7 Black British LGBTQ Heroes That Should Be Recognised This Pride

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What started out as something born from protest over frustrations at discrimination, is now one of the most important dates in the British calendar. Pride is all about acknowledging and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community past and present. Yet sadly, for Black British LGBTQ+ people, Pride month hasn't always elevated those voices or encompassed the experiences of black people in the community.

Being Black and in the LGBTQ+ community comes with challenges. According to Stonewall, more than half of Black and Asian LGBTQ+ people said they’ve faced discrimination from the wider LGBTQ community. And on average, Black people in the LGBTQ community are at greater risk of experiencing a hate crime, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

While there is a wealth of incredibly important African American figures like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Bayard Rustin, uncovering the work and activism of Black British LGBTQ+ people is sadly a much more difficult feat. Their stories are often left undocumented and buried in history. The tales of Black people who had to fight under the intersection of the sexuality and race, to make a better world for Black people now should be remembered and shouted about. Most crucially, these influential figures deserve their flowers whilst they can still smell them.

With the help of the lovely folks at Gay's The World, one of England's only LGBT bookshops, and the Black bookshop, New Beacons Books, here is a list of Black British LGBTQ+ heroes who we can't forget this pride.

Lady Phyll — Co-founder of UK Black Pride

A living and breathing icon in the British LGBTQ+ community, Lady Phyll is the co-founder of UK Black Pride, the annual alternative pride festival celebrating Black people in the community. Lady Phyll made a massive statement back in 2016 when she refused an MBE saying "LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed" because of laws implemented by the British Empire.

Claude McKay — Writer

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Born in 1889 in Jamaica, Claude McKay was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance literary movement and wrote Home To Harlem in 1928. Because being gay is illegal in Jamaica, he never wrote about his own sexuality, but it is widely thought he was bisexual. In 1919 he moved to London and as a socialist began writing for the Workers' Dreadnought. Some claim he was the first black journalist in Britain.

Dorothea Smartt — Poet

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Dorothea Smartt is a London born poet of Bajan heritage who wrote Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On in 2014, and was formerly staff at the Black Lesbian & Gay Centre. She was a poet in residence at Brixton Market and has lectured at Birkbeck College and Leeds University.

Justin Fashanu — Footballer

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Justin Fashanu was the first openly black, gay football player in Britain. Racism and homophobia is still prevalent in the sport today with Pink News citing that 273 reported racist incidents and 111 reports of homophobic abuse occurred in 2017 and 2018, so being out and Black in the '80s was courageous. Fashanu came out in 1990, even though his brother John paid him £75,000 to stay closeted, as the Telegraph reports. Fashanu later died from suicide in 1998.

Labi Siffre — Singer

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You've probably heard the 1987 anti-Apartheid hit Something Inside So Strong, but many don't know that it was sung by gay activist, Labi Siffre. Born in 1945, Siffre was openly gay throughout his career. As Siffre told New Humanist, he even refused to let Dr Dre and Eminem sample his songs as he thought "dissing the victims of bigotry" in music is "lazy writing."

Rotimi Fani-Kayode — Artist

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Rotimi Fani-Kayode is a Nigerian born photographer who came to the UK aged 12 after fleeing the Nigerian civil war. Through his portraits he explores race, culture and sexuality and his work has been displayed in Tate Modern.

Jackie Kay — Poet & Novelist

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Black Scottish lesbian writer and poet Jackie Kay is the third ever modern Makar, the Scottish equivalent to the Poet Laureate. She has written many wonderful novels and poems highlighting the lives of LGBTQ+ people, including her own life in her autobiography Red Dust Road.