UK Black Pride 2016: Transforming Our Community

UK Black Pride was held on Sunday 26, June 2016 at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, London, with the theme “Transforming Our Community”. It was a blast with positive vibrations, diversity and thousands of vibrant people.

It was such a joy to be at UK Black Pride, 2016. It was fun in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with lots of foods and drinks to share, great music, great dance steps, lots of twerking and yeah, sexy, lovely people! LGBT BMEs do know how to party!

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Did someone say Why Black Pride?”

UK Black Pride mission statement states

UK Black Pride promotes unity and co-operation among all Black people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent, as well as their friends and families, who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.

The organisation is committed to producing an annual celebration of “Black Pride”, as well as organising a variety of activities throughout the year in and around the UK which also promote and advocate for the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual health and well-being of all related communities. Our aim is to foster, present and celebrate Black LGBT culture through education, the arts, cultural events and advocacy.

UK Black Pride has as part of its vision

Advocacy- We aim to raise awareness around the experiences of UK’s Black LGBT community and will advocate and make contributions to the general community from Black LGBT perspectives.

Growth – UK Black Pride is an organisation that fosters a positive ethos to ensure that Black LGBT talent and achievements are promoted. We will seek to accomplish our vision and in doing so will also attract others who see and want to be a part of this vision.

There were lots of LGBT BMEs talents who performed and took the UK Black Pride stage by storm.  Such talents would not have a shot to perform on the stage at the main London Pride event.

It is no secret that the main London Pride event is majorly run by white men who might not have an idea or refuse to understand how to better represent multiracial, multicultural, diverse London on London Pride main stage.

I love London pride and I hope as time goes on, its leadership would become more inclusive and more representative of the diverse LGBT community in London.

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While I always strive to attend London pride, march in its parade and join the entertainment at Trafalgar square, I feel so much more at home and relaxed at UK Black Pride.

Probably due to the colour of my skin and the assumption that I must be an immigrant or wandering tourist, I am often asked by random Pride attendees during London Pride parade if I was attending my first Pride parade. I don’t get such questions from people at UK Black Pride. I was not made to feel or treated consciously or unconsciously as an outsider.

UK Black Pride feels like home and it feels like family.  I can easily relate with the performers and entertainers on the stage. And the music. oh, yeah, it feels so good when popular African tunes blast from the stage and everyone screams and instantly starts doing a coordinated group dance. It is nostalgic and so beautiful. It feels so good to see Black Minority Ethnic lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and queers enjoy themselves with no reservation and with pure joy on their faces.

We need our black LGBT spaces. When racists, supremacists look down on us and cynically ask “Why Black Pride?”, I just say – Well, it’s because We Can and because We Rock It. Get It or Get Over It! 

Kudos to the Executive Director of UK Black Pride, Lady Phyll Opoku, and her lovely team for all the wonderful work and selfless service to our community. Thanks for not allowing the haters to get us down.  Solidarity forever!

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5 Reasons Why We Still Celebrate Pride: London Pride 2016.

It was London pride 2016 on Saturday 25, June 2016. As usual, the annual LGBT Pride celebration 20160625_165734meant the streets of central London felt the colourful presence of LGBT Londoners and their allies.  Marching from Baker street, Regent street, Oxford street and well, Cockspurs street, all the way to Trafalgar square, the colourful parade brightened up the streets of London. Rainbow flags, beautiful floats, creative costumes, the energetic marchers and the large appreciative supporters who turned out en masse to cheer the parade along, all made for one very beautiful London Pride, 2016. And of course what would London Pride be without the very creative and beautiful drag queens? They were fabulous as always! They slayed in their beautiful costumes and creative makeups. The crowd were eager to take pictures with those divas.  And oh, there was even a sweet moment when a police man in the parade went on his knees to propose to his boyfriend!

This year’s Pride theme was NO FILTER. It encourages LGBTs to live life without filters. Just be you. There was a huge turnout. According to London Pride, an estimated 1 million people took part in the Pride and about 40,000 people marched in the parade, the largest so far in London Pride history.

