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The Black British LGBTQ Heroes That Deserve To Be Recognised This Pride

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Being Black and in the LGBTQ community comes with its challenges. According to Stonewall, more than half of Black and Asian LGBTQ people said they’ve faced discrimination from the wider community. And on average, Black people in the UK's 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 to learn about, knowing the work and activism of Black British LGBTQ people is just as important. Their stories are often left undocumented and buried in history. The tales of Black people who had to fight oppression under the intersection of sexuality, gender, and race to make a better world for Black people should now 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 New Beacons Books, a Black bookshop based in north London, I have compiled a list of Black British LGBTQ heroes who we can't forget this pride.

Claude McKay, Writer

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.

Justin Fashanu — Footballer
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Justin Fashanu was the first openly gay Black 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. Siffre refused to let Dr Dre and Eminem sample his famous song in one of their 1999 tracks. When asked by New Horizons in 2012 about this decision, he said: "Dissing the victims of bigotry – women as bitches, homosexuals as faggots – is lazy writing. Diss the bigots not their victims. I denied sample rights till that lazy writing was removed."

John Amaechi
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The English-Nigerian phycologist, New York Times-best-selling author, and former professional basketball player John Amaechi became the first NBA player to speak publicly about being gay when he came out in February 2007. He often speaks out on what is keeping athletes from coming out.

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.

Rikki Beadle-Blair
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Rikki Beadle-Blair is a performer, actor, screenwriter, and activist. He’s been involved in creating a plethora of LGBTQ film, theatre, TV, and literature. He wrote the screenplay for Nigel Finch’s film Stonewall and is one of the editors for Sista!, an anthology of LGBT women of Caribbean and African descent. Beadle-Blair was also the Executive story editor of Noah’s Arc, a U.S. TV series about four Black gay friends living in L.A.

Lady Phyll, The 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.

Dorothea Smartt — Poet

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.

Rotimi Fani-Kayode — Artist

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.

Munroe Bergdorf
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Model and activist Munroe Bergdorf rose to fame after she was dropped from a L’Oréal campaign for speaking out about racism – she would have been their first trans model. Since then, she has gone on to be a prominent voice for both the Black and LGBTQ community in the UK. She has won multiple awards for activism including the Change Maker Of The Year Award in 2018.

Kayza Rose

Kayza Rose in an artistic director, filmmaker, lecturer, and activist. She's alsohead of external events for UK Black Pride and has worked with Black Lives Matter. Rose is the founder of Family Dinner, a sober safe space for QTIBPOC community.