Remembering our founder—the heart and soul of the Ubuntu Biography Project.
Stephen A. Maglott (October 26, 1953 – August 13, 2016)
In the hours preceding his death, Stephen posted one final biography—that of Karen Williams, who remembered him a year later.
On August 6, 2016, Stephen Maglott sent me the following excerpted words at 8:21 AM:
“Karen Williams, Thank you so much. I am honored to work with you…These bio’s focus on community service and activism, so we want to be sure to talk about that…I do this because I want same-gender loving & Trans men and women of African descent to be proud of who they are and give readers ample reason to be proud of the dynamic community they are a part of.”
As the nation’s first out Black lesbian comic to use lesbian material in my act, Stephen wanted his readers to know more about my personal life, my background, and where I am heading. Stephen and I bonded so much during our phone conversations and email messages, that he shared with me about his health, and subsequently I talked up the benefits of practicing Buddhism with him as a way to offer him some physical and spiritual relief.
How sad that he passed away a week later, on my birthday, August 13th. My profile was the last one that he completed and I am forever grateful for the brief time that we got to share. I offer my sincere prayers for his peaceful repose and a debt of gratitude to those of you who are continuing Stephen’s heartfelt legacy.
May we all live with such a deep sense of purpose and mission and follow Stephen’s example of lifting ourselves up with honor and pride. He is missed…
You can read Karen Williams’ biography here.
Among the first times I truly saw myself as beautiful and praiseworthy was when you placed eyes on me; exposed the doubts as lies I’d held myself hostage to…suggesting I was incredible. I would still sometimes doubt it, but you were a stubborn fan who reminded me that there’s not quite anyone who does quite what I do. And then you became a friend, and in many respects a great love. You erected a monument chiseled of words and emotions from my testimony and that of others as a way of showing myself, in full color, to me. Since your passing I have sought to find that place where your vision of me and my most hopeful projections, meet. It’s really hard to compass without your legend. Thank for providing a road map on the journey to full self-actualization and joy. I miss you.
~ Tim’m T. West
“sightation,” a poem written by West for Stephen:
requires a special sighting
to bring voice to the invisible
one must bear witness to the unsaid
read photographs with three dimensional eyes
sense the contours of shame and fear
raise the dead and living
into shameless celebration
requires a griot
tirelessly excavating truth of folk
otherwise lied about or on
he or she “wasn’t really”
“we can’t really truly know”
when we can
when men who love men and women
who love women
transform our genealogies
of black excellence
requires that you don’t let people forget
people who get forgotten
hearts, minds, rhythm and wit excluded
with deliberate oversight
“cause of death unknown”
“left behind a host of family members…
and a friend”
it requires that you build profiles
dare hundreds of subjects to believe
ubuntu is to know they are worthy
so he offers a pep talk into genius
citing requires sight
so when the one who saw us all
with the most grace
the one who
embellished and adorned our humility
‘til it ran-go-tell it on a mountain top
when it had become clear there was little sight
left to cite
he couldn’t perhaps see himself
quite so alive or with purpose
unable to cite his people anymore
maybe it was time to fall
give up the ghost
accept the calling to return to dust
job well done
job well done.
I can’t believe a year has gone by since your passing. Part of my disbelief has much to do with the various ways I still sense your presence in my life, in our world. So, today, you are centered in my thoughts and heart. With love, Darnell.
~ Darnell Moore
Thank you for two years of friendship and for leading such a brilliantly loving existence. You spent the last full day of your life with me, a moment I will never take for granted. I am thankful your body is resting easy and determined to ensure your spirit continues in greatness.
~ Bryan Epps
I met Stephen in 2014 for the first time face to face, prior to that, I have known him on Facebook for over a year. Stephen was the uncle I never had. He will check up on me every week almost at the same time. He never talked to me about himself, he just wanted to know I am okay and doing well. Then I met him at the Union Street train station when I was in New York to give a talk. We had coffee, and that was the first time I knew he was blind. He also told me about his plan to make Ubuntu into a book. We shared laughs, he was a cheeky man, very funny and lovely at the same time while being very honest. I spoke with him few days before he passed. Like many others, I still can’t get over the fact that this angel has left us.
~ Bisi Alimi
Stephen was such an important keeper of our histories, histories that are often overlooked and erased, giving others the false sense of righteousness required to declare us and our communities invented and moorless, disconnnected from the reach of time and antiquity. Stephen revealed such assessments as the blights that they were and shattered lies and cisheterosupremacies with the blunt edge of truth. He was the first person to tell me that I was connected to these larger tapestries and that the work I am doing, that all of us are doing, is of value. In his name, I remember this and I honor him.
