“We’re Not Going to Dim Our Light:” What Pride Means for This Cooke Scholar

Photo by Morale Studios, Mia Rose

New Cooke College Scholar Safara Malone, an incoming freshman at Harvard University, will be one of the first openly transgender Black women to attend Harvard this fall. She reflects on her high school journey and activism for transgender youth and BIPOC youth this Pride Month.  

Safara Malone likes to say that her life is entirely related to queerness and Black queerness. 

Throughout high school, much of Safara’s work has been centered around creating a more equitable and inclusive space for trans, LGBTQ+, and Black youth.  

She’s also passionate about the Austin, Texas ballroom scene, and is a part of the House of Lepore (the underground ballroom scene began in New York City as a space for queer Black and Latinx people to perform and be themselves. It’s since become popular all over the country and welcomes a diverse group of people.) 

As a Black transgender teen in Texas, making sure her voice is heard and creating space for other youth who are often marginalized or discredited is a priority for her. 

“I definitely notice that the queer activism space is white dominated ,” Safara says. “So I thought it was important that I stepped in at every possibility that I could to have my voice in these different spaces because we’re just very often overlooked as Black trans people.” 

Safara was Vice President of the Black Student Union at her school, and a council member for the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Network’s Transgender Justice Leadership Program. Through an internship with the University of Washington, she has also been a leader for the development of a website about gender-affirming sexual education for transgender youth over the past year. The website isn’t launched yet, but will be an important resource for Black trans youth.  

“We want [the website] to talk about the specificity of the dangers that come with being a Black trans person, especially the violence against Black trans women.” 

This fall, Safara will enroll at Harvard as one of the first openly transgender Black women to attend the school. She plans on studying women, gender, and sexuality, and as well as sociology and African American studies. In addition to being selected as a Cooke College Scholar, she’s also received a Point Foundation BIPOC Scholarship and scholarships from her school district. Accomplishing these amazing achievements, while prioritizing school and activism, wasn’t easy to juggle, but it’s deeply important to Safara to spend time doing things that will benefit her community. 

“I did struggle a lot with having time to actually do homework and focus on academics and the clubs that I was leading inside of school, but I needed to make it work in order to do what I was really passionate about.” 

While Safara is excited to start her new chapter at Harvard and move to Massachusetts this fall, she also feels strong ties to her community in Texas and worries about policies that could negatively impact, and are already negatively impacting, queer youth in her home state. A few weeks ago, Safara went to the Texas legislature and spoke against TX HB 1686, a bill that aims to ban gender-affirming care for youth. This bill has already passed in the Texas Senate.  

“It’s been really hard thinking about how I’m going to have to leave Texas because I feel like there’s so much need for trans youth and specifically POC trans youth to talk about their experiences,” Safara says. “Bills like these, even if they don’t pass, which they are passing, now, cause a lot of suicidal ideation for queer youth. It’s really important for the youth to talk about their experiences and have peers that reach out to them.” 

For Safara, the ballroom scene and finding community in the House of Lepore has been an important part of embracing her identity. 

“In this society, as a Black trans person, I have to make space for myself,” Safara says. “To be in a space that has historically, and from the beginning, always had space for me, is actually really important and liberating.” 

This month, Safara is traveling with her House to several different balls across the American south in honor of Pride Month. For her, Pride is about congregating with others in the LGBTQ+ community and being openly, vibrantly queer while celebrating the many intersectionalities of queer identity. 

“We’re not going to dim our light,” Safara says.