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Lady Phyll makes history

MILESTONE APPOINTMENT: Lady Phyll Opoku-Gymiah (Photo credit: Kofi Paintsill, Gay Times)

PHYLL OPOKU-GYIMAH is to become the first black woman in this country to head a mainstream organisation that campaigns for equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people.

The co-founder of UK Black Pride has been appointed as executive director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a leading body which works to uphold the human rights of LGBTQ people in countries where they do not have equal rights and are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LEGACY

Widely known as Lady Phyll – partly due to her decision to turn down an MBE – she joins the Kaleidoscope Trust from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union.

Speaking to The Voice, she said: “I feel strongly that this country has a responsibility to actively work to dismantle the systems and structures that continue to leave LGBTQ people around the world vulnerable and marginalised.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with activists and organisers across the world who are fighting tirelessly for their human rights.”

“The work undertaken at Kaleidoscope Trust is important precisely because it facilitates the support of on-the-ground activists who know what is best for their communities.

“So much of allyship is about listening and then acting according to what you’ve been told is needed by those who need it.”

She added: “With more than 20 years of experience as an LGBTQ rights activist and anti- racism campaigner, I’m thrilled to embark on the next chapter of my professional life with Kaleidoscope Trust.

“The charity’s work continues to be an important and necessary intervention across the Commonwealth, and my on-the-ground work in the region has provided immeasurably valuable insight, not only into the lives of the LGBTQ civil society and their particular hurdles, but into the shared structures that continue to stifle liberation for people across the global south.”

WELCOMED

Among those who welcomed Opoku-Gyimah’s appointment was Guppi Bola, co-founder of campaign organisation Working on Our Power.

She told The Voice: “We need transformative leaders like Lady Phyll, in order to break through the oppressive cultures of patriarchy and white supremacy in our social movements. If we understand white supremacy as the ‘political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources’, then Lady Phyll’s appointment to Kaleidoscope International Trust is a significant turning point for the international NGO community – one that is overwhelmingly white, middle class and male.

“A woman, mother, lesbian, union organiser and campaigner, who is unwavering in her principles for justice, is now at a position to determine where it places its resources and how it undertakes its work.

“We have long been inspired by Lady Phyll, and know that in her role she will create ripples of transformation in our social movement leadership for years to come.”

Established in 2011, Kaleidoscope Trust aims to achieve equality for LGBTQ people across the world. It lobbies and partners with British and international institutions to support activists and bring about legislative and social change in countries where LGBTQ people do not have equal rights and experience multiple forms of discrimination.

Sir Stephen Wall, chair of the board at Kaleidoscope Trust said: “From her work advocating for the rights of workers to leading one of the most impressive and effective pride organisations in the world, Lady Phyll has demonstrated she has the personal qualities and professional skills to ensure our increased impact across the Commonwealth.”

PASSION

He added: “She brings to Kaleidoscope Trust a perspective, passion and set of skills that an organisation like ours needs to help address and redress the oppressive colonial legacies from which many across the Commonwealth are trying to break free.”

Opoku-Gyimah co-founded UK Black Pride in 2006, an event that celebrates LGBTQ people of colour after many in the community claimed that the main Pride event held in July marginalised them.

Speaking about why UK Black Pride is so important to the black LGBTQ community Lady Phyll told Gay Times “Until we all have the same rights, until we all do not face any form of injustice, until we all have proper access to housing, to health, to school, to education, then there will always be a need for Black Pride.

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need [any Prides] would we? We wouldn’t have to deal with championing or fighting for rights, for LGBTQ people, but we don’t live in an ideal world because there’s homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, but there’s also racism. Black Pride was set up [not only to celebrate POC], and have pride of place, but to also combat systemic racism.”

The leading campaigner also made headlines in 2016 when she turned down an MBE from the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honours List in protest of the persecution of LGBTQ people in the Commonwealth.

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