The poems in this book were created by members of grass roots activist group OPAL ‘Out Proud African LGBTI’ in workshops facilitated by artist Jacob V Joyce and writers PJ Samuels and Keith Jarrett at Gasworks Gallery and 198 Cal Arts Learning in London 2019. The workshops were part of Jacob V Joyce’s 8-month participatory artist residency at Gasworks, which focused on amplifying the voices and encouraging the creative practices of LGBTI Asylum seekers from over 10 African countries. The purpose of these workshops was to provide a space where writing could become fun and less focussed on justifying a right to remain in the UK as is often the case for those seeking asylum on grounds of sexuality or gender based discrimination. In her introduction workshop PJ Samuels offered OPAL the metaphor of a glass of water asking, “If you were this full glass of water what percentage of water would be your sexuality?” The resounding group response was that it wouldn’t be much, as we are far more complex than just our sexualities. Yet as LGBTI Asylum seekers whose cases often last years, sexuality becomes something to be presented, interrogated and articulated over and over again. To disrupt the violent process of making emotions and personal narratives available to strangers in courts, detention centres and immigration offices PJ and Jacob made clear that the topics explored in these workshops were to be decided by OPAL and did not have to include or be limited to disclosing details of sexuality. English is not the first language of any of the writers in this book and for many it was their first time writing poetry. Despite their lack of experience in this medium the prose and poetry collated here provides a playful and powerful insight into the highs, lows and in between of diverse range of experiences. When Kagga Yahaya, a Ugandan poet featured in this book, asked Keith Jarett “Can I be taught to write like you?” Keith responded “I don’t want any one to write like me… what I would like to do is bring as many of you as possible into the joy of writing.” OPAL is a registered charity, a supportive community and an activists group founded by Abbey Kiwa in 2011 whose mission is to achieve equality and justice for LGBTI persons in African countries and other countries were homosexuality is criminalised. They campaign against and expose the injustices that LGBTI communities experience around the world. During the 8 months of this residency Benjamin Elly, Julie and other members won their cases and OPAL continue to help countless LGBTI people to escape persecution and receive asylum and refugee status in the UK. The artwork on the cover of this book was created by Trinidadian Artist AJ Rogers and commissioned by Jacob V Joyce. It depicts assassinated Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato as an angel/saint of LGBT liberation. Although the colonial buggery law in Trinidad has been abolished LGBT people can still be evicted from homes, fired from jobs and have virtually no legislative protection in Trinidad. The battle against colonially instated homophobia/lesbophobia/biphobia and transphobia is a Pan African battle which unites all black queer people across the African Diaspora.
I am from water. I want go out swimming and touch that cool water I am the pool. I come from eating rice and peas, I come from drinking hot chocolate every morning. I am from love and slow music, Midnight Qurans throughout the night I come from happy days Talking to my partner on good terms. I come from speaking out Something that is bothering me
Titles of poems that I am yet to write My last day in school The girl next door Why I feel different from other girls African beat with a loving heart The happy ending Best friends in the world The love of my life Stranger turning into best friend Out of the closet City of the gay
Edrisa Kiyemba (Coach) After June Jordan and Megan Volpert
Because what I wanted was love not pity Love is a phenomenon one can acknowledge Acknowledgement of being you is great But the milk that pours from my body Into a strange mouth Is pity not love Love exists as they say From a tender age it begins Indeed it has to be as a kid When I was a kid nobody I knew was out of the closet Actually I didn't know anybody Who was in the closet either
Titles of Poems that I am yet to write Freeing lives with words She loves me not The first days of happiness The ending Dreams come true Friends of friends A friend with you A perfect song The abandoned Without you Angel of hope Beyond the limits Heartbroken Confessions of joy 2
