A LETTER FROM PHYLL.
It often feels like a terrifying time to be Black. Don’t get me wrong: we, as a community — in its breathtaking breadth, depth and diversity — have come far, but overt racism is on the rise. I tell you this as a Black woman, as an activist and as the co-founder of UK Black Pride: I tell you this as someone battling on the front lines.
But with the rise of racism comes the rise of beautiful, sonorous Black voices. With the rise of racism comes a very loud clap back from a community well-weathered, well-prepared and well-armed. And we come emboldened and ready to demonstrate, as we always do, that our lives matter and that no amount of bullying, racism, sexism or misogyny will hold us back from claiming our rightful place as equals.
What often gets lost on the battlefield of daily life, and in the minefield of an achingly white media landscape, is the attendant joy of and in our Black lives. A large part of the push for substantive representation is to make clear, and show more truly, that our Black lives are not only about strule and survival. We strule and fight for our joy — an unreserved and unapologetic joy that springs from our ability to live as we are. It’s a joy worth fighting for and it’s this joy that links all of our strules together. From gay marriage to the long overdue justice and protection of our Black trans siblings, we share in our assiduous pursuit of joy. It’s a joy we all deserve and one we’ll fight tooth and nail for.
Black History Month is an important time for Black people in Britain. We stand on the shoulders of giants, those who never backed down, who’ve fought tirelessly and who’ve paved the way for us to live openly and freely. A month dedicated to centring and celebrating such Black excellence is a welcome respite from the erasure we experience from society at large. And even though we’re working towards a society that doesn’t require a special month to be set aside in order for non-Black people to celebrate our place in this country’s ever-evolving narrative, I welcome the increased visibility and representation that Black History Month affords.
The work of visibility and representation should better align in our minds our unique but connected strules. The most recent furore around XXL’s discriminatory door policy is a great example of the ways in which our community is fractured and how we continue to oppress the very people who fight the hardest and shout the loudest for the liberation of all of us. Femme queens should wear their heels and dance wherever they like. Their exclusion, their reduction to undesirable, in a space that espouses a toxic masculinity, is directly connected to the misogyny and sexism directed at Black women like me. Our hypersexualised Black brothers, our murdered Black trans siblings and our ostracised Black femme queens all suffer at the intersection of overlapping oppressions.
And so to see Munroe Bergdorf, Lady Leshurr and Karamo Brown celebrated on the cover and on the pages of Gay Times makes my heart sing. Here, we have the chance to tell our stories, to talk about our lives not only in opposition to discrimination, but as full sentient human beings who love, laugh, cry and ache; who work for a better present and future for others; and who believe in the good and great of the human spirit. To see femme queens, trans women and intellectual Black men celebrated in Gay Times, in the most substantive and impressive Black History Month issue in the magazine’s 34-year history, means that across the world, queer Black folx will see, front and centre, themselves, their potential and their experiences.
Finally, UK Black Pride’s important partnership with Gay Times is long overdue, but there is a time for everything. I’m encouraged by the work and the passion of the team at Gay Times, who continue to show us what true allyship looks like. Over the past year, the team has gone from strength-to-strength, including an increasingly diverse array of the queer community and platforming voices and stories never seen in the pages of the magazine. The team at Gay Times continue to use their proximity to the queer Black community to advocate for us, to agitate for change and – as true allies should – to hand over their platform to us to tell our own stories.
This will go down as one of the most historical issues of Gay Times ever. Well, besides the issue with me on the cover, of course.
In love and unity,