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Black Lives Matter – Toronto is continuing a practice of intervention and resistance

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In support of Black Lives Matter – Toronto intervention at this year’s Pride parade CBC News invited black LGBTQ community members and activists to share their thoughts on the events and reactions.  A group came together and decided to write collectively a statement, an edited version of which was posted, see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/black-lives-matter-toronto-pride-community-1.3665886 

Below is the full statement and we invite you to become a signatory to affirm your solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Toronto and the principles in the statement.  Please add your name and a brief note locating yourself.

Some of us were among a number of people that Black Lives Matter Toronto invited to march with Pride TO’s honoured group on Sunday July 3, 2016. When we received the invitation we were honoured by these amazing young Black, queer and Trans activists and immediately accepted. Acceptance of BLM-TO’s invitation came with an implicit acknowledgement that whatever action they took we would support, be a party to and stand the chance of possible arrest. Acceptance of their invitation was an acknowledgement that each generation articulates, and acts on their own political demands and modes of being in the fashion that works best for them. It is older generations to figure out how to live in the new context and we are ready for that. And so should you, if you are not of this generation that can fluently begin a conversation by asking you which pronoun you prefer. So we knew that BLM-TO would do something dramatic, something special, and something that would challenge the too easy normalize workings of Pride To and the gay parade.

In 1981, the Toronto Pride march grew out of our community’s resistance to the massive bath house raids of that year. Two of the initiating groups for Pride in 1981 - Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR) – were left-wing gay liberation groups dedicated to fighting the anti-gay, anti-feminist, and racist right-wing politics of the day. The Pride event then would not have taken place without the political and social context created by the massive resistance that took place against the bath house raids that year. Thousands of queer men, lesbians and supporters took to the streets on a number of occasions, including taking over Yonge Street when it was against the law to march on Yonge Street. Many people of colour facing racist police repression came out in support of the struggles organized by the Right to Privacy Committee (RTPC) and many in the gay and lesbian community returned the solidarity. 

BLM-TO is continuing the practice of intervention and resistance that remains firmly rooted in a protest tradition of civil disobedience.

Make no doubt about this, those of us who know what has been happening at Pride TO know the demands of BLM-TO have a long history within the organization. The demands that BLM-TO won on Sunday should not be diminished. The claims of extortion and holding the parade hostage are just that, claims, empty claims. For people in Toronto who have short memories the list of demands that Pride TO has publically agreed to have been a part of and the catalyst for the Pride Community Advisory Panel engagement process (since 2011) a few years before, after the disastrous leadership of Tracy Sandilands from 2008-2011. Firm funding, space and policing issues have been a part of the community-engagement process. Black Queer Youth (BQY) have consistently asked for and required more and better space. And let’s face it in North American black pop culture is black youth culture. The disappearances of other community spaces have occurred while spaces for a type of white gay male dance-party presence have proliferated.

Pride might have begun as a social justice protest in 1981 in the aftermath of the police raids but it has since become a gay male corporate parade. If that is your tea sip it, but this year BLM-TO took Pride back to its roots with fabulous success. BLM-TO in the tradition of black radical politics did not just make their demands about Black people but instead modeled what queer inclusion really means by also requesting employment and community spaces for South Asian, Indigenous, Trans and people living with disabilities in the organization and the festival. These are commendable demands and should Pride TO walk back on them the community will find itself in Sandilands territory again. We should be thankful that they reminded us of our past while making important demands of the present as well.

We were for the first time in many years proud to be queer at the gay parade. Thank you BLM-TO.

 Signatories:

Rinaldo Walcott is the Director of Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Three Years ago he resigned from being gay. He is nonetheless still a Black queer.

Angela Robertson, is a black lesbian feminist activist and a founding member of Blackness Yes! producers of the Blockorama stage at Pride. Angela is also Executive Director of Queen West – Central Toronto Community Health Centre. 

Debbie Douglas is a Lesbian Black Feminist Activist. She's a founding member of historical groups Zami, Lesbians of Colour (LOC) and the Black L‎esbian and Gay Action Group (BLAGAG). Debbie is currently the Executive Director of OCASI- the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

Douglas Stewart is an organizational development consultant in Toronto. He is a founding member of Blackness Yes!, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP), Simon Nkodi Anti-Apartheid Committee (SNAAC) and historic Toronto Black LGBT organizations Aya Men, Black Lesbian and Gay Action Group (BLAGAG), Black Bisexual Gay and Lesbian AIDS Discussion (BBGLAD), Sepia and Zami.

Beverly Bain is a black queer feminist activist, organizer and educator.  She currently teaches in the Woman and Gender Studies Program at the University of Toronto/UTM campus.

Akua Benjamin, activist, professor at Ryerson University School of Social Work, co-founder of the Anti-Black Racism Network.

OmiSoore H. Dryden is a black queer femme and this year's co-host of the Blockorama stage at Pride. She is also an Assistant Professor at Thorneloe University (@Laurentian) in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department.

 Beth Jordan is a black queer feminist activist and organizer.  Co-founder of the Cross Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group, former Co-Chair of the Community One Foundation (Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal) and an organizational development consultant in Toronto.

Dionne A. Falconer is a Black bisexual feminist activist and a founding member of Blackness Yes! She has been active in the HIV/AIDS movement since the late 80s. She is a management consultant as well as a leadership and life coach.

Junior Harrison, is a Black HIV/AIDS activist, Feminist and a founding member of Blackness Yes! Producers of the Blockorama stage at Pride. Previous Board Member and life long volunteer of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP).



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