~ Robert Jones, Jr. (Son of Baldwin)
Stephen had the wisdom and the vision of understanding the importance of history. He used his talents to document the lives of LGBT folks in the Black community. We are every grateful to him for taking on this task. May he rest in peace and we are ever thankful for the legacies that he left to our care. Rest in peace.
~ Dr. Wilhelmina Perry
Stephen’s impact on our community has touched me in ways that will live well beyond his physical time here as well as mine. What he has done is caused a shift that will forever evolve into in more a PROUD and LOVING community. I was blessed to have shared many conversations with Stephen that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart. Thank you Stephen for the imprint you have left on all of our hearts. It is because of people like you, people like me are able to hold our heads high in PRIDE and LOVE. Rest easy brother.
~ Gee Smalls
The first time I heard from Stephen, with respect to honoring me on 9/4, my birthday, I smiled, thinking it would be cool, but a short piece, perhaps a paragraph. When I got the tribute, which was so lengthy that I had to read it in awe, I cried. Stephen’s level of research and in-depth insight in the people whom he profiled, was the stuff of passion and purpose. I am so blessed to have called him friend. REST WELL, KING!
~ Kevin E. Taylor
You put ALL of God’s Children in the spotlight and I was one of them. I never dreamed that anyone would want to read the pages of my life, but you did. Because of you, I going to write a book. I am glad your work will live on and I called your name now as an ancestor.
~ Reverend Robert Arrington
I thank him for leading with such grace, and humility. His commitment to the exposure and celebration of our community is inspiring today. And given the man he was, many others across the world are celebrated and honored, so it’s my humble honor to stand in his legacy and continue to uplift, inspire, and change the world. Much love.
~ Baron Artist
I miss your posts. They expanded my knowledge about African American LGBT movers and shakers. It made me feel honored when you included me.
~ JL King
Thank you Stephen for reaching out to me. You were funny and warm during our phone chats and guiding me through my bio process. May you rest with the angels…until we meet again.
~ Shawn Short
Stephen Maglott was a brilliant, clever and dedicated human being. I am so thankful to have known him. I miss you dearly.
~ J. Marshall Evans
I miss you. I’m also so thankful for the amazing work and leadership you shared for so many years and with so many people. We will continue to hold your spirit in our hearts. Sending you heavenly love!
~ Andrew Jolivette
Stephen, I won’t get over your death. I don’t think of you as gone away, your journey has just began. Life does hold so many facts and I am thinking of you as resting from sorrow and pains. Stephen I know you are in a place where there are no days or years. I want to remember you as living in my heart and in the hearts of all those you have touched.
~ Davis Mac-Iyalla
Stephen A. Maglott had a little notoriety in Afro-Caribbean LGBT communities in Europe, for the quality of his global work. He knew that the internet was an incredible medium to valorize personalities from the arts, associations, politics, etc. He was really serious in his word, well involved, and we had a very nice contact on Facebook, I remember. So I was shocked, of course, when I knew about his death. People who defend tolerance and respect can be proud of him. In the stars, in the wind blowing, rest in peace, Stephen…
~ Jann Halexander
In a time when so many are lost in a web of ceaseless, shameless self-promotion, Stephen made a selfless choice to lift others up. In building his Ubuntu family, he affirmed that those of us he chose had something to share to inspire others who are LBGTQI to love themselves unconditionally, that any achievement is possible. I feel so honored to have had a chance to experience his generosity & lovingkindness over the years. May his life & legacy be a lesson to us all!
~ L. Lamar Wilson
Before learning about the Ubuntu Biography Project, I would seek out the stories of queer people of color. About three years I ago, I stumbled upon the Facebook page for the project. I loved discovering new creatives and learning more about their lives. Some of the writers who were profiled, I purchased their books. And, I was honored when Stephen invited me to submit my profile to be featured on the site. I loved his determination and his passion to document the Black LGBT experience. He will be greatly missed.
~ Victor Yates
Although we’ve never met, I truly appreciate your vision. Your work was and will continue to be inspiration to many. Such a self-less gesture to create this conduit. You will be missed.
~ Carlton Brown
Stephen embarked on a journey unlike anyone else to document the lives of LGBT Americans, particularly of color, with his project. He was a gentleman to be remembered through his legacy of giving and educating others. He will be missed!
