After Months of Pressure, Boston Pride Disbands Organization Instead of Adding QTBIPOC and Allies’ Voices to the Board; [Story Still Unfolding]
BOSTON—In a press release received late this evening, Boston Pride informed media outlets about their decision to dissolve the organization, according to the statement sent by its current Board of Directors.
“It is clear to us that our community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride,” read the release whose letterhead showed the names of its Board one last time, President Linda DeMarco, Treasurer Malcolm Carey, Clerk Martha Plaza, and members Deborah Drew and Tina Rosado. “We have heard the concerns of the QTBIPOC community and others. We care too much to stand in the way. Therefore, Boston Pride is dissolving. There will be no further events or programming planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization.”
On June 9, in a sudden turn of events, Linda DeMarco, Boston Pride president, said to the Boston Globe she would step down.
She told The Globe that her exit plan was “a little accelerated now because she thought the boycott was “really hurting the community.” But then, there was silence after that and until this evening.
Pride 4 The People, P4TP, replied to the unexpected news.
“Today, we were disappointed to learn the board of Boston Pride — who as of February, consisted of Linda DeMarco, Martha Plaza, Malcolm Carey, Tina Rosado, and Deborah Drew — decided to dissolve rather than work with us on a transition and respond to our criticism with a real commitment to serve the community,” said Henry Paquin, P4TP, to a direct TRT question about the news.
Reactions poured in from social media (below) and other community members.
“To close down such a long-standing and critical organization for the LGBTQIA+ community in Boston after 50 years, simply because the community has demanded that Boston Pride represents the people it claims to serve, is a disgrace and further fuels the allegations for how out of touch its board of directors is and how inflated their egos seem to be that they’d rather close down, wiping out the organization’s long-standing name and history so that new leadership has to start from scratch,” said Liz Towle, a Malden resident.
“These are exactly the types of games that Boston Pride’s board of directors have played all along. I hope people see through these vindictive actions. It is beyond shameful. This all could have been remedied by allowing new leadership to lead so all members of our community are heard and represented to reflect the current issues of our time.”
Via a press release, MassEquality and its ED showed its/their consternation.
“MassEquality, is dismayed to hear that Boston Pride has decided to dismantle its organization rather than transition its assets and reins to new leadership who were prepared to meet the challenge of hosting an intersectional Pride which would better serve all of the members of our community,” read the organization’s statement. ” … We were perplexed and dismayed to see that their actions had not matched their words. The community provided a lot of guidance and feedback that sadly did not result in meaningful change, instead, it resulted in the loss of an organization with a fifty-year history in our city.”
Its Executive Director chimed in about the news, which they hope were different.
“I had hoped to see a leadership transition, rather than a dismantling of the organization,” said Executive Director, Tanya Neslusan. “This will be a loss for our community at a time when solidarity is needed.”
Boston Dyke March, an organization that was “originally created in part as a radical response to the corporatization of Pride,” also expressed its disappointment via a statement.
“As one of the organizations working with Pride for the People, a group formed by former Boston Pride volunteers to reform Pride, we are appalled but sadly unsurprised by the statement released today by the Boston Pride Board of Directors,” read their statements after hearing of Boston Pride’s decision. “Despite being offered every opportunity to be part of the solution, they have chosen to disassemble Boston Pride. Instead of working with community leaders to change leadership without disruption to the organization, they have chosen to close up shop, taking, as they go, resources given to Pride by the community.”
What propelled its dissolution?
Their actions involve a series of events including what has been explained as a “unilateral decision to remove any reference of Black Lives Matter” from an official “statement on police brutality after the murder of George Floyd (May 2020), Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade,” that lead to an en masse resignation of 80 percent of Boston Pride’s volunteer workforce in June 2020, according to a former statement from Jo Triglio (they/them), former Boston Pride Communications team and co-founder of Pride 4 The People.
“… the [Boston] Pride Board … rewrote a statement, written by the Communications Team, condemning unjust, racist police violence, and posted it without consulting the Chair of Black Pride or the Communications Team. The statement was met with public outrage over Boston Pride’s persistent and ongoing neglect of issues of racism and white-centeredness,” read a former release from Pride 4 the People – Boston, and Trans Resistance MA.
Other community members had this to say when interviewed for similar stories pertaining to the Boston Pride Board and joining in support with P4TP and QTBIPOC lives.
“Boston Pride is a reactionary organization,” said JP Delgado Galdamez, Communications Associate at The Network/La Red to TRT early in 2020 about the organization. “Pride didn’t start showing they cared about Black people and People of Color until members of these communities, often also people who are queer and transgender, started doing actions like blocking the parade route. Boston Pride did not read the room when they decided to post a statement that didn’t even meet the lowest bar of them all, saying #BlackLivesMatter.”
