In May, the La Fosse Pride Network invited queer Black entrepreneur Dan Yomi to talk about his lived experience and advice for others looking to be supportive allies to the LGBTQ+ community. Talent Development Trainer and Pride Network president Eli Dingwall interviewed Dan on the night.
Read part 1 of the interview here.
What do you think the role of an ally is?
An ally for me is someone who personally advocates and actively works for the inclusion of the marginalised. And when I say marginalised, I mean various intersected identities; of race, of sexuality, disability etc… an ally is someone although not part of that group is keen, intentional, and willing to put in the work. This person is passionate about solidarizing with that community.
Ok, and where do allies fit in in a situation in which someone doesn't feel safe?
Oh yes, in being an active bystander. So I think it comes down to:
Being comfortable talking about the oppression of a marginalised group. If you're an ally (for example) to the Black Queer community, this means being comfortable talking about the racism & homophobia that these communities face. It's a difficult conversation to have I know, but I think understanding, being conscious, showing empathy, and turning the spotlight back onto the marginalised leads to being an active bystander.
Being conscious about our Privileges. This is about knowing that if you say the same thing as someone who’s queer (as a cis-het person), you will get a different reaction and certainly wouldn’t get punished for calling out oppression. Also, having straight privilege (for example) doesn't mean straight people don't have struggles, it just means their sexuality is not part of what makes their lives difficult.
Yeah, I love that, it’s kind of this whole thing that as an ally, you should stand beside or behind – but never in front.
Yes, I think you’re absolutely right – allyship is about listening, learning, and supporting from behind. I think when it feels like you're taking the spotlight, maybe you want to take a step back and just champion someone who is of that group because they may not have access to spaces that you have. And we all have privilege, as I say. It’s not about feeling guilty, it's just feeling conscious, empathetic and sad about a system that dehumanises our fellow humans simply because of their differences.
That's a really good point to make. So, we’re coming up to Pride Month soon of course… what are your views on the typical way companies may respond to Pride Month and how you see that fitting in with queer representation within businesses? And also, what kind of pitfalls to avoid as a business?
That’s an interesting question. One of the reasons I was keen to speaking here tonight was because it wasn’t happening in June. The sad reality is that a lot of companies don’t recognise that Queer people are still queer 365 days a year. Don’t get me wrong, I feel It’s important to recognise the work corporations do during Pride, but rainbow washing kind of speaks to the intentions behind it and I’m always curious to understanding the experiences of the employees within such organisations.
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. So moving on to Living Free, I’d love to hear a bit more about its history and what you have been doing recently.
So going back to my mum’s conversation… I was passionate about visibility, I just needed people to see that you can be Asian, Black, Migrant and Queer. There is also a misconception about some of us who migrate to the UK or US for education or work; it’s the idea that we have been westernised, which clearly isn’t true because Queer history is African History. As you know, I'm out, and I’ve had to pay the price of losing relationships with friends and family.
Living Free UK started as a YouTube channel and we’ve since grown to becoming a CIC (Community Interest Company) supporting LGBTQ+ Africans, asylum seekers and refugees, by creating both digital and physical spaces in the UK and Globally. We do a crucial work in creating spaces for our community to unwind and exist in our unedited selves.
One of our biggest wins was securing funding to offer free therapy for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers during the COVID 19 pandemic. This was run by a culturally competent therapist which led to some very positive conversations and feedback around mental health awareness. We also offered free food vouchers to LGBTQ+ Asylum seekers.
That’s amazing, I always love following how it’s grown over the last few years, it's been awesome to see.
Living Free UK also launched a global space on Clubhouse called The Cool Off Zone. With over 2,000 members across the world, the club has been pivotal to creating a digital space for Queer Africans in the UK, US, and the continent of Africa. Allies are also welcome to our spaces because when you meet allies who are passionate, who are willing to listen and learn, it makes our lives easier.
Yeah I absolutely agree. I think like you said, you don’t always want to thank people for doing the bare minimum, but also in the world we live in, the bare minimum is often more than most! So how can people support Living Free UK?
You can support us
by first getting to know who we are and what we do via our website www.livingfreeuk.org.
You can also donate to our newly launched AfroYanga Hardship Fund for LGBT Asylum seekers.
Currently, asylum seekers are not allowed to work, and some have no recourse to public funds. Your donation will help towards our hardship fund of £80 for food per week per person and £25 for phone data, and £50 for bodily essentials per month for each beneficiary.
Your donation will also provide training, certifications & licences such as Cyber Security, Business Analysis, Digital Marketing, Door Supervision licence, etc., to LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers for £600 per person.
Your donation will also provide financial support for staffing, volunteer expenses, and other related emergencies.
By addressing their needs, we aim to contribute to the stable support and well-being of LGBTIQ+ Africans, asylum seekers and refugees in the U.K.
Thank you in advance for your donations and support!
Dan is the Founder/Director of Living Free UK, a registered community interest company that provides support and validation for LGBTQ+ Africans, asylum seekers and refugees. He was elected the 1st Black President of the Bournemouth University's Student Union and served on the Board of Trustees for two years. He now works full time as a Recruitment Consultant and also volunteers on the Board of Directors at house of Rainbow. He gained recognition when conversations of his coming out as a Nigerian Gay Man to his family surfaced on social media, which was then amplified by the international media.