Pride season should be a time of the year which celebrates inclusivity, solidarity and acceptance. A time where people across the world come together to rejoice, protest, let people know that we are here.
Sadly though, during this time there are many people who are consciously or unconsciously excluded from pride.
Due to various factors, LGBT+ people of colour (POC), often cannot feel safe in environments that intend to provide a haven for LGBT people but can actually cause further marginalisation. Many LGBT+ events are not set up for or even to be inclusive of LGBT+ people of colour.
This can manifest itself in many ways, from event adverts that only depict white people, to implicit racist door policies, to booking acts who perform in ‘blackface’ (as we saw quite recently).
Fellow revellers sometimes only add to how unwelcoming these environments often feel. Being exoticised, fetishized and/or rejected because of the colour of your skin when you are at pride or out on the scene, or even on dating apps can have a serious impact on self-esteem, and how people see themselves as part of the community.
The urgent need for safe spaces for LGBT+ people of colour is apparent. However, we still continue to hear from people in the wider community who are oblivious to the discrimination we face.
Many white LGBT+ people might not have witnessed racist discrimination within the community and therefore it can be an easy to assume this discrimination does not exist, but it does. Those voices fail to see the emerging necessity of events for LGBT+ POC and miss out on an opportunity to become active allies to people of colour.
Some spaces are actively trying to be more inclusive and invite LGBT+ artists of colour on stage, create more diverse promotion material or offer collaborations. This is a positive step in the right direction but we need more than that.
We need places that put LGBT+ people of colour in the heart of the event, places where LGBT+ POC can be themselves in a safe environment.
UK Black Pride is exactly one of those much-needed spaces. It is created and run by LGBT+ POC for LGBT+ POC. It is more than a safe space. It is a space that unapologetically embraces the history, experiences and lives of LGBT+ POC. UK Black Pride is an important event that doesn’t exist because of predominantly white LGBT+ events but in spite of them.
This isn’t about segregation, or putting up barriers between people; it’s about being in an environment that celebrates racial diversity, and provides an opportunity for people to unwind and have fun without feeling othered.
It is crucial to have a space where people of colour are surrounded by love and understanding, are visible and can be their authentic selves. Here, they do not have to spend most of their time having to educate people about privilege, appropriation or the systematic disadvantages that current power dynamics hold. It is a place where identities can be lived, explored and imagined in a way that is not centred around white bodies.
Allies are of course welcome at Black Pride, it’s an inclusive space and we need allies to challenge discrimination and make LGBT+ spaces more welcoming for everyone. Allies have the power to shift culture. It’s just important that people are respectful and reflective in how they are behaving and how that might make others feel.
Ultimately though, Black Pride is a time for LGBT+ POC to lift one another up, not seek approval from the white LGBT majority, give ourselves that positive affirmation and be proud. A place where the marginalisation experienced in other places does not dictate the person’s existence. LGBT+ POC exist and we need exciting and innovative platforms to acknowledge that.
This year’s UK Black Pride, let’s all come together, LGBT+ people of colour and allies, learn from each other, work to create more LGBT+ POC spaces, have fun, be ourselves and be proud.
UK Black Pride is at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens today (July 9) from midday until 9pm.
Words by Josh Willacy and Chaka Bachmann