Black History Month – A celebration of all Black experiences
By Sarah Nelson
To mark Black History Month 2020, the Foundation for Future London recognises Black leaders, pioneers and activists from the LGBTQIA+ community, from East London and globally.
We know through recent events that a powerful surge of activism is taking place against structural racism. Black Lives Matter is at the heart of raising awareness to the struggles and discrimination faced by Black people and the demanding of much needed reform.
So there has never been more of an important time to celebrate Black History Month.
The Foundation is proud to be a member of Stonewall, helping to empower individuals, create inclusion and acceptance of culture and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. This is why the Foundation wanted to take the opportunity through Black History Month to celebrate some of the historic contributions that Black LGBTQIA+ individuals have made not only to the community, but to the fight for equality and inclusivity.
Working with Stonewall, The Foundation wanted to shine a light on a few of these heroes:
1. Marsha P. Johnson: American gay Liberation activist
As well as an activist, Marsha P. Johnson was a self-identified drag queen and performer. She was a prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene she often modelled for Andy Warhol.
2. Alice Walker: American Writer
Most famously known for her award-winning novel, The Color Purple, Alice Walker was also an avowed feminist and social activist who actively participated in the Civil Rights movement. When moving to Mississippi, her marriage to a Jewish Civil rights lawyer made them the first inter racially married couple in the state.
3. FannyAnn Eddy: Sierra Leonean LGBT rights activist and campaigner
An activist for lesbian and gay rights in Sierra Leonean and throughout Africa, FannyAnn Eddy founded the first of its kind ‘Lesbian and Gay Association’. She travelled widely advocating rights to international groups. Sadly, she was murdered when three men broke into her office in 2004.
4. Lady Phyll: British founder of UK Black Pride
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, is a co-founder and executive director of UK Black Pride. This was the first event if its kind in Europe celebrating the LGBTQ Black community. She is a prominent advocate for Queer, Trans, and Intersex people of colour.
The Foundation always aims to strengthen the connections between the communities of East London, so whilst celebrating these significant figures, it is only right to also shine a light on our very own East London influencers.
From past and present these inestimable individuals have and will always continue to put the LGBTQIA+ black community firmly at the top of the agenda:
1. Justin Fashanu: British Footballer
Known as a trail blazer, Justin Fashanu who was originally from Hackney was the first and only footballer to come out as gay whilst still playing the game. Sadly, he suffered much homophobia both on and off the pitch. Ten years after his death, the ‘Justin Campaign’ was set up in his name to challenge homophobia in football.
2. Travis Alabanza: Artist, Performer, Writer
A London-based performance artist whose stomping ground is often East London, Travis has been noted as one of the most prominent emerging queer artistic voices and listed as an influential queer figure appearing in many campaigns nationally and internationally.
3. Tanya Compas: Youth Worker & LGBT rights activist
First and foremost, Tanya is a youth worker and founder of Queer Black Christmas, a safe space for queer black young people from the LGBT+ community to enjoy a Christmas meal with a Caribbean twist. She crowdfunded the inaugural event in Christmas 2019 after becoming estranged from her family. Since then she has gone on to run many other campaigns all designed to help the needs of ‘young people in the queer black community’ of London.
4. Gina Yashere: Comedian
Born in East London, Gina Yashere is an award-winning comedian who often uses the medium of comedy to evoke activist driven messages about racism, homophobia, and womanhood, often using biographical events to elevate her points. Although now living in the USA, she will often visit family in East London.
Of course, there are so many more influential names who have played their part and each and every one of them will be a hero to someone for varying reasons. The Foundation holds inclusivity and the removal of barriers at the centre of everything we do, from grant making and grant giving to our interaction’s with team members and stakeholders’.
So, through this month and beyond throughout the year, we celebrate Black History and all those striving to make a difference.
Photo caption: Justin Fashanue in Brighton by Kevin Weaver