History, Support for P4TP; call for BP’s Board resignation
The fiasco prompted the community — and other organizations who joined in solidarity (Boston Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, GLAD, Trans Resistance, Urban Pride, The Network La Red, Boston Dyke March, etc. — to demand the current board to relinquish its responsibilities to new leadership. Based on that premise and disconnect with marginalized QTBIPOC+ members, Pride 4 the People was born, The Rainbow Times reported at the time.
P4TP “demanded the current Pride Board to step down” since May 2020. The organization, composed of QTBIPOC, and allies, “proposed a transition plan to diversify the [Boston Pride] board and rewrite the bylaws to include power-sharing, checks and balances, and transparency.”
But, Boston Pride refused and instead hired an out-of-town firm to help them better understand the struggles and reasons that lead them to where they were then but without realizing that to do so they needed to allow QTBIPOC people to lead the organization if BP were to have a future and as other major Pride organizations have done throughout the country.
“After six months of silence, the Boston Pride Board has released a transformation plan decorated with bells and whistles that attempts to divert attention away from the lack of structural transformation that is being proposed,” read a P4TP’s statement from December 2020. “This proposed ‘transformation’ process is merely a fancy performance designed to protect the absolute and exclusive power of the current board. It includes no structural change: no change to the bylaws, to the distribution of power within the organization, nor to the majority vote of the current Board.”
A 2017 story by The Rainbow Times about the Pride Parade protests, corporate donors/sponsors, and their ties to anti-LGBTQ+ movements yielded information about Boston Pride’s revenue. BP took in approximately $348K alone through major donations, according to their 2017 Partnership Packet and the donor’s list that appears on its website.
As listed in 2018, Boston Pride revenues were approximately $671,000, according to their returns on CauseIQ (GuideStar lists it as $697,000, in their 990 Form for 2018). Their travel expenses, showed their 990 Form, were up 236%. Their “Information Tech” expenses were up 999%, and their “Office Expenses” were also almost 78% up.
Questions about BP’s finances continue to surface, as this release was sent to the media, according to quotes and comments received by this publication. Some in the community speculated last year that there was something wrong with an organization that brought in so much money yet gave away so little to other startups or small non-profit organizations.
“Throughout the years, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual, corporate and non-profit organizations,” Towle said. “I’d like to know where all of the remaining funds are going since they are closing down without further explanation.”
Michael Histen aka Majenta, a cis community member who is also a drag queen, said last year that it was important to put the level and amount of the funding into perspective too. She, Majenta, did so by comparing it to what she does for others, with her own self-run show, to what Boston Pride donated just last year to organizations.
“I run a digital drag show called ‘Full Spin’, which is funded solely by donations and tips, and over 6 months, as just one person, I’ve managed to get $26,000 into the hands of queer artists and social justice organizations,” she said. “Meanwhile, Boston Pride, which is an entire massive organization, issued [approximately] $46,000 in community grants in 2019. I cannot speak to all of their financial actions, but I share this to point out that surely, if one person can raise more than half of their annual grant total, then they could be far more effective at doing their job in supporting the community.”
As for MassEquality, the organization hopes that BP is open about the financial process of dissolution and remaining funds.
“We further hope that as part of the dissolution of Boston Pride Organization that they are transparent in their accounting and distribute their assets to organizations that will continue to serve our communities,” read their statement.
Final statement; did they get it?
In this final statement to shut down the organization, BP still was not seemingly aware of how prolonging their time and trying to keep the Board intact was only further harming QTBIPOC people’s struggles in the region and their protests through the years, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the same community that was asking them to step down and let a PoC-member leadership take the helm instead.
“For years, we have volunteered our time with Boston Pride because we care about and are passionate about the LGBTQIA+ community,” the BP statement continued. “We strived to foster an environment of diversity and unity within our organization and the community. Over the past 50 years, Boston Pride has facilitated programs and events that have changed our society and promoted equality, but we know there is still work to be done.”
When DeMarco decided to step down, a follow-up opinion by The Rainbow Times stated that pointing fingers or having DeMarco step down alone was only focusing on one person, not the whole structure and background of its members but its “evolution and separation with the cause … if they ever truly understood it in a real sense.”
“We applaud her for stepping down. Others should follow suit too. All LGBTQ+ publications should unbiasedly represent the LGBTQIA+ communities of color, not for gain or tokenism, but to truly and intentionally hire members from our communities to report on our struggles, systemic racism, transphobia, and homophobia that still plagues the most marginalized amongst us, without whitewashing history, erasure, nor ‘explaining’ experiences through the experiences of white people,” read parts of the piece.
In the end, BP still focused on what they were doing to “alleviate” the hurt and voicelessness of QTBIPOC people not in what they could immediately do to give the voice back to its people.