Julie I am Julie, I was reborn in this country I am courageous The fear of not being understood by the world Jâ€™aime le Soleil I miss my African foods J'ai apais d Aime encore et encore J'aimĂŠ confrance aux gens J'aime le que je suis I love what I am I am always ready To fight for my convictions I am Julie
Julie read this poem in court during her trial for asylum. Julie won the case and was granted her status. She also created the main part of the design that became the OPAL T-shirt shown on the next page. 4
World, world, world, world You are such an amazing place to live in, Friendly as you are, beautiful with all that natural resources Stretching from Africa to Asia with the best lakes, rivers, forests, food, People so different (diverse), colours, races, languages, sex, Mixing up together freely, freely, moving From one place to another With easy communication World, world the intermarriages between us Has yielded and resulted to many sexualities by nature The gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and so on Whichever way, your people receive sexual satisfaction and scream Wildly while at climax. World world you such an amazing mansion to live in With the best dining table where food of different cultures is served But why entertain homophobia on your menu? Its food poison that makes our berries grow big Stigma, discrimination and persecution Kick it out of our dining room and table. Together we shall exist in a rainbow fashion. World you are not a jungle that only the strong ones survive Because even the strongest lion in the jungle eventually dies Neither are you a saucepan the nti ensenene nedwezi yombagana nokulwana gana zona ziba zakulibwa. So you, me, your best friend's best friend And your neighbour's neighbour have equal rights to live Despite their sexualities Viva Out and Proud group Thank you. 6
Osei Yaw Gerning
Come with me Stick in the ocean No turning back Journey of no return I am who I am Change is not overnight My last prayer
I am someone who hates to smell strong body spray I am the sort of person who takes long to show my emotions I am so loud like a jumbo jet in the sky I am the one who was to see everywhere Like standing on the top of the London Eye
Caroline Njerik This is not good For the lesbians So what is? To have father figures for their children? Because children of lesbians should not have fathers To deny what you had To your own offspring Is it fair?
I always try to put words together of how I can explain to my daughter The happenings in my life I am amazed at my mornings because despite some dark times It is bright in the day and night I feel lonely most of the times then hopeful when I look around me I like the food and the transport here, the plain roads. I miss my girls loving hugs; I always wonder what my child thinks of me What she makes of my absence. I remember the fading love of those I held dear to me.! I can always afford a smile whenever I look around me. I feel lonely most of the time but then I feel hopeful when I look around me. !I miss my church music. !I sometimes feel incompetent as a mother. I always wonder what my child thinks of me, what she makes of my absence. I feel lonely most of the time But then I feel hopeful when I look around me.
I am silent to the unveilings of who I am !I am love to be filled to love you, me and everyone around me I am that dusty scent in the wind at the start of a drizzly sunny day I am a sea breeze so refreshing it calls for a deep breath !I am warmed by thoughts of those kisses I am laughter I am before Now Tomorrow After Always and ever
My name is Elizabeth I am quiet but clever. Graduated from university in England. Growing up I never knew I would be able to join university. Few people have that privilege in life. The first day in England was in January so it was very cold I was forced to cover myself leaving only my eyes and nose. Secondly I had never used a train or escalators So there were some problems on the first day. The politeness and the customer service is excellent People are so willing to help I did not expect the weather to be very hot but I was wrong. At one point it turned out to be. I forgot all my knickers apart from the ones I was wearing I miss going to my home village, Seeing chickens running around The organic food Climbing mango treesâ€Ś
Image made during in Black Queer World Building at Gasworks.
