UK Black Pride’s Lady Phyll shares powerful words after being made an honorary doctor

Lady Phyll

There has been a wave of congratulations for revered activist and change-maker Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, aka Lady Phyll, after she was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Opoku-Gyimah was awarded the degree by London South Bank University for her “incredible leadership in the fight for equality”.

Sharing the honour on Twitter, she wrote: “I dedicate this honorary doctorate to my daughter, and I dedicate it to all Black and queer Black women – whose intellect and ability have been consistently underestimated.

“This is a life changing moment, one that I will not forget soon.”

Her work has included co-founding UK Black Pride. The event has run since 2005 and is the biggest Pride event for people of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage in Europe. 

Opoku-Gyimah is also executive director at the Kaleidoscope Trust which works to advance LGBT+ rights across the Commonwealth, in countries where anti-LGBT+ laws were imposed by British colonisers.

Lady Phyll pays tribute to Black women who came before her

Celebrating her doctorate, Opoku-Gyimah wrote: “I’m not here by accident. I’m here, and I mean here in the world, because of so many other people.

“Everyone in my life teaches me something and this is a point I want to drive home for you all: your education did not begin here and it must not end here. As you move through the world, remember that knowledge that doesn’t originate here is just as valuable – and sometimes moreso.”

“This honorary degree is very personal,” she continued. “It represents – to me – a recognition of the intellectual labour Black women and Black queer women have performed for the world. It represents our impact within these spaces, even if we are often on the outside.”

“It affirms what I’ve learned and known since chasing after my grandmother’s coat tails: Black women have impacted and are impacting the very things you learned about within these walls. We will continue to impact what you know and think of the world and how you experience it.”

Lady Phyll famously refused an MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours List, saying: “LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws… that were put in place by British imperialists.”

She recently spoke to PinkNews to mark the 10th anniversary of the Kaleidoscope Trust, explaining why it’s so important that the UK face up to its legacy.

“The UK has moved on so far with equal marriage, with the fact that it’s removed these laws, with the campaigning that happened over Section 28 – but we’ve still got so much to do internationally,” she said. “I believe that our work is really important because we have been part of the problem in leaving those colonial era laws. 

“This is not about making people feel guilty. This is about the realisation of the lived experiences of harm that was caused so many years ago.”