The homophobic killings in Orlando was a rude and appalling reminder that homophobia is still very much alive even within the so called civilised and free countries. London LGBT and allies decided to turn out en masse to not only celebrate Pride but to show support for the Orlando victims.

The homophobic attack in Orlando had somehow jolted the lgbt community to appreciate more the reasons why we have to be out, proud and still be very political. We are not free until we are all truly free from homopobic, biphobic and transphobic fuelled hate and prejudice and their deadly consequences.

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A straight friend asked me why we still need to celebrate Pride, after all it is not as if anyone is bothering gays on the streets of London. Considering that this wasn’t the first time I have been asked “Why still celebrate Pride?” and this question always comes from heterosexuals, it is often necessary to remind them and myself of the very reasons we celebrate LGBT Month and Pride.

As a bisexual Nigerian woman living in London, these are the 5 reasons I celebrate and march at Pride.

1- International Solidarity

Pride parade serves as a great opportunity to extend international solidarity to the many LGBTs 20160625_170241who still live under draconian laws. As a Nigerian bisexual woman living in London, marching at London Pride and other Prides, gives me an opportunity to celebrate the freedom I am denied in Nigeria because of my sexual orientation. Coming from a country where being Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual means I face 14 years’ jail term under the Antigay law, it is no wonder that I appreciate and celebrate my freedom and sexual orientation whenever and wherever I have the great opportunity to do so.

By joining the Pride parade, I not only celebrate my freedom to be me, I also see it as giving a voice to the many voiceless Nigerian LGBTs who currently face 14 years’ imprisonment for their sexual orientation. When Nigerian lgbts in diaspora come to pride to march and fly our banners, we are bringing attention to the plight of our fellow Nigerians, Ugandans, Cameroonians and many others where same sex relationships are criminalised.

We recognise that unlike those of us living in diaspora, our persecuted LGBT brothers, sisters and queers back home live in fear and do not have the luxury of being free to enjoy and celebrate their sexual orientation.

LGBT Month provides an opportunity to bring these issue to the fore. We can’t be truly free until we are all free. In celebrating Pride, we celebrate our small and big victories while also remembering and empowering our LGBT brothers, sisters and queers who do not have such privilege.

We recognise that our LGBT brothers, sisters and queers could be put in prison for years, thrown from a tall building, lynched by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic mob just because of their sexual orientation. We celebrate the tenacity of our persecuted LGBT families whose lives are in danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

When I march at Pride, I think of all the hate mails I get just for being bisexual and for speaking out for lgbt rights, and I stand tall with my head high and celebrate all that I am and hope that one day, we all will be truly free from such hate, prejudice and deadly bigotry.

2- Not everyone has Heterosexual Privilege

Do not assume all is well with the world just because you are not facing the same problems as others different than you. Your privilege, in this case, your sexual orientation privilege, could be protecting you from experiencing the discrimination Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals still have to contend with, even in “tolerant” London.

In the workplace, on the streets, within the family, in schools and closed community groups, Lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals still face subtle and sometimes, not so subtle discrimination, bullying, hate and prejudice on a daily basis.

When straight people who never have to face this type of discrimination ask, “Why do gays still celebrate Pride, after all no one is disturbing them?”, what I hear and see is their privilege status as heterosexuals coming to the fore. The fact that you have not personally experienced such discrimination or witness it does not mean it is not happening. Your heterosexual privilege could be shielding you from the experiences of sexual and gender minorities. Such discrimination might even be happening right under your nose and you don’t recognise it as discrimination because you are so used to this being the status quo.

In some so called civilised, lgbt friendly societies-

  • Gays still cannot donate blood.
  • Same sex couple still can’t have their marriage legally recognised.
  • Trans murder rate is still very high.
  • Subtle discrimination against LGBT still goes on in workplaces.
  • LGBT youth still have to face coming out to their parents, friends and society, a very daunting task for many as acceptance by family members and friends is not always guaranteed. This has also led to a rise of homeless lgbt youths in need of shelter because they were kicked out by homophobic, biphobic, transphobic family members.
  • Adoption is not always smooth sailing for same sex couples. Societal perception as marriage being between opposite sex is still prevalent. The so called traditional marriage and its values still means same sex couples have to fight to have the equality act recognised in many aspects of their marriage, in their dealings with establishments, institutions and their interactions with the general public.

