Monday, 16 August 2010

Why we need Black Pride

When Stonewall publicised Black Gay Pride on their website, the last thing Campbell Ex expected to find was a slew of hostile comments from white gays and lesbians

Saturday 14th August I attended a garden party, it was multi-generational, multi-national and included friends of different sexual orientations all having a great time together.
Last weekend I attended Brighton Pride where heterosexual teenage boys and girls danced and mingled easily in the carnivalesque atmosphere with drag queens, lesbian tomboys and muscle marys.
Yes 21st Century UK is a very tolerant place right? Well my rainbow balloon exploded with a bang when I read the Stonewall thread on Facebook when the organisation put up a post about UK Black Pride. This fairly innocuous announcement received vitriolic and derisory comments about the need for an event celebrating Black LGBTI culture and sexuality. So much so that the moderator had to ask for calm and restraint on the wall.
UK Black Pride is a celebration of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American LGBT people from Britain, Europe and internationally. However the very idea that people of colour could experience identities that are complex and layered and not based solely on sexual orientation was enraging enough to generate responses like:
“What next? Gay UK Nationals Pride? Gay Legal Immigrant Pride? Gay Illegal Immigrant Pride? Gay professional person's Pride? Gay non-professionals Pride? Gay German car owner's Pride....??! ...Since when has skin colour been relevant to sexuality??”
Or
“when's white pride?”
Sadly even though contemporary urban UK is more at ease with it’s multicultural vibe, identities which are complex continue to be contentious. To emphasize one’s Black culture when one identifies as LGBTI disrupts the melting pot ideal of white liberal LGBTI imagination as well as racial minority/religious fundamentalist ideologies.
Many people of colour attend pride events all over the UK regularly and experience a sense of unity and celebration with all LGBTI people and those that support our quest for equality. People do not experience exclusion or racial hostility on the marches or any of the club events later. However this does not change the fact that the power structures and people who organise Pride are overwhelmingly white. 21st century LGBTI people on the whole are open and inclusive in their personal lives, yet the lesbian and gay institutions are still stuck in the 1950’s in terms of racial diversity. This contributes to perpetuating the notion that gay=white and consolidates the myth in the eyes of the straight world and mainstream gay society that to be Black and gay is an oxymoron.
UK Black Pride is important as a high profile public event creating an alternative view of homosexuality. It allows people of colour to be in an environment where they are in the majority. The Black Pride programmers can set the agenda, they decide what acts appear in the line up. The Black performers many of whom are not themselves LGBT by appearing publicly on the stage declare their support and solidarity with show their solidarity with Black LGBTI people.
People of colour who attend know that they will have visible evidence that they are not alone and that the values of their cultures of origin need not be left at the door when they step into Regents College. They also know that that the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the music they enjoy, will not be “ticking some diversity box” but will be an integral part of the whole day. It was a telling moment when Janet Kay, queen of Lovers Rock sang Silly Games, everyone irrespective of age, gender or ethnic origin sang and skanked along with her.
White people who enjoy cultures of a Black origin and celebrate the history of lesbian and gay people of colour, or who are in interracial relationships attend UK Black Pride. This is important as UK Black pride does not have a separatist agenda, but one that is truly inclusive and where the ethos is “we run tings, tings nuh run we”

3 comments:

  1. In my experience Uk black pride is a happy relaxed inclusive event that is still in-touch with the reason for it's existence. Unlike Gay Pride which has moved so far away from it's roots and has become a parody or a stereotype of itself.
    As a lesbian I almost feel embarrassed to take part in Gay Pride and feel that it doesn't reflect anything that I am, or much interested in.
    London pride began 40 years ago as a human rights movement. The gay liberation front worked with the civil rights movement and were inspired by the black panthers. Gay pride is very far away from having any interest these days in human rights or freedom and liberties of LGBTI people across the world.
    As a person of Irish / British heritage my experience at Uk Black Pride is one of inclusion and of reflection. I also grew up with Janet Kay and the influence of jamaican culture on British culture. The difference is that at this event my skin tone is the minority, well so what.
    My instinct tell me that the reason the stonewall thread on facebook got the reaction that it did, is that the name Uk Black Pride causes some "white" people to feel excluded, to most "white" people this can be a shock and not something they are use to. My only hope is that this feeling may cause those people to think a bit about the white dominated society in which they live and of which gay pride is a part of, and cause them to reflect on how that domination of white representation may feel to someone of a different heritage.
    Kay
    Noizy Image

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