Essex Hemphill was an American poet, performer, and editor who was an important figure in the LGBTQ rights and black cultural movements of the late 20th century. Born in Washington D.C. in 1957, Hemphill grew up in a working-class family and was involved in activism from a young age. He attended Howard University, where he studied creative writing and became involved in the city’s burgeoning gay and lesbian community. Hemphill’s poems, which were marked by their honesty, intelligence, and raw emotion, offered powerful perspectives on the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender. He was also a performer, bringing his poems to audiences through readings, spoken word performances, and recordings. Hemphill was the editor of several anthologies, including “Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men,” which is considered a seminal work of African American LGBTQ literature. He died in 1995, leaving behind a legacy of work that continues to inspire and challenge those who read and hear it.