media and his broader communities.
Tyshon has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, including SAVAGE X FENTY, MICHAEL KORS, YSL, and more. With his electric personality and contagious energy, he has turned his passion into his purpose (while loving every step along the way!)
Tyshon uses his robust platform to vocalize taking care of your mental health daily. Many people use social media to escape from the real world, but he advocates for taking everything you see with a grain of salt – you never know what someone is going through behind closed doors.
Born in North Carolina, Tyshon always knew from a young age that he meant to be doing something bold with his life; before hitting the ground running in the social media space, Tyshon worked three jobs at a time as a certified CNA Nurse. Even then, he used his infectious energy to help brighten the day of patients.
Angela Yvonne Davis
Angela Yvonne Davis, born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, is a political activist, scholar, writer, and organizer known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the United States and abroad. Davis has devoted her life to combating racism and sexism and has never wavered in her commitment to global social justice. She has inspired countless others to stand up and speak out.
Angela’s father, Frank, served briefly as a high school history teacher before opening his own service station. Her mother, Sallye, was an elementary school teacher and active member of the NAACP. The oldest of four children, her brother, Ben Davis, played defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Her college-educated parents raised Davis in a segregated neighborhood nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” for the frequent bombings there by the Ku Klux Klan. Davis attended civil rights activities and demonstrations in Birmingham with her activist mother. When Davis tried to start an interracial study group in high school, it was harassed and disbanded by the police.
Davis’ mother was a national officer and leading organizer of the Southern Negro Congress, an organization heavily influenced by the Communist Party. Consequently, Angela Davis grew up surrounded by communist organizers and thinkers who significantly influenced her intellectual development. By her junior year of high school, she was accepted at an American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers) program that placed Black students from the South in integrated schools in the North. Davis chose Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. While there, she was introduced to socialism and communism and was recruited by a Communist youth group, Advance.
Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of only three Black students in her first-year class. She worked part-time to earn enough money to travel to France and Switzerland before attending the eighth World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland. Davis returned home in 1963 to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interview about her attendance at the Communist-sponsored festival.
Davis completed her second year at Brandeis before attending the Junior Year in France program at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York); classes were initially at Biarritz and later at the Sorbonne. At Biarritz, Davis received news of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing committed by the Ku Klux Klan. This occasion deeply affected her because she was personally acquainted with the young victims. She returned to Brandeis and attended classes in her final year with Marxist political philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who considered her the best student he ever had. Davis earned her master’s degree in 1965, graduating magna cum laude in French literature and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She pursued the graduate study of philosophy in Frankfurt between 1965 through 1967.
While a student in San Diego, California, Davis became more active in the civil rights movement, joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers. Then, objecting to the male chauvinism she observed in these organizations, Davis pursued her activism as a member of the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-Black faction of the Communist Party in Los Angeles. Urged by then-California governor Ronald Reagan, the University of California fired Davis in 1969 because of her membership in the Communist Party. Reagan vowed she would never again teach in California, even though Davis was evaluated as an unbiased and popular teacher. After vigorous protests from students, faculty, and administration, she was reinstated by court order. Nonetheless, the board did not renew Davis’s contract in 1970, citing her unfinished dissertation and her radical political activism with the Soledad Brothers as their reasons.
On behalf of three prisoners at California’s Soledad prison who had tried to organize a Marxist group among fellow prisoners and who were often abused by the prison officials, Davis began to organize protests, raise funds for their defense, and speak publicly, calling for their release. She had received threats by phone and mail and purchased guns for protection. The weapons were used by the brother of one of the Soledad Brothers in a courtroom rescue attempt in 1970. In the shootout, a judge and others were killed, and Davis was implicated for owning the guns.
