WATCH THIS SPACE: LLOYD YOUNG & ‘THE BLACK EXPERIENCE’

BLKOUT:

Welcome to BLKOUT_UK. Tell our readers who you are

LLOYD:

I’m Lloyd. I’m a 56 year old Black gay man

BLKOUT:

Where are you from?

LLOYD:

I was born in Islington, North London . . . My parents originate from Jamaica. They arrived in the UK in the early 1950s – they’re from the group now labelled the Windrush Generation.

BLKOUT:

Intrigued by the name of your project – The Black Experience Aren’t there as many Black experiences as there are Black people? Tell us some more about yours?

LLOYD:

I started in retail at 16 – menswear in Wood Green, and pretty quickly realised that I wanted to be my own boss. 5 years later, I was living my dream – I opened Classique For Men, my own clothes store on Tottenham High Road.

BLKOUT:

There can’t have been many 21 year-old Black men running their own boutiques at that time – you were a pioneer

LLOYD:

It was the early 80s, a period of real racialised tensions. I remember the tragic deaths of all those young people at the fire in Deptford – 13 dead and nothing said – and then later the uprisings in Brixton and then in Tottenham itself. That was the backdrop when I started to recognise my own sexuality. There was a very limited set of images of Black men in the media or via popular culture – and Black gay men were pretty much invisible and often unwelcome.

In my late 20s, I accepted the life-changing decision I had to make. At the time, I felt that I would have to give up family, friends and everything that represented masculinity. The one thing I held on to was my love for music. I was a DJ and known for my specialist Rare Groove – playing with best on the scene. 

I wanted to put my visibility to good use, to use it to support other LGBTQ people. In the summer of 1994, this led to SHEGUN – A Day For Us – an open-air party in South London, organised by Black gay men and women, to celebrate and connect us with each other – a precursor to current pride events.

We commented at the time that for many of us it was a first Black Experience – we found value in understanding each others’ experience – sharing common challenges and solutions.

The name stuck.

BLKOUT:

So it’s a name rooted in an idea of community?

LLOYD:

That’s right. As well as from personal experience. I am a black male, with a disability. I face exposure to challenges arising due to oppression – disappointingly from those who claim to be professional as well as those viewed as care-givers from within my own community.

The understanding of the impact of such persistent, cruel, and unjust treatment, its drivers, and how we build our resilience in response, are among the things that The Black Experience seeks to explore. Coming together as a group of gay/bi and trans men in support of each other is a way of developing a community of care.

BLKOUT:

What inspired you to create The Black Experience?

LLOYD:

In the early 90s, as a group of black brothers, we attended a Gay Pride celebration in Kennington Park, South London – a stone’s throw from Brixton. On arrival we were met with hostility from the ‘mainstream’ lesbian and gay attendees and organisers and then forced to leave by the police. It was said at the time we did not look ‘typically gay’.

So we decided to create our own space, where we could define what gay ‘looked like’.

BLKOUT:

What difference does The Black Experience make?

LLOYD:

We provide a creative and engaging outdoor space that enables Black bi, gay and trans men to discuss their lived experiences openly; free from the everyday restrictions that are often placed upon individuals.

We operate by bringing people together, reconnecting them with joy and laughter, and helping them to develop practical healing methods, and giving them the tools and networks for ongoing self-care when they return from our events.

For those who have attended our events and summer camp, we are a lifeline. Non-judgemental spaces are all too rare for us, and networks for support are crucial.

BLKOUT:

What is next on your agenda?

LLOYD:

We are opening invitations to our 2021 Summer Camp this week. For five days from Sunday 28th August, we will be heading to a beautiful campsite where we have planned a programme of learning, interaction, and fun outdoor activities. Black bi, gay and trans men are invited to join us.

The Summer Camp has been the highlight of The Black Experience calendar for ten years now, and with the experience of the pandemic and the conversations that we have been having online, we’ve been encouraged to open up the opportunity more broadly. The Summer camp is just the start of a bigger project to offer year round support, more regular interventions and more opportunities to broaden our horizons through travel.

If any BLKOUT_UK readers are interested in finding out more about the camp, they should click here and we’ll send them all the information they need to be a part of it

.