~ Tona Brown
I am proud, deeply honored and humbled to acknowledge Stephen’s legacy, as well as that of many other greats/pioneers who share in our spirit of liberation and equality. I was very sad to hear the news of his passing. May he rest in perfect peace and may his vision continue to live on!
~ Adejoke Tugbiyele
“God Bless The Child Who’s Got His Own.” Stephen knew the importance that Ubuntu, a space of our own, would have. I reflect upon the many blessings that have unfolded as a result of coming to know the lives of so many via the extraordinary work he did. He was kind, persistent, and generous.
~ Daniel Alexander Jones
In the words of President Obama, “It is hard to capture in words the essential truth of a persons private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.” Stephen I honor you for offering your platform to me and in the process created networks within themselves around the world. Our conversation birthed a freedom within me to no longer be a part of any religion that judges or marginalizes a person based on race, abilities, gender, orientation, identity, or social status, but a Love that fights for the rights of people everywhere. Your spirit lives.
~ Tim Captville-Domon
What a warm, wonderful human being I always found Stephen to be!! His interviews of me ALWAYS became friends sharing QUALITY TIME!!! HE FOREVER LIVES IN MY HEART.
~ Archbishop Carl Bean
In the months leading up to my presidency of Gamma Xi Phi Professional Arts Fraternity, I knew that I wanted to find a proper tribute to those artists of color who were also members of the LGBT community. I looked no further than Stephen Maglott, who was happy to enter into a partnership with GXP. Until Stephen’s untimely passing, we as a fraternity shared and placed special emphasis on Stephen’s stories of unsung LGBT heroes of the arts. Our partnership was beautiful, as was Stephen’s spirit. I am so grateful to have had him in my life, even if the time was all too brief.
~ Rashid Darden
The work and love that you contributed to the community will not be forgotten. Your labors lift us up, as we lift your memory. RIP, Beloved.
~ Charles Brack
Only once in a hundred years, does an elevated man of the caliber of Stephen A. Maglott emerge. He was very passionate about The Ubuntu Biography Project. During the time that he worked on my biography, we had the opportunity to get to know one another. We became fast friends. My only regret was that Stephen and I didn’t have enough time together.
~ Imani Rashid
Dear Stephen, although we only knew each other virtually, I could tell from our many email exchanges that you had a wonderful spirit. It was evident that you loved LGBTQ people and that is a beautiful legacy to leave. I know your celestial being is enjoying the fruits of your labor, but know that you are indeed missed.
~ Oscar Holmes IV
Stephen was a kind, considerate man with a huge heart and a sharp eye. We became friends three years ago when we worked together to create my birthday bio. He was the perfect combination of meticulous and laid back, focused and open. We hung out several times after, discussing our shared dream to create an Ubuntu book. I’m sorry it didn’t happen, but maybe it will.
~ Linda Villarosa
To my dear brother Stephen, you are forever in my heart and I am eternally grateful for your earthly influence and what you will have on your spiritrealm journey. Your work with the Ubuntu Biography Project connects us with you and you with us in the NOW and in the forever. Thank you so much for including me. May the fairest of winds carry you beyond the reach of mortal kin to worlds unknown. Pastor/Chaplain Pj as in Peace and Justice.
~ Pastor/Chaplain Pj Anderson DMin
There are not enough words to express the extreme gratitude I have on a personal and community level for my brotha Stephen, who transitioned into Infinity last year. I miss him but know he’s still here in spirit. I met Stephen years ago online and we maintained contact through IMs and content posts. Because we shared an equal love of government and politics, Stephen would comment on those types of posts frequently and aid me when I shared information with others less familiar with how government and politics works. When Stephen started Ubuntu, I always thought it was for “really important and historic” same gender loving/gay people and loved reading about the rich contributions members of our community had made. One day I jokingly made a remark to Stephen that I had better do something big so I could be featured on my birthday and Stephen wrote back, “You already have and can be featured. Send me your email address and I’ll send you instructions on how to get started.” When I received the email, I became frightened because I didn’t know how to approach it. As a freelance writer, I’m comfortable covering subjects, not being the subject. But Stephen reassured me, saying “Buster, this doesn’t have to be terribly difficult, these bios focus on community service and activism, so we want to be sure to talk about that. People love feeling as though they are getting to know you a little, so the more personal information is always the most compelling. But if you get stumped, please contact me.” Over the next 8 months, I did just that! Finally, eleven days before my birthday, I provided Stephen with the most honest and revealing account of my existence as a black same gender male I have ever written. And for the first time in my life, I felt my experiences were a legitimate component of the pantheon of black same gender loving people in America and throughout the African diaspora. Stephen gave me that gift and I owe him a debt which can never be repaid. Stephen, I love you, I miss you, and will be with you in Infinity one day.
