Impulse London hosts an evening of open discussion featuring voices within the black gay community with a focus on key topics that affect them today. Hosts Jazz and Taz explain more.
Hi Jazz and Taz, what is the idea behind the #BlackAndGay Impulse event this Thursday?
J: The basic idea initially came from a conversation between Taz and I about life as black gay men. We’ve been friends for over 13 years and one evening over some drinks we were putting the world to rights, asking a million questions, and thought if we were asking those questions then surely other black gay men would be too. And wouldn’t it be cool to get in a room with other black gay men and talk.
Our chat coincided with some information from David at 56 Dean Street (who is somewhat a godfather for Impulse London, which I’m on the board of), that made us really want to get our act together and join forces by putting on the event.
What can Boyz readers expect to happen on the night?
J: We don’t want to give too much away but essentially it’s going to be a night of conversation – something we feel there is a lack of in our community. We want to give a voice to those who feel like they don’t have one and hopefully enlighten those who feel alone, which is very common as a gay man but even more so for those who are BAME.
T: We have pulled together a great panel from all walks of black gay life – all of whom are established in their respective professions, some of which I have the pleasure of calling friends – who will be answering questions and sharing their own experiences on the topics of the night. We have renowned playwright and director Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE, Nigerian gay rights activist Bisi Alimi, choreographer and director Omar Okai, and club promoter and host Mark Ashley Dupe.
What are some of the topics/issues that are important to LGBT+ people of colour?
T: I can only speak from my own experience and from those I have around me, which is exactly why an evening like #BlackAndGay is so relevant and necessary. What’s important to us is our culture and background and the support that it may or may not offer. There is also the topic of visibility within gay media and publications also, which we feel has an impact in the way the ‘black gay man‘ is seen and thus has a knock on effect on how he sees himself. We could go on but what is of importance is that we as a community, black or not, are able to discuss these openly.
Have you or friends experienced racism on the gay scene?
J: Yes, yes and YES. But I think racism on the gay scene stems from racist people in general. Racism is deep rooted and in all walks of life. I grew up in a household where colour wasn’t a thing (my mum is black Jamaican and my dad is half white British and half Iranian, so my dad is lighter than my mum). I genuinely didn’t realise my skin colour was a ‘thing’ until a night out where I was made to feel bad about myself, for being black. Now, I don’t think of that person as a gay racist guy, but just a racist guy.
T: I’ve experienced racism too. However, there is a fine line between racism and ignorance. I’ll tell you a little story of my own experience. I was sat minding my own business in the smoking area of a club that won’t be named when a guy came over to let me know that I actually was very good looking – wait for it – for a black guy! He also said “Wow, your nose is so white.” I was confused as hell. Some would just call this rude, which indeed it was. He pinned me against his white criteria which to him was already superior to that of a black man. To his disadvantage he had a preconceived image of what a black man should look like.
J: That rings bells, I’ve had the same thing happen to me a few times.
Do you think things are getting better or worse?
J: I find that to be a broad question and I’m unsure how to answer it. I personally think that things are getting better in terms of the black community talking and wanting to make a change from within itself but I do find there’s a a lack of what is seen as attractive in gay bars, gay magazines and on advertising on gay apps. The lack of representation is laughable.
T: I agree with Jazz, it’s a big a question. In regards to the black gay community it is great that we have charities like Impulse and new enterprises offering support to black gay men and working to bring our community together. Which is the only way things will get better, through conversation, support and action. History shows that the LGBT community can achieve great things when we unite.
What would you like people of all kinds to take away from this event?
T: We would like people to come away with the confidence to talk openly with each other, without fear of judgment. For me, one of the best ways to grow as a person is to learn from those around you. It would be great if everyone could take away a perspective that had never crossed their minds before and maybe even make a new friend.
Is there anything else we need to know?
T: Just that you can expect a few surprises on the night and if you have a point of view you should come and share it.
J: Everyone is welcome! This isn’t an event excluding any group, although the title may seem so.