68% of same-sex couples said they didn’t hold hands in public for fear of facing abuse.
Imagine that for a moment. Let that marinate. Not being able to display basic displays of affection with the person you love though fear of persecution. Every day.
As a diversity advocate, one of the questions I get asked ALL the time from businesses is ‘how can I be more inclusive to others without causing offence and how can I be more inclusive without capitalising off of the back of a minority group?’ I am glad these questions are being asked. It’s important not to confuse frivolous National Days with social movements that were founded to help raise awareness of social issues, like Pride or Black History Month. These aren’t movements to create trendy hashtags, social media filters and merchandise for, they exist because many people continue to be discriminated against and do not experience equal human rights, like being able to be with the person they love. Social movements or awareness weeks (or months), are not a fad or a bandwagon to be jumped on or to segregate, it is a plea for better equality, more awareness and more understanding. If we shift our mindsets about what these movements were created for – it will diminish tokenising because intentions will change.
“We see you and we see you all the time, not just in June” Phyll Opoku-Gyimah
We can of course show support and solidarity, but for longevity it is about thinking beyond diversity and shining a spotlight on inclusion.
It is easy for some of us to get caught up in the frivolity of weddings and Pride rainbows and forget that it is still illegal, yes a criminal offence, to be gay / LGBTQ+, in 32 out of 53 commonwealth countries. Laws that were put in place by the British Empire. (Yup – let that sink in). We do not all have the same human rights to be with the person we love.
With Pride celebrations in the UK happening this weekend find out how you can get involved to support love for all and if you’re a business owner, avoid capitalising on the movement, to take consistent steps to enable equality as best as you can throughout the year and not just when social media creates a funky filter.
I caught up with two incredible ladies who are taking great strides to make Pride movements more inclusive and steps to inform and help dismantle the inequality many of us still face on a day-to-day basis.
Welcome the remarkable Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (also known as Lady Phyll) Activist, Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride (UKBP) and delightful Chloe Davis, Deputy Director of Community Engagement for Pride in London (Pil).
Tell us why Pride movements remain so important in 2018?
Chloe: After a key few historic moments such as the underground LGBT scene, the Stonewall riots, Activists such as Audrey Lorde, Alan Turing and Section 11, the first Pride March was carried out in 1972. Back then it was a protest and one that was very much-needed. Today, it’s also a Celebration but the need for protest is still necessary. It is still illegal in 32 out of 53 Commonwealth countries to be LGBT and as our #PrideMatters survey showed minority groups who identify as BAME, Bisexual and Trans especially still need more visibility, understanding and acceptance.
That being said, I am excited by what our collective core volunteer team has in store for the City of London this Saturday 7th July. The parade, 4 stages of incredible talent, our Community Village and that’s just until 8pm! We also have 3 fantastic after parties – Clapham Grand, The Sink the Pink Ball and our mystery V.I.P Party!! It’s going to be a fantastic 24hrs and we can’t wait for you all to join us!
Nu Bride: I invite you to please take a moment to read Phyll’s POWERFUL open letter here to better understand why Pride movements like UK Black Pride are vital.
UK Black Pride takes place this Sunday 8th July in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens from 12 – 8pm
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. (Nu Bride: Well I am glad you didn’t listen Phyll – these retorts sadly feel all too familiar)
What about you Chloe at your time in Pride in London have you experienced resistance?
Chloe: What I have witnessed within my Community Engagement role is that there is still a lot of work to be done from within. We are not one big happy family, there is racism and prejudice especially towards the BAME, Bisexual and Trans communities and we need to be much much better at collectively telling each others stories and working together.
How can business owners and humans better support Pride movements without capitalising?
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. 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.
Chloe: As humans I think it comes from understanding what it truly means to be LGBTQ+ and those are narratives we’re really working hard on in every department at PiL to responsibly inform.
I spoke to Polly Shute, our Strategic Partnerships Director about what she looks for and she said; “Businesses need to be authentic. This has to start from within, not only in ensuring they have policies in place that support LGBTQ+ in the workplace but also that their involvement is all year round in terms of supporting the Diversity and Inclusion agenda. And again it comes back to that visibility piece, that our more minority groups are given the same exposure.”
How can businesses better include people within the LGBTQ+ community without tokenising?
Chloe: Talk to us!
Yes we appreciate the support but not at the expense of what it means to be ‘Us’ Yes of course we want brands and businesses to help further the Pride movement but this has to be done responsibly. For example quite a lot of Pride organisations create their own merchandise not only to support a campaign but to raise those much-needed funds that ensures, (at least where PiL is concerned), we can put on the country’s 3rdbiggest FREE event (London Marathon, New Year’s Fireworks) What better way can a brand or business support Pride than by working in collaboration and not competition.
Phyll: 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.
Our relationship with sex and gender is rapidly changing – what are pronouns and how can allies better support the LGBTQ+ community by using them?
Chloe: Pronouns are how our community chooses to identify themselves and I would encourage others to look some up, also if you know someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, it’s ok to just ask them which ones they would like used.
This is no more different from making the mistake of referring to a married woman as Ms when she is very much a Mrs. It’s a sensitive subject in how people see themselves and that should be respected.
Advocating for minority groups can be tough – what do you do to look after yourself and maintain positive wellbeing?
Chloe: I go home to my young sons and play with trucks, trains and a lot of Duplo. Sometimes it can be incredibly hard, I made the personal choice to be so visible and yet when that is questioned in terms of diversity and inclusion it does unfortunately take its toll.
I am a self-confessed bookworm so also getting lost in a book is a sure-fire way for me to reset. Self care is so important and I am unapologetic in taking the time out when I need to.
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. (Nu Bride: Gorgeous).
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 (Nu Bride: 100%).
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 (Nu Bride: 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.
If you won the lottery tomorrow – what would you do?
Chloe: Now that’s a question… (Nu Bride: well of course!) Buy a bigger house, a new car, pay for the extension at my parents, definitely a big family holiday and maybe a few small luxuries and then put the rest away for my boys. Children whilst being a wonderful blessing are also very expensive and I’ll take all the help I can get!
Phyll: I’d fly to the Maldives, have a long break and then get back to it. There is much work to do. (Delicious!)
So that’s not one BUT two pieces of FREE business advice I have given you this month – don’t say I don’t do nice things for you. For further information on diversity consultancy or my next diversity event hop on over here.
If, like us, you want to get involved outside of Pride to continue to enable equal human rights – check out some of these fantastic organisations: Stonewall, Albert Kennedy Trust, Diversity Role Models, Just Like Us
AND of course it goes without saying visit UK black Pride and Pride in London to find out more about their work and how you can support their very important missions this weekend and throughout the year.
This post is dedicated to all of my beautiful friends and Nu Bride readers who make up part of the 68% who still feel frightened to show affection to their loved one in public through fear of persecution.
Header image: Emma and Rich