Updated: Sep 4, 2021
'What does Pride mean as a Queer Leader of colour in Britain today?' We asked this question to some of our Create Space team members ahead of this years UK Black Pride event and the insights we got were thought-provoking and inspiring.
The theme of UK Black Pride this year, “Love And Rage”, not only celebrates how members of different marginalised communities continue to show up for and take care of each other, but also shines an important light on just how far we still have to go as a society in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality - not just in Britain, but around the world.
The three day event, taking place online this year, promises to be full of amazing performances, wellness sessions and inspiring conversations - and we're thrilled to see so many familiar faces from our own Create Space Queer Collective.
Very much inspired by the leader, change-maker and icon that is Lady Phyll, founder of UKBP, we reached out to some of our own team, who are each Queer Leaders in their own right fighting and advocating for change, to understand what this year’s UK Black Pride means to them.
The responses we got not only provided more insight but supported and echoed very clearly some of the key messages we all need to be discussing.
What does Pride mean to you today?
“Pride means celebrating our community, honouring those who came before us, and fighting for everyone's voices to be heard.” - Jason Kwan “Pride today means being unapologetically me in all of my abundance. Standing in my whole truth; the good, the bad, the dark, the light, the mistakes, the healing, the joy and growth.” - Chloë Davies “Pride today means education, understanding what the original struggle was. It’s really about taking the time to appreciate where we are as a community, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.” - Tash Thomas
“For me Pride is about happiness and joy, and feeling it however you want to. I think I realised that when I went to my first Pride as who I am… by going there as who I am, in what made me feel queer, made me feel pansexual, made me feel black, in what made me feel my religion - when I had all of that, dressed to the nines, fearless, courageous, happy, I was like ‘That's what Pride is’." - Kanndiss Riley
How do you express yourself authentically as a queer leader of colour?
“Remembering that I am my own person is key to being authentic. These days it’s so easy to get caught up in what I should look like or should be doing…but even recognising those potential traps can do so much to place us on the right path. There’s no one way to exist and being my own kind of beautiful is important.” - Eva Echo
“I think for me being brown, Indian and queer has been an extremely lonely experience and continues to be. As a queer leader of colour I do my best not to notice the continued imbalance when it comes to queer spaces, queer boards, and queer media and yet I can not help but recognise that change is happening but it is not happening with the speed it could be. With that said, I do what I can to speak up, to educate and to create equally diverse spaces that are not merely making concessions to include ALL people of colour but instead celebrating it and dancing in the differences.” - Sonny Thaker
“By standing in my truth and just being me every single day, that’s how I hold truth to power to who I am. I’m honest about when I’m struggling. I celebrate myself, but also celebrate others, and try to uplift my community in all.” - Chloë Davies “I own every single part of my identity and realise that those identities intersect. Growing up for me was so difficult, I always had the challenges between “Am I British? Am I Indian? Am I working class? Am I middle class now because of my education? Where do I fit in?”. I think learning about my gender identity and sexual orientation has allowed me to live my authentic queer self and come into my queer shell and own it.” - Gurchaten Sandhu
“I make no apologies for being visible, loud, and explicit. I do not compromise any part of my identity because I am extremely proud of who I am!” - Jason Kwan
Where do these identities intersect in your professional life? How do you navigate that shared space?