When we are faced with navigating these discriminations every day, it’s not surprising that we just want to come out and celebrate what makes us unique as well as human. The LGBT Pride provides the opportunity to party and for us to make a political statement under the rainbow umbrella.

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3- Celebration of hard-earned victories

London wasn’t always tolerant of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals or queers. It wasn’t long ago that LGBT people were stoned on the streets of London. This year the LGBT community celebrates 47 years of the Stonewall protests of 1969.  Following the first LGBT pride in America in 1970, a year after the stonewall riots, London had its own very first pride in 1972. Lesbians gays, bisexuals and transsexuals living in UK and America did not always have it so easy. People, especially our heroes, have had to fight hard to get us to where we are today.

Enjoying police security and the support of allies to celebrate Pride on the streets of London wasn’t handed to Londoners and the entire British people on a platform of gold. It was fought for, it is a hard-earned victory and we should enjoy it.

4-Education and changing attitudes

The British people have come far in accepting LGBT rights as human rights. They have enacted equality laws to protect these fundamental rights. However, they can still do more. Laws are one thing, implementation, creating social awareness, changing attitudes and achieving true equality, are another.

Pride not only gives room for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and queers to celebrate, it also creates opportunity to continue the education on why LGBT Rights Are Human rights. Remember, same sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland only just got the right to marry. Northern Ireland is yet to legally allow same sex marriage.

There are still establishments, workplaces and private business owners who feel that based on their religion or personal opinion, they can discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and queers.  LGBT month and Pride parade affords us the opportunity to be visible, out and proud. It also sets the mood for educated discussion and enlightening people on sexual orientation and gender identity.

5-Why still celebrate pride? Well, why not!

Diversity is something that should be celebrated especially when the right to celebrate was hard-earned. Taking to the street once a year to celebrate how far we have come and celebrate love and gender in all its diversity is not too much to ask. It is not the place of a straight person to inform Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and Queers, “We now accept you, get over it.”

  • We will celebrate our struggles.
  • We will celebrate our victories
  • We will celebrate our diversity.
  • We will celebrate our same sex love and queer identities.
  • We will celebrate because we are fabulous like that and we know how to throw a colourful and magnificent street party!

We will continue to celebrate because we can. Don’t ask us why, just join us and be happy with us. Together we can continue to build a more tolerant, diverse and equal society.

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Macheted and Beaten to a Pulp for not Fasting: Happy Ramadan!

Just a few days after a 74-year-old woman was beaten to death by angry Muslim youths in Kano state, Nigeria, for alleged blasphemy, another similar incident with almost same fatal outcome happened in neighbouring Kaduna state. Francis Emmanuel, a 41-year-old man was attacked by irate Muslim youths for not observing the Ramadan fasting, even though he was not a Muslim.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Francis Emmanuel, a carpenter, reportedly said

I went to buy wood to do some work. When I came back I bought food to eat. As I was eating about six Hausa boys came and asked me whether I am a Muslim or a christian. I did not answer them. They asked why am I not fasting? I told them that I am not a Muslim.

“Before I knew it, one of them slapped me. As I stood up, the rest came and surrounded me and started attacking me with knives. I don’t know them. Nobody could come to my aid because of the type of dangerous knives they were carrying.
“They used cutlasses scissors and knives on me. I became unconscious, I don’t even know who brought me to the hospital.

Beaten unconscious for daring to eat during Ramadan period and he was not even a Muslim! Let’s be clear, even if he was a Muslim, he has the right to choose whether or not to starve himself to please his Skydaddy. No one should have the right or audacity to demand that another observe a religious rite.

