African LGBTI people held a summer picnic in Regents Park in London.
On Saturday 17th June 2017, African LGBTI people held a summer picnic in Regents Park in London. These picnics aim to bring African LGBTI people together to celebrate their sexuality in a country where it is acceptable to express one’s identity. The majority of those attending come from African countries where it’s illegal to be gay — for example, countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, and Kenya. Africa, the mother of our human species, remains in many ways our most diverse continent, with greater cultural and linguistic diversity even than Eurasia, and Africans have therefore an infinite variety of ways of expressing love for other members of their own sex.
We showcased the rich variety of African dancing styles, and games, including competing in running, dancing, and fitting condoms — on bananas! Since we come from different countries, all come together with a common cause of fighting for their rights in their diverse ways. One way in which our emerging African LGBTI consciousness differs from its metropolitan Western equivalents is the close support that women and men give to each other, and the feeling that we are sisters and brothers.
With over forty people attending between 12 pm and 8 pm at Regents Park, many enjoyed the sunshine and participating in a community event. When asked why the group organises such events, Abbey Kiwanuka, the co-founder of the charity, explained that many LGBTI Africans leave their countries because of persecution; some arrive extremely traumatised. While in the UK, they face the rigours of an asylum system that challenges the most personal truths of suffering. This is particularly problematic given many persons come from cultures very different from the UK’s, and so their experiences may be beyond the direct knowledge of Home Office caseworkers and judges presiding over immigration appeals tribunals. The rejections of an appeal against refusal of asylum may be death sentences. So, as a group, we create a safe space for our members to navigate their stress, and we ensure that they know that we are there to support them. In such a community event, everyone is happy, and all can clearly see this. Abbey explained: “We often organise those social events to give people a chance to express themselves without any fear of being persecuted. Such events in their countries are not possible.”One of the group’s members, John, said: “I am here in the UK enjoying the weather, and most importantly freely enjoying who I am. Not so long ago, I was detained and almost got deported to Uganda, where I am known, and I was very convinced would have faced persecution.”
Although there are many brave activists in the fight for LGBTI Rights in Africa, there is still a long way to go. In Uganda in 2016, a Gay Pride celebration organised by LGBTI activistS in Uganda was cancelled after a brutal police raid on a party. The police violence was very humiliating and dehumanising. However, Ugandan activists say they will keep organising it every year – and the fight for equality and justice continues.
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