For Immediate Release
London, 25 August 2017
An inclusive Pride in London needs leadership and investment not lip service
UK Black Pride welcomes recent discussions about the experience of African, Arab, Asian, and Caribbean heritage LGBT people at Pride in London. UK Black Pride was founded in 2005 as a response to the mainstream gay scene’s on-going exclusion and fetishizing of Black LGBT peoples’ experiences which caused widespread disenchantment among Black LGBT people and inevitable disengagement from many mainstream events. Black LGBT people were, in effect, deprived from reaping the rewards of our contribution to the struggle for LGBT equality in Britain.
With Black LGBTs invisible in mainstream media, and feeling excluded by mainstream activities, our community had to take a proactive stance and build a different kind of movement. The kind that was inclusive and empowering; that was racially representative, socially and politically conscious. We wanted to build a fighting, uniting, and winning movement. A plethora of racially conscious and LGBT inclusive groups were set up and they came together in what came to be an annual festival to celebrate the diversity in Black LGBT communities. The award-winning UK Black Pride is that annual celebration to empower people to be their best selves. It is inclusive because it belongs to the Black LGBT community it serves by ensuring a safe space for our friends to celebrate with us. It is successful because it puts pride before profit and emphasizes our collective pursuit of LGBT and racial equality as indivisible from wider struggles for socio-economic justice.
UK Black Pride has gone from being a paid-for event for a coach full of Black lesbians in 2005 to the most diverse free pride event in the UK with over 10,000 attendees in 2017. In 2016, we helped to set up Paris Black Pride and in 2018 we will help to set up Amsterdam Black Pride. All this has been achieved despite as a small, volunteer-led, group with a budget of £15,000. Looking ahead, we will raise funds to hire some staff to help us run more events year-round and across Britain. We want to ensure that UK Black Pride remains free, so that Black and LGBT people from every income group, no matter their immigration status, disability, or job can attend. With all our team in full-time work or education, we know that we can only achieve our aims by staying rooted in our Black LGBT community and reaching out to work with those who share our vision for a free and inclusive Pride that meaningfully values and represents the diversity in the LGBT community. UK Black Pride is proud of our partnership with the trade unions from our own inception; the strategic support and solidarity from Stonewall over the last eight years, and the investment from Diva magazine who joined us in 2017. These are partnerships built on values of mutual respect and co-determination.
When UK Black Pride reached out to work with Pride in London in 2013 it did so from a position of strength, with a solid and respected brand known for delivering successful well-managed events for Black LGBT people and the community. UK Black Pride offered to help because of Pride in London’s structural exclusion of the capital’s diverse communities, lavish budgets, and the palpable loss of Pride in London’s political identity. UK Black Pride’s 2013 offer of collaboration was based on our hopes, values, and ambitions being rooted in sharing rights, responsibilities and decision-making; to work with humility in the best interests of our diverse communities, and to continually learn and grow a strong and inclusive LGBT community that welcomes and empowers all.
In this context, UK Black Pride welcomes the independent report of Pride in London’s Community Advisory Board as we recognise much of what it has outlined. While Pride in London and UK Black Pride have met to discuss the logistics of our events, there has been a systemic failure in Pride in London to agree to join facilitated meetings to discuss ways of working together to address structural problems of inequality and exclusion. UK Black Pride has seen text book dynamics of oppression play out in an unequal relationship with Pride in London. The most egregious impact has been to leave UK Black Pride’s volunteers feeling isolated and exposed, especially on the day of the event itself, on an annual basis, while Pride in London has reaped plaudits for its partnership with UK Black Pride.
Pride in London benefits from significant financial investment by the Greater London Authority and those multinational companies who put inclusion and empowerment at the core of their work. Those businesses believe that Pride in London does the same. This is not our experience. Pride in London may be an equal opportunities organisation in so far as Black LGBT people can participate, but it remains an organization that limits engagement on its own terms and conditions. The impact of this is not a new or surprising discovery for UK Black Pride and many Black LGBT people. It is a dynamic that is played out in social, political and workplace settings every day.
What UK Black Pride hopes for from the independent report produced by Pride in London’s own Community Advisory Board is that Pride in London will reflect on the serious structural failures identified; that it will acknowledge it has made mistakes, and that it will take steps to change. In its preliminary response to the CAB report, Pride in London appears to state that it does not think it has a problem, and does not think it needs to make any changes. This reticence to learn is a destructive response to an entirely avoidable situation. When an organisation’s internal audits finds so many problems it really must listen.
If the partnership between a community-backed UK Black Pride and a commercially-driven Pride in London is to survive then significant, systemic change is needed. We cannot continue to operate an unequal partnership. We need to have a partnership where Black LGBT people are respected and empowered, where our partners are – as the CAB report demanded – “proud of UK Black Pride” and “doing everything [they]
UK Black Pride wants a partnership that shares our values and our belief that Pride events must empower and include the communities that are most excluded from LGBT and wider society. We hope this will be a time for open reflection, honest discussion, and a change in direction from lip-service to co-operation.
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