Posted Monday 27 March 2023
Pioneering British activist Dr Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, has visited Kingston University to speak to staff and students as part of LGBT+ History Month celebrations. The co-founder of UK Black Pride and Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust outlined the challenges she had faced and why accountability and action were crucial to her work at an event co-hosted by the University's LGBTQIA+ and People of Colour (POC) staff networks.
Reflecting on the moment she realised there was a need for UK Black Pride, Lady Phyll recounted when, on a trip to the beach in Southend with a group of Black queer women, she saw a space needed to be created. "It was liberating being around like-minded people", she said. "It felt good to be in a space that saw ourselves and that we were able to hold ourselves."
Getting UK Black Pride established, however, was no easy ride. Lady Phyll detailed the prejudice she initially faced when approaching the mainstream LGBTQ+ space. "Just because we may be from marginalised or underrepresented communities, doesn't make us exempt from being bigoted," she said.
Through determination and knowing the fight for liberation does not come overnight, Lady Phyll co-created the first UK Black Pride in 2005. Today it is the largest free celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQI+ people in the world. "People can call it their home, unapologetically, safely and bravely," she explained.
Lady Phyll, who refers to UK Black Pride as her ‘gay job', also discussed her day job at Kaleidoscope Trust – a charity championing the human rights of LGBT+ people across the Commonwealth.
She spoke passionately about thinking deeply about intersectionality in her everyday work. "When we have understood communities through an intersectional lens and, once we've established how we expect to make ourselves accountable to them, we can then take the action," she said. "Communities are more likely to respond to your call if they know they can count on you."
Accountability to the people she works for and taking action can also be seen through the Community Action Fund, set up as part of UK Black Pride that gives back to those serving the community. "We put people over profits," she explained. "We don't want performative support."
The University's LGBTQ+ staff network said it had been delighted to welcome Lady Phyll to Kingston University for the joint LGBTQ+ and POC staff networks' event. "Lady Phyll was inspiring and charismatic and her talk was engaging and humorous. It was also a reminder of the importance of intersectionality in our University community," the network added.
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