Resigning as team lead(er) for choosing who gets to be named an Honoured Group, on her Facebook, July 6.
When we decided Black Lives Matter Toronto should lead the parade as honoured group, I really thought it was an easy decision. Here you have a group who dedicates their lives to breaking down barriers for everybody in the community “because when black people are free, everyone else gets a little more free with them.” The group itself was started by queer women and is led by mostly queer and trans folk. Black folk. We all seemed to care in the community, or we said so on our Facebooks, didn’t we?
As Tent City happened I watched Black Lives Matter feed the homeless and redistribute donations to shelters based on need. They fight for all Black Lives, because all Black lives matter. They fight for the eradication of practices that exterminate them and systems that criminalize them. They are us, part of our community. Pride is a community organization that is not owned by sections of a community but the entirety of it.
“Black Lives Matter Toronto leads with the most marginalized because there is nobody better equipped,” and that for me seemed so simple that I just assumed everyone would just understand. How incredibly naïve of me.
Black Lives Matter Toronto has been agitating the city and the system into change and teaching us about equality and carding since it began, and for this we were honouring them at Pride. I could count how many people I knew that disapproved on one hand. They put in the work to build our community. How fucking dare we turn around and discard their grievances when we decided it was too much work or too radical. If it is too much work to try and repair relationships with the groups of people who gave us liberation, that what the hell are we even celebrating?
Pride began as a march against the police and its treatment of our community. Honestly sit with that. During the parade, while I escorted Black Lives Matter Toronto (as was my job with Toronto Pride, being the international grand marshal and honoured positions team lead), a policeman asked me “Hey, is he with you?” and pointed to one of the members on a gold bike. The parade is barricaded, so just think about that for a second. How many people got questioned about belonging in the parade this weekend? “This whole fucking group is with me.”
When the parade stopped and Black Lives Matter Toronto began their demonstration, after the moment of silence I was prepared, because, folks, this is Black Lives Matter Toronto! The agitators who make us think about loving each other and what that actually looks like and means, you know, the reason they were being honoured. I approached them with all the information that Pride believes in protest and they could continue we would go around. What I wasn’t prepared for was a list of demands and for them to be met almost instantaneously by pride.
When the parade was over I bawled my eyes out. I thought about the work some of us put in at Pride, the work Black Lives Matter Toronto put in, the really ridiculous hate mail or Facebook groups started, and I was so fucking proud of what we achieved. We were building community and taking steps to repair the history we have contributed to being unwelcoming and harmful to those members who are not white and especially Black. That high came crashing down when I read in the paper that we at Pride Toronto were liars. We listened to the demands of funding stages for Black queer youth, increasing funding for Blocko, reinstating a South Asian stage, and asking police to march without uniforms etc., and agreed we could do that. We said all the things that Black Lives Matter Toronto wanted to hear, fair and easy requests, and signed it with a hug and feathery queer pen – but turned around and said “We really just wanted to get the parade moving.”
This is the honoured group doing honourable things and we can’t even give them the dignity of a second thought because we are pissed off that we had to wait 20 minutes? They are showing us where the holes are within our organization that would only make us stronger and more welcoming while they are under attack with boos and bottles and we cite duress? And now today you, Toronto, are celebrating us as if we at Pride are some hero queer force who smashed the evildoers when really all we did was just marginalize those already on the periphery of our community who were supposed to be honoured for their work in equality.
The division in the community is deafening and shocking – but only to us. Black Lives Matter Toronto saw it all along. Shame on us. I have resigned my position at Pride Toronto as of yesterday morning in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto and apologize profusely for the mistreatment thoughtless and complete disregard which came along with being honoured, Thank you for being leaders that we should all aspire to be. I love you.
Black Lives: They matter here. I got your back.
As usual, the insistent repetition of the word “folk” makes these groups sound like different species of hobbit.