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On This Gay Day | Poet Pat Parker died in 1989

Pat Parker was an African American poet and activist. Her poetry and activism drew upon her experiences as a Black lesbian feminist.

Born Patricia Crooks in 1944, she grew up in Houston, Texas. She moved to Los Angeles when she was seventeen to go to college, and then moved on to San Francisco to study writing but did not graduate.

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She married playwright Ed Bullins in 1962. During their marriage the couple got involved with the Black Panther Party. The couple divorced four years later, with the poet later detailed how she’d suffered domestic violence.

Soon after her 1966 divorce, she married publisher Robert F Parker, but this relationship also came to end with Pat Parker later saying by the late 1960s she had realised she was a lesbian.

In the early 60’s Parker began reading her poems in bookshops, and after moving to Oakland California in the early 1970s her writing career took off.

One of her most well-known works is Womanslaughter a poem she wrote in response to her older sister Shirley Jones who was shot and killed by her husband.

From the late 1960’s until her death in 1989 Parker corresponded with Audre Lorde, whose own work as a writer followed similar themes. Parker died at the age of 45 after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

In June 2019 she was included as one of the 50 inaugural “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes”┬álisted on the USA’s Stonewall National Monument inside New York’s Stonewall Inn.

In 1979 Parker read her poem Where You Will Be at the first National March On Washington for LGBTQ Rights.

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