Rodney Diverlus interview

Rodney Diverlus interview (video only), CP24, 2016.08.10.

Diverlus, in yellow hair, on camera

Note that Diverlus is referred to by his actual male name (he is an actual male) rather than the more darling “Pascale.”

INTERVIEWER: I’ve got with me, uh, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Toronto Rodney Diverlus. Thanks so much for being here, Rodney.

DIVERLUS: Thank you for having me.

— So uh-uh-obviously we are understanding from Mathieu that he has resigned, uh, to pursue another opportunity.

— Mm-hmm.

— Uh, we know that there were calls for his resignation after what happened at, uh, pride parade this year –

— Yes.

— the sit-in –

— Mm-hmm.

— the fact that he signed the demands –

— Mm-hmm.

— and then that sort of changed. Uh, your reaction, first of all, to his resignation?

— Um, I think that it’s, um, uh, Mathieu, it was under his leadership that a number of-of, um, um, anti-black policies and a number of, uh, of-of attacks to the black queer and trans community were done. You know, it was under his, uh, leadership that BQY lost their space and funding. Uh, it was under their leadership that Blackness Yes and Blockorama were facing autonomy – uh, were – autonomy issues. It was under his leadership that he signed the demands put forward by the black queer and trans community and then recanted them less than 24 hours later. So in our view, if he’s not committed to making Pride, uh, an accessible space for black queer and trans people, uh, then let’s make space for somebody who is. Mm-bye!

— So you think he resigned because of this issue? Are you s— You think this is a victory?

— I mean that there’s not – i-i-it’s hard to speculate. I think that, you know, uh, since-since the – since the action – I think it, we highlighted a number of issues that the black queer and trans community had with Pride Toronto specifically. And the last couple of months have actually been, uh, a lot of grumblings amongst community. There’s been a lot of frustrations brought forward. There’s been a lot of, uh, people , both internally and externally to Pride Toronto, have-have expressed, um, uh, a-a number of-of issues and frustrations with Matthew’s leadership and with Pride Toronto specifically. So I think that this provides an opportunity for Pride Toronto to actually be accountable to the community. I think that it provides an opportunity for Pride Toronto to listen to the needs of the community –

— Mm-hmm.

— and to, uh, to bring someone in there that’s going to be prioritizing community spaces, but also prioritizing the needs, uh, of black, uh, of queer and trans people.

— Uh, well, let’s not forget: You – Black Lives Matter Toronto was an honoured group –

— Mm-hmm. Yeah.

— at the pride parade. This is the first time we saw the Prime Minister there.

— Mm-hmm.

— The first time it was extended for a whole month.

— Mm-hmm.

— So some would say that we – that this was a big deal under his leadership, no?

— I think, as Pride Toronto expands, I think it’s really important for Pride Toronto to keep their ears to the ground. Uh, there’s a lot of criticisms of Pride Toronto that they are getting less and less, um, uh, close to community and-and-and expanding to this festival that a lot of members of the community don’t feel like they relate to. So I think this provides a great opportunity, as the organization expands, to be prioritizing the needs of community. Pride Toronto and Pride started as a protest space. Pride started as a political space in which queer and trans people [no, just gay men and lesbians] could fight for the issues, could talk about the things that matter to them. But more we see it as a space that actually we can’t relate to.

So, uh, this, I think is a-a welcome change amongst community. And like I said, uh, you know, as things have gotten, uh, tough, right? because the protests put Pride in the headlines, it put anti-blackness and the conversation about anti-black racism and police violence at Pride at the forefront [there was no “police violence at Pride”]. And, uh, we as a community are committed have those conversations. Uh, and if you as an executive director of this organization are not committed to have this conversation, if you’re flip-flopping on the issues, if you’re lying to community, if you’re making commitments and then, uh, changing them 24 hours later, then you have no space to be running this organization.

— Mm-hmm.

— We see this as an opportunity to say “Bye! See you later! Uh, open the space up for somebody who actually, uh, wants to honour the the history of, uh, Pride Toronto and wants to honour the communities in which it, uh, serves.”

— And would you apply?

– [Laughs] Not necessarily. I-I mean, I much enjoy my-my-my-my – my work as a dancer and an organizer. I think I recommend really strong people to apply –

— OK.

– but again, if you’re gonna be an executive director of Pride Toronto, you have to know that it’s gonna get tough. If you’re gonna be an executive director of Pride Toronto, you have to know that the needs of community have to be at the forefront.