I remember my first Pride march as if it were yesterday.
A sunny London day. 1995.
Arriving from out of town with Trevor, my first long-term boyfriend, we had decided to get involved and volunteer as stewards. In our assigned yellow T-shirts, coveting a clipboard or walkie talkie to look even more officious, we met our team and got ready to keep the parade parading; a task which largely meant keeping defiant drag queens from diving out of the parade to catch up with watching friends on the city’s pavements, helping the marchers to ignore the fundamentalist Christians who come to Pride to preach, (seemingly ungrateful for the bully pulpit which had already given them the oppressive tool of Section/Clause 28), and ensuring no one got run over by the hog-mounted Dykes on Bikes, or by the guys who had managed to find a military tank and spray it pink as their parade entry.
It was my first time as a gay man being part of the majority in the daylight; outside of a nightclub; in public. We were there, queer, and not shopping!
More than 20 years later I still hold onto that feeling of affirmation, solidarity and hope; those first steps out of the shadows. I remember being massively relieved that the post parade festival had moved out of the too-close-to-home-and-closet, Brockwell Park, to East London’s Victoria Park. I was on such a high that I didn’t even mind the monocultural festival line up of Boy George, Erasure and Jimmy Sommerville. We snogged and I wept while fireworks exploded overhead to mark the climax of London’s 25th Pride.
I felt a similar elation a few years later on a coach to Southend-on-Sea for the first UK Black Pride. Reminiscent of the seaside coach trips that I’d been on as a child, when the illuminations of Blackpool or beaches of Barry Island only felt accessible to us if we arrived in a group of 200 Caribbean people with our own (seasoned) food in our holdalls, Phyll and Khi’s visionary creation of UK Black Pride meant that I now had a space in which being me was enough; black enough and gay enough.
Getting further involved with organising Pride events, including a black parade float and POC stage for Pride in London (2005), meant that I lost sight of the power and importance of Pride. It became about the stress of managing volunteers, fighting for resources, and coordinating logistics.
We’ve been thinking hard about how we at BlackOutUK can play our part in rekindling that Pride magic of affirmation, solidarity and hope for those of us worn down by the annual grind, as much as for those who will experience Pride for the first time this year.
This year, we’ve decided to celebrate and emulate our heroes #BlackOutandProud. We want to take Pride beyond the great events and focus on the example shown us by our peers and forebears not just to feel, but to act – to create, speak, dream, fight, think, write, be real, organise, challenge and build our future into existence.
Our limited edition tees will be available next week in black or grey, at only £15, reserve yours now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the size and colour that you’d like – first come, first served.
We will also be at UK Black Pride to join in the fun – come and talk to us about how together we can turn Pride into action and #BuildlikeBlackOutUK