EditorAlan Bell
Circulation37,000 per month
PublisherAlan Bell
First issueDecember 1988
Final issue1994
CompanyBLK Publishing Company, Inc.
Based inLos Angeles

BLK was a monthly American newsmagazine, similar in format to Time and The Advocate, which targeted its coverage of people, events and issues to African-American LGBT readers.

Published in Los Angeles, the magazine was initially distributed free to local black establishments frequented by lesbians and gay men, but distribution rapidly expanded to nearly all LGBT venues in Greater Los Angeles. Its early coverage of the local black LGBT scene soon enlarged to a nationwide and international focus, and eventually to national and Canadian distribution.[1]

Sub-titled "The National Black Lesbian and Gay Newsmagazine", with the motto "where the news is colored on purpose", BLK (always capitalized) took its name from the standard abbreviation used in U.S. personal ads for "black", i.e. a person of sub-Saharan racial descent.[2]


Alan Bell, an African-American graphic designer who had published Gaysweek for three years in New York City during the late 1970s, was urged to start a news periodical for black lesbians and gay men by black LGBT AIDS activists such as Phill Wilson. But at first he resisted renewing a commitment to professional publishing.[3] Bell had, however, founded Black Jack, a black gay men's safer sex club,[4] in Los Angeles. It was not long before the dearth of reliable information in print about African-American LGBTs and about the HIV crisis among them evoked his efforts to fill an unmet need. Eventually he concluded that the natural next step from the eight-page newsletter he found himself producing monthly for members of Black Jack was expansion, and BLK was born.[5] Bell set out to establish BLK as a regular, predominantly hard news alternative to the infotainment-oriented publications that intermittently appeared in America's black gay communities.[6]

Bell chose the magazine's name to adhere to a tradition among national African-American publications of employing racially indicative titles (e.g., Ebony, Jet, Onyx, Sepia). Initially pronounced as is the word "black", use of the initials in spoken English gradually became customary.

Beginning as a 16-page black-and-white newsprint throwaway in 1988, it had grown to 40 pages with glossy color covers, paid circulation, and national product advertising by the time it ceased publication in mid-1994.[6]

Content and coverage

Although the first issue had a beefcake cover (a muscular black man clad only in the traditional Santa's hat and whiskers, shown with the magazine's coyly-placed logo), subsequent covers usually pictured a prominent African-American LGBT featured in the "BLK Interview" or photographically illustrated a theme of the month.

Among those interviewed were singer Patti LaBelle (August 1990);[7] porn star Randy Cochran (March 1989);[8] poet Audre Lorde (April 1989);[9] Carl Bean, founder of the Minority AIDS Project and of the Unity Fellowship Church (July 1989),[10] Black AIDS Institute founder Phill Wilson (October 1990);[11] Amassi and BMX founder Cleo Manago (March 1990);[12] documentary-maker Marlon Riggs (April 1990);[13] and Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis (August 1990).[14]

