|Circulation||37,000 per month|
|First issue||December 1988|
|Company||BLK Publishing Company, Inc.|
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.
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.
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. Bell had, however, founded Black Jack, a black gay men's safer sex club, 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. 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.
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.
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); porn star Randy Cochran (March 1989); poet Audre Lorde (April 1989); Carl Bean, founder of the Minority AIDS Project and of the Unity Fellowship Church (July 1989), Black AIDS Institute founder Phill Wilson (October 1990); Amassi and BMX founder Cleo Manago (March 1990); documentary-maker Marlon Riggs (April 1990); and Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis (August 1990).
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|
|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||Lavendar Light|
|March 1990||16||2||3||Cleo Manago||Cleo Manago|
|April 1990||17||2||4||Marlon Riggs||Marlon Riggs|
|June 1990||19||2||6||Barbara Smith||Barbara Smith|
|July 1990||20||2||7||Pride at Home|
|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|
|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|
|April 1991||29||3||4||No Peace|
|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|
|August 1991||33||3||8||Young, Gifted and Fierce||Love Stories|
|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|
|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|
The company that published BLK also published several other titles directed to the black LGBT community 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.
- Ward, Eric K. (February 1993), "BLK Creates Cartoons With Attitude", The Lavender Network (Eugene, OR)
- "How long will it take to put two and two together?" (Press release). BLK Publishing Company. 1999.
- Cathy, Seabaugh (February 1994), "BLK: Focused Coverage for African-American Gays & Lesbians", Outlines (Chicago) 7 (No. 8)
- Jim Merrett (1992-04-15). "A Safe Place for Pud Pounding". The Advocate. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- "BLK", Black Jack Newsletter (Los Angeles: Alan Bell), January 1, 1989: page 3
- "Alan Bell: BLK", Victory! (Sacramento) 1 (No. 5), April 1994
- Bell, Alan (1992), "La Belle Epoque", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (34): pages 10–17, ISSN 1043-0075
- Banneker, Revon Kyle (July 1989), "Randy Cochran", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (4): pages 8–10, ISSN 1043-0075
- Hughes, Chi (April 1989), "Oh, Lorde!", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (5): pages 6–7, ISSN 1043-0075
- Banneker, Revon Kyle (July 1989), "Rev. Carl Bean", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (8): pages 8–10, ISSN 1043-0075
- Ocamb, Karen (October 1990), "Phill Wilson", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (23): pages 7–17, ISSN 1043-0075
- Bell, Alan (March 1990), "Cleo Manago", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (16): pages 7–18, ISSN 1043-0075
- Banneker, Revon Kyle (April 1990), "Marlon Riggs Untied", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (17): pages 10–19, ISSN 1043-0075
- Bell, Alan (August 1990), "Climbing the Hill", BLK (Los Angeles: BLK Publishing Company) (23): pages 9–15, ISSN 1043-0075