Review: Munroe Bergdorf & Lady Phyll

By Lisa Beech

The King’s Suite at the Radisson Blu Hotel was packed with smartly dressed lively people eagerly waiting for the start of Wowfest’s “Munroe Bergdorf In Conversation With Lady Phyll” event. Before now, I had only seen these events on tv, although entertaining, none had been of any personal interest to me. I could tell this was a big deal to many and not just to me, a local 45 year old black, bisexual woman.   

Lady Phyll, co-founder of UK Black Pride is in her words, “a change maker, a woman that does not like to edit herself” and someone who feels every day is Black History Month. Lady Phyll insisted that those who are marginalised CAN “occupy space” and not be apologetic about it. Although she supported and still supports Pride, it did not address the differences in the journeys faced by black and brown people and they were seen only as tokens of inclusiveness. Munroe Bergdorf is an “activist who challenges notions of race and gender”. She’s anti-prejudice and acknowledges and unpacks social constructs. Munroe as a lighter skinned black woman knows she is more likely to experience privilege as in “invited to a seat at the table” but will always voice the concerns of those who are not.     

Both women got applause throughout the “Conversation” for their raw human connection with the audience. The black women were like “You’re so right, you get me!” and the white women were like “You’re so right, I get it!”. I’ve never felt so much reassurance and harmony from so many white people in 1 room when race is being discussed. The overall message of the night was “ACTIVISM!!” done your way. Munroe Bergdorf says we must open up the conversation to non like-minded people and Lady Phyll says not at the cost of our mental health. So many of us know how exhausting that can be. How do you reach people who do not want to hear, learn and grow? Lady Phyll says people are more likely to accept something read on their phone whilst they’re by themselves than with a group. We were told to be excited for people that aren’t like us and not to expect someone to know our struggles if we refuse to see theirs. “Unpack, unlearn what we’ve been told. It’s tense, it’s awkward but it’s going to get better”. The night resulted in a deserved standing ovation. I felt jubilant, like I was part of something important and new. Lady Phyll urges people who are starting or have already started something within their community to get in touch because the help is out there.