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You can’t put a price on Black Pride

Bisi Alimi found the recent UK Black Pride event empowering and expensive
UK Black Pride 2012 was a successful event despite the cost involved.
Photo by Chris Jepson.

Last week, British gay organization Stonewall released a report titled ‘One minority at a time’ to highlight the challenges of black and minority ethnic lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the UK.

The report, which interviewed 50 LGB people, showed the lack of understanding British public services have of this group. I am actually one of the ‘one minorities at a time’ and as someone that provides services for black gay men in London I definitely agree with Stonewall on this.

Then on Saturday (18 August), Black Pride celebrated their seventh anniversary. I volunteered with the UK Black Pride 2008 and it was such an exciting opportunity and I volunteered again the next year. My experience with them has always been filled with great memories. I made great friends for life and the opportunity drew me closer to the community.

So after missing the event for two years, it was great to be back to see how far the event has gone. When I stopped going, my argument was that the pride was not political enough – that Black Pride as a organisation was becoming a business enterprise and if that is the case why have another pride outside of the many that exist already?

Also I felt that as a black gay man and as an advocate, I want to see a Black Pride that will not just play music and dance, but also make very strong political statement that will seek to better the lives of black LGBT people that are greatly disadvantaged due to the social exclusion that comes with race and sexuality.

So leaving home on Saturday, I was looking forward to an engaging atmosphere, one that will speak for us and challenge us and I was pleased by what I saw.

I would have loved to hear more about what we need to do within ourselves as a community, what our role really is and how we should mobilise ourselves, both old and young, to take our place in the struggle.

But the speeches before the funfair started were not only empowering but also got many people thinking and even the music has become political.

However, despite the euphoria of an amazing day, I will not stop short of raising some flaws in the planning of this event. I thought it was a shame that an outdoor event has had to move inside due to the fear that it might rain. That said, the most troubling was around buying a ticket.

I think it might have been the first time tickets for the event were sold online. Anyone familiar with buying tickets online knows there is always the fear of hidden cost. For example, when I started my ticket purchase online, it was £10 ($16 €13), by the time I was checking out the final payment was £13 ($20 €16) and that included additional fee for picking up the ticket at the venue which is a bit strange. This did not bother me as I have the money to pay, but listening to many people, mostly young people, who found it hard to cough out such money, I began to worry.

A young man from Birmingham told me he paid close to £14 online, and that includes having the ticket delivered to him. I questioned why he came at all, he told he wanted to be at the event and he had no idea where to get tickets. The news that tickets will be more expensive did not help matters in anyway.

Not only was the ticket too expensive, the drinks inside the venue, Ministry of Sound were way above the roof. After paying £13 to enter, I had to part with over £30 ($47 €38) for drinks. That means for an event that starts at 12.30pm and ends at 8.30pm I have spent £43 ($67 €54). That means an average person would have spent £5 per hour at the event.

I have no grief about these, but if indeed the sincere interest of the Black Pride was to celebrate our uniqueness as black LGBT people, the increasing commercialisation of the pride should not be welcomed.

Going back to the Stonewall report, there was one thing that was not duly explored and that is the ‘buying’ power of black LGBT people. If it is true that average black person in the UK has a lower disposable income than average, then the charges by UK Black Pride are uncalled for.

It is based on this I will make a call for more sponsorship of Black Pride both from City Hall politicians, companies and well meaning individuals in the UK. I strongly believe that pride should be free. It should not be about profit but about the strong messages of politics and inclusion.

While the UK Black Pride has moved on progressively over the years, I want to see a pride that will also not make people go ‘bankrupt’ on Monday morning.

Bisi Alimi is a human rights campaigner who started his work in Nigeria in the late 90s before fleeing to the UK where he was granted asylum in 2008. He is a co-founder of the LGBT Kaleidoscope Trust where he serves as the director for Africa. He is also the convener of the Migrant African MSM Sexual Health Project, and project seeking to work with the African MSM community in the UK and Europe.

Photo courtesy of Chris Jepson, chrisjepson.com.

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