Black History Month: Celebrating Lady Phyll
By Lucy Tonge
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, is the co-founder and executive director of UK Black Pride, the first event of its kind in Europe which celebrates and campaigns for the rights of LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. As well as her positions as a trustee of Stonewall, on the TUC race relations committee, and as the current executive director of LGBT+ organisation the Kaleidoscope Trust, Phyll is also a columnist and public speaker with a focus on intersectional matters of race, gender, sexual orientation and class, and a self-described "strong Ghanaian African woman".
An activist icon with over 20 years experience as an LGBT+ rights and anti-racism campaigner, Lady Phyll has won numerous awards for her work, including the Black LGBT community award, and has been honoured on the Independent on Sunday Pink List (2011) and the World Pride Power List (2012).
In 2016 she publicly refused an MBE, stating that this was because of the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ people across the world under laws put in place by the British empire. She speaks to the importance of educating the UK public on the historical role the country has played in influencing the discriminatory, anti-LGBT+ laws across former colonial nations, as well as the need for there to be "greater understanding of what colonialism has done" in constructing systemic racism.
Lady Phyll continues to advocate for the rights of QTIPOC and has been vocal in her commitment to fight for a world free from racism, sexism, misogynoir and discrimination.
Asked of the future she would like to see, Phyll envisions a world in which "LGBTQ youth don't take their own lives. A world where women walk down the street unbothered. A world that is safe for my daughter and my daughter's daughter. In this space, the gender binary has been dismantled and people are embraced for who they are, with no exceptions. This world is free from shame and racist violence against Black and Brown bodies. It is a world that honours our lives, spirits and dreams. A world we deserve to live in."