We are Black men who are proudly gay.
What we offer is our lives, our love, our visions.
We are risin’ to the love we all need.
We are coming home
with our heads helD up high.
Joseph Beam, ‘In The Life’ 1986
Welcome to Pearl’s Return
This page is your gateway to our festival of Black Queer Men’s Homecoming – from here, you can access background information, register for events, buy tickets, access the festival’s new audio and video content, share your views and insights, and connect with others
PEARL ALCOCK‘S BASEMENT BAR OPENED IN BRIXTON DURING THE 1970s.
IT QUICKLY BECAME THE VITAL SPACE FOR BLACK QUEER MEN IN LONDON TO MEET AND CONNECT, A HAVEN WHERE THEY COULD BE FREE TO BE THEMSELVES.
THE BAR CLOSED IN 1981, NEVER TO BE REPLACED, AND AT RISK OF BEING FORGOTTEN. . . UNTIL NOW
40 YEARS ON, WE HONOUR PEARL’S LEGACY IN BRIXTON BY:
- BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER,
- RE-CONNECTING BLACK LIBERATION WITH QUEER LIBERATION,
- INSPIRING JOY, LAUGHTER AND CONVIVIALITY
- AND ESTABLISHING FOUNDATIONS FOR BLACK AND QUEER FUTURES
1934 – 2006
adrienne maree brown
from ‘Emergent Strategy‘
our work is inspired by the insights on movement building generated via Black feminist thought – seeking liberation through small acts that together can move systems
BLKOUT_UK invites you to join us in a celebration of Pearl’s rediscovered queer legacy, and our unapologetically Black and queer futures. Our past and future are both at the heart of Black British communities – where we are making space for us.
Throughout September, BLKOUT_UK will be reflecting on the kind of space we need for healing and growth in our post-lockdown city, by publishing fresh new content, and hosting a varied collection of events, in iconic Brixton venues, online, and via the BLKOUTHUB, (our re-booted, bespoke mobile app). It is only right that we commence reflecting on our future from where we started – from home. Pearl’s Return is a festival of homecoming for Black Queer Men and the communities of which they are part.
Our immediate aim is to reduce the high incidence of loneliness, alienation and despair among bi, gay and/or trans men of African descent in London, by supporting each other to grow networks for resilience and access to enterprise. We are consciously building habits of solidarity – both within and across ethnic difference – so that services can begin to engage more effectively with our needs and experiences, while achieving the economies of scale that would make further investment in crucial interventions more viable.
We have taken to heart the inherited wisdom encapsulated in Joseph Beam’s provocation, that “Black men loving Black men is the revolutionary act of the 80s“, together with the equally powerful insight from Beam’s friend and mentor, Audre Lorde, that ‘revolution is not a one-time event‘
The space we create this month through Pearl’s Return, will tell;
a story that laughs and cries and sings and celebrates; … a conversation intimate friends share for hours. You’re invited to listen in because you’re family, and these aren’t secrets—not to us, so why should they be secrets to you?Introduction Brother To Brother, New Writings By Black Gay Men (1990)
We understand that families can take many different forms. While we often take them for granted, they are neither simple to create, nor sustainable without constant work. We know that much of that emotional and physical labour is unsung, unrecognised and unexamined. Such labour operates often in a gendered manner that disproportionately relies on our mothers and sisters.
During this homecoming festival and beyond, we are setting out to take a greater share of that ‘burden’, and to express our gratitude to those who have been able to hold space for us. This renewal of ambition and demand for more/better, is thanks to those who have brought us to this juncture, rather than a criticism of them.
We are family, whether biological or logical, given or found. Our focus is on the abundance of ways in which we have interpreted and found ways to live with and through the concept of inheritance and legacy, solidarity and love, that family can represent. We are family, and want to celebrate this fact rather than seek to measure up to a failed model born of obligation, resentment and entitlement that has been imposed on us, (sometimes at gunpoint or at the crack of the whip), by those who have no love for us, and only fear to offer.
We are coming home to pass the baton, not to pass the buck.
Our call echoes that of Essex Hemphill’s call and tribute to Joseph Beam, Brother To Brother‘s originator, who died due to HIV/AIDS at the age of 34 with so much left to give. We ask simply,
Your brother is speaking.
Yes, that is your father / cousin / uncle / son sitting amongst us; he, too, has a story to tell.
I have heard it before. It so gently begins—
“I loved my friend.”
coming soon …
Return to these pages for reports from the events, festival updates, and reflections on the ideas and themes that emerge from dialogue during September – look out for
More about Pearl Alcock’s remarkable life
Why we consider the need for space in which we can familiarise ourselves with our future liberation, to be a core focus of our work.
What exactly is a ‘queer homecoming’ and why host one now?
Homecoming: moving forwards
support for others
While we are looking back to the 1970s and 80s, our homecoming is not a sign of retreat into reminiscence. Instead, it is a commitment to engage more fully with the world – a commitment to learn from the past while building our futures. As an organisation, BLKOUTUK is focused on building community among Black queer men in the UK. Doing so requires recognition that we are part of a community of communities.
In recognition, we have chosen two organisations from among the many that we admire, and are encouraging those attending our events during the festival to consider making a donation to support their ongoing work to create fairer societies in which LGBTQ+ people are free to live to their fullest potential.
