“I’ve been to LGBTQ+ events and I’ve been discriminated against. I’ve been ignored and dismissed simply because I’m Black and they’re white,” says Koi Buckley, a 20 year old content creator from Birmingham. This is exactly why UK Black Pride exists, to give queer people of colour a place to express themselves free of racism and after a two year break from in-person celebrations, UK Black Pride is back. On 14 August, Europe’s biggest Pride celebration for queer people of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean heritage returns, in the new location of Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford.
The tireless work of LGBTQ+ rights activists over the past 50 years has meant that Pride celebrations have broken into the mainstream and many towns and cities across the UK now each hold their own celebrations. However, for queer people of colour who are vulnerable to racism, these would-be safe spaces may still pose a threat, making events like UK Black Pride vital. The theme of this year’s Black Pride celebration is ‘Power’, a word loaded with complexity for Black people in particular and for queer Black people, since we must find a way to claim power in a world determined to keep us at the margins. In honour of the return of UK Black Pride, GAY TIMES sat down with four queer Black people to discuss what Black power means to them.
“Having a space designed for queer Black people allows us to be comfortable and not worry about microagressions or racism. It lets us breathe, trusting that we are in a space where we are fully accepted,” says Koi. He began sharing his experiences as a Black, trans non-binary person on TikTok back in 2021. “I’m in a place that some people haven’t reached yet so they can look up to me in a way. I try to educate people on topics of Blackness, Transness and generally how to go through life the best way you can as a Black queer person. I guess you could call it content creation,” says Koi, speaking nonchalantly about the 39k+ followers and 1.7M likes he has amassed during his time online. In line with this year’s UK Black Pride theme, ‘Power’, GAY TIMES asked Koi what makes them feel empowered. “Being confident and openly vocalising how I feel about myself,” he replied. “I used to be mad insecure about a lot of things so now, posting content and saying outwardly, in public, that I’m the shit, that makes me feel empowered. I’ve been told that I’m vain and cocky for thinking that way but loving yourself as a Black trans person in today’s society is the hardest thing to do, but I deserve to love myself and I deserve to be loved openly and in public.”
Kolade T Ladipo is a dancer, actor and photographer based in Liverpool where he runs Noirgayze, a creative collective designed to amplify queer Black people outside of London. He echoes this sentiment: “The world is telling us how we should behave and how we should look but cancelling out that noise and being you in whatever way that manifests is powerful. Power means healing to me, healing yourself so that you are able to be the best you you can be.” Kolade shared how he also finds power in sharing his experiences. “I have been blessed to be around people who seek my advice, one person was even Nigerian and Yoruba, the same tribe and heritage as me. Sharing my journey has enabled others to come out to their families or wear clothes that are more tailored to their inner beings and that makes me feel empowered. By being myself and voicing my experiences, good and bad, it has allowed other people from my community to get closer to being the best they can be.” Looking forward, Kolade adds: “This will be my first UK Black Pride, I’m very excited. I love being in Black queer spaces and being able to speak and knowing everyone around me can understand where I’m coming from. I love the feeling of looking around and not feeling judged or feeling like I am performing.”
For Donnie Sunshine, a multidisciplinary creative who specialises in content creation and DJing, the return of UK Black Pride this year is all too welcome. Having attended previous UK Black Pride celebrations, he tells GAYTIMES of the fond memories he holds of the day. “My favourite memory of UK Black Pride has to be UKBP 2019 in Haggerston Park. I was born and raised in Hackney and growing up I never thought I’d be able to live my truth let alone find a whole community. So being in Hackney in a huge park surrounded by 1000’s of beautiful Black queer people was so overwheling in the best possible way. I remember walking around and smiling and saying hello to people, telling people they looked fab and paying everyone compliments and it was all so well received. It was a really amazing day and I’ll cherish it forever,” he says. Speaking on the theme of power, Donnie shares how, to him, community is crucial. “Power to me is owning your truth, culture and identity when the world makes it hard to do so, it’s vital to have Black queer spaces such as UK Black Pride, because being Black British and queer you often feel like you have to compromise elements of yourself to have a good time or even be safe. My community makes me feel empowered. Through social media and real life safe spaces, we’ve created small bubbles where we feel seen, heard, loved and respected.”
No one understands the power of community better than Tanya Compas. As the founder of Exist Loudly, a creative youth organisation for Black LGBTQ+ young people, Tanya knows the transformational power that safe spaces can have. “Black queer spaces are a lifeline, when you’re in these spaces, you get to explore who you are outside of the watchful eye of non-Black or cis-het people. These spaces are extra special because they arise so rarely,” she says. “I feel empowered when I pull off an event for young people with Exist Loudly, I sometimes forget how powerful and important it is to create spaces for Black LGBTQ+ young people. But when the young people are together and the event is happening, I always have a moment where I look at everyone and think ‘wow, I did that’.” Besides community however, for Tanya, empowerment begins within. “Power to me is trusting myself to choose myself, no matter the cost and no matter the risk. This applies to everything from work, to family, to friendships and romantic relationships. I find power in being intentional and reminding myself that everyone I have in my life is here because I want them to be and the work that I do, whether community work or personal work, is because I’ve chosen to do it. It’s taken a lot of work in therapy to realise my power, but now I have, I’m never giving it up again.” As UK Black Pride 2022 approaches, Tanya reminisces. “My favourite UK Black Pride was back in 2017, in Vauxhall Park. I remember walking in and thinking ‘wow’. It was the first time I saw all the different facets of the Black LGBTQ+ community. Because despite the narrative that is pushed in the media, Black LGBTQ+ people are not a monolith and UK Black Pride is probably one of the only events where all the different communities within the Black LGBTQ+ community can come together.”
“UK Black Pride is going to be a safe space,” Koi adds and as the event approaches it becomes clear that the day will celebrate everything that makes Black LGBTQ+ and queer people of colour so special. In speaking to all those interviewed, one thing became clear; there is power in community. As UK Black Pride promises to bring people from around the UK together for a day of joy it also promises to empower, inspire and celebrate those of us who often go overlooked.