~ Buster Spiller-Craft
I always appreciated Stephen’s ambition to celebrate queer writers of African descent – in a time when there is so much news about how we are under siege, Stephen reminded us of how far we have come, as well, and of the reasons to feel joy and pride as antidotes to despair.
~ Carl Phillips
Intelligent, passionate, and a wee bit naughty!
~ James Lester
It’s been about year now since we lost one of our brightest stars, Stephen A. Maglott, a proud and passionate man dedicated to preserving the history and contributions made be people of African American and African Ancestry that identify as LGBTQ.
I met Stephen through Facebook back in 2013. I was humbled and honored when he asked me to become of the Ubuntu Biography Project! To be included was a great honor and also inspired me to continue my efforts to make a difference within my community and especially for the generations that follow us.
As long as humankind has been on the planet earth, from the time that primitive drawings were part of life, to the tradition of oral histories that are still being practiced today in some cultures, humankind has always sought to retell the stories of their lives or experiences before one or more persons.
As we have evolved throughout the past millenniums, we have been able to use literature, theatre, radio, film, television, and the Internet to tell those stories or create stories of other human beings as a source of affirmation, education, and entertainment.
The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have had some of the greatest milestones in the history of humankind. Throughout the history of literature and other means of communication, many people thought to question the validity, even the very existence of the LGBT community. Many chose to overlook or ignore the contributions because we live in a culture that raises us to be heterosexual, which may not always achieve the desired result.
Having non-stereotypical representations of LGBT Culture and Society grace the pages of books or the stage and reach mainstream society has been long in the making. Still, just as in mainstream U.S. society there is noted behavior that questions the validity and the efforts of the LGBT community, those members of that community that identify as African American or of African descent in some cases have been erased from mainstream society.
We can always look at the past as an example and lesson on how we should lay the foundation for the future. Thankfully Stephen created the Ubuntu Biography Project to illuminate the vast and far reaching efforts of the LGBT community of African ancestry! Although Stephen isn’t physically with us anymore, thankfully Aundaray Guess, Mark Zustovich and Waddie Grant combined their talents and resources to keep his legacy going and are adding to it so that even more individuals are profiled.
Stephen liked working in the background and told me that he didn’t want to be profiled on the project. It’s my hope that we celebrate this wonderful man not only as we commemorate his passing but to celebrate the day that he was gifted to all of us.
~ Sanford E. Gaylord
When Stephen reached out to me and asked if he could do a profile of me, I was flattered but reluctant. I had long enjoyed reading the profiles of other LGBTQ individuals of African descent but have never sought the spotlight myself. Anyone who knew Stephen, however, knows how persistent and persuasive he could be. I relented, and I am glad I did. With Stephen, the process was enjoyable but meaningful and reflective. It was the first time I was able to share the narrative of my life, the good and the bad, in my own words. Stephen lovingly, meticulously, and without financial recompense chronicled the lives of both well-known and unknown LGBTQ individuals of African descent from all around the world, ensuring their legacies will live on. His tireless and painstaking efforts were a tremendous gift to us all. Many people have been inspired by reading these profiles, and almost certainly many lives have been saved. With Stephen’s passing, I am heartened that his own legacy will survive, as someone committed to shining a spotlight on those who often go without acknowledgment, recognition or celebration. He epitomized what it means to be an ally. Bravo to those who are continuing Stephen’s important work. And bravo to Stephen. We acknowledge, recognize and celebrate you today and always.
~ Reggie Shuford
If ever I am struck with amnesia I would hope to come across this site to give me an overview of who I am. I have been interviewed a number of time in the past but this summation of all that is “me” honors me in ways I could have never imagined. This is one of many bios that is a part of the Ubuntu Project that is a brainchild of the late Stephen A. Maglott. He interviewed me mere days before he passed. He leaves an unimaginably important legacy behind…
~ Rupert Kinnard
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.
Read Kevin’s full tribute.
~ Kevin Tarver (BamaBoiBlues)
Aside from his intelligence and compassion, what I admired most about Stephen was his humility. The first time we spoke was to discuss a biography he’d posted of a woman I’m studying. Instead of responding to my question with hostility, he was warm, and friendly. I respected his commitment to telling our stories and getting them right. I miss him, his sense of integrity, and his dedication to our communities.
