October 2, 2016
Past, Present and Future – Black History Month 2016
By Kris Hendry
[The Proud Black History Month leaflet can be downloaded here]
Held in October, Black History Month is the annual celebration of contributions that those in the black community have made to our history, society and culture. Something often overlooked in more mainstream discussions on such issues.
Proud welcomes this opportunity to reflect on the impact that those from the black community who also identified as LGBT have made to both movements in the struggle for equality. Too often these important individuals are forgotten about, or worse deliberately sidelined to be more palatable for a mainstream audience.
Such was the case with last year’s film adaptation of Stonewall which told the tale of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, considered the catalyst for the modern day LGBT movement.
The film used a white male character to depict the throwing of the first brick when in fact, based on the testimony of many there, the first brick was thrown by a trans person of colour. Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha, along with close friend Sylvia Rivera, co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries dedicated to helping homeless young trans women of colour and others. Sylvia was also a well known black transgender activist and founding member of the US Gay Liberation Front. Both continued their activism throughout the 1970s and 80s before Martha’s tragic passing in 1992.
Here in the UK we have individuals such as Waheed Alli (Baron Alli), who in July 1998 became the youngest as well as first openly gay peer in Parliament. Waheed has used his position to campaign on a range of issues in relation to LGBT equality. He helped lead the campaign to repeal the cruel and damaging Section 28, advocated for lowering the age of consent from, then, 18 to 16 in line with the age for heterosexual individuals as well as calling for the removal of religious institutions being prohibited from conducting civil partnerships before same sex marriage was even considered.
As we look ahead, the rise in race related incidents and right wing rhetoric both before and after the EU Referendum earlier this year it has never been more important that we stand together in order to confront and challenge this insidious behaviour. It is only by recognising our joint histories and intersectionality that we can truly achieve equality.
Proud will continue to do this and we invite all PCS members to join us. Membership is open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, with dedicated officers on our National Committee for other equality strands to ensure all voices are heard and that we represent all LGBT members equally.
For more information on Black History Month including events taking place across the UK, visit http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/.
The Proud Black History Month leaflet can be downloaded here