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UK Black Pride Is a Pride Party That's Not Dominated By White Guys

I asked people at the London event about the cross-over between ethnicity and LGBT rights, and whether UKIP should have been allowed at Pride.

by Marie Le Conte, Photos: Lucie Rox
29 June 2015, 1:35pm

Dettie

The presence of UKIP activists at the march under the banner, "some gay people vote UKIP, get over it" was the most recent episode of a long-running debate among LGBT activists about what Pride is really about. On the one hand, some argued that Pride is about acceptance and therefore shouldn't, by definition, exclude anyone. On the other, people felt like their policies, and general tendency towards racism and homophobia didn't quite match the general idea of Pride. Do you tolerate the intolerant in the name of... er... tolerance?

One point raised by the anti-Kippers was the idea that those who were comfortable marching with Farage's "people's army" were white guys who weren't going to get threatened with deportation or racism any time soon. Some said they weren't taking the feelings of others in the LGBT community into account.

With that in mind I went down to UK Black Pride on Sunday – a part of the Pride weekend, and organised by and for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) LGBT people. The gathering was in the Pleasure Gardens in Vauxhall. It had music spoken words, poetry and some stalls run by Stonewall and safe sex charities. I asked some black LGBT people about the UKIP conundrum and whether they thought things like Pride take account of racial oppression.

VICE: What was the idea behind the founding of Black Pride ten years ago?
Pav Akhtar, Black Pride's Director of Public Affairs and Sponsorship: We LGBT people of colour were trying to engage in the mainstream LGBT movement, and Pride, but we often felt like it didn't speak to us, it didn't reflect the diverse communities that we were, and it didn't really reflect the issues that we wanted to talk about.

To us Pride isn't just a celebration, it's a political event to try and force change and create a better, more just society. We didn't really feel or see that place for black people, within the mainstream Pride events, so we said: "right, what are we going to do about this?" There was no point in moaning and saying, "oh look, the white people who run Pride aren't making it nice for us". So we said, "OK, let's try and create a space of our own". Entirely as a group of volunteers, we got together, and at first, organised a picnic by the beach. We went to Clacton-on-sea and it was brilliant! We had a fantastic time. I mean, the event just sort of exploded – now we have people who've come from the United States, France, from Turkey...

UKIP ended up marching yesterday at Pride even though they were banned, do you have any thoughts on this?
Debate is always a good and healthy thing, but I'm not convinced that having UKIP, a party that actively discriminates against lesbians, gay and trans people, is the kind of party that is in any way fit to be demonstrating or expressing solidarity with the LGBT community.

What would you say to a UKIP fan who thought this was unfair?
Get your house in order first, UKIP. Stop being homophobic. Stop attacking and condemning people with HIV – condemning them to death which is what UKIP stands for at the moment, according to their own publicly stated policies. Once you get your house in order then we will think about welcoming you to our events.

We need to look at who's being included and who's being excluded from events. Often these events are run by white gay men, and UK Black Pride is run by a majority of black gay and bisexual women, which is quite unique, in terms of Pride events in the UK. Our chief executive is a black lesbian woman, the board members are mostly women, well, only women and one man – me! – and that's quite unusual but it's fantastic. It's about challenging the sexism that exists in our society, and the transphobia, the bi-phobia...There are so many intersections that we need to talk about. It's not just about race and sexual orientation. And there's also faith – I'm from a Muslim community, and we don't shy away from looking at how we challenge faith communities to be more inclusive, so we don't have to make choices on whether we want to be Muslim or gay. You can be both. Love is the bottom line.

Why are you here today?
Donatus Anyanwu, Mayor of Lambeth: Well, I am the Mayor of Lambeth, and I'm absolutely enjoying myself. I am here to give my support to our community and make sure that they are proud of being who they are, enjoying themselves. Being black, being gay, or being lesbian, is absolutely wonderful. That is why I'm here. I even blinged up!

UKIP were told not to march at Pride and did it anyway – any thoughts?
If Farage and UKIP starts accepting individuals irrespective of their orientation, or faith, or ethnicity, and are ready to accept people for who they are. Of course we cherish freedom of expression, but if that freedom is used to produce marginalisation of individuals, we are not going to accept that. Especially not in Lambeth – we are not going to accept any individuals who treat individuals differently for the sake of who they are, either because of their sexual orientation or ethnicity, or their faith.

Do you think it's necessary to have events like Black Pride when you've already got more general LGBT events like London Pride?
CJ: Yes, always, always, always, always! Because LGBT circles don't always make spaces for BME people and often when they try to they don't actually consult BME people, so yeah, more needs to be done.

What do you make of UKIP marching?
There's not a lot to say, really. I mean, I saw on social media that someone yesterday got arrested, or at least detained for a while for protesting against Barclays being sponsors of the event, but UKIP weren't allowed to be in the parade and showed up anyway, and they were allowed to march pretty much freely, so you know...

Do you think it's important to have a space for black LGBT people within the LGBT movement?
Dettie from Unison trade union (pictured at top): I do, yeah – Unison uses the word black to encompass everyone, actually. We use that phrase to say everybody who doesn't identify as white. That's more about solidarity than anything else. But yes, it's really important: I think it's good that Black Pride is being seen as a part of Pride weekend, rather than something else.

Do you think that the LGBT movement is doing a good job at addressing racial issues?
Actually, I think it's a problem that society has in general, the fact that from the outside, the wider community can see that people can be black, but they can't equate being black with being LGBT. It seems that you can't be both of those things together.

Do you think the LGBT movement is doing enough about racial issues?
Jay: They're getting there. They could do a lot more, I think, but they're definitely getting there.

UKIP weren't meant to march at Pride yesterday but some showed up anyway.
My friend saw them, and she was quite incensed, but I think that at the end of the day, we're about inclusion, and they are gay people, just like us. We can't exclude them we may not agree with their politics, but they can march.

Do you think the LGBT movement needs to talk about race issues more?
Nicola: I think so, because there's still racial discrimination. I haven't had it so much, but it still happens, and we can to try to eliminate that, and we will create a better world for everyone. You know, we're all human beings, at the end of the day.

UKIP were banned form marching at Pride yesterday but did anyway – any thoughts on that?
I guess everybody has the right to express themselves but when it becomes harmful, and it's affecting people, then a line is crossed and if anyone gets abuse of course not. But we have the right to walk the same path as anyone else, actually.

@youngvulgarian / @LucieRoxx

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