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The reticence to include Cecil Belfield-Clarke’s sexual orientation in celebration of his life and contribution to Black and Black British histories is an example of the tendency to erasure of difference in the name of ‘unity’. Such erasure tells us as much about past attitudes to LGBTQ inclusion, as it does about current patterns of silence and fear that continue to leave Black queer lives ‘unspoken’ across much of the UK’s Black-led civil society organising.

As Audre Lorde reminds us in her magisterial paper, ‘Learning from the 1960s’, these are ‘teachable moments’;

Through examining the combination of our triumphs and errors, we can examine the dangers of an incomplete vision. Not to condemn that vision but to alter it, construct templates for possible futures, and focus our rage for change upon our enemies rather than each other

In pursuit of a more complete vision of Black lives in the UK, BLKOUT’s social media campaign for this year’s LGBT History Month focused on four stories that illuminate some too-often forgotten corners of the stories we tell, and are told, about the past. Our focus has been on four people with whom regular readers of this blog will be familiar. Chosen from among numerous remarkable Black LGBTQ people that have built Black, Queer, and Blaqueer networks; those whose experiences have reflected the spirit of their times, and who offer us inspiration for “possible futures”.

  • Ivor Cummings – civil servant, bon-viveur, and community organiser
  • Berto Pasuka – dance impresario, model, and actor
  • Pearl Alcock – entrepreneur, landlady, and outsider artist
  • Justin Fashanu – footballer, sporting pioneer, and media ‘villan’

Naming this quartet as Black British Queer icons, we have sought to add the stories of their lives in the 20th century, and the lessons we may glean from becoming more acquainted with the reports of their experiences, to the growing ‘cannon’ of Black LGBTQ history in the UK.

BLKOUT has not been alone in using this month to add to the memorialisation, celebration, and inclusion of Black Queer lives in LGBTQ History Month.

There is much good news to be found in the efforts of community members, and storytellers who recognise that our silence will not protect us. We have opportunities bounded by history months, and beyond those months to share our stories. Sharing these stories will likely be co-opted by the logics of social media, capitalised upon by capitalists, and used to drive the profits of institutions that will not always be on our side or in favour of our meaningful liberation.


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