“Over the past year, we have invested time and energy to address the concerns of the community, both with our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access work with Dorrington & Saunders and by forming the Transformation Advisory Committee comprised of members of the LGBTQIA+ community to help bring change to our organization. We are grateful for all who have been involved in this process,” the statement continued. “We know many people care about Pride in Boston, and we encourage them to continue the work. By making the decision to close down, we hope new leaders will emerge from the community to lead the Pride movement in Boston.”
But instead of investing monies and trying to hang on to their power structure, Boston Pride decided not to listen to those who started the movement for them to resign even though P4TP and the stories published by many media, including TRT, told them of a community that wanted to lead, but still wanted an amicable transition.
“We have repeatedly reached out to Boston Pride and attempted to arrange meetings to assist with and shepherd the transition to new leadership,” said Paquin, one of those volunteers who resigned from BP and started P4TP. “We truly wanted to maintain Boston Pride as an organization and transform it into something that could better serve the community.”
Due to the timing of the press release on a Friday evening, the community has been left to react via social media. Some people not knowing the details, while others were upset with the decision, which to many meant a very radical action.
“The Board members should have resigned if they actually cared about the feedback or the community,” read a text from Matt Mendolera-Schamann via FB. “Instead, they’d rather dissolve a decades’ old organization out of pettiness. Wow. You’re all even more shameful than anyone ever accused you of being. Disgusting.”
Another reaction also showed dismay.
“This is a great way to let people know you’d rather burn down an organization than allow BIPOC to lead,” read Anna Allons‘ reply to the news on the organization’s FB page.
Via Twitter, in response to the organization’s post there, others had similar comments.
The ol taking your ball and going home method, eh?
— Mr. David Wininger (@Mr_Wininger) July 9, 2021
“Boston pride will be dissolved”. Wowwww https://t.co/TmPZ4t6JEv Anyways I’ve always liked Providence Pride better. More fun, affordable, less pretentious, and more importantly MORE INCLUSIVE. This is sad for the younger generations of LGBTQ+ in Boston though. https://t.co/YPeL6Igmhj
— Mr. Mercedes BENDz (@CBenz88) July 9, 2021
This reeks of “we’re not willing to meet the needs of QTBIPOC folks and don’t care enough to facilitate a transition plan.” Wow this is terrible 😤 https://t.co/WrrSm7VLWT
— Shalen Lowell 👻🎃🍁🍂 (@Shalen_Lowell) July 9, 2021
This isn’t the first time Boston Pride has dissolved, but this feels incredibly petty. Instead of handing the keys, connections, or processes to anyone else, they’re dissolving the organization. https://t.co/NJU7rBulYG
— Joan Ilacqua 🌈🌈🌈 (@IlacquaJoan) July 9, 2021
🏳️🌈 After more than 50 years (!), Boston Pride is disbanding. A sad end, but the community and its needs come first. Best of luck to whoever takes the mantle to build the next Boston Pride — the birthplace of marriage equality in the US deserves nothing less than the best. ✊ https://t.co/bNxQdeR4zC
— 𝔻𝕒𝕟 𝕊𝕙𝕖𝕒 (@dryanshea) July 9, 2021
Did they get it?
And, through it all, Boston Pride did not sit down with QTBIPOC leaders to let their voices lead, truly place themselves in a different role and understand their needs and intentions. Instead, they opted to move on with or without Boston Pride.
“The board of Boston Pride has repeatedly refused to meet with us or work with us and we’re sad that they have chosen to dissolve when they had endless opportunities to preserve the organization for the community’s benefit,” said Paquin.
Boston Pride release’s last sentence was disingenuous, some asserted.
“This decision was made with a heavy heart, out of love and hope for a better future,” the last line of their release read.
Others see this last attempt as yet the final insult to QTBIPOC in Boston.
“These are exactly the types of games that Boston Pride’s board of directors have played all along. I hope people see through these vindictive actions. It is beyond shameful,” said Towle. “This all could have been remedied by allowing new leadership to lead so all members of our community are heard and represented to reflect the current issues of our time.”
Key partners of P4TP and members and supporters of the QTBIPOC community, the Boston Dyke March organization looks forward to a time when members of this community charge ahead with the continuation of Pride in Boston.
“The Boston Dyke March continues to support the members of our community calling for radical change and hopes to support BIPOC and transgender community leadership to take charge of a new Boston Pride,” according to the organization.
As well, Neslusan, from MassEquality, said that they are supportive of those who started this movement and statement and stood to Boston Pride.
“We support the efforts of Pride 4 the People, the [Boston] Dyke March, Urban Pride, and Trans Resistance, among others, for having ensured up until now, that the true spirit of Pride has been alive and well in Boston and look forward to seeing the next iteration of Boston Pride,” they said.
P4TP looks forward to what lies ahead and to a more inclusive Pride.
“We look forward to the future of Pride in Boston!” said Paquin, P4TP.