“Queer people have existed in Africa since the beginning of time, and this is something we as Africans need to understand,” says Senegalese American journalist, filmmaker, and producer, Selly Thiam. The #AfricaNoFilter fellow is working as part of the Ford-created initiative to shift outdated narratives about Africa.
Thiam has devoted her career to encouraging and giving voice to members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer communities throughout Africa, making sure their personal stories are told, shared, and preserved as an essential part of Africa’s history.
She also founded None on Record, a digital media organization dedicated to amplifying the voices and visibility of African LGBTQ+ people. “We’re trying to shift the narrative by creating as much content that just tells our stories and gets them out into the world,” she says.
Thiam explains that there’s a level of silence around African LGBTQ+ experiences. “There’s an idea that we are un-African, that we don’t exist. So, when we started this project, it was very difficult to find queer stories, and we don’t want that to continue to happen,” she says. “If communities are documented—even through oral histories, audio-based oral histories, small documentaries that they’re making—then there becomes a record, a record of our existence, and that’s why it’s really important to empower communities to basically tell their stories.”
Thiam is part of the #FutureIsHers multimedia series of interviews, essays, and more, celebrating the innovators, risk-takers, and change-makers the Ford Foundation has proudly supported and the impact they’ve had on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Despite the many challenges women and girls face, around the world they’re rising up. Determined and persistent, they’re leading the way in showing us what gender justice looks like, disrupting inequality and creating a world where social change is possible: The future is hers.