Black Pride founder turns down MBE over ongoing LGBT persecution

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Black lesbian activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah has said she turned down an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

The Black Pride co-founder, commonly known as ‘Lady Phyll’, said she could not accept the award when “LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed” around the world under colonial laws.

The Stonewall trustee spoke to DIVA magazine to say she could not accept the honour.

She said: “As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.”

“I don’t believe in empire. I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws… that were put in place by British imperialists.

“I’m honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”

The full list of honourees was confirmed last week for the 2016 New Year’s Honours list, which recognise the achievements and service of “extraordinary people” across the UK.

Among those to make this year’s list are a number of campaigners for LGBT charities and groups.

Tim Sigsworth of LGBT homeless charity The Albert Kennedy Trust was among those to receive honours, being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Paul Roberts, the chief executive of national charity LGBT Consortium was also awarded an OBE “for services to LGBT communities”.

David Smith, First Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was also honoured “for services in support of Diversity and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender equality within Her Majesty’s Government”.

Choreographer and director Matthew Bourne was also awarded a knighthood in the List.

But Opoku-Gyimah joins the likes of David Bowie, Honor Blackman and Benjamin Zephaniah to have turned down the accolade.