There’s no other way to say it: Elle Hearns is a force to be reckoned with. Since 2013, the Ohio native has performed extensive work as a speaker, writer, and community organizer with organizations like GetEQUAL and the Black Lives Matter Global Network. That led to her founding the Marsha P. Johnson Institute in 2015, which works to protect and defend the human rights of Black transgender people, and where Hearns now serves as Executive Director.
The organization’s work is more pressing than ever, given the current fever pitch that the sociopolitical climate has hit with protests, and Pride month shifting focus to spotlight challenges faced by the Black queer community. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black femme, is credited as being one of the forebears to tthe modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, and widely credited with sparking the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. She helped shape and change the course of history, and it’s this legacy that the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and Hearns work to uphold.