Complete list of cover stories

Date Whole Vol. No. Cover Story Cover Person
December 1988 1 1 1 "Santa Claus"
January 1989 2 1 2 "Remembering Sylvester" Sylvester
February 1989 3 1 3 "J'ai, The Lady Sings the Blues" J'ai
March 1989 4 1 4 "Randy Cochran" Randy Cochran
April 1989 5 1 5 "Oh, Lorde" Audre Lorde
May 1989 6 1 6 "Talking about Ayofemi" Ayofemi Stowe Folayan
June 1989 7 1 7 "It Happened to Me" Roger V Pamplin, Jr.
July 1989 8 1 8 "Rev. Carl Bean" Carl Bean
August 1989 9 1 9 "James Baldwin" James Baldwin
September 1989 10 1 10 "Working Inside" Keith C. St. John
October 1989 11 1 11 "Black and Not Gay" Rev. George Stallings, Jr.
November 1989 12 1 12 "The Many Faces of Jewel" Jewel Williams
December 1989 13 1 13 "Sgt. Perry Watkins" Sgt. Perry Watkins
January 1990 14 2 1 "Job Discrimination"
February 1990 15 2 2 "Lavender Light"
March 1990 16 2 3 "Cleo Manago" Cleo Manago
April 1990 17 2 4 "Marlon Riggs" Marlon Riggs
May 1990 18 2 5 "Volunteerism" (Michael Jones)
June 1990 19 2 6 "Barbara Smith" Barbara Smith
July 1990 20 2 7 "Pride at Home" (Nedra Johnson and Dionne Freeny)
August 1990 21 2 8 "Climbing the Hill" Dr. Marjorie Hill
September 1990 22 2 9 "Audre Lorde" Audre Lorde
October 1990 23 2 10 "Phill Wilson" Phill Wilson
November 1990 24 2 11 "The Road to Michigan" (Lauren Metoyer and Yolanda Whittington)
December 1990 25 2 12 "All in the Family" Ivy Young
January 1991 26 3 1 "Clauras and Wendies"
February 1991 27 3 2 "Heading for Home" James Cleveland
March 1991 28 3 3 "Tax Strategies" (Mitchell El-Mahdy)
April 1991 29 3 4 "No Peace" (Willis Oliver, Jr.)
May 2009 30 3 5 "Has Winnie Lost It?" Winnie Mandela
June 1991 31 3 6 "Joe Simmons" Joe Simmons
July 1991 32 3 7 "High Risk, Low Priority" (Emanuel Tapp)
August 1991 33 3 8 "Young, Gifted and Fierce" Pomo Afro-Homos
October 1991 34 3 9 "La Belle Epoque" Patti LaBelle
January 1992 35 4 1 "Steven Corbin" Steven Corbin
May 1992 36 4 2 "Black Lesbian Women in the Wild" (Lisa Mitchell and Titia Ingram)
September 1992 37 4 3 "Out of Fashanu" Justin Fashanu
December 1993 38 4 4 "Rupaul: Gag on the Calendar" RuPaul
January 1994 39 5 1 "Do They Know that the Mayor of Cambridge is Gay?" Mayor Kenneth Reeves
February 1994 40 5 2 "Mandy Carter Anti-War Activist" Mandy Carter
March 1994 41 5 3 "Must Men Who Love Boys Be Guilty?" Michael Jackson

Sister publications

The company that published BLK also published several other titles directed to the black LGBT community[3] including Blackfire, an erotic magazine for men; Black Lace, an erotic magazine for women; Kuumba, a co-sexual poetry journal; Black Dates, a calendar of events for Southern California and The BLK Guide to Southern California for Black People in the Life. In 1999, the company acquired Mentor, a gay non-black publication focusing on (legal, adult) intergenerational relationships. Blackfire and Kuumba remain in publication.

See also


  1. ^ Ward, Eric K. (February 1993), "BLK Creates Cartoons With Attitude", The Lavender Network, Eugene, OR
  2. ^ "How long will it take to put two and two together?" (Press release). BLK Publishing Company. 1999.
  3. ^ a b Cathy, Seabaugh (February 1994), "BLK: Focused Coverage for African-American Gays & Lesbians", Outlines, Chicago, vol. 7, no. 8
  4. ^ Jim Merrett (1992-04-15). "A Safe Place for Pud Pounding". The Advocate. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  5. ^ "BLK", Black Jack Newsletter, Los Angeles: Alan Bell, p. 3, January 1, 1989
  6. ^ a b "Alan Bell: BLK", Victory!, Sacramento, vol. 1, no. 5, April 1994
  7. ^ Bell, Alan (1992), "La Belle Epoque", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 34, pp. 10–17, ISSN 1043-0075
  8. ^ Banneker, Revon Kyle (July 1989), "Randy Cochran", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 4, pp. 8–10, ISSN 1043-0075
  9. ^ Hughes, Chi (April 1989), "Oh, Lorde!", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 5, pp. 6–7, ISSN 1043-0075
  10. ^ Banneker, Revon Kyle (July 1989), "Rev. Carl Bean", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 8, pp. 8–10, ISSN 1043-0075
  11. ^ Ocamb, Karen (October 1990), "Phill Wilson", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 23, pp. 7–17, ISSN 1043-0075
  12. ^ Bell, Alan (March 1990), "Cleo Manago", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 16, pp. 7–18, ISSN 1043-0075
  13. ^ Banneker, Revon Kyle (April 1990), "Marlon Riggs Untied", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 17, pp. 10–19, ISSN 1043-0075
  14. ^ Bell, Alan (August 1990), "Climbing the Hill", BLK, Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company, no. 23, pp. 9–15, ISSN 1043-0075