28th May 2016 went down in history as another fête of queer people standing up tall and celebrating their queerness. Thousands flocked the streets of Birmingham to take part in the annual Pride Parade and among these were members of Out and Proud, an organization that is made of African LGBTI identifying persons currently living in United Kingdom.
OPDG documented the events and below, takes us through the event which started off with a remarkable incident- a marriage proposal!
It was a marriage proposal rather than a starting pistol which launched Birmingham Pride 2016 over the bank holiday weekend. And the biggest parade in the event’s 20 year history got underway when Thomas Jones asked David Fox to marry him. Thankfully he said ‘yes’.
This beautiful and inspiring marriage proposal was witnessed by over 70 members of the African LGBTI organisation Out and Proud Diamond Group and other people.
Miss Yudaya Serubula a Ugandan lesbian living in United Kingdom said, “Wow this marriage proposal symbolizes the love that people in Birmingham have shown to this pride in the last 20years, I only wish to see this happening in Uganda and other countries which still criminalize homosexuality.”
Thousands of people lined the city streets of Birmingham city for the parade to kick start the two day celebration. The huge crowd including Out and Proud Diamond Group (African LGBTI) made its way into the festival area in the Village to be entertained by DJs and pop stars including Tulisa, Fleur East, Katy B and Liberty X.
Members of Out and proud diamond group entertained the people on streets of Birmingham with their African music and dance moves. They also carried placards with messages like some Nigerians are gay get over it, some Ugandans are gay get over it, some Africans are gay get over it, unite against religious bigotry, stop homophobia in the commonwealth, anti-LGBTI laws stall HIV prevention, stop stigma around HIV and Hepatitis. They also called on the UK govt to stop anti-refugee and immigrant policies and laws. Glorious sunshine and only the gentlest of breezes made the 20th anniversary Birmingham Pride 2016 carnival one of the biggest and best yet.
The theme of this year’s pride was ‘A Generation Of Pride’ this theme was celebrating the pivotal, hard-fought achievements of the LGBT community over the last 20 years in United Kingdom. These milestones include an equal age of consent, civil partnerships, the right to serve in the military, the right for trans people to legally change their gender, marriage for lesbian, gay and bisexual couples, and equal adoption rights for same-sex couples. The UK also enjoys the highest LGBT representation of any parliament in the world.
Joan Ayebare a Ugandan lesbian and a member of Out and Proud Diamond Group said, “ I am happy to be living in a country that prides itself in equality for LGBTI people. Even though all these achievements did not come in a year but they are here now. However it is time now for the international community to support us in our quest to bring these achievements in our countries.”
Festival Director, Lawrence Barton commented, “We’re extremely excited about the preparations for this year’s 20th Birmingham Pride event, and want to make it a celebration of all those local, national, and international achievements in LGBT equality through the last twenty years.”
On a local level, the Pride 2016 theme also celebrates the development of Birmingham’s own gay scene into one of the most popular in the country. Starting off with just a handful of venues, the city’s Gay Village now features over 15 vibrant and diverse bars and clubs as well as one of the first LGBT health and wellbeing centres in England and Wales.
Mr Theodore Ngwanya a Cameroonian gay man and a member of Out and proud diamond group said, “This is my first pride in my life. I am so excited, happy and hopeful. This kind of life was a dream to me whilst in Cameroon, seeing many bars, pubs, clubs, people celebrating makes me feel that I was actually denied life as a gay man in Cameroon. These kinds of celebrations cannot take place in my country, but am hopeful that it will happen sometime.”
The theme also marked the LGBT community’s journey as a generation, and also reflects on the extraordinary journey of Birmingham Pride itself. From its humble beginnings in 1997 when the event was staged outside the city’s Nightingale Club and attended by just a few thousand people, the festival has, more recently, evolved into one of the UK’s leading LGBT gatherings, attracting over 50,000 visitors each year.
Aidah Asaba a lesbian from Uganda said that the history of Birmingham Pride might be written about Uganda pride in years to come. “This is my third year celebrating Birmingham pride; I always look forward to this event. Even though I am here to celebrate but I am also here to raise awareness of the injustice that we are facing as LGBTI people in our countries,” she remarked.
“There’s a real nice feeling to Pride, there’s no trouble, it’s just a lovely atmosphere, lovely people, from all walks of life. I strongly appeal to the Nigerian government to repeal the anti-LGBTI laws such that we can have similar celebrations without any fear of being sent to prison or being killed,” commented SAMUEL DIPEOLU a Nigerian gay man and member of Out and Proud Diamond Group.
Mr Isaac Kawesi a Ugandan gay man and mobiliser of Out and proud diamond group contingent at Birmingham pride also said, “Majority of our members come from Commonwealth countries that criminalize homosexuality yet currently living in one of the best countries in commonwealth so there is a big change for them. I use this chance to call on Commonwealth heads of government meeting 2018 to discuss the need for LGBTI rights.”