Akeil Onwukwe-Adamson explains the reasons for establishing an LGBTQ+ club for people of colour, Queer Bruk.
Navigating a social life as a young queer person in London can be tricky. Feeling unwelcome in certain spaces. Hiding and shielding parts of who you are to fit in. There are a whole host of difficulties that come with the LGBTQ+ territory.
Adding the extra layer of being a person of colour lessens the circles in which many feel free.
"It was a shock that so many LGBTQ+ people felt they weren't included or welcome"
London is a wonderful city, with many places to explore, but finding the perfect space to discover your own queerness and blackness isn’t always an easy task. I created Queer Bruk because of a need for more spaces to celebrate ourselves. Spaces that will allow us the freedom to express who we are without judgement, through the lens of the music of our people.
I started Queer Bruk as a movement for queer people of colour. I started it as a night where people can listen to dancehall, afrobeats, soca. I started it as a place where people could feel safe to dance uninhibited by prejudice and hate. Music brings people together, and there is such camaraderie and connection between people of colour in music — a history drawn from many corners.
"As a little gay kid growing up, it was so important to see minorities thrive and flourish"
Music is such a big part of my life, and the lives of many POC around me; it was often a shock that so many LGBTQ+ people felt they weren't included in or welcome in certain places. I felt a need to add to the many incredible spaces out there that opened doors.
I realised that a lot of the influences and inspirations I had in my life growing up were women of colour. From my mum and my cousins, to the incredible women in music, I was constantly enthralled by their power. Artists like Spice, Lady Saw, Yemi Alade were so sure of themselves, so comfortable in their sexuality. As a little gay kid growing up, this visibility was so important; seeing minorities thrive and flourish unapologetically.
Now, with Queer Bruk, I am learning that it has become such an important place for queer women of colour. My intention was always to make it open for everyone (which it is) but I feel proud that it has become a safe and comfortable space for women. There aren't many venues, even queer, that are entirely women-friendly.
"They flirted, bought each other drinks, exchanged numbers"
I remember at the launch event in June 2018, two women meeting and dancing together. They flirted, bought each other drinks, exchanged numbers. They both seemed so comfortable and at ease to be themselves together.
"Seemingly small things like two people meeting, to me, is huge"
Cut to over a year on — they're still together now. Dancing like they did back when they met, laughing and getting each other drinks. Seemingly small things like two people meeting, to me, is huge. It goes to show that queer nightlife is so important to creating connections.
Another moment that springs to mind — that really cements why I started this and feel it's important — was being outside chatting to people at the most recent event, and a group of men yelling homophobic slurs at us because of the way some of the men were dressed.
Many queer people don't adhere to social and cultural gender roles, which we celebrate, encourage and fight for. We all banded together in pushing back on the hate, and felt the strength and resilience when we stood together.
"I feel such pride and happiness when I see a room filled with smiling, joyous brown, queer faces"
My objective was, and still is, to create a network of people that inspire and uplift each other within a community that is often left out of many conversations, and doing this through songs that we have come to know and love. It was always, and will continue to be, about the people, and about music. I feel such pride and happiness when I see a room filled with smiling, joyous brown, queer faces, and the freedom we have to dress how we want to dress, move how we want to move, and simply just be.
I see so much for the future of Queer Bruk — working with more incredible, creative people, drawing in more crowds of smiling faces, and conquering the heteronormative power that pervades over London's night life in many POC spaces.