“I can’t separate my queerness or my gender from my blackness”
This discussion took place at UAL’s Central Saint Martin’s alongside four panellists: Susuana Amoah (@Susuana_xx), who previously worked as the NUS National Women’s Officer and is now currently doing her masters degree in Gender and Media at the University of Sussex. She was also appointed as the feminism society president at Royal Holloway where she graduated with a degree in Media Arts.
Jacob V Joyce (@Jacobvjoyce), a non-binary interdisciplinary artist that pushes to centralise Queer-related topics in commercial spaces. Joyce currently works as an illustrator for Global Justice Now and they also create the artwork for international human rights campaigns, as well as comic books and zines addressing personal and global instances of systemic oppression.
Siana Bangura (@Sianaarrgh), a native of Sierra Leone raised in South London is a freelance journalist, poet, writer, and blogger, black feminist & social critic. Bangura studied History at the University of Cambridge and after graduating she went on to find “No Fly on The WALL” an intersectional feminist blog which centres the experiences of Black British women. She is also the author of her debut book “Elephant” which is a collection of her poetry;
Rebekah Ubuntu (@RebekahUbuntu) is a performance artist, musician, and arts/education consultant and attends the British Institute of Modern Music London, where they study BA Creative Musicianship. Aside from their studies, their current project ‘Hashtag Identity’ combines music and performance art, exploring the tension between autobiographical experience and interdisciplinary practice.
This discussion was centred on the invisibility of black women and non-binary identities within the media and their lack of recognition during Black History Month. Most of our panellists felt that sexism is the leading reason as to why black women’s achievements and contributions within the black community go unnoticed. Siana made a really sound point by stating: “Once you discuss the power dynamics within the black community, issues arise as many feel like you’re causing a division” which is absurd, as you cannot create a division that has always been present within black spaces especially when taking into account that black men are the face of blackness.
With regards to Queer identities, conversations tend to focus predominantly on the white experience, ignoring the experiences QPOC (Queer People of Colour) face. Jacob V Joyce also expanded on this by stating that “Black people who don’t fit in the standard gender box are often erased” which explains why their experiences aren’t talked about within commercial spaces as often times bigotry prevents cisheterosexual individuals from including Non-binary folks in their discussions. Our panellists also mentioned that many within our communities believe this myth which claims that homosexuality is a “western ideology” or a “colonial import” when in actual fact many Africans were openly homosexual. This lead to panellists emphasising the importance of knowing your own history before spewing and spreading such ignorant statements. Having said that, Colonialism is also to blame for the stereotype attached to Queer POC as being savages, especially African blacks and the stigma of Queer POC would not exist had colonisation never happened.
When discussing the importance of intersectionality our panelists provided us with powerful statements:
“I can’t choose between my experiences as my racism is often gendered and sexism is often racialized” (Siana Bangura)
“Many white people often have such a strong sense of entitlement that they often talk over you with ignorance” (Rebekah Ubuntu)
“It’s important to acknowledge the differences between these groups as not all LGBTQ members are white (Jacob V Joyce)”
“What makes the struggle more inclusive is by accepting that others are different & that some of us may have certain privileges” (Susuana Amoah)
We really appreciated how raw and uncut the panellists were during this discussion. Their brutal honesty shed light on issues that often go unheard, especially in commercial spaces where those with privileges aren’t willing to listen to the ostracised.
Written by Phalinda-Tavia Wakadima (@PhalindaJaxn)
Photography by Jay Lee.