Photography by Christine Pungong
UK Black Pride has removed a Home Office stall from their annual event at Haggerston Park this Sunday after widespread criticism, citing an “an error in judgement”.
The Home Office appeared in a list of over 70 official stalls, alongside organisations such as National Crime Agency, the Met Police and the UK Parliament.
UK Black Pride is generally beloved amongst the QTIPOC community and bills itself as Europe’s “largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent”.
In a statement, they said they had originally decided to go ahead with the stall because they were under the impression it would be manned by the Home Office’s internal LGBTQI+ network, Spectrum.
They said: “We feel a deep commitment to LGBTQ people of colour, wherever they work, and felt compelled to offer the network an opportunity to engage with the UK Black Pride community about the work they may be undertaking internally to address the Home Office’s terrible practices against the communities we represent.”
The Home Office has been accused of hypocrisy in its support of LGBTQI+ rights, following data published in November which showed 78% of Home Office asylum claims referring to sexual orientation were refused in 2017-18 – this amounts to 1,464 people.
In April this year, the Home Office faced a legal challenge from 15 queer and trans refugees who claimed they had been abandoned in Turkey – despite the Home Office claiming they would provide them with refuge in the UK. Last month, the department also threatened to deport gay rugby player Kenneth Macharia to Kenya, where “same sex sexual activity” is currently illegal.
A number of activists and outlets, including gal-dem, criticised the government department’s choice to use the LGBTQI+ Pride flag on its social media at the start of Pride Month.
Former NUS councillor and author Lola Olufemi told gal-dem: “Whilst the pulling of the stall is welcome news, we need to examine why the Home Office or even any of its internal networks were offered a place at Black Pride in the first place.”
“There are still organisations, such as St. Mungos, that have admitted to being complicit in forced deportations, that are welcome at the event. There can be no Pride that does not recognise the myriad ways that the state uses racist policies to make queer life an impossibility for black and brown refugees and asylum seekers. Black Pride is meaningless if it does not resist this.”
Jason Okundaye, the former president of Cambridge BME campaign and writer, said: “I’m grateful that UK Black Pride recognised their error and swiftly removed the Home Office stall, but I’m disappointed that they were platformed in the first place. An internal LGBTQ+ network, no matter how impressive, is a textbook method of pinkwashing an institution to obscure its violations against black and brown LGBTQ+ people. How could it ever be expected that black and brown queer activists and asylum seekers could party and protest alongside the very institution they’re railing against?”
“The Home Office routinely tells black and brown queer people and migrants that they are not worthy of being on British soil, that their right to remain is dependent on meeting gold standards of good behaviour, that they must sexualise themselves to prove that they are ‘queer enough’ to be considered at risk in their countries of origin. When future generations of black and brown queer people look back at how we organised today, I want them to find a blueprint of relentless resistance against corporate pinkwashing and the hostile environment. Not our community leaders inviting the enemy to sleep in our beds.”
In a full statement released today, UK Black Pride said: “In light of the Home Office’s continued discrimination against the communities we represent, and the work we and other organisations connected to us do in support of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers, the UK Black Pride board of directors has taken the decision to remove the Home Office’s stall from our event on Sunday 7 July in Haggerston Park.
“When we approved their application to have a stall, we were under the impression the stall would be manned by the Home Office’s internal LGBTQ network, Spectrum. We feel a deep commitment to LGBTQ people of colour, wherever they work, and felt compelled to offer the network an opportunity to engage with the UK Black Pride community about the work they may be undertaking internally to address the Home Office’s terrible practices against the communities we represent.
“On reflection and after concerns raised on social media, we realise it was an error in judgement to allow the Home Office a space at UK Black Pride. Our priority will always be the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent. We are grateful that the community has raised their concerns with us and we are sorry for any alarm caused at the announcement that the Home Office would be at UK Black Pride.”