In some parts of Northern Nigeria, we have had cases where people were beaten up for drinking alcohol even when they were not Muslims and therefore not bound by the Sharia Law.  Shops selling alcohol have been vandalised because …well, Sharia law. This descent into a state of lawlessly in the name of religion needs to be checked before it gets to a point of no return.

Is their precious Ramadan not supposed to be the “Holy Month of Peace”? Unleashing violence on people who chose not to fast while you starve to endear yourself to your sky daddy brings a whole new meaning to the saying “A hungry man is an angry man”.

Which is why I despair when we are told to be politically correct and wish our Muslims br407171_2699056189303_1043602147_2867789_1434976931_nothers and sisters a Happy Ramadan. Why on earth would I want to encourage people to starve themselves in the name of a Skydaddy?

Happy Ramadan indeed, I’d rather we rid the world of religion in all its barbaric forms.

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Nigeria: 74-Year-Old Woman Beaten To Death By Muslim Youths For Blasphemy

It pains me that every time I had to write about Nigeria, it is always some gory story. I try as much as possible to steer clear of these negative reports, however, no matter how fast I run, i can’t outrun the truth. It is painful but gory religious news are all that seems to come out of Nigeria.

There are a few important stories that came out of Nigeria these past few weeks that I shied away from writing about, cos well, I just despair when it comes to Nigeria and it really causes me a great deal of depression to engage with religious fanatics, especially religious Nigerian fanatics. Such encounter is like a glimpse into the mind of prehistoric cavemen.

It seems I am not allowed to talk about the tragedy in Orlando without acknowledging the tragedy in my own backyard (even though Nigeria has not been my backyard for a few years now). There is always that one person or persons, keen to point out that I am more sympathetic to issues outside the country than within. But how is that surprising? After all, gory religious happenings are the norm in Nigeria, so what else is new?  In my next few blog posts, I shall endeavour to cover a few of these religion motivated gory stories from Nigeria. First, let’s talk about the case of the woman that was allegedly beheaded for speaking against Prophet Mohammed. [Read more…]

Baby, You Are Beautiful – Dance Video

Some of us know we are.

Some of us don’t believe we are.

Some of us let society tell us otherwise.

Beauty comes in different colours, shapes and sizes.

Baby, You Are Beautiful.  Snapshot_20160515_252

What makes you beautiful is Not

Because you don’t know you are beautiful,

But because you simply are.

Do you; with or without make-up

Rock you; whatever your body size, shape or ability.

Celebrate your body; even if the society says you shouldn’t.

Flaunt these curves; even if they claim you aren’t beach ready.

Embrace and shower your body with Love.

Cos baby, You are You.

And Baby,

You Are Beautiful.

Background Music by One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

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This World Is Not My Home: Parody

This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The aliens beckon me from Spaghetti’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Flying Spaghetti Monster, You know I have no friend like you
If Planet Spaghetti is not my home then Ramen what will I do?
The aliens beckon me from Spaghetti’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

I have loving aliens’ families just over in glory land
And I don’t expect to stop until I shake their noodly ass

They are waiting now for me in Ramen’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Flying Spaghetti Monster, You know I have no friend like you
If Planet Spaghetti is not my home then Ramen what will I do?
The aliens beckon me from Spaghetti’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Just over in Flying Spaghetti land we’ll live eternally
The aliens on every hand are shouting victory
Their smell of sweetest sauce drift back from Ramen’s shore
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Flying Spaghetti Monster, You know I have no friend like you
If Planet Spaghetti is not my home then Ramen what will I do?
The aliens beckon me from Spaghetti’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

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Homophobic/Biphobic attack claims another life in Nigeria; Councilman on the run for his life

EDITED (16/03/2016)- Latest reports coming in are pointing to the fact that the pictures accompanying this story, which were taken from comments left on the alleged victim’s Facebook wall and news-reports, are not that of the alleged victim. Investigations are ongoing to authenticate the story. 

Trigger warning- Graphic pictures: Blood and violence.  

