Pride in London embroiled in race and diversity boycott row


Pic: Matias Altbach

Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT charity, has pulled out of Pride in London, claiming that the event is not diverse enough.

In a statement, a Stonewall spokesperson said it had “made the decision not to attend Pride in London this year” and would instead focus on UK Black Pride.

Pride in London is one of the world’s largest LGBT Pride events, attracting around a million visitors and revellers to the city. It is due to take place on 7 July.

Stonewall explained: “We know [Pride in London] is an event that’s important to many in our communities and very much hope to attend in future years. However last year, Pride in London’s Community Advisory Board again raised concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion at Pride in London – particularly of black and minority ethnic communities.

“Pride in London rejected those concerns from the community in the strongest terms and, as yet, have failed to make any public acknowledgment that they may need to make significant changes if Pride in London is to be an event for everyone.

“We continue to be very willing to support Pride in London on this journey and recognise that they are taking some steps to increase the diversity of Pride in London and the events around it. It is vital that organisations listen to those they represent and respond with an openness to improve and change.”

Stonewall said it would instead attend over 30 other Prides across Britain and had also “decided to significantly extend our support and participation in UK Black Pride this year”.

The spokesperson continued: “UK Black Pride is an event run in London by and for LGBT people who identify as BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic), as well as welcoming their families and friends regardless of their ethnicity, faith or background. It is an event we are proud to support and showcases the best of what community-led Pride events can be – it is free to attend, accessible and welcoming to all, run by the community it is there to serve and has a real social purpose at its heart.”

Pride in London, which is also a volunteer-run organisation, responded with its own statement. “We will always welcome Stonewall to march with Pride in the parade, and we hope to welcome their team at many community-driven events that will take place this year, during the Pride Festival,” said a spokesperson.

“Embracing diversity in all its forms, and supporting organisations like UK Black Pride, is absolutely at the heart of our mission as a team. We are working closely with the community advisory board and are dedicated to making Pride a success for all our communities – from those who have never been involved, to those who come back year-on-year, enabling them to celebrate, protest and march for equality.”

According to ITV, Pride in London recently recruited new members to it’s board of directors, making it more diverse. The board now consists of four women, three people of colour and three white men.

Pride’s Community Advisory Board, whose report Stonewall cited in its reasons for boycotting Pride in London, said that the document was “not intended to become a tool with which to attack the valuable work of hundreds of volunteers”.

The board also noted Pride’s “significant progress and are confident the event in 2018 will show considerable improvement and be more diverse. We support them in the steps they are taking”.

The boycott has split the city’s LGBT community, with some, including high profile activists of colour, arguing that pulling back from Pride is not the best way for Stonewall to make a difference.

Edwin Sesange, an African LGBTI rights advocate based in London, is among those. He told Mambaonline: “The issue of racism and unfair representation of some communities in the LGBTI community is unacceptable and many organisations have been accused of the above in the past.

“Therefore, I am not sure whether the boycott is the right move or in the best interest of ethnic minority groups. It is high time for all parties to work together towards a fairer representation.”

Fellow activist Ashiwaju Bisi Alimi also questioned how Stonewall came to its decision. “I don’t know who came up with this idea, but I think it is badly thought out,” he tweeted. “I refuse to be a pawn in the game of white chess. I am not sure how many BAME people were consulted on this decision.”

Alimi added: “Is @LondonLGBTPride struggling with race issues? YES, but please Stonewall is not any better. We need more unity and not division.”

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