How a lesbian seaside gathering gave birth to Europe’s biggest celebration of Black Pride

UK Black Pride postponed coronavirus

UK Black Pride returns for 2021 this weekend, celebrating Black and brown queer communities with a weekend of “Love and Rage”.

Europe’s biggest celebration for LGBT+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern-descent was born out of sheer necessity, more than a decade-and-a-half ago.

In 2004, co-founder Lady Phyll was among about 200 members of a group name BLUK (Black Lesbians in the UK) who travelled to Southend-on-Sea.

“It was from that moment that we recognised that there’s a need for this,” Lady Phyll told Dazed in 2020.

Around that time, the far-right BNP was making worrying gains on local councils, and gaining support (but not parliamentary seats) up and down the country.

“There was a need for us to come together to see ourselves, but also coupled with that there was the issues of the BNP around 2004/2005 and the surge of very, very nasty propaganda,” Lady Phyll said.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, aka Lady Phyll. (Getty)

“Whilst we want to celebrate ourselve we couldn’t not stand against the vitriol and the hate.”

The first official UK Black Pride took place the following year in Southend. In the run-up to the event, Lady Phyll faced ridicule and rejection from leaders of the “mainstream” LGBT+ community.

“I never would have imagined that people who understand marginalisation, discrimination, oppression, to a greater or lesser degree, would turn around and tell me to ‘go back to where I came from’,” Lady Phyll said.

These prejudices continue to this day – with some still querying the need for a Black Pride event, answering their own question in the process.

Nonetheless, the event went from strength to strength and is now a staple of queer Black and brown life for many.

People gathering at the UK Black Pride in Haggerston Park in London, 2019. (Quintina Valero/Getty Images)

In 2019 – the last time UK Black Pride was able to take place physically – thousands gathered at Haggerston Park in east London, having outgrown its previous home in the south of the capital.

The event is a safe space for Black and brown people to be free to be their fullest selves while surrounded by community and allies (the event is open to all).

For too many people of colour, white-led LGBT+ spaces – including major Pride events – remain unwelcoming and unwilling to change. UK Black Pride is the antithesis to this.

As with virtually every Pride event over the last year, the pandemic has put a halt to physical UK Black Pride celebrations. Last year’s event, which marked its 15th anniversary, moved online to great success, and this year’s is following suit.

Its theme is Love and Rage. As Lady Phyll and organisers explained: “Our 2021 theme claps back against the many ways we are told who we are allowed to be, and how to grieve, love and rage. We will not be quiet, we will not be meek. We will be heard, and we will be loud.”

Spanning Friday to Sunday (2-4 June), UK Black Pride will broadcast panel discussions and performances from London’s Roundhouse (the full line-up is here).