For some time now, for the sake of my mental health, I have shied away from reporting any news or write about anything from my home country, Nigeria. There is only so much sadness I can handle and that country has left me heartbroken one time too many. However, when I saw this horrible news of tragic homophobia on my timeline, I knew I had to say something about this. If anything could jolt me out of my silence on Nigeria and its nefarious issues, it is certainly another tragic homophobia, biphobia and transphobia case.

From news filtering in, the victim, Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi, was accused of homosexual activities, he was beaten up by youths in the community on 17th February 2016 and later died on 18th February 2016 from the injuries sustained. [Read more…]

Why I identify as an Atheist : Secular Voices of Color

Below is my video contribution for ‘Secular Voices of Colour‘. As the project coordinator, Sincere Karibo stated

Secular Voices of Color is a unique opportunity to spread awareness of and focus on the stories minority representation of nonbelievers.

My video contribution is transcribed below. Happy Viewing!

My name is Yemisi Ilesanmi, I am a Nigerian, grew up in Nigeria and now resident in UK. I was born into a Christian family. Nigeria is the largest black nation on earth and it is one of the most religious in the world. Growing up I decided if I was going to be a Christian, damn right I was going to be the best Christian ever. My parents attended the spiritual church known more as white garment church. It was always about speaking in tongues, prophesy, exorcism and all that crap that comes with believing in a skydaddy and the existence of evil spirits. [Read more…]

No, Atheism is not a leap of faith or a descent into bigotry!

When a friend tagged me in an article in the Guardian titled, ‘My atheism does not make me superior to believers. 396822_165455010225354_100002825693663_217839_1616784218_nIt’s a leap of faith too”, by Ijeoma Oluo, I knew from the second part of the title not to expect much and as predicted, the article turned out to be arrant nonsense.

For one, it reads like a piece someone just figuring out that there is no Santa Claus, Easter bunny, Tooth Fairy or Bogey Man would write. It is quite surprising that the writer, a self-proclaimed atheist, could not differentiate between faith and knowledge.

For this reason, I wouldn’t take seriously anything the writer has to say about atheism, however, i would endeavour to analyse her article.

She wrote-

I didn’t come to this conclusion because the story of a man waking from the dead made no sense – I wasn’t an overly analytical child. I still enthusiastically believed in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. But when I searched myself for any sense of belief in a higher power, it just wasn’t there. I wanted it to be there – how comforting to have a God. But it wasn’t there, and it isn’t to this day.

This sounds creepily like a gay person wishing they were not gay. Atheism is not a feeling, it is not a sexual orientation or emotional/ sexual attraction, it is not the spooky feeling that some people insist they get that tells them a ghost is in the room. [Read more…]

Just another baby born with a bible: Which came first, the baby or the bible?

bible baby

A woman has allegedly given birth to a bible and a baby girl in Osun state, Nigeria. Just another baby born holding a holy book. Last time, it was a baby allegedly born holding a Quran. There was also that case of a baby born holding prayer imagebeads, this time it is a baby born with a bible, all in Nigeria.

I wonder why they are never born with a cure for cancer, a recipe for the best Jollof Rice or at least a lottery ticket that would change the lives of their prayerful parents! Such bullshit stopped being news to me a long time ago, and this malady wouldn’t have caught my attention if not for the sad fact that it was given national coverage on NTA as prime time news! Yes, it made national news coverage on paper and TV, not as satire or a joke but as real news! 

According to NTA, Adijatu Babalola, a mother of three, gave birth to a baby girl after she had delivered a bible in a mysterious way. [Read more…]

Online Dating: Serving up Choices and Confusion

Dating in this generation has a whole new meaning. It is all about choice or rather the illusion of choice, leading to confusion, pain, and a life wasted on swiping profiles for the next hit. This Facebook note by a Facebook friend, got me thinking about dating. As a single woman, i must say, i agree totally with his take on it. In this age of online dating, it is all about the illusion of choice and the uncertainty that comes with it. dating

Back when i was a teenager growing up in Nigeria, 20 something years ago, dating was not even a thing. You were either in a relationship with someone or you were not. It was straight to the relationship phase. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy asks girl, “Will you be my girlfriend?”, if girl likes boy, she plays coquettish long enough to not appear desperate, then says yes, and bingo, they are in a relationship. No dating as it is known today, no testing the waters, that was done at the ‘eyeing her/him up’ stage. The courtship stage did not normally involve alone time together. Maybe time with friends and families where you both sussed each other out, until one of you makes the move. [Read more…]

Planned Parenthood Clinic Shooting: Religious Assholes, Vile Politicians and Dipshit Media

In between the religions assholes causing havoc and the vile politicians eager to drop bombs on civilians, it is a CU5oEefUYAAkYmHwonder WW3 has not been officially declared!

