Black lesbian activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah turns down MBE in protest at LGBT persecution by 'colonial regimes'

 'LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws… that were put in place by British imperialists,' says Lady Phyll

Matt Broomfield
Tuesday 05 January 2016 09:52 GMT

One of Britain’s foremost queer, black activists has refused an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah said that she could not accept the award so long as "LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed" across the world by laws put in place by the British Empire.

Ms Opoku-Gyimah, who is also known as “Lady Phyll”, co-founded UK Black Pride in 2005. The organisation is dedicated to the celebration of black LGBT culture in the UK, putting on an annual Pride event and running networking and social events through the year.

Alongside her work as an executive director of Black Pride, Lady Phyll is a trustee of Stonewall and sits on the TUC LGBT committee.

She has previously appeared on the World Pride Power List, been awarded a Black LGBT Community Award, and both appeared in and helped to judge the Independent on Sunday’s Rainbow List of influential LGBTQ individuals.

But she told lesbian magazine DIVA that she could not accept the latest accolade offered to her.

She said: "As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values."

"I don't believe in empire. I don't believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where - among many other injustices - LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws… that were put in place by British imperialists.

"I'm honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you."

39 Commonwealth countries still have repressive anti-LGBT laws, including India, Nigeria and Ghana. Ms Opoku-Gyimah describes herself as a “strong Ghanaian African woman” and speaks two Ghanaian languages.

Other figures from the LGBTQI community who did accept awards in last week’s 1200-strong lists included Tim Sigsworth from LGBT homeless charity the Albert Kennedy Trust and Paul Roberts from LGBT Consortium.

They will collect their medals alongside almost 30 Tory Party members and supporters, including the political strategist Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the Conservative Party’s success in the 2015 General Election.

But Ms Opoku-Gyimah now stands alongside other queer and BME figures, such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Honor Blackman and David Bowie, who have previously refused awards.

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