It’s no longer enough to put a rainbow flag on the front of your building or to give your logo a rainbow makeover for one month
It’s easy to assume that people in different minority groups can easily empathise with each others experience. It is easy to assume that everyone will believe better equality for one group means better equality for us all collectively. The truth is if you fall within more than one minority group, or protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 – you WILL experience even more discrimination, which makes it even harder to access equal rights. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community who are also an ethnic minority can attest to this with Racism a huge concern in the LGBTQ+ community.
This recent report 2018 Pride Matter survey reveals low levels of concern about gender, racism and sexuality in mainstream society, and that straight people care more about animal rights than gender, LGBTQ+ and racial equality.
With Pride celebrations taking place in London this weekend and UK Black Pride “Shades of the Diaspora” taking place on Sunday, I caught up with Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (also known as Lady Phyll), Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride (UKBP) to find out why pride movements matter now than ever in 2018 and how you can help enable equality.
Why does UK Black Pride need to exist?
On any given day we experience any number of micro-aggressions. You’re a little brown boy in Birmingham who doesn’t walk like the other boys on the way to school. You’re a Black woman in your workplace in London being told to calm down. You’re a Black man in Bradford walking into a bar and getting that look you know so well; the one that says, “Why are you here?” You’re an Arab looking man with a beard in Glasgow, and people won’t sit next to you on public transport. You’re a woman wearing a hijab in Belfast and you’re getting cat calls as you’re trying to make it from point A to B.
On any given day, a group of people are debating your existence on the evening news. They’re talking about crimes that no one you know was involved in, in places you’ve never stepped foot in. They’re looking to you apologise for lives you never helped to break and will never be able to fix…
Shades of the Diaspora speaks to our ongoing mission to unite Black LGBT+ people in Britain whose global roots shoot from Africa to Asia, the Caribbean to the Middle East, and the United States or Latin America. It speaks to the growing number of our diasporic community who show up to UK Black Pride each year.
A momentary reprieve from the assault course of life that we know so intimately is the reason we set up UK Black Pride thirteen years ago. We need spaces for ourselves. Spaces in which we can let out a collective sigh of relief.”
Read more of Phyll’s incredible open letter here which explains more about why UK Black Pride was created.
Did you receive any resistance when you started UK Black Pride?
Phyll – I started UK Black Pride 14 years ago and many of the questions I was asked at the beginning of UK Black Pride are being asked today: “Why don’t you just join the ‘normal’ pride?” and “Aren’t you segregating yourselves?” In fact, at the beginning of the UK Black Pride journey, I was told quite forcefully by white-led LGBT organisations that there was no need for UK Black Pride, that people wouldn’t attend and that they wouldn’t support me.
How can business owners better support Pride movements without capitalising off of the back of it?
Phyll: One of the conversations we’re having at UKBP is about how we continue the work we do year-round.
UKBP is obviously a wonderful logistical and passion-led feat put on by a dedicated team of volunteers, but our lived experiences suggest more robust support is needed day-to-day. It’s no longer enough to put a rainbow flag on the front of your building or to give your logo a rainbow makeover for one month; business owners should be looking for ways to uplift the Black LGBT community year-round. This could be partnering with organisations like UKBP or working with community centres in smaller towns and cities around the UK to help ensure they have the funds they need to provide their services. It’s about understanding what is truly affecting the Black LGBT community — homelessness, mental health, sexual health, chemsex, for example — and seeing how your business can support our community. It’s the support during the hard times that makes the celebration together so powerful. We know what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, and so when there are business owners and brands who say “We see you and we see you all the time, not just in June” it sends a powerful message that we are seen and valued.
How can businesses better include people within the LGBTQ+ community without tokenising?
Again, businesses have to work to understand what’s affecting the community. The hurdles affecting the community will provide insights into the hurdles preventing them from joining your organisation.
Businesses and brands should understand that we are not all starting from the same place.
Are you hiring local people? Are you using local suppliers and printers? Are you working with Albert Kennedy Trust? Are you working with UK Black Pride? Are you asking questions? Are you reading books? There is a great deal that brands can do to demonstrate that they want to be part of the solution and it is from the generous and human place that we avoid tokenism.
If you know, as a CEO or a business owner, that Black LGBT homelessness is a problem, you’ll work with the Albert Kennedy Trust. Through working with the Albert Kennedy Trust, you’ll be able to provide employment opportunities to young people who need a chance to get back on their feet. That is beautiful. If you work with UK Black Pride, by providing your venue for events or by donating your time or money, you meet people from an incredible range of industries and experiences who are all working on projects to uplift their communities. That’s how you get involved. That’s how you avoid tokenism. You roll your sleeves up, you get stuck in and you offer your time, money, resources and platforms to uplift those who need it. (Nova: YES!!!)
Advocating for minority groups can be tough – what do you do to look after yourself and maintain positive wellbeing?
Phyll: Well, alongside my full-time day job and my full-time gay job, I’m also a mother and lover and a mentor and a friend, so I find it hard to turn off completely and I’m not the best at remembering that I need to look after myself. When I do, though, I spend it with people who make me laugh. I watch movies. I pamper myself. I take time to stare at the sky and go for long walks.
I remind the young people who are coming up in this movement that they must remember to carve out some space for themselves. It’s great that we all want to give ourselves to uplifting our community, but we can’t do it if we’re run down or exhausted or mentally and emotionally fatigued . So, I try to practice what I preach, but when you do what you love, it’s hard to keep that front of mind! There’s also an incredible array of Black LGBT creatives, from dancers to podcasters, who are creating work that revitalises our minds and spirits, so I try to go see plays (Nova: Check out my Dear friend George aka: Le Gateau Chocolat – I’m giving him a plug) and listen to their podcasts and accept the warmth and appreciation from my community when it comes.
Quite. Thank you so much for taking time out to share such important information with us today Phyll. Thank you for all that you do. Please visit UK Black Pride for more information.
UK Black Pride celebrations take place in London this Sunday 8th July in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens from 12 – 8pm.
For further information on diversity consultancy to seek advice and guidance on how to better include minority groups and improve diversity within your business, hop on over here to see forthcoming events on diversity matters.
Another version of this interview can also be found at www.nubride.com