The United Kingdom’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group has pulled out of the London Pride Parade over concerns the event lacks diversity.
Stonewall announced on Friday it would not be attending the yearly Pride in London event and said it would instead be offering its support to U.K. Black Pride, a festival held on the same weekend. In a statement, the nonprofit claimed representatives from London LGBTQ Community Pride (LLCP)the group which organizes the yearly paradehad repeatedly ignored concerns about inclusivity.
“We know this is an event that’s important to many in our communities and very much hope to attend in future years,” a spokesperson for Stonewall said.
“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,” the organization added. “Pride in London rejected those concerns from the community in the strongest terms.”
Stonewall further claimed that U.K. Pride’s group has “failed to make any public acknowledgement” of the complaints.
This week’s decision followed a 2017 report from Pride in London’s internal Community Advisory Board (CAB) which criticized the group for failing to meet with organizers from U.K. Black Pride over concerns about the yearly event, which was attended by more than 26,000 people last year.
The advisory board claimed to have “compelling evidence from a reliable third-party source” that trust between the two groups had “broken down irretrievably.”
“From that evidence, we have concluded that the responsibility for that breakdown lies exclusively with the LLCP Board who have, at every stage, obfuscated and declined to meet with UKBP even through facilitated mediation,” CAB claimed in a damning report.
A chief complaint from the board was that panels held during Pride events had few speakers of color, despite being held in close proximity to U.K. Black Pride.
LLCB dismissed the report and claimed the board’s conclusions were false. The group said the report did not reflect “the majority view” and alleged it was “inaccurate in many places which is disrespectful to the many volunteers that work hard to deliver the event,” as The Guardian previously reported.
Following the Stonewall announcement, LLCB said it would continue to embrace “diversity in all its forms” and said supporting initiatives from queer people of color is “absolutely at the heart of [its] mission as a team.”
“We are working closely with the community advisory board and are dedicated to making Pride a success for all our communitiesfrom those who have never been involved, to those who come back year on year, enabling them to celebrate, protest and march for equality,” the group claimed in a press release.
“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,” LLCB continued.
U.K. Black Pride celebrated Stonewall’s move as a step forward toward greater inclusion in London’s LGBTQ community.
“We encourage organizers of every Pride eventfrom the biggest to the smallestto use this opportunity to listen and implement measures that meaningfully engage and include diverse LGBTQ community groups,” said Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the organization’s executive director, in a public statement.
He added community organizations must ensure no LGBTQ person of color is “left behind.”
But the boycott from Stonewall has been met with a surprisingly divided reaction among queer communities of color. Bisi Alimi, an LGBTQ advocate in the U.K., questioned how many black and brown people “were consulted” behind the scenes when making this decision. Alimi claimed in a Friday tweet that he refuses “to be a pawn in the game of white chess.”
“I don’t know who came up with this idea, but I think it is badly thought out,” he wrote.
Alimi would expand on that view in a conversation with the U.K. LGBTQ website Gay Star News, in which he claimed Pride in London “is not perfect.”
“A lot of people have said it,” he continued. “At the same time, we cannot 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.”
Fellow community advocate Edwin Sesange came down somewhere in the middle: applauding the call for diversity but questioning Stonewall’s methods.
“The issue of unfair representation of some communities in the LGBTQ community is unacceptable and many organisations have been accused of the above in the past,” Sesange told the British publication PinkNews. “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,” said Sesange, who is the co-president of Out and Proud Diamond Group.
This year’s Pride parade will be held on July 7.