VanessaOctober 12th
2020

As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we spoke to Vanessa from African Rainbow Family - a charity that offers support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTIQ+) People of African Heritage including Refugees and wider Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Groups…

African Rainbow Family would like to tell the story of a time when homosexuality was viewed as just being a Western word. A time when Africans never knew what to call the feelings they've always had, when it was an abomination for one to be free.

Our muse for this topic is Beverley Ditsie, a south African woman who helped liberate lesbians everywhere. It is one thing to accept yourself and another thing to go against patriarchy and social norms.

Beverley was a teen in the 1980s during apartheid and the then fixation with the British New Romantic movement, most prominently Boy George. When learning what the word 'gay' meant, she finally understood she was not alone!

What amazes us is the fact that she dressed up in ways you would call crazy in those times. She challenged societal norms to not only wear masculine clothing, but to proudly show it off. We all know what the world thinks about masculine representing-women, women that dare to do the extraordinary.

Ditsie loved playing male characters. “I was more me at that time than I’ve ever been,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. Meeting Simon Tseko Nkoli, a gay apartheid campaigner, transformed her thinking and unleashed her inner activist. She then brought him and Linda Ngcobo together to found the Gay and Lesbian Organization of Witwatersrand (Glow).

In 1990, Beverley courageously organised the first pride march in Africa against all odds.

For security purposes, brown paper bags were made available to those wanting to march without revealing their identity. Defying reports of an unsuccessful march, 800 people attended and not a single paper bag was used!

It's a struggle for every Black LGBTIQ+ person or individual. To refuse to live in fear and in the shadows, going against years of mental slavery, and being told what is right and wrong. The struggle to be at peace with who you are, balancing your life with a deep rooted culture.

As we celebrate our rich Black History, let's come together to support and educate each other because it is in unity that our strength grows.  

I would like to introduce another powerful Black woman who, just like Beverley Ditsie, is going against all societal norms and pushing for liberation.

Aderonke Apata (pictured below) is a multi award winning, feminist and human rights activist and the founder of African Rainbow Family (the first organisation that I joined when I needed to feel connected to my community).

Aderonke was described as 'an unstoppable force in fighting for justice' when she won the Positive Role Model for LGBT National Diversity Award in 2014. She is number 41 & 67 on the RanbowList2014 & RainbowList2015 respectively as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK.

It is worth shining a light on the work this amazing woman did for the over 500 members during the pandemic. From fund raising to provide weekly food parcels and monthly telephone data, to organising mental health and wellbeing support sessions in different locations across the UK.

On the quest for justice and equality African Rainbow Family was created and just like it's motto "A World Without Prejudice" fights for a world where everyone is welcomed and treated fairly. African Rainbow Family now has branches in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and London respectively and has supported over 350 LGBTIQ people seeking asylum secure their safety in the UK .

Homosexuality is African, homophobia was un-African until we were colonised and criminalised for being whom we are.

Vanessa, African Rainbow Family

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