Pearl’s Return – The Homecoming Festival
The Homecoming Line-Up
Register your interest/purchase tickets for events on Outsavvy
The Festival Programme
PEARL’S JAM – THE mixTAPE
The music that moved us
PEARL’S GOES WEST – a ballroom uprising
The House of West invites you to a ballroom tribute to Pearl Alcock in the iconic Brixton Market
|MARKET ROW, BRIXTON|
|4-6||PEARL’S QTIPOC POP-UP SHOP & STUDIO|
•SHOP BLKOUT – be first with the new merch
•PEARL’S FAMILY PORTRAITS – Our Black Queer family album
•PEARLS OF WISDOM – passing knowledge on
Introducing . . . A PLACE FOR US?
Episode one: Meet the team, Pearl Alcock, our inspiration
Download the new look BLKOUT HUB, with brand new features,
greater security, and fresh new attitude,
as inspired by our members
|20||‘JUST US’ DEBATE LIVE|
‘NOBODY’S BUSINESS?’ Is our ‘discretion’ killing us?
Safer space discussion for/by Black Queer Men
|24||PUBLIC POLICY DISCUSSION|
NO ROOM AT THE INN? Place-based policy at the intersections
Let’s get serious – our place in fairer, fiercer future
|26||BACK TO THE FUTURE|
BLACK MEN WHO BRUNCH
The return of London’s monthly oasis of Black Queer Joy
|29||THE FUTURE OF PEARL’S HISTORY|
Honouring the heritage of Pearl Alcock
‘BLKOUT Connected CONNECTIONS’
Get to know, networking event for Black Queer men
|SOHO HOUSE STUDIO|
PEARL’S JAM – THE SOUND-CLASH
Are you #Team 80s, #Team90s or #Team00s?
DJs TBC –
|SOHO HOUSE STUDIO|
PEARL’S MIXTAPE CHALLENGE
To set the mood for our celebrations, and spark memories of dancefloors past, we will publish the definitive soundtrack to Black queer London since 1981 – a tune for each year.
Unless you know better? Will your favourite make the cut?
Persuade our playlisters otherwise in one tweet or instagram picture before the end of September, we will change the list and send the successful UK-based challengers a Pearl’s prize
PEARL’S family album
Who do you call family?
Who is your ‘brother from another mother’? Your sistren? Your crew? We are celebrating friendship and the support we give each other when those from whom we expected better will not or cannot.
Working with Iosif B, an exciting new photography talent, in a studio paying homage to Stockwell legend, Harry Jacobs, get in touch to be part of a new family album of new families
How do you find your tribe, locate your logical family, detect your ride or die BFF, when your meets with other Black queer men all seem to start with,
- You first
- But you’re the one with the empty profile . . . Aaargh!
How can you find people on a level, without the expectation that it has to become horizontal at some point?
Where do you meet the guys who went through it a few years back with insider tips to chare, or who are connected to the latest in the field that you’ve lately realised you want to get into.
New functionality on the BLKOUTHUB enables us to host in-app events, solely for members. The HUB re-boot will improve security and make the app a safer space for real talk. The ‘Just Us’ Debate is a pilot for a new series tackling the difficult and challenging issues in an atmosphere of genuine shared inquiry and fraternity – for us (rather than for the clicks), by us
Set to be a night to remember, BLKOUT will be taking over Brixton Village’s iconic avenues in Market Row for a larger than life Queer Ball in partnership with D’relle West – the International Father of the House of West and UK Ballroom scene Pioneer.
Bringing ballroom culture to the village, the event celebrates the joy, resilience, and cultural impact of black queer lives across the world.
The QTIPOC POP UP SHOP
The QTIPOC POP UP SHOP is a showcase for retail and fashion brands by QTIPOC Londoners,
The pop-up will also see the launch of a new merchandise collection from BlackOut. The shop sees black queer retailers unite to share the space so that together, they can improve the offer to their communities, raise brand awareness, and demonstrate commitment to community wealth.
PEARL’S OF WISDOM
Did it ‘get better’ for you?’
Share the best advice you didn’t take?
Perhaps someone else will have use for it now you realise its value?
In the shop or our online whiteboard, you’ll be able to read others tips for modern life. You could win one of 10 BLKOUT goody bags in our prize draw, for sharing your wisdom with us.
Pearl Alcock’s life and the community’s memories of her deserve serious and proper research and commemoration. We invite
- a)those with memories of Pearl to share those memories for posterity in a formal oral history interview
- b)all who have an interest in Pearl’s life story, her art, and her legacy to share ideas about a fitting memorial to be sited at or near 103 Railton Road
- c)any who are considering, or who have recently completed a project that included Pearl – a thesis, exhibition, documentary or curriculum materials to explore opportunities for collaboration.
The online workshop will be led by the team from Museumand who have been instrumental in drawing greater attention to Pearl Alcock’s legacy, through the development of innovative, audience-centred exhibitions and events.
“IF COMMUNITIES ARE UNDERSTOOD ONLY AS NEIGHBOURHOODS, OUR CITIES WILL INEVITABLY BECOME MORE SEGREGATED, AND MORE UNEQUAL”
Rob Berkeley discusses how policy designed to strengthen communities put in the hands of an inequitable voluntary sector, acts as a barrier to progress, can drive alienation, and further marginalise those it is supposed to support – with a panel of respondents
join the hosts at a special edition of BLKOUT CONNECTED to get the inside track on their initial steps in their search for guests to invite to their celebration of Black queer space-makers.
The BLKOUT HUB
The Change We Are Seeking
None of these events would be possible without the support of numerous partners, who have gone the extra mile to support the idea of a Homecoming Festival – before we even knew that that was what we were creating. Thanks to all the donors to our crowd fund and the Mayor of London for the support provided by the team at City Hall.