Black Pride Ireland: "It is about being Black, queer and proud and most importantly, empowered to live your full truth."

The people behind Black Pride Ireland share their reasons for forming the group and the experience of being a queer person of colour in Ireland.

Two hands holding a pride flag. In this story, we interview members of Black Pride Ireland

Black Pride Ireland is a movement created by queer Black people, for Black LGBT+ people on the island of Ireland.

Members of the group share their thoughts, words and the reasons behind its foundation.

Diana Bamimeke 

When Rayann and I set up Black Pride Ireland, we felt that we had staked out ground for queer Black people in this country. One shared characteristic that many of us in the community have is the sense of being unattached, unmoored: when you are shunned by your family for your queerness, and maltreated by the rest of the world (as an object of sexual fetishism, as an irrelevant identity), you find that you have no true allegiance to any particular place. No real belonging in any camp.

The feeling follows you around, and it makes you sick. With Black Pride Ireland, we try to be the opposite, to be a home for those who need it. Earlier this year, I left what I thought was my own home and moved far away. It was inevitable – my family (I have not come out to them, but I know they know) would never accept my sexuality, and I could no longer compact myself to please them. I realised that I badly needed a new definition of ‘family’.

Member of Black Pride Ireland

In this definition, blood ties are not a requirement. Neither are violent, hierarchical systems. In this definition, there is a profound love for oneself as a queer Black person, and it’s so voluminous, so abundant, that there is no choice but to love others like yourself. We are a small community but we are strengthened by unwavering support for one another, and a necessity to be compassionate to ourselves in the face of cruelty from others.

In my case, I find myself still trying to clumsily parse out (to myself and other people) what it means to be Black, to be bisexual, to be non-binary, all at once. But I am glad to have a cohort of people around me to do it with, be they my friends, or those I have the pleasure of meeting through Black Pride Ireland. There’s really no one better to have.

In a world where our identities are under constant scrutiny, political and institutional power is constantly stripped from us. We must be able to stand against these agents of corruption and control. They embody and perpetuate everything we are fighting against. So it must be made clear that we are anticapitalist, anti-corruption and, most certainly, anti-fascist.

In creating the society we want to live in, we must not forget the agents of repression and systemic silencing that we are affected by. Be that the failed healthcare system, immigration system or the shameful reality of living in Direct Provision. We must continually speak out against these racist institutions as well as uplift and support those who are affected by it. To our siblings living in Direct Provision, we stand with you in resolute solidarity. We believe in your queerness, no matter how the system wishes to compartmentalise it. Our queerness is varied and beautiful and no oppressive, colonial measures will ever detract from the richness of our beautiful selves.

Challenging the racist notions of a system is not everything for us. We also have the inward battle of grappling and understanding our own identities as children of the diaspora, attempting to reconcile with their truths – truths that have been thwarted via colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism – to learn how to love and support each other and ourselves in an increasingly hostile world, to find the joy of love in its differing hues, to constantly challenge, decolonise false notions of ourselves that we have held too close, for too long.

It is about being Black, queer and proud and most importantly, empowered to live your full truth.

Member of Black Pride Ireland

Kevin Voka

Growing up in Ireland in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, I’ve always been aware of the fact that I was different, and I never really minded that because I was taught that there was strength in difference. But when I became aware of my queer identity it took me aback for a minute – but only that minute.

I’ve been lucky, in that I never hated my sexuality or blackness. I’ve always found that the two intertwined beautifully, but I also knew that society didn’t particularly love either of them, neither in non-Black circles nor in my own Black community.

My friendships with my Black queer friends was really an act of self-love. We taught each other how to love and see ourselves as humans, as just regular people trying to survive.

My being Black and queer in Ireland has everything to do with the community I’ve been able to be a part of. That community is what it looks like when we love ourselves, encourage and uplift each other, while the wider LGBT+ is not inclusive or welcoming to us. Black queer people have always been good at creating spaces for ourselves and, within these spaces, providing a sense of family and security, when we oftentimes can’t get these from our biological families or societal structures. I’ve been lucky to experience this with my close friends who have become my chosen family and have honestly saved my life, and have made me who I am today.

Member of Black Pride Ireland

Randa A

Once upon a time,
My love lived at the precipice of my life.
We crossed paths and smiled politely, unaware of where we would end up some day.
I had loved, just as my love had lovers, which must have led my love my way.
To be loved by you must be their favour from above and my frequently wished for gain.
Now I’m held by you and you are cared for; not alone in burden, ban or bane.
You will never need to follow me to any ends, of any Earth – we will move side-by-side.
Step-by-step, comfortably astride, not one in front or the other behind.
Once upon a time,
My love lived at the precipice of my life.
And now my love is mine.
I’m not sure when or how,
But my love feels like happily ever after, even if it’s just for now.

You can follow Black Pride Ireland on Twitter @BlackPrideIre and support them by donating to their gofundme.

This story originally appeared in GCN’s January 2020 issue.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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