24 Hours With… Lady Phyll
Here at Browns, our community stands at the heart of all that we do. From our designers, to our customers, to our colleagues who work alongside us each day, Browns is a business built on supporting the bonds that matter. That’s why we’re launching “A Family Affair”, a project that celebrates our creative communities in the times we need one another the most.
To kick off this project, we’ve asked Browns favourite Kai-Isaiah Jamal to guest edit our first week of events and happenings. For a very special feature, Kai has nominated Lady Phyll, founder of UK Black Pride and a revered figure in the activist community, to tell us more about her work, whilst throwing it back to last year’s Black Pride celebrations to share 24 Hours in the life of this landmark event.
What time do you wake up and where?
I normally wake at 5:30am in my bed unless I'm travelling for work – which is increasingly often!
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I give thanks for waking up and check my emails. Because my work puts me in regular contact with grassroots organisers and activists around the world, I always awake to messages, emails and calls, so I start getting back to those I’ve missed.
Who do you share your home with?
My beautiful daughter.
What does your average day look like?
When you lead an international LGBTQ human rights charity and a pride organisation, “average” is never a way to describe your day! I spend a lot of my time in conversation with other people - from my teams at UK Black Pride and Kaleidoscope Trust to activists, business leaders and funders. I’m most often on the phone or Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts figuring out next steps, trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Do you have any rituals?
I make time to give thanks. I feel immensely grateful for the life I have, for my daughter, for my house and for my work.
How would you describe what you do?
My day job is focused on advancing the human rights of LGBTQ people around the world, and my “gay job” is leading UK Black Pride, Europe’s largest celebration of LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent. In all I do, I hope to either create or facilitate safe and brave spaces for LGBTQ people to be who we are.
How has your background influenced who you are today?
I come from a long line of wonderful warrior women who worked hard for their communities and the people they loved. Living and loving as Black African lesbian, mother and activist means that my lived experience very much informs my work, and I’m a staunch advocate for intersectionality.
How did you get your start in activism?
I think it goes back to my time studying employment law, but as a Black woman, I already knew we were more likely to receive lower pay, work in “low-skilled” but essential industries like care and social work, and be subject to racism, discrimination and misogynoir from all aspects of society. I feel compelled to do this work and so in this way, I think my start in activism was almost spiritual. I was born to do this.
Who has had the most formative influence on your work?
Can you tell us about the genesis of Black Pride?
I was one of the co-founders of a group called Black Lesbians in the UK (BLUK), and in 2005, a busload of us went down to Southend-on-Sea for a day of connecting, celebration and relaxation. As I looked around and saw and felt all the joy, camaraderie and discussion, it occurred to me that we should do this more regularly and with more people in the community. And so, really, UK Black Pride was born then.
What are the most important factors in your work?
Compassion, intersectionality, empathy and fortitude.
What does it take to plan an event like Black Pride?
It takes a team of dedicated volunteers who work year round to put on the event. The team at UK Black Pride is made up of a group of people who believe so passionately and so deeply in creating spaces for our communities to feel safe, to celebrate and connect, and it wouldn’t happen without them, their ideas and their drive. I feel really lucky to be working with such fantastic and dedicated people.
What was your favourite moment of last year’s celebrations?
Each year, towards the end of the day, I bring the team of volunteers on stage and shout out their names. The crowd erupts in cheers and chants and a sea of Black and brown bodies yell the names of our volunteers. It makes me cry every year.
What does solidarity mean to you?
Solidarity is a verb, in my mind. It requires action. It requires thought. And it often requires reimagining who you think you can be when working in service of other people. Solidarity is about hard decisions and speaking up; it’s standing next to someone in their fight and it’s being a shoulder to lean on when days are particularly hard. Solidarity is sometimes stepping into the fight so someone else can have a day off.
What’s on your bookshelf right now?
Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Sula, and Home; Angela Davis’ Race, Gender & Class, Sista! Anthology, Women Who Dared, Striking Women, Black Like Me, Dreams of Africa in Alabama, Small Island, Proud, and Queenie (to name just a few).
What do you usually do for dinner?
Since we are all social distancing and staying home, I’ve been cooking a lot more than I usually have time for. I love making ackee and saltfish and Jollof rice.
What time do you go to bed?
I try to go to bed by midnight, which doesn’t always happen - if I’m not asleep, I’m in bed, which I think counts!
Last thing you do before you sleep?
Brush my teeth, check my phone one last time and tell my daughter to turn down her music!
What is your biggest goal for the future?
To live in a world free from discrimination, prejudice, racism, sexism, misogyny(noir) and poverty. In the short term, I’d love to keep working with young LGBTQ people, but especially QTIPOC who are disproportionately (and structurally!) vulnerable to homelessness, loneliness and isolation.