The FBI placed her on the Ten Most Wanted List when she fled into hiding. Found in New York, Davis was held in prison for over a year while a huge Free Angela movement began to grow internationally, protesting the abusive power of the criminal justice system.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono showed their support by recording the song “Angela” on their 1972 album, “Some Time in New York City.” The jazz musician Todd Cochran, also known as Bayete, released “Free Angela (Thoughts…and all I’ve got to say)” that same year. Also in 1972, Tribe Records co-founder Phil Ranelin released a song dedicated to Davis entitled “Angela’s Dilemma” on “Message from the Tribe,” a spiritual jazz collectible. The Rolling Stones’ song “Sweet Black Angel,” recorded in 1970 and released in 1972 on their album “Exile on Main Street,” is dedicated to Davis and is one of the band’s only overtly political releases.
At her trial in 1972, Davis was found not guilty on all charges by an all-white jury. Davis’s imprisonment for over a year inspired a huge international backlash of grassroots protests, and her case became a symbol of the abusive power of the criminal justice system against minorities. Her acquittal was seen by many in the Black and leftist communities as a victory over government persecution, and the case elevated Angela Davis as a cause célèbre to a level of international renown she had never known before.
Following her acquittal, she began a national lecture tour, speaking and writing about civil rights, prison reform, and social change. Davis visited Cuba, where her reception by Afro-Cubans at a mass rally was so enthusiastic that she was reportedly barely able to speak. When she returned to the United States, her socialist leanings increasingly influenced her understanding of race struggles. Davis worked as a lecturer of African American studies at Claremont College in the late 1970s before becoming a lecturer in women’s and ethnic studies at San Francisco State University.
In 1979, Davis visited the Soviet Union, where she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and made an honorary professor at Moscow State University. In 1980 and 1984, Davis was the Communist Party’s vice-presidential candidate in the United States. Davis also received honorary doctorates from Lenin University and the University of Leipzig in the German Democratic Republic.
Davis has lectured at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, Bryn Mawr College, Brown University, Syracuse University, and other schools. She states that in her teaching, mostly at the graduate level, she concentrates more on posing questions that encourage the development of critical thinking than on imparting knowledge. In 2012, Davis was awarded the 2011 Blue Planet Award, an award given for contributions to humanity and the planet.
In 1997, Davis confirmed rumors that she was a lesbian, a subject she had long been reluctant to speak openly about. Two years later, she delivered an address at Johns Hopkins University’s “Living Out Loud” program. In her speech, Davis focused on how issues of race and class affect the gay movement. At the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference in 2012, Davis mentioned that she was a vegan, saying that “[w]hen they’re eating a steak or eating chicken, most people don’t think about the tremendous suffering that those animals endure simply to become food products to be consumed by human beings.”
Davis has published numerous articles, essays, and books, including her autobiography, several books on women and feminism (most notably “Women, Race & Class” in 1981), and radical prison reform. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st-century abolitionist movement. She is a co-founder of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization addressing reform of the prison industrial complex. In recent work, she argues that the prison system in the United States more closely resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system.
Nationally and internationally, Davis has been a popular lecturer on the necessity for social change, whether women’s rights, global peace and disarmament, improved opportunities for workers, affordable health care, prison abolition, or the need for and encouragement of youth activism today. To achieve social change, Davis argues for politically-based coalitions that organize beyond race and ethnic groups to include differences in class, culture, gender, and sexual orientation. “We have to recognize the intersectionality, the interconnectedness of all of these institutions and attitudes,” she stated.
Davis continues to write and lecture and remains on the University of California, Santa Cruz faculty. In 2014, Davis returned to UCLA as a Regents’ Lecturer, and two years later, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in Healing and Social Justice from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco during its 48th annual commencement ceremony. In 2016, she was honored by the Brooklyn Museum at the annual Sackler Center First Awards, celebrating women who have broken gender barriers and made remarkable contributions in their fields.
In 2017, Davis was a featured speaker and made honorary co-chair at the Women’s March on Washington after Donald Trump’s inauguration.
From 1980 to 1983, Davis was married to Hilton Braithwaite.
In 1997, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with Out magazine. By 2020, Davis was living openly with her partner, the academic Gina Dent, a fellow humanities scholar and intersectional feminist researcher at UC Santa Cruz. Together, they have advocated for the abolition of police and prisons, black liberation, and Palestinian solidarity.