UK Black Pride moved to a new home this year. Leaving Lambeth behind, the London festival hosted its first event in Haggerston Park, Hackney. The theme was #WhenWeRise: a reminder of the crucial role black and brown people played in the Stonewall uprising 50 years ago.
#WhenWeRise: UK Black Pride
After a light fall of rain overnight, some wondered whether the overcast weather and new location might impact attendance. However, they needn’t have worried. As the temperature began to rise throughout the afternoon, and the sun decided to blaze down, the crowds kept arriving!
We were still awaiting a final figure at the time of going to press, but organizers say it was definitely in excess of 10,000: smashing last year’s record attendance of 7,500 in Lambeth.
UK Black Pride first took place in 2005 in Southend-On-Sea. In the 14 years since, under the auspices of organizer Lady Phyll, it has grown in profile and stature.
It is now Europe’s biggest festival for LGBTI people of color. This includes those of African, Asia, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent – along with allies.
Haggerston Park appears to be the perfect place for the festival, with plenty of room for dozens of community stalls, the main stage, food stalls, and a quieter Wellbeing Stage.
The latter hosted panel discussions, ranging from Trans Mental Health, Intersex 101 to how to survive as a queer maker of color in the creative industries.
The main stage had turns from Jason Kwan, NEO, Deanz and Charmer and headliner, MNEK. DJs pumped out everything from bhangra and Bollywood to reggae and dancehall.
Speakers included Glenroy Murray of Jamaican advocacy group J-FLAG, and Amber Hikes from Philadelphia: the woman behind the eight stripe rainbow flag which also includes black and brown stripes.
‘It started creating an important conversation around racism in LGBTQ communities,’ Hikes told the audience.
‘And it’s an important conversation. But a whole lot of people weren’t happy about it. In fact, some people were mad. Some people were big mad. They were so mad they sent me hate mail. They sent me death threats from every corner of the world.
She said such racism was nothing new.
‘They didn’t win then and they didn’t win now. This flag is gonna stay because I ain’t gonna give up and we ain’t gonna give up, and we are never going to stop fighting for our rights.’
‘They come to share in the warmth and the love’
Another speaker was Labour MP Dawn Butler. Backstage, she told GSN why she was always happy to participate in UK Black Pride.
‘It’s really important for people to feel included and to feel validated. Often, in certain spaces and areas, people struggle with that, so UK Black Pride was born out of a feeling of needing to be included.
‘And the great thing about having it a day after Pride, it’s a day where everyone can get together, chill: lots of families are here, it’s more picnic-ey, there’s a more relaxed vibe, and you’ll find people come from all over the country.
‘And not just people who are black, but people of every nationality. They come to share in the warmth and the love that today brings.
‘Some people say, “Why are we doing identity politics?” Everybody has an identity, so to try to erase that identity from somebody is a huge disrespect and a huge affront to who we are as individuals. The way we move forward as a country, as a nation, is to include people for who they are.
‘Not to tolerate but to accept people. That’s why it’s so important to be here today.’