“In my professional life, now in particular because my gay job and my day job are somewhat similar, it becomes a bit challenging; when you’re advocating for LGBTQI+ rights, people think it’s personal and that it’s part of your own agenda. It’s really hard to navigate that.” - Gurchaten Sandhu
“I’m bisexual, I’m a black woman, I’m a working parent, I’m a mental health survivor, and I work at the current moment within the LGBTQ+ community. Just walking day to day, my identities intersect. How do I navigate that?...Next question. Joking, hah. I’m still trying to work that out. I’m trying to be open and honest about the micro-aggressions and barriers that I may face within the workplace… If we don’t have these conversations in the workplace, then I can’t show up for myself, which then will allow me to show up for others. So I have to bring it all with me, as much as I possibly can.” - Chloë Davies
“All day, every day, in both aspects of my professional life... For me, I use these intersections as my hidden power; the ability to be able to connect and empathise and have compassion for others who may not yet understand the power of their difference, and I try to use it to show that and share that it can absolutely be this strength that you have and it doesn’t have to be an obstacle or barrier for you. Figure out how you can use that difference for good.” - Tash Thomas
How do you feel these different marginalised communities have helped you carve out and shape your own personal style of leadership?
“I think they’ve helped me to be unapologetically me. Fortunately, in terms of the queer community, I’m surrounded by many people who are confident and unapologetic in their queerness. And it’s the same for my friends and family who are black - especially the black side of my family are super creative, they’ve shown me that is part of what it means to be black, is that creativity, that energy, that vibrance. It’s a part of my culture, and inbuilt into my DNA. So just being unapologetic in all of my identities is how they’ve shaped me going forward in the world.” - Tash Thomas
“They hold me accountable, that’s for sure. I am coming in, and I am not coming in by myself; I am coming in on the shoulders and riding the voices of so many powerful and inspirational queer people who are daring to be themselves, and inspiring me to bring those stories forward. Learning to speak truth to power, that’s very important.” - Gurchaten Sandhu
“Older generations of queer people, especially trans people, have really helped me on my journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They've helped me realise that I can be a leader for myself and others without needing to have all the answers, as there is no such thing as having all the answers!” - Jason Kwan
“Inspiration is all around us, and when looking in on or getting involved with different communities, there’s always something to learn. I feel it helps me to know my place, and to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses.” - Eva Echo
"I started educating myself, and I'm still educating myself. I think all of us really have this duty to keep on keeping on, because I don't believe I'll ever know anything fully because I'm not living other people's lives. So if we're not living people's lives, we can invite them to speak for themselves and tell us where the differences are, and we can celebrate those differences even if they're not our lived experiences." - Maylis Djikalou
Finally, what do you think we should remember and keep in mind as we meander through this year’s Pride season?
“We should remember that we are valid, every single day, and that our identities are not performed for anyone. They are ours to enjoy and treasure.” - Jason Kwan
“Take care. You are what matters most, and without you, then the sum of all things and community can’t be formed. So make time for you, make space for you. Know that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t have to put yourself in spaces you don’t feel comfortable with, and that is perfectly okay.” - Chloe Davies
“When we are celebrating our true selves, we do it fiercely, and we need to remember how hard our communities have fought to even survive COVID. I think another thing to think about when we celebrate Pride this year is “who am I making space for? Am I moving from allyship to solidarity?”. Because anyone can be an ally, most people have a grip on that. But I don’t want allyship, I want solidarity. So how are you sharing power, how are you sharing space and other resources?” - Gurchaten Sandhu
“Whilst it’s important to recognise that Pride is all year round, it’s even more important that those who don’t have the privilege of being out aren’t forgotten about or left to the side. When we shout, we shout on their behalf too.” - Eva Echo
“It’s okay for queer people to say no and to take a step back. It’s a shame that we constantly feel like we have this platform so we have to use it, and if we don’t take the opportunity now it’ll never come around again. But I think it’s time for us to really push the point that pride isn’t just a month; it’s not just one day during a city parade, it’s 365 days a year. These struggles happen 365 days a year, so you don’t have to cram it into a few weeks. Think further ahead, and think more boldly than that.” - Tash Thomas
“Concentrating everything around one season makes it seem like we're all just sitting here, and that's not the case. It's a great season to explode and make things bold and visible and louder, but throughout the year as well, specifically those in the global majority who are in positions to leverage and amplify the voices are others, we should try to spotlight those who are actively doing the work, we should be putting these people on the map as best as possible. This is how we keep the conversation going.” - Maylis Djikalou
“As we observe ‘Pride’, I’d love for us to keep up the conversation around safety in a sustainable way. There is no point making spaces ``inclusive” of LGBTQIA+ people of colour if we aren’t able to ensure their safety. Protect gender-diverse people on paper and in your hearts; irrespective of whether they’re visible or not.” - Shiva Raichandani
If you’re interested in hearing more from any of our contributors on the topic of intersectionality, and belong to a business or organisation striving to be more inclusive, we offer a brilliant webinar programme “LGBTQ+ Community and Intersectionality” that’s been specifically curated to support this.
