Not the only ‘Nigerian Lesbian in the world’- Why Black Pride matters and you should go
Europe’s largest celebration of African, Asian, Caribbean and Arab LGBT people is this Saturday 18th August in London. Sourdough takes a personal look at why it matters, how it started with a trip to the beach, combats the idea that it’s divisive and explains why you should go.
I attended Black Pride for the first time in 2010. I had never been in a space with so many other black LGBT people. Finding so many others like me was a profound moment.
Being a minority queer often you can end up feeling like you are the only: ‘Gay Pakistani Boy in the world’ or ‘Nigerian Lesbian in the world’ – It can be lonely experience. Turning up at Black Pride I no longer felt so lonely – I could see, hear and feel others like me. And to watch them was to see strong, proud and beautiful lives– in contrast to the caricatures and stereotypes we often see of queer lives in mainstream society and media.
Being a queer and member of a minority community can be tough. You live with multiple identifies in a world that does not accept your difference, that seeks to other you constantly, that threatens you with hate and violence and calls you ugly things.
Too often in a world that considers your struggle to be a peripheral matter and even in the LGBT community itself – that has all too narrowly defined queer identities. To navigate your way through all of this is very difficult. It can leave people emotionally isolated unable to come to terms with their sexuality and identity.
Black Pride started out because a group of women got together one summer and organised a seaside trip to Southend –on – Sea that was so fun they decided to organise an annual Black Pride. The first one took place in 2005.
Since its inception Black pride has grown dramatically says charismatic Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, founder and Executive Director of UK Black Pride: “In its seven years of active service, UK Black Pride has grown in scale by 700%” This is all the more remarkable when you consider that Black Pride has never received funding, is not for profit and is run by volunteers.
Black Pride has created a safe space where Black LGBT people can share stories, experiences and connect to each other.
In helping Black LGBT people come to terms with their sexuality and identity, Black Pride has been recognised for their efforts; last year winning Stonewall’s community award 2011. The public voted them the Pink Papers Readers Award, also in 2011.
Though the success of Black Pride is to be welcomed, Black LGBT people do continue to face a number of issues. Often there are few routes into mainstream LGBT community. There often few visible role models. Many exist in communities where homophobia is rampant. As Opoku-Gyimah explains: “internal pressures include chronic under-representation and under-engagement of Black LGBT people in ‘mainstream’ Black or LGBT community activities’.
She goes on to say that Black LGBT lives are ‘touched by both racism and homophobia’ and the consequence of this is “an impossible choice of embracing one aspect of their identity over another at different intervals and in parallel realities. “
Black Pride is sometimes criticised for being divisive: but I fail to see this. There is nothing divisive about creating safe spaces where queer people can come together to share and connect. It can only serve a useful purpose.
We need to acknowledge the role of race and racism in the LGBT community. I saw many non-black and non-brown faces at Black Pride – Black Pride for me isn’t about exclusivity – it’s all about inclusion. We’re one big umbrella – one big family under the queer rainbow. Culture, ethnicity may at times seem like a barrier. BUT in the end our strength lies in our common experience and destiny. We should acknowledge the diversity of our community and the multiple challenges that some of us face : whether it’s race, gender, or trans issues.
Outside the UK , Black Pride is playing an important role in connecting us to struggles of LGBT people elsewhere. Last year, I heard speakers from Uganda talk of the situation there – A number of those there on Saturday will be refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their countries because of their sexual orientation. Therefore, Black Pride is an important bridge for us to the struggles of LGBT people in other parts of the world – where the situation for LGBT people is dire.
Looking to the future, Opoku-Gyimah, feels there’s still a need for Black Pride “Just as important to remember though are the reasons why we continue to need a Black Pride event that is both social and political; that is safe and sustainable; and that is representative and inclusive.”
In previous years stars like Jessie J and Miss Dynamite have headlined Black Pride. This year British Soul Legend Omar will be headlining – he’ll be joined by funky house star Donae’o and the raw rapping talent Amplify Dot. It will be hosted by Topher Campbell (RUKAS), Ms Sirena & MC Angel (Lyrically Challenged) and Ms Lorna Sutra G (Blessence) – there’s much more on throughout the day. Plus more sober speeches from speakers from Stonewall, PCS Union, Runnymede Trust and Safra Project and more.
Black Pride UK is this Saturday 18 August at the Ministry of Sound.
To get a full listing and buy tickets go to: http://www.ukblackpride.org.uk/