It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve written my last post… Actually, let me check when it was… 5th of August! Wow, that was a while ago considering I’d got used to blogging more regularly. I won’t bore you with the mundane details of job-hunting as to my reason of not being able to blog for a while. Another reason for my late blog was Nottinghamshire Pride but I’ll write a blog post after this about that (note: it was fantastic! One of the best committees I have EVER worked with). Anyway, back to the point of this blog…
To refresh my memory I looked at the photos I took at London Pride and UK Black Pride and it was great remembering such a wonderful day!! For the past few years I’ve been volunteering at UK Black Pride and this year was no exception. However, what was different was that this year UK Black Pride coincided with London Pride. I’ve never been to a Pride as big and as well attended as London Pride before and I was in for a real treat… Half a million people took part in the Pride parade!!!
I wasn’t even going to attend the the Pride parade – that was purely a coincidence. I few weeks before UK Black Pride announced that they were going to be leading the march this year and as one of the official photographers I was keen to document this momentous event. As soon as I got into London there was the feeling of Pride all around me. I mean, it could have been just me projecting Pride love everywhere but there just seemed to be more visible LGBT people that day and so many rainbow flags! Getting onto Oxford Street and BAM! All of the LGBT folk!!! The colours, costumes, music, people and the electric atmosphere was incredible and to top it off the weather was glorious!
After a while of looking I couldn’t find UK Black Pride there (I expected there to be a massive bloc but there was only a few of the committee members and their banner there which was disappointing but more on this later) so I ended up stumbling across Imaan – the LGBT Muslims support group. I’ve been a part of the forum for a number of years now and have met a few other members but due to my own journey, personal and work commitments I until then had been unable to attend a meet-up. This needn’t be a sad thing though because what a first meet-up it was!!! The theme of London Pride this year was ‘Love (and Marriage)’ and so the Imaan attendees were dressed in traditional Islamic and various cultural dress with an LGBT twist! It was a beautiful sight – there’s pictures at the end of this post and I’ll put a link up for all of the photos I took.
I feel like I need to rewind a little bit for you so that you’re able to grasp the grandeur of my attending London Pride but more importantly, marching with Imaan. Imaan has been close to my heart for a number of years. I spent so long coming to terms with the intersections of my sexuality, culture and religion that I became severely depressed to the point in which I became suicidal. The darkest period of my life was when I thought that I was unable to be a lesbian and Muslim. I was so desperate to find my way and a sense of belonging that I used to prayer to Allah (swt) to make me heterosexual – yes really. When this was obviously unsuccessful I instead asked Allah to show me a sign to let me know that it was okay to accept who I am and it was shortly after that prayer request that I ended up stumbling across Imaan on the internet.
I remember reading about their attendance of the London Pride parade the previous year and they had uploaded a couple of photos. Even during my inner-turmoil I remember thinking that I would love to get to a point where I am so comfortable in who I am that I would be able to show the world and march along with Imaan. There was a little part of me that didn’t ever think I’d realise that dream but fast forward a few years and I ended up, purely by coincidence, doing just that.
I was honoured, proud and indeed acknowledged my privilege to be able to march visibly with Imaan. They are such a vibrant group and those who knew of me and even those who didn’t came up to me to say hello and welcome me. It felt like a really inclusive atmosphere generally but most definitely within this particular group. Being able to march and be visible is such an important part of my personal and professional progression in terms of activism. Marching with my LGBT brothers and sisters was an honour and privilege. I keep mentioning privilege because there are many LGBT people around the world who are unable to be out because of the fear of their personal safety and it’s something which I constantly remind myself of when I feel nervous doing something more visible.
So, the march itself. The crowd was wonderful (most of the time) and they responded to us brilliantly (most of time). I say most of the time because there were reports of Islamophobia throughout the march which was disgusting to see especially considering the diversity of the founding event of modern day Prides and LGBT activism – the Stonewall riots. The tiniest bit of research will uncover the diversity of people who fought back against stigmatisation and brutality from the police and it’s such a shame when I see such attitudes along with racism and LGBT events. It’s like as if people don’t know our history.
This brings me on to my next point. The march itself was largely attended by white people. In a diverse and multicultural city like London this was such a shame to see or rather, not see. Although, this could have been due to the fact that UK Black Pride was on at the same time in another area of central London but event so, it was disappointing to see the lack of diversity during the parade. Now critics have argued that UK Black Pride should have started later to make allowances for people wanting to attend the march but actually, there’s a reason why people chose to attend Black Pride over the event – simply put, they felt saver and more of a desire to attend Black Pride. It’s not very often that such a massive gathering of largely Black LGBT people happens so you wouldn’t want to miss it!
Even with this in mind, attending the parade and marching with Imaan was such an important event for me. I remember looking around and realising that I had realised one of my dreams. That moment right there was one of the most overwhelming feelings I’ve had in quite a while. It was incredible to see how far I had come in my personal journey and how much I have grown in confidence and character to be where I was stood that day.
Now, on to UK Black Pride. Once the march had finished my friend (Rima) fellow committee member and I made our way to Golden Square. I remember when I first attended UK Black Pride – I remember thinking (rather naively!) that there are so many people who are Black and identify as LGBT too! It was one of those naive light-bulb moments but certainly an important moment nonetheless. UK Black Pride this year was bigger than ever. We started with a minutes silence to remember all those who have died to to bigotry, intolerance and homophobia which really set the tone for the proceedings of pride, diversity and visibility. I love attending UK Black Pride and meeting all of the stall holders. I make a conceited effort to take photos of them because they and the organisations they were there to represent are staples in our community and do such brilliant work.
I could write at some length about London Pride and UK Black Pride but I feel I’ll written for long enough now. Instead let me sum up by sharing with you some of my favourite moments of the day.