We are incredibly passionate about cultivating and improving the visibility, diversity and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in professional spaces. We already work successfully with leading businesses and organisations across multiple sectors to deliver this. Our comprehensive offer of bespoke webinars and workshops explore topics that have proven to empower, enrich and drive positive change. Our work is facilitated and delivered by the rich mix of 80+ LGBTQIA+ professionals, practitioners, activists, creatives and change makers that form the We Create Space collective. Our collective includes this article’s contributors.
You can find out more about our tailored corporate solutions here. UK Black Pride will start its live broadcast on Friday 2nd July and run through the whole weekend. It will include live performances from rising queer leaders of colour, as well as panels hosting the much needed conversations that we have touched on today.
About our contributors:
Chloe is a global LGBTQ+ belonging and inclusion workplace consultant and public speaker. She’s the Head of Finance & Governance for UK Black Pride, Community Lead for the London Queer Fashion Show, trustee for the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre and ambassador for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. On top of all this, she is a proud “bi mum” to two wonderful kids, and a proud queer parent. Chloe has also been a guest on We Create Space’s podcast “Self In-queer-y”.
Jason is a queer non binary person from Hong Kong, living in East London. He's also a singer/songwriter and a youth worker at AKT, a charity supporting young LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness across the UK.
Shiva is a non-binary performance artist whose works harness the power of storytelling to create inclusive spaces for positive gender-diverse representation in media, especially for south Asians. They also works as a speaker and consultant on inclusive LGBTQIA+ practices for corporate and non-profit organisations.
Gurchaten Sandhu is a Project Director at the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) and President of UN-GLOBE, the staff group representing LGBTQ+ staff in the UN. He is also on the advisory board here at We Create Space.
Sonny is a Gallup Certified coach, a public speaker and a proud part of the LGBTQ+ community. Along with scientific approaches, he uses his own past experiences and hardships as tools to inspire others into living to their best potential and creating results beyond their expectations.
Tash is a Diversity and Inclusion speaker and advocate. She is also co-creator of ‘Breaking the Distance’, a unique LGBTQIA+ travel and relationship blog, (alongside her fiancé, Marthe). Breaking the Distance aims to educate and promote positive LGBTQIA+ visibility, whilst also providing a safe space for people to be their authentic selves.
Rico is a videographer, writer and vocal activist. He’s a board member of TransActual UK, which works to change UK legislation for non-binary equality and raise the Black Queer intersectionality question in all forums.
Eva is a writer, activist and spokesperson currently based in Birmingham. She is a brand ambassador for the London Transgender clinic, activist and spokesperson for Gendered Intelligence, and founder of the #PassItOn campaign that encourages conversation around trans and non-binary people’s image standards. She also sits on the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel for England and Wales.
Maylis Djikalou is a transformation coach and consultant who has worked at the intersection of creative and mental health industries, curating international events and strategic partnerships to promote wellbeing in the workplace as a competitive advantage. She is also the Programme Director at We Create Space.
Kanndiss has over 5 years of Humanitarian work; she has run projects, mentored young girls through charity partnerships, facilitated workshops & training and has been a recognised public speaker on female empowerment. Over the years, she has spoken at the annual Feminism Conference's, been interviewed on BBC 5 Live, and been active in the Women's Equality Party.