More than a year of increasingly contentious accusations of “racism” and “trans exclusion” against Boston Pride leadership by Local Queer BIPOC groups came to a head Wednesday when Boston Pride president Linda DeMarco said she would resign this summer. The announcement cast some doubt on whether the city’s Pride parade –already postponed to Fall from COVID — will happen at all.
‘The Movement has Won’
Over the last 18 months, BIPOC and trans groups have called for a boycott of Boston Pride even as vacancies on Boston Pride’s all-white board emerged, choosing instead to organize separate events including Pride 4 the People and Trans Resistance MA’s vigil for Black Trans Lives. That lack of diversity on the board and its DeMarco’s announcement came after multiple clashes with advocacy groups calling the Pride leadership “whitewashed” and its events “trans-exclusionary.”
Speaking to the Boston Globe, DeMarco said her resignation was accelerated by the boycott. “I think the boycott is really hurting the community,” she said. Her exit also comes as political support for Boston Pride took a heavy blow as every major Boston mayoral candidate declined to participate in Boston Pride’s political forum, choosing instead to attend events held by the activist groups opposing Boston Pride.
Boston Pride’s response to the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests in the city was quickly perceived as lacking by activists and volunteers associated with Boston Pride. When the all-white Pride leadership team rejected and rewrote the statement drafted by its own communications team, it also addressed Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police without consulting members of its Black Pride subcommittee. The statement was quickly judged to be insufficient by insiders and led to 80% of the organization’s volunteers to quit in protest. And quite simply, without the volunteers the Pride parade would not be possible.
Almost immediately activists claimed DeMarco’s planned exit as a victory. “A year later, the movement has won,” said Sasha Goodfriend, director of MassNOW. “It’s a huge testament to the power of grassroots organizing that this volunteer-led initiative was successful.”
“The pandemic and the reckoning of our unjust racial past has just claimed the Pride committee because they were unable to actually do the right thing over many, many years,” NECN’s Sue O’Connell said. “There is no putting it back,” added Jo Trigilio, founder of Pride 4 the People.
Boston Pride Parade in Question
DeMarco’s exit comes just a few short months before the already-delayed annual Pride parade is set to occur. The announcement of her intended departure along with the belief that other board members will leave as well, has led some to believe that the 50th anniversary of Boston Pride is likely be postponed a third time.
Demarco told the Boston Globe she’d “leave that task to her successors.” The naming of new leadership is up in the air due activists’ calls to boycott filling board vacancies as well until all current board members resign and a new board representative of the Boston’s diverse LGBTQ communities is seated.
“Since there’s going to be a new board, we’ll let them make that decision,” DeMarco said. “It’s a major volunteer organization that takes up an enormous amount of time and it’s one of those positions where nobody is ever happy with you.”
The activists are not concerned. “It might look different. In fact, I hope it looks different,” Trigilio said. “That’s the whole point.”
With the traditional early June Boston Pride date just past, an apparent seismic change of leadership in the offing but without a set schedule, attention turns to the mayoral race currently underway, and while candidates have agreed to attend programs set up by the the activists, the delayed forum by the until now powerful Pride leadership group is four days away and it’s not clear that any of the six candidates have committed to appear.
All that said, on the national level the turn of events and even the sequence of them and the outcome in Boston mirrors upheavals along generational, racial, gender and inclusiveness lines and breakpoints in the organizations running Pride in most of the country’s biggest cities.
In September 2020, just after celebrating Stonewall 50, New York City elected the most diverse board ever to take the organization forward.
And that was just months after Los Angeles Pride announced a protest march in solidarity with black communities would replaced Pride that year, but was soon clear that leaders hadn’t consulted any leaders of the Black community. Black leadership accused Pride of “saviorism”, of using the Black Lives Name without permission and called them out for claiming solidarity while touting its “strong and unified partnership with law enforcement.” The board was replaced and Pride moved out of West Hollywood after decades.
And there have been and will be many others as the LGBTQ leadership faces generational change and the maturation of the understandings around intersectional discrimination, racism in our communities that perpetuate inequality.
The LGBTQ reckoning with race didn’t really start in earnest until the 1993 March on Washington which included more than token participation and leadership by people of color, made race a priority, and infused all aspects of the programs with education and acknowledgement of racism. The history of the creation of gay identities is also the history of unequal enforcement and violence by law enforcement. This would seem to be a logical and far from sudden set of changes.
Boston Pride: Previously on Towleroad
Image courtesy of Will Zunker/Creative Commons