I was out when I briefly saw the headlines for the Colorado shooting today; apparently, three people, including a police officer, have been confirmed dead and many more injured.

The shooter, now identified as Robert Lewis Dear, is a 57-year-old white man from North Carolina.

According to reports

“Lt. Catherine Buckley of the Colorado Springs Police Department said the gunman, described as wearing a long coat and armed with a rifle, gave up after officers inside the building shouted at him. He previously had been firing at police who entered the facility.

Buckley also said the unidentified man had brought “items” with him inside the building and left some outside, meaning officers had to make sure they were not “any kind of devices.”

“The man apparently began his deadly spree at the Planned Parenthood building, although it was not clear if his motive was related to the organization.

“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” Buckley said.

Interesting how they are not eager to jump to conclusions about this shooter’s ideas and ideology. This is white cis [Read more…]

Winter might be upon us but nothing is going to take away my sunshine; let’s dance!

What better way to herald a new month than to dance away the pains, sorrows, regrets, betrayals, dashed hopes and disappointments of the past month. What does not kill us makes us stronger.

As I wrote in my poem: ‘Chin Up and Weather the Storm’

Life dishes out its mixture of pain and pleasureSnapshot_20151028_24

With pressure, we appreciate more our treasures

Stricken down, rise up and look beyond the snares

This too shall pass for nothing stays the same

When it is all falling apart, just stay strong

Chin up and weather the storm!

Winter might be upon us but nothing is going to take away my sunshine.

As Albert Camus said-

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Nothing lifts my spirits better than good music and the liberty to dance to my favourite tunes whenever I feel like. Music and dance are the choice flavour of my body and soul!

Here is to all Survivors; keep surviving and live life the best you can. Enjoy my dance video!

 

8 Reasons “I’d Rather Be a Rebel than a Slave” on t-shirts for “Suffragette” is Wrong

When Time Out London invited the leading actresses of the new film, “Suffragette”, to be photographed for its October 2015 issue, they did not envisage the heated debate that ensued. The photoshoot featured the stars of the movie, Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai, and Anne-Marie Duff posing in t-shirts bearing Emmeline Pankhurst’s quote, “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” The appropriateness of the t-shirts message was called into question. Reactions to this debate have been very enlightening as well as disturbing. The photoshoot provided another opportunity to see white feminism in action and the reaction shows how difficult it is for feminists of colour to be heard in a visibly white world.

Mary Rozzi

Mary Rozzi

Below are 8 reasons why the quote on the t-shirts is inappropriate, insensitive and offensive as a promotional material for a 21st century film that seeks to promote equality.

1- Not everyone has the luxury of choosing between being a slave or a rebel

My ancestors were humans who were carted off from Africa and made slaves in foreign lands. They did not have12108275_10153653732906873_381376419150408220_n the luxury of choosing between being a rebel or being a slave. No one would “rather be a slave”. Many of them were rebels but this did not save them from being slaves. They did not just hand themselves over to their captors. They did not just roll over and decided to live the slave life. They did not choose to be separated from their families and land of births.

Captivity was forced on them. Slavery was forced on them. Many were born into slavery. Being a rebel in the sense of organising protests and speeches under police protection and throwing animal blood at their fancily dressed “Masters” were not options available to them.

However, the fact that millions of my ancestors died as slaves in foreign lands did not mean that many of them were not rebels. There were rebellions on the slave ships. Many died with their rebellion stories that will never be told. [Read more…]