I went to Black Pride in 2017 on a whim. It was the morning after a very messy London Pride and I was trying to ignore flashbacks of the previous night’s behaviour. (Tequila shots had facilitated some very, very public displays of affection.) I’d only had a few hours sleep when my alarm shook me awake, but I had arranged to meet my friend Adam, and I was getting a nasty reputation for always bailing on him so I knew, impending hangover or not, I had to go. I dragged myself out of bed and hopped around my room trying to locate the essentials such as my phone and dignity.
I was 23 and, until this point, Pride to me was an event, not a feeling. It was about what I was going to wear (anything covered in rainbows) and how many women I was going to kiss (often in the double digits, unfortunately). Pride was about which kind of alcohol would get me the drunkest and which one of my exes I was avoiding. It meant hanging out in London’s Soho with people I loved in a space where we all felt comfortable enough to hold hands.
I arrived at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens before Adam and hung out, sheepishly, near the gate. I had beer fear and I was still covered in yesterday’s glitter. When Adam arrived, we followed the crowd as the queue snaked round the gate and deep into the park. I was hit with the familiar sound of dancehall. I felt a sense of calm. For the first time I began to consider what exactly it was that I was celebrating.
I had never seen so many Black queer people in the same space; it felt as if every queer person of colour in England was there. We bumped into Tasha, who was one of the very few Black queer woman I met at university in Hull. As we exchanged stories about our antics the night before, she said: “Yesterday was a party, but today feels like Pride.” As we walked past stalls and workshops run by various charities, kids running away from their parents and queer people from so many different backgrounds, I understood what she meant.
When I came out I felt as if I was constantly picking between my sexuality and my race. I was trying to pull myself between two worlds I didn’t think fitted together. I was wrong. I met so many incredible Black women, such as Diane Abbott and LGBTQ+ activist Lady Phyll, who I’d been following online for a while. Meeting Lady Phyll was so special because it was amazing to see a Black lesbian who was out and proud.
I still managed to find time to kiss people – some things don’t change – but that day I really understood what it means to have pride, to be part of a community. I got to see how big and beautiful the Black queer community is.
Going to Black Pride at 23 was the first time I felt as if I was 100% myself. Seeing a Jamaican flag being flown next to a Pride flag, holding a plate full of curry goat, rice and peas and coleslaw, surrounded by Black queer people dancing and kissing, screaming along to Wayne Wonder: it was something I’d never thought possible when I realised I was a lesbian at 15, and something that makes me feel proud.