Adam Gilberts catches up with Bisi Oyekanmi to find out how a trip to the seaside resulted in the creation of Black Pride UK, and what we can expect in 2013.
Adam Gilberts (AG): Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for Vada, I appreciate that this must be a crazy time of year for you all. UK Black Pride kicks off on Saturday 29th June. How was it founded?
Bisi Oyekanmi (BO): In August 2005 a social outing was organised to the sleepy seaside town of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. What began as a minibus trip to the sea, quickly developed into three coach-loads of lesbian and bisexual Black women making the first of a long and proud journey that has grown in size, stature and inclusivity. After that incredible day in Southend the concept evolved into an annual UK Black Pride event the following year, where Black LGBT men, women and Trans people, could foster a sense of pride in our identities. This enthusiasm from the patrons and sponsors who supported the launch of UK Black Pride on 18 August 2006 ensured the event was etched into LGBT history as the leading celebration of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American LGBT people from Britain, Europe and internationally.
UK Black Pride has spoken on many issues affecting Black LGBT people and has been nominated and won numerous awards including the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award, Pink Paper Readers Awards, National Diversity Awards and the g3 & Out in the City Awards.
AG: Why do you believe UK Black Pride is needed within the LGBT community?
BO: Over the last 8 years, UK Black Pride has successfully built its own distinctive identity as a grassroots-led movement of race, faith and LGBT groups and trade union community allies. It has shown that putting people and politics at the heart of celebrating pride in our LGBT community’s progress is the most effective way to pursue the fight for equality, inclusion and steadfast opposition to all forms of bigotry in every section of society. For its 8th year we are proud and excited that UK Black Pride returns home to the heart of the LGBT community as part of Pride in London.
AG: UK Black Pride is becoming a great fixture in the LGBT calendar, what can we expect to see over the next few years?
BO: UK Black Pride will continue to grow and continue to pursue the fight for equality, inclusion and steadfast opposition to all forms of bigotry in every section of society.
AG: How has UK Black Pride affected African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American LGBT people in other countries?
BO: UK Black Pride is concerned with the condition of the lives of LGBT people around the world. As LGBT people and activists, many of us have roots in countries from where other LGBT people flee for the right to live with dignity and respect. Sadly, the journey to security and human rights is fraught with difficulties and discrimination across institutions and society. UK Black Pride is proud to continue support for LGBT asylum seeker and refugee sisters and brothers as we work to decriminalise homosexuality everywhere.
AG: You have attracted some big names over the last few years, such as Ms Dynamite, Beverley Knight, and Omar. Who do you have lined up for this year?
BO: As with previous years, UK Black Pride will provide an opportunity for a diverse range of performers from the community to showcase their talents and entertain the crowd. We are excited that we will have acts from dancers, drag artists, singers and spoken word artists performing. The headline is a closely guarded secret and will be revealed very soon…watch this space!
AG: What else can we expect from this year’s event?
BO: UK Black Pride is a fun-filled day of family-friendly pride and celebration. We’ll have a packed programme on the main stage and dance tent. On the main stage we have a packed programme of speakers, music performances, and comedy and dance performances. We are also proud to announce that UK Black Pride will bring together representatives from across Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Rastafarianism and Spiritualists, to lead prayers and readings for pride and peace.
AG: Manchester Pride and Birmingham Pride both charge for all or part of their tickets. You are a free event, and you go as far to say that you will always remain free. As you grow bigger and stronger, do you think you can keep up this promise?
BO: UK Black Pride has never received government funding and has been supported from the beginning by sponsorship from the trade unions including PCS, Unison, Unite, TUC and organisations including Stonewall and Lewis Silkin Lawyers. UK Black Pride in 2013 achieved a long held goal of not charging for entry to UK Black Pride and will work very hard to maintain this for coming years.
AG: UK Black Pride seems to have more of a political goal to it than some other larger LGBT events. Do you think it is important to keep your political objectives at the forefront of LGBT pride events?
BO: From its inception in 2005, UK Black Pride has sought to work from inside the Black and LGBT community to reach out, engage and inspire other Black and LGBT groups to be bigger, better and more inclusive in their activities and ambitions. Eight years on, UK Black Pride has grown exponentially yet retains its core as a not-for-profit activity which is community-led by unpaid volunteers with the support of a wider pool of individuals and community groups.
UK Black Pride’s raison d’être is also to actively reach out and support Pride events in other parts of the country because it sees its own existence as an inter-dependent part of the national and international family of Pride events which serve increasingly visible, proud and diverse LGBT communities.
Black Pride takes place on Saturday 29th June 2013 at Golden Square, Soho.
For tickets and more information visit: www.ukblackpride.org.uk
Photographic Credit: www.chrisjepson.com