Kagga Yahaya After Joelle Taylor
The ghosts of unused sentences hung In chalk mists between them She eats her words At school and at home Spitting fire whenever angry Shouting loudly at the top of her voice Silence is not ignorance Judgement awaits us Say it now and regret it later God loves those who are patient I know what it is to be dead
I am a proud lady, I feel Powerful and strong. Proud of my daughter. I was forced to get married but I wanted to go to school Since that time I have never been happy When I arrived in the UK it was really very hard At the airport I could not understand the English the lady was using I could not hear anything the weather was very cold for me I like summer I like UK because I have learnt to speak English I am having an opportunity to get some things I'm missing BBQ chicken
After Colin Robinson and Yersa Daley Ward
Shame they don't know me Will never know me I told them how I felt But they refused to believe me I told them I was scared and couldn't sleep in the night Watching every hour go by While they keep peeping through My heavy metal door To check on me, every hour This made me realise that loving myself Is the best achievement at this time Knowing that god loves me Because loving some one who hates them self Is a specific kind of violence
Collage made during Black Queer World Building Workshop at 198 Gallery
Mable Naluwooza After Ben-Omi
She calls me once, Thatâ€™s a lie, With news she selling my teeth on eBay Shame! They don't know me and will never know me You can sell them who I am, but you, they, not even the Internet Can ever define me because I am ME And soon as you learn to be afraid Of the people you love The things they know The loss of them the loss of ourselves
Image Made by Arnaldo James in Black Queer World Building Workshop in Arima Trinidad.
I'm intelligent! I don't mind I who I step on as long as I am on top For me to win the National Diversity Awards 2018 was a shock The lineup was powerful without any prospect of me winning it But I made it and I won Campaigning for the release of Marvin Kalanzi From the Dutch foreign custody (prison) after 12 months My favorite weather is semi- summer In the UK there are a lot of opportunities You can be whoever you want to be I have lived it! In Uganda I miss being covered in dust. I have created my life in the UK so I ainâ€™t missing nothing. You have potential you haven't discovered yet !I am cool
Sarah My name is Sarah When I was coming to the UK I thought that every one here was happy But some of them are not. When I was in Uganda I was so shy I could not talk about myself Since I came to the Uk I am so proud I can talk anything I want
My name is Elieshi Chidyau and I am proud. In my life I never forget what happened in my primary school when I rescued a newborn baby. One of my teachers delivered a baby girl and strangled her, put her in a sack and buried her. I saw her, my teacher, creep out of a window and run into a field of corn. When I noticed the trail of blood behind her I followed. Eventually I found a mound of fresh dirt where something had been buried. I began digging with my hands. Uncovering a bloody sack I screamed. Inside was a newborn baby, some how still alive. I rescued that baby and she is alive up to this date. This is something I will never forget and I am proud of that. ! In my country I was born in the cold region and I like cold weather. In the UK I like the weather especially the cold weather. I like also in the UK you can wear anything you like, easy transport, easy to study anything you want.!From my country I miss my favorite food loshoro and I cannot find it anywhere in the UK.! Also I miss sunshine as a result of vitamin D. I miss my friends back home. I miss my traditional dances. I miss our mountains.
I am first born I am never give up I am proud I am confident I am proud I am flexible I am confident I am black I am flexible I am healthy I am black I am mother I am healthy I am traditional dance I am never give up
Image made by Abbey Kiwanuka in Research workshop
Hamid Kirumira Bettering myself. I !miss football but since I have not played in a long time it don't bother me too much, not this time around. The vision of bettering myself once I'm granted asylum, visioning myself getting a proper job building myself up.! It's something that keeps coming up in mind. The situation I'm in won't stop my dreams having a proper relationship (developing myself.) !In my case I find talking about things takes the weight off me and after I get used to the situation its not easy but its the way I deal with the day to day life. I like spending time with mother, brothers and sisters, which I miss. Love the food; the fact that no-one can go hungry. Itâ€™s amazing. Free health service.! Transport is wonderful. I hate the weather though.! Love the fact that people can love whoever they love. The fact that I cannot travel and cannot get a proper job means I cannot provide for my mother knowing that she has been there for me all along. I miss my friends.! I feel sad the way our cases are looked at.! I feel great that I get on well with my family.! I love OPAL. 19
Zine made by Out Proud African LGBT with support from Jacob V Joyce, Keith Jarret, PJ Samuels, Gasworks and the Paul Hamlyn foundation.