Stonewall staff and volunteers at Pride London 2016
Gay charity Stonewall has quit Pride in London over organizers’ failure to include and represent non-white communities – but black LGBTI campaigners have slammed the move.
Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT charity, told Pink News the city’s annual pride event ‘repeatedly ignored’ concerns about a lack of ‘diversity and inclusion’.
But one black campaigner said Stonewall was using people of color as ‘pawns in a game of white chess’.
Stonewall says ‘a lack of diversity and inclusion at London Pride’
Stonewall said: ‘We have also made the decision not to attend Pride in London this year.
‘We know this 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.’
Stonewall will work with Pride In London if they ‘rectify mistakes’
The charity also said they would stay involved with Pride in London in he future, so long as the organization rectifies its mistakes accordingly.
‘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,’ the charity added.
But not all people of color agree
However, Stonewall’s decision has angered many black and minority ethnic people.
Speaking to Gay Star News, black LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange said: ‘Many organisations have been accused of racism and unfair representation of some communities in the LGBTI community.
‘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.’
Another prominent black LGBTI campaigner, Bisi Alimi, was even more outspoken.
He said on Twitter: ‘I don’t know who came up with this idea, but I think it is badly thought out. I refuse to be a pawn in the game of white chess. I am not sure how many black and minority ethnic people were consulted on this decision.’
Speaking to GSN, Alimi added: ‘It is completely the wrong decision.
‘Pride in London is not perfect. A lot of people have said it. But, at the same time, we can not just walk away from it. It is our responsibility to make it work for all of us. I am passionate about Black Pride but I’m not going to allow Stonewall to put me in a position where I have to choose between Black Pride and Pride in London.
‘Stonewall said they had spoken to their staff. But they haven’t consulted us as a community. So they have no right to make a decision for us without us.’
Others have even speculated on social media that Stonewall is angry that Pride in London is attracting sponsorship that they would like to get.
Black Pride welcomes Stonewall support
Meanwhile the organizers of UK Black Pride have welcomed Stonewall who have invested further in their festival, which happens on the Sunday after Pride in London.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director and co-founder of UK Black Pride, said:
‘This year, with strong support from Stonewall, to ensure no BAME LGBTQI person is left behind, we’ve grown our team and festival.
‘We encourage organizers of every Pride event — from the biggest to the smallest — to use this opportunity to listen and implement measures that meaningfully engage and include diverse LGBTQI community groups.’
Pride in London responds
Pride in London has responded to Stonewall’s decision.
Organizers said: ‘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.
‘Embracing diversity in all its forms, and supporting organisations like UK Black Pride, is absolutely at the heart of our mission as a team. Our volunteers work hard to put on an event that is for everyone. It brings our diverse community together and gives groups, individuals, and organisations the opportunity to show what pride means to them.’
Pride said it was working with it’s own Community Advisory Board to help ensure the event was a ‘success for all our communities’.
Edward Lord OBE, the acting-chair of Pride’s Community Advisory Board, also issued a statement.
He said a report issued by his board to provide critical feedback to the event was ‘not intended to become a tool with which to attack the valuable work of hundreds of volunteers’.
And Lord added: ‘We have been actively engaged with the [Pride in London directors] on a number of issues. We have been pleased to see 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.’
Declaration of interest: Gay Star News is a media partner of Pride in London and of UK Black Pride.