Ek 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.
ek was 23 en, 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, Ongelukkig). 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, sy het gese: “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.