~ K.T. Ewing
According to Facebook, Brother Stephen and I first came into contact with one another in 2012. A recent search through Messenger on my phone, gave me an idea of what the tone was like of our passed correspondence on social media: between 2012 and 2016. If I were to describe Stephen’s mode of correspondence in a few words they would be kind, comforting, assuring, supportive, outspoken, charming, and flirtatious.
Shortly after we began corresponding, Stephen had asked me to be a part of the Ubuntu Biography Project. I was overwhelmed and honored to be a part of our cultural narrative along with writers, artists and activists.
You see, as an Expat living in Northern Europe, to have someone from home: New York City, to include me in such an important project gave me hope, courage, and a sense of belong.
Stephen had passed away shortly after our last correspondence. And although, only after I had asked him how he was doing, did he mention that he had been having health issues- Stephen’s passing was unexpected. It was my hope that one day when I had the chance to visit home that he Stephen and I could have had the opportunity to meet in person. Alas, that will not be possible. But I am, as many others, indebted to Brother Stephen’s strength, fortitude, sense of community and his legacy the Ubuntu Biography Project.
Rest in peace my Brother. Yours Truly, Brotha David Morrow
~ David Morrow
Words cannot express how special Stephen was and continues to be for the LGBTQ community. Stephen has spent many hours working to capture the history of our community and ensure that the world knows we exist(ed). Thank you Stephen for all your hard work and for creating a legacy for community that is often forgotten. You were gone too soon my friend and you are truly missed. Many blessings! And may you rest in love…
~ Dwight Allen O’Ne
I never met you Stephen, but I was glad to know of you and happy that our souls made a connection.
~ Kevin Mwachiro
Steve and I met on Facebook in 2010 and dated briefly in 2011; I’m grateful our friendship survived. With regard to UBUNTU, I was amazed that a white man would be so dedicated to uplifting Black non-hetero people, and I gladly assisted him in obtaining bios, including my own. Although we discussed his family and cultural background, he never seemed nearly as passionate about it as he was about others’.
Aside from UBUNTU, I honor my memories of Steve as a courageous survivor of a vicious mugging that would have defeated many others. He was as dedicated to his job with the NY Senate as he was to UBUNTU, churning out Proclamations with the same attention he devoted to bios, in the midst of declining vision. I trust a Proclamation was prepared to acknowledge his unwavering commitment in the midst of typical political machinations.
Finally, I would pay tribute to the beautiful Spirit Steve shared with me, which transcends the vagaries of our interpersonal relationship. He schlepped an INCREDIBLY HEAVY set of Cuisinart cookware from Manhattan to Newark, NJ on the BUS as a birthday gift, a constant reminder evermore of his generosity and grace. He called to check in with/on me regularly, even after I moved from the area, generally upbeat despite his challenges, solicitous and loving in a way I will always treasure and miss.
~ Al Cunningham
It’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember. Stephen had been an great friend and inspiration to me. Throughout my struggles, he would call me for hours reassuring me in his calming soft voice, that I was held. He once said, “Chalwe, you are becoming transformed, I know the pain of being vulnerable, surrendering your inner most kind to the unknown. You become real. You’re not falling apart; you’re just falling into something different. Not everyone can walk this journey and not break or have sharp edges. This too shall pass, and I will walk besides you my brother.”
A year ago everything was different and now that I look back, I realize a year can do a lot to a person. Stephen, “there is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
Rest In Peace my brother.
~ Chalwe Ranney
Stephen Maglott was a true pioneer historian for LGBTQ communities of color worldwide. In having the vision to document LGBTQ individuals from various professions, careers and walks of life, Stephen proved that LGBTQ folks of color were “Out and Proud” and leading productive lives. Stephen’s Ubuntu Biography Project shattered stereotypes and misconceptions held by many. In addition, his project was an important document illustrating positive role models for young people.
Stephen is sorely missed, however through his important work, his vision will be with us and future generations.
Knowing and working with Stephen was a genuine personal and professional privilege. Stephen was a man of kindness, diligence, and deep humanity, whose dedication to the Ubuntu Biography Project has given us a priceless, timeless document about the LGBTQ people of color who have contributed so much to our lives and our world. Over the years I knew Stephen, he always strove to tell the stories of the artists, activists, and public figures who dared to love and live outside the boundaries of strict, unyielding social prejudices. That is Stephen’s legacy: he spoke truth, and made us shine brightly, even in the dark shadows of homophobia and hatred. Every one of the biographies Stephen lovingly created, is a tribute, and a monument, to his memory.
~ Nathan James