TORONTO, July 3, 2016 /CNW/ - Black Lives Matter - Toronto, Pride Toronto's 2016 Honoured Group, and allies have halted the Pride parade to challenge and address anti-Blackness within Pride Toronto. Protestors are pledging to stay at at the intersection until a face to face meeting and official pledge of acceptance of their demands.
Black Lives Matter – Toronto organizers say that Pride Toronto has shown little honour to Black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of Black spaces at Pride that have existed for years. This includes the near extinction of the BQY stage (Black Queer Youth), the continued threats to Blockorama's self-management and organizing framework, the removal of other community stages (ex: South Asian stage), and a lack of commitment and priority to the various spaces that represent diverse queer and trans communities.
Additionally, protesters are challenging Pride's anti-Blackness in structural and financial decisions. Blockorama, Pride's largest and most popular stage is only given a nominal budget to operate. This comes as Pride is bringing in more celebrities and increasing production values of their Festival. BQY, facing extinction, had to be supported by a local grassroots non-profit, and relegated to the edge of the Festival boundaries.
"When we accepted this year's Honoured Group status from Pride Toronto, it was with the clear intention of using this platform to address what is a historical and current culture of anti-Blackness deeply embedded in the Festival," said Alexandria Williams, co-founder of Black Lives Matter - Toronto. "If they truly want to honour us, they can accept these demands."
In addition to community spaces, organizers are deeply concerned about the ever-increasing police presence at Pride, including police's prominent placement in the community fair, and involvement in the Parade, even though their presence create unsafe and tense interactions with vulnerable members of the LGBTIQQ2S community. Just this week, Black Lives Matter representatives were harassed by the police during the community fair, when they were singled out among hundreds to produce table permits in accordance with Toronto bylaws.
Black Lives Matter – Toronto along with various community groups, including BQY and Blackness Yes have the following demands:
- Commit to BQY's (Black Queer Youth) continued space (including stage/tents), funding, and logistical support.
- Self-determination for all community spaces, allowing community full control over hiring, content, and structure of their stages.
- Full and adequate funding for community stages, including logistical, technical, and personnel support.
- Double funding for Blockorama (to $13,000 + ASL interpretation & headliner funding)
- Reinstate and make a commitment to increase community stages/spaces (including the reinstatement of the South Asian stage).
- A commitment to increase representation amongst Pride Toronto staffing/hiring, prioritizing Black trans women, Indigenous folk, and others from vulnerable communities.
- A commitment to more Black deaf & hearing ASL interpreters for the Festival.
- Removal of police floats in the Pride marches/parades.
- A public townhall, organized in conjunction with groups from marginalized communities, including, but not limited to, Black Lives Matter- Toronto, Blackness Yes, and BQY to be held six months from today. Pride Toronto will present an update and action plan on the aforementioned demands.
"We envision a Pride that prioritizes Black spaces. A Pride that honours and adequately supports community spaces," said Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter - Toronto. "We challenge Pride to take action & publicly uphold their principles of diversity and equity and tell the world they are truly committed to a festival inclusive for all Black people and other vulnerable groups."
Black Lives Matter – Toronto organizers are calling on Mathieu Chantelois, Pride's Executive Director and the Pride Co-Chairs to accept the protesters demands, and formally declare their commitments to creating a Pride more welcoming of Black LGBTIQQ2S people and our allies.
Black Lives Matter-Toronto is the Toronto chapter of #BlackLivesMatter, an international organization and movement fighting anti-Black racism all over the world.
SOURCE Black Lives Matter - Toronto