This month we are six months into our journey with BlackOutUK and wanted to check in, see what you think, and hear your ideas about the development of work to build community among, and amplify the voices of, Black (African diaspora) gay/bi/SGL/queer men in the UK.
We invited men who identify as Black and gay/bi/SGL/queer to contribute to the site in whatever way they wanted, simply by asking people we knew who we thought might be interested and by making open calls on social media. Before we launched the site we spent more than six months hanging out, networking, and supporting each other. This time enabled us to create connections and then (hopefully) interesting, informative, inspiring, and entertaining content for the site. This is evident in the more than sixty diverse articles that populate the main website, the lively Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram timelines.
We held our first on-land public events in February 2017 with 300 attending a special screening of ‘Moonlight’ and over 100 attending a spoken word celebration of black queer voice in response to the film. In March we hosted a preview screening of James Baldwin documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ with a post-screening panel on black queer voices in racial justice.
Since our launch, the online content has already made a considerable contribution to evidence of Black gay/bi/SGL/queer men’s lives in the UK. After the success of our initial events, we are working to create further physical spaces that enable community engagement and meaningful connections.
It has been a wonderful experience so far and the events, particularly the hang-outs with contributors, have enriched us more than words can express. These spaces have been less about the negative, limited, stereotypical narratives and images of us, and more about a celebratory and aspirational existence. It has been liberating to be centred in the conversation rather than discussed in comparison to others or as an aberration from the norm.
We have been involved with services for Black LGBTQ+ people for many years and while recognising the progress made through the work of many, felt it was time to try something different; as well as to consider the legacy of that work and how it can be passed on. We wanted to develop community among black gay men based on what we have rather than what is missing. Instead of mapping ‘needs’, we started by recognising our assets and asking how these can be better invested for ourselves and the communities we are a part of – starting with our voices. We recognise the tensions that can be created by the competition for resources that have too often been debilitating for movements, so we start from a position of open and transparent collaboration.
We’ve been humbled by the support that we have already received. People have used their skills, networks, and time to support the work. They’ve made introductions, put their hands in their pockets, nurtured emerging talents, shared their ideas – contributed their assets when we had little to show but our enthusiasm. Thanks for your faith in us.
Last month we held an informal gathering on our shared aspirations for our communities and how we might work together better to achieve them. It was really useful so we’ll do this more often – we learn through action. We’re digesting the outcomes of those discussions which will definitely improve our output and impact.
One thing you can do right away is to share a BlackoutUK article that you like with a friend or acquaintance. Let’s use the networks we already have to create the change we want to see.
We’re taking some time to process what people have told us and will be back in July with events around Pride in London, and a new series of articles, films and more.
Blackout UK Editorial Team