Women of spirit
Meet our Woman of Spirit - Lady Phyll
13 May 2022
We are so pleased to introduce our Woman of Spirit for Pride Month. Get to know Phyllis Opoku-Gyimah, a.k.a ‘Lady Phyll’. Political Activist. Co-founder of UK Black Pride. Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, who fight for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people across the Commonwealth.
Lady Phyll has spent her life doing pioneering work. Building safe spaces and communities for LGBTQ+ people of colour. Tirelessly campaigning against racism, homophobia, sexism and discrimination. Named in the list of 100 Great Black Britons as part of Black History Month 2020, Lady Phyll says activism for her is “less of a choice and more of a birth right”. We are so grateful that she found the time to write a piece for us on the women who have inspired her to stay strong and pave her own way.
“For those of us who decide to dedicate our lives and our work to fighting for a future we all deserve to live in, there isn’t just one moment that galvanises us. Across our lives, there are events and happenings and collisions and injustices that change how we view the world and our place within it. In my case, I felt like I didn’t have much of a choice. Born a Black woman in a country that continues to deny racism, I learned very early on that if I wanted the world around me to change, I would have to roll up my sleeves and work for it.”
"But I come from and am inspired by warrior women. "
"My grandmother was a formidable woman and I would watch in awe as she commanded people around her, as she built a church for her community from the ground up. Her leadership was so evident, her determination so focused, and I learned from her that through grit and grace, one can make a remarkable difference to those around them. I think of her often. I didn’t have the chance to show her all of me, to let her in on how and who I love, but I feel so sure that she is watching me and is proud of me. Her church would be the example for my own church — a safe space for those who need it, to show up and revel in the glory of ourselves, UK Black Pride.
"My grandmother provided a wonderful blueprint, but as I was coming into myself, into my love and adoration for women, I would have to find other women - women like me - to help guide me in ways my grandmother couldn’t. I found a voice for myself in the words of Audre Lorde."
"She had such a grasp on the slippery and hard-to-name experience of moving through the world as a Black lesbian. She gave of herself so generously and her words and insights continue to shape how I think, act, move, live and love. She told me it was okay to encounter my erotic self, to be tender and vulnerable; she showed that we could be demanding and unwavering and critical. Lorde led by example and gave so many of us the permission to show up as ourselves and to be true to ourselves."
“I learned very early on that if I wanted the world around me to change, I would have to roll up my sleeves and work for it.”
"The necessity of confidence in ourselves as we face the world was reaffirmed for me when I met a woman who would become my sister, Moud Goba. Her story is hers to tell, but we met when she was facing a reality that would have broken others; and when we met, her light shone so brightly that I became convinced she was a living example of divinity. As we grew closer in our bond, she would stand by my side as I navigated the obstacles white gays threw in my path as I set up UK Black Pride.
"Her smile and her laugh have seen me through some of my darkest moments, and watching her settle into herself and her life reminds me that within Black women, there is a warrior, a fighter. We know what the world thinks of us, but we fight ahead, confident in our belief that we deserve much more than we’ve been given."
“As Audre Lorde reminds us: ‘I don’t have to be you and you don’t have to be me for us to fight alongside each other’.”
"And fighting for what we deserve became all the more urgent when I birthed, nurtured and raised a warrior woman."
"My daughter, born 26 years ago, forever changed what I thought I was capable of. Our journey together has taught me so much about myself, and I feel extremely proud as I watch her blossom into a confident and assertive woman, who pursues her passions. The world is not yet one worthy of her, nor me, nor Moud or my grandmother, but there is hope. And this hope is a hard-earned hope, made possible because of the ways Black women continue to show up in the world.
"As Audre Lorde reminds us: “I don’t have to be you and you don’t have to be me for us to fight alongside each other”. We can’t know what the future holds, but I do know I can rely on myself and Black women around the world to make the future what it needs to be."
Thank you Lady Phyll for your inspiring words. And thank you also to the women who have inspired you in turn. We’ll be sharing much more during Pride Month on our social media. Make sure you’re following on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Did you spot the bag Lady Phyll is expertly modelling? Meet our brand-new reversible Beach Close Pride tote. 20% of the sales price paid will go to Stonewall, a charity supporting LGBTQ+ rights. Everything you need to know about it is right here in our Pride Month blog post.