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Lady Phyll shares powerful story of the ‘Black, lesbian, warrior woman’ who changed her life for good, Moud Goba

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 Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah (Lady Phyll) poses in the GAY TIMES Honours 500 studio on 21 November 2019 in London, England

In an extract from Jack Guinness’ new book, The Queer Bible, UK Black Pride co-founder Lady Phyll pays tribute to her the woman who “transformed her life”, LGBT+ activist Moud Goba.

When I was younger, before I knew my purpose or my drive, my grandmother would watch me searching the night sky, as if for answers, or a sign. She’d remind me that up there our Ancestors play and scheme and connect, using the stars as chess pieces and our lives and our spirits as the connective tissue between generations, movements and time. And if the night sky was ever magical before then, it became so electric in its potential after.

It is this numinous wonder that I know connects me to people like me around the world. And not just like me – busy, tired, curious, determined – but Black, lesbian, warrior woman. For to who else does the night sky offer itself up as a spiritual or existential plunge pool? Who else can dive into the cool, expansive, foreverness of the night sky and feel themselves held, understood and comforted?

I think immediately of my sister, friend and comrade Moud Goba. She came, near-broken, to England many years ago and forever transformed my life. She was seeking asylum in the UK, escaping a life in Zimbabwe from which she deserved much more, and she encountered here, in a place that sells itself as some sort of bastion of freedom, democracy and equality, nothing but disbelief and doubt. She was treated as if she didn’t have a right to claim asylum, to pursue her human rights of freedom, happiness and safety.

Like me, she’s a Black African lesbian. She’s a mother, a sister, someone’s child. I could cry thinking about the first time we met and we embraced. It was her eyes more than anything that captivated me. The cosmos and everything the Ancestors fought for and believe in shine in her eyes.

We became fast friends. I did what I could to help her asylum process along and to be for her what so many people had been for me: a strong, consistent, dependable and generous friend. There is something that we do as friends of people we see as our chosen family, ‘those in our communities’, where we buy things for yourself but not really needing them in the end, or quietly topping up their Oyster card or SIM card, and when you carry out acts of kindness, they are unspoken or very silent. It often meant listening, trying to help make sense of the new world she had emerged into and trying to show her that despite the double-standards, the racism, the misogyny, a life could be built here – and a good one at that.

I doubt she intended to change my life and I could never have imagined how, but if the cosmos, as my grandmother always suggested, is the playground of the Ancestors, then we were brought together to transform each other and in turn the world.

It is only by looking at the course of somebody’s life that we truly begin to understand the potential for our own. In a world that often reduces us to the most ground-breaking or controversial thing we’ve done, diving into lives beyond their surface impact and value can often feel radical. Radical because we’re all so time-poor. Radical because we’ve been taught to forget. Radical because in doing so we remember someone’s humanity, their aching longing and working for a future that is denied them and denied us all. And if history is written by the victors and if definitions belong to the definers, to echo Toni Morrison, then by us examining, writing and bringing up out of the depths the lives of our community, we can begin to understand victory as something else altogether.

Victory, for queer Black people, manifests in ways we can never imagine because we never hear our victories told. From the small, quotidian victories that so energise a life to the grandiose wins that forever alter the course of the future, our stories matter. It is precisely because they matter that people work so hard to keep us silent. In our stories are blueprints, hard-earned knowledge and wisdom of wins forged in struggle.

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