Elle Hearns is the executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which aims to create social justice initiative, policy and programming for Black trans women. She made history when she led the design of the first-ever Movement for Black Lives Convening, held in Cleveland, Ohio, and later when she played a pivotal role in the creation of the official Black Lives Matter network the organization that formed after the founding of the popular hashtag. In 2014, she co-founded the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She is also a fearless spokesperson. Elle’s writing has been featured in TruthOut, Huffington Post, and Ebony. Her work has also been covered widely by outlets like Essence, The New York Times, and Fusion.
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Three adjectives to describe yourself: Passionate, Loyal, Sincere
MN: Who has been the most influential person in your life that inspired you to begin the path that you’re on today?
EH: Myself and my mother.
MN: As a Black woman/Black femme, we are rarely allowed to take up space. What are the ways in which you find yourself purposefully doing just that?
EH: I purposefully challenge myself to do things that make me uncomfortable, I’ve never been afraid to speak up, I’ve always been afraid to fully embrace all of me. So I enjoy doing things people don’t expect me to or believe I will do. I’ve learned that everything I say I’m going to do I do. Setting intention around my wildest dreams has afforded me that space I desire.
MN: How have you had to work to deconstruct or break down any anti-Blackness that we’ve been taught to harbor?
EH: The amount of anti-Blackness that one internalizes in a lifetime takes a lifetime to release. Choosing myself has been the most important assignment I’ve had regarding deconstructing anti-Blackness. I’ve worked hard to remove people and lovers from my life that have meant me no good, I truly believe it was my own beliefs regarding myself that created the conditions for their harm to be a part of my story. Choosing to have a new story that’s rich in understanding of Black radical tradition and how my life has mirrored some of the Black radical legacies has educated me most intensely about my future.
MN: What advice would you give to your 13-year-old self?
EH: To do exactly what you did, hold on!
MN: What is your biggest dream for Black women/Black femmes everywhere?
EH: My biggest dream for Black women is that we will love ourselves fully from our own eyes, and if we’re lucky to love ourselves I hope we learn to love ourselves over and over again in new ways…and then just maybe we’ll be able to apply that love to a Black woman before anybody else.