Africa / Americas / Asia

Empire’s evils live on, so activist rejects Empire’s honors

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Photo courtesy of UKblackpride.org.uk)

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Photo courtesy of UKblackpride.org.uk)

What’s to be done about the continued repression of LGBTI people in Commonwealth nations that hang onto anti-homosexuality laws originally imposed by the British Empire?

One answer to the question is clear to Anglo-Ghanian LGBTI rights activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah. She has turned down the honor of being named an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). That award goes to people recognized for public service, contributions to the arts and sciences, work and with charitable and welfare organizations.

Opoku-Gyimah qualifies as a founder of UK Black Pride and a trustee of Stonewall, a British LGBTI rights advocacy group.

“I’m honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you,” she said. “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, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.”

This is Diva magazine’s account of her decision:

Black lesbian activist declines MBE

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Photo courtesy of Diva magazine)

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Photo courtesy of Diva magazine)

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah has declined an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, exclusively telling DIVA she wanted to stand by her “principles and values”.

Almost 1200 people were honoured in last week’s lists, which recognise the achievements and service of people across the UK. This year, well known faces including Blur’s Damon Albarn, Barbara Windsor and James Nesbitt were all recognised.

Opoku-Gyimah, founder of UK Black Pride, Rainbow List judge and Stonewall trustee, said that while she was “honoured and grateful” for the recognition, she felt it was important to say “no thank you”.

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

“If you’re a member of a minority – or multiple minorities – it’s important to be visible as a role model for others [and] for your successes to be seen.

An honour is a very public statement that the establishment has decided that you, and what you do, are valued by the wider society. You’ve worked hard, and they’ve actually noticed. Maybe you’ve fought for workers’ rights, or LGBTQI rights, in defiance of those in power, and yet here they are, offering you an award, letting you in. It may help you raise the profile of future work you do. All of these are good reasons for accepting one, and yet, Member of the British Empire?”

She went on: “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, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.

“I’m honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”

Elsewhere, Tim Sigsworth from LGBT homeless charity the Albert Kennedy Trust was made an MBE, while LGBT Consortium’s Paul Roberts was awarded an OBE for his services to the LGBT community.

One thought on “Empire’s evils live on, so activist rejects Empire’s honors

  1. A true friend to me and example of living integrity from a amazingly measured talented, beautiful, intelligent and principled Woman of Substance Lady Phyll Opoku -Gymah……

    KUDOS as my special Human so aptly salited you!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s