Hi Jon! Firstly, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Jon! I'm an easy-going gay black guy completing a level 3 Business Admin apprentice at Unilever (the Consumer Goods giant) working in our People Data Centre. I work within Data-Driven Marketing which is all about how Unilever and our brands can use data to generate hyper-personalised marketing to target the right consumers for our products.

To set some context, could you tell us about the history of Pride?

Pride as most people know it is a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community around the world and is celebrated throughout the month of June every year. However, many people don’t actually know that the first-ever pride march wasn’t what we have currently, but rather a protest. Pride commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City which were initiated by the ongoing harassment of the queer community from police. The riots occurred as Queer people stood up for their rights and fought for liberation from police harassment and state oppression. I think that it is crucial that people know the origins of pride as a political movement and not just a rainbow parade as it, in a way, devalues all the folks that fought, and in some instances died, for the rights that many Queer people have today.

How will you be celebrating this year? Will it be any different to usual due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Funnily enough, I have never been to a physical Pride Parade! I was planning on going with Unilever in 2021 however due to COVID most of the celebrations and festivities were going ahead virtually. I think what I am looking forward the most about attending Pride in person is that it’s just a safe space. Being a black queer person presents additional challenges that other people may not understand, however, events like Black Pride offer that space for people like myself to not feel alone.

Pride is a celebration of acceptance and love, through festivals, parades and concerts, but it is also about raising awareness and shining a light on LGBTQIA+ issues - how can members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies do so this Pride month?

Pride is a celebration of love and acceptance. One of the best things about the month is the positive energy that radiates all month round, but here’s the thing. Gay people still exist outside the month of June. When the decorations are taken down from the streets and companies take the pride flag out of their logos on Twitter (pinkwashing is a discussion for another day), queer people are still here and whilst things are much better than they were, (an overgeneralization of western cultures) they are not perfect. Hatred and discrimination are a part of everyday life for most queer and trans people. This is where we need to take the same energy we have for the community during pride and replicate it all year round.

Active allies are essential to the wellbeing and protection of people in the LGBTQI+ community. We must continue to support and be there for our queer peers in an active manner, not passive – as that doesn’t achieve anything. A good ally supports and strives for equality for the LGBTQI+ Community, they are a collaborator, listener, active accomplice, and advocate. Being an ally isn’t just for cisgender heterosexuals. Whist they have their part to play, we all need support each other especially within our own community. Being an ally is not who you are, but rather what you do.

Lastly, can you tell us what Pride means to you?

If I could summarise what Pride means to me it would be loving yourself, celebrating the community, acknowledging and appreciating the past, and shaping the future!

What does Pride mean to you? Comment below!

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