2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Gino L.
For many young, old, famous and common people, the taboo feeling associated with being LGBT+ has touched close to eradication. As a young individual who fits into the LGBT+ community, this is a calming feeling like no other because I know generations ahead of me will generally have little trouble as youth with accepting themselves for who they are. Achieving this feeling is easier said than done though once you add the prejudice dealt out for being an African-American on top of that. Being an African-American on top of being a member of any other minority equates an amount of stress and hatred projected towards that individual that are just too much for many to deal with, especially with the same publicity and finesse that Frank Ocean did. Frank Ocean is an African-American hip-hop artist identifying as bisexual. In a sick world where a black male can be legally shot down on the grounds of wearing a hoodie, Ocean has the guts to publically acknowledge being an LGBT+ citizen on top of his race. The prejudice he overcomes is commendable. He even goes as far as writing lyrics with pronouns that confirm him loving other males. This is a huge "feel-good" encouragement for other struggling black and gay youth. Even more commendable is Ocean's choice to exemplify his sexuality in his music in the one genre that sometimes thrives off of sexuality and the heterosexual subgroup of it. So when he blazes his path through the hip-hop industry with touching ballads of homosexual love, contending with songs that focus on women and a party lifestyle, Ocean is blatantly taking a stand. Besides being an African-American member of the LGBT+ community, he is also taking strides to change the hip-hop music game, stealing multiple Grammy's and other awards while taking the number one spot with his album "channel ORANGE". Frank Ocean has been defiant and successful, a duo hard to beat in appeal to a teenager. He has disregarded the bigoted opinions of those around him to publically acknowledge his identity and express himself in his truest form through his music. This inspires me to further encourage accurate representation of black and gay people in art and media, because Ocean is a reminder that it can be done successfully. In a time where the youth is socially growing quicker than ever, learning to accept ourselves is so vital. Ocean is a good model to follow in self-acceptance. He also inspires me to explore the seemingly dangerous areas in art, because he showed me that everything has room to change. Most importantly, Frank Ocean is a beacon of hope. He instills in me the hope of total acceptance of the African-American and LGBT+ communities. There's hope for the expansion of art and its necessity for the youth. Because of Frank Ocean I can hope that the people and art around me are changing for the better.

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