Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Cheryl Clarke

"I write to keep us in history." For Cheryl Clarke, writing poetry is a form of political activism. She has written and lived her life in ways that bolster the visibility of people of color, women, and the LGBT community. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she attended Howard University during the height of political protests in the 1960s and began writing poetry during the Black Arts Movement of these years. She entered graduate school at Rutgers in 1969 and has stayed for more than four decades, serving as Director of the Office of Social Justice Education and, most recently, as Dean of Students. Clarke has published several books of poetry: Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women (1982), Living as a Lesbian (1986), Humid Pitch (1989), and Experimental Love (1993). In 2005, she published her first book of literary criticism, After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement. From 1981–1990, she was a co-editor of Conditions. As a literary journal that sought to publish the work of working-class lesbians and lesbians of color, it reflected Clarke’s belief that “a movement has to control its means of cultural production.”