From Stonewall to Senegal, African Services Committee (ASC) wishes the African Diaspora immigrant community a very Happy Pride!
June is a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of queer Africans to our global movement for LGBTQ+ health and human rights. For the first time, ASC will convene a delegation of queer Africans to join this year’s Queer Liberation March for Trans and BIPOC Freedom, Reproductive Justice, and Bodily Autonomy in New York City. We will march behind a banner that reads “Queer Rights Are Immigrant Rights,” a reminder of our agency’s dedication to supporting all immigrants, refugees, and asylees from across the African Diaspora.
Our delegation in the Queer Liberation March will include clients in ASC’s LGBTQ+ Program, which provides a safe, welcoming, and supportive space to address the particular vulnerabilities experienced by recent LGBTQ+ immigrants, refugees, and asylees. Services include assistance in job seeking, opportunities for education and skills training, bi-monthly support groups, and mental health counseling. ASC also works closely with programs across the agency and coordinates with other organizations around New York City to support LGBTQ+ clients.
This year’s theme for these bi-monthly support groups is The Art of Living. Our clients are using art, such as origami and drumming, as a form of self care. Following this theme also gave our clients a space to host a reading from Ayodeji Otuyelu, author of Words in My Head: Love, Sex, Sadness, and Madness, and visit to see Leilah Babirye’s work in the Public Art Fund’s exhibit Black Atlantic.
Yes, Pride is a time for celebrating the achievements and contributions of queer Africans, like Ayodeji and Leilah. But it is also a time to pause and reflect on how to travel the road ahead of us in order to achieve equality for all. When we talk about Pride, we need to talk about the inequities that still affect the health and human rights of LGBTQ+ communities around the world.
This means taking an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-sexist, anti-abelist approach to providing health, housing, legal, social welfare, education, nutrition, and advocacy services for vulnerable communities. It means offering resources to prevent COVID-19 and monkeypox and closing the gap in PrEP uptake. It means ensuring safe and legal abortion. It means saying “gay” when they tell us “don’t say gay.” It means repealing colonial Penal Codes that penalize LGBTQ+ people in countries around the world.
We can’t truly celebrate Pride until we are all liberated. LGBTQ+ people, and queer Africans in particular, continue to disproportionately experience human rights abuses and disease compared to the general population. This month — and every month — we must recommit ourselves to doing the work of repairing systems so that all of us can enjoy health, wellness, and safety no matter where we live, where we come from, or who we love.
Amanda Lugg is Interim Co-Executive Director of African Services Committee, a multi-service human rights agency in Harlem dedicated to assisting immigrants, refugees, and asylees from across the African Diaspora.