While British actors Idris Elba and David Oyelowo will be hobnobbing with Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating being chosen to her prestigious annual New Year’s Honors List, one honoree has decided to stay home—on principle.
While Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, a Black lesbian feminist who founded and serves as the Executive Director of UK Black Pride, is “honored and grateful” to be given such a nod by her country’s monarch, she cannot accept it because the award comes with the title of “member of the British Empire” (MBE).
Opoku-Gyimah, also known as “Lady Phyll,” told Diva Magazine, “…Member of the British Empire? I don’t believe in empire. I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists. I’m honored and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”
She added, “As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.”
Since 1890, thousands of politicians, artists, activists and philanthropists from the UK have been placed on the New Year’s Honors List as recognition for their great contributions to their country. Opoku-Gyimah “now stands alongside other queer and/or figures [of color], such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Honor Blackman and David Bowie, who have previously refused awards,” the Independent UK noted.
The Queen has yet to make a public statement about Opoku-Gyimah’s refusal of her honor.