By: Sara Brown/TRT Assistant Editor—
BOSTON, Mass.—Thousands of online users and organizations across the state and nation took to the streets and stormed the internet responding in support of a protest that disrupted Boston Pride’s 45th Anniversary Parade for several minutes.
The protesters staged a sit down at Boylston and Charles streets, halting the Boston Pride (BP) parade for 11 minutes in solidarity and remembrance of the 11 Trans women of color murdered this year in the United States. The group developed the hashtag #WickedPissed on Twitter, a spin-off reference to Boston Pride’s #WickedProud theme.
“…We won’t wait for the advances of the most privileged of our community to trickle down to the rest of us. We live in a society that has declared war on Black people, women, immigrants, trans people, poor people, and—at the intersection of all that—trans women of color. It is the duty of the entire LGBTQ community to stand united and prove that all of our lives matter,” #WickedPissed said in a statement initially released to The Rainbow Times.
Boston POLICE confronted #WickedPissed protestors, threatening arrest, reported Workers.org. But organizers “refused to back down one inch until the planned protest was over, while the entire scene unfolded before hundreds of cheering onlookers.”
Many organizations and activists within and outside city limits are applauding #WickedPissed for standing their ground and bringing attention to an issue that is often ignored.
“Addressing the needs of communities of color is a significant issue that many LGBTQ organizations have struggled with for quite some time. The protest on Saturday by #WickedPissed was a much-needed wakeup call for every LGBTQ organization in the Commonwealth, and the nation,” Director of Political and Legislative Affairs for MassEquality Krina Patel said in a statement sent to The Rainbow Times. “More resources need to be devoted to addressing the many disparities that disproportionately impact communities of color, including, but not limited to, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, more resources and legal protections for transgender people of color, and culturally competent healthcare for LGBTQ people of color. Saturday’s protest was a perfect opportunity to continue the dialogue on addressing the issues of all LGBTQ people, including those most impacted by healthcare, educational, and socioeconomic disparities; communities of color being the most hard hit by these inequalities.”
Others agree that the demonstration was a critical component needed to shake-up real change.
“I have enormous love and respect for those who took part in the disruption action during Pride. Disruption is often the only way people in power listen to those fighting for justice,” said Jason Lydon, Community Minister at Black and Pink. “…it was the only real mention of transmisogynist violence all day, thus making it an essential action of strength and power.”
#WickedPissed made specific demands not only to the mainstream Boston LGBTQ community, but specifically to BP, the organizers of the annual Boston Pride Parade, in their released statement. One of those demands being that the parade route marches through a community of color.
Others criticized #WickedPissed for making too many DEMANDS. However, the protestors don’t see it that way.
“We thoughtfully created demands based on the needs of our communities. We fully expect that all organizations claiming to represent Boston’s LGBT community, work to incorporate the elements of these demands, in order to adequately serve their constituencies. These demands are not new concerns, and are informed by both our lived experiences as LGBT people of color in Boston as well as by extensive writings by transgender women of color themselves,” said Daunasia Yancey, Black Lives Matter Boston (BLMB) and #WickedPissed co-organizer.
#WickedPissed insisted that Boston Pride recruits more people of color, trans people, and working-class people. In response to specific interview questions, Boston Pride (BP) issued a general statement* to The Rainbow Times that expressed its desire to be inclusive.
“Boston Pride WELCOMES everyone to participate in our events as we provide a safe and fun environment for people to be who they are,” its statement read.
Inclusivity without the adequate framework is not enough, according to Corey Yarbrough, Co-Organizer of #WickedPissed.
“We know our communities deserve more and demand Boston Pride does the necessary infrastructure work to properly represent and celebrate LGBTQ communities of Color, including those that extend beyond Black and Latino communities,” Yarbrough said.
Boston Pride’s position—via its statement—is that the #WickedPissed protestors that disrupted the parade “never contacted” them to communicate with them “about anything.”
“We would have welcomed a conversation with them and we have an open door POLICY for anyone who wants to join Boston Pride and help us carry out our mission of inclusiveness for all,” it read.
But, its mission of inclusiveness does not seem to resonate with #WickedPissed organizers. Currently, BP’s Board of Directors is comprised of nearly all white members with no black representation.* As such, the protestors demanded that Boston Pride get their “hands off” Black and [email protected] Pride.
“An organization that currently has no members of its Board of Directors who identify as Black should not be organizing a Black Pride week for Black people,” said Yarbrough. “This a textbook example of how the contributions of Black people can be both exploited and DEVALUED at the same time. It also projects an illusion of empowering people of Color when in reality major decisions are still made by individuals who don’t actually reflect the target community.”
On social media, people on both sides of the argument stressed the appropriateness of the protest taking place during the Pride Parade. According to Yancey, BP was the perfect place to demonstrate.
“As the mainstream LGBT narrative celebrates political and social progress, transgender women of color have seen very little of either. As LGBT identified folks ourselves, we knew it was imperative to bring this issue to the forefront within our own community, at our community’s largest event of the year, Pride. We also uplift the legacy of Pride as the offspring of the Stonewall Rebellion, which was led by poor Black and [email protected] trans women and gender non-conforming folks,” Yancey said.
Like Yancey, Ben Power Alwin, Executive Director and Curator of the Sexual Minorities Archives, echoed the importance of remembering historical grassroots efforts.
“We cannot divide ourselves internally or collectively along RACIAL lines in the LGBTQ Movement. We are all in this struggle for freedom together. I hope that all LGBTQ organizations and individuals, and especially all of our annual Prides, will reclaim the fight-back spirit of Stonewall,” said Power Alwin.
He also stressed the lessons learned as a result of the interconnection of Pride with the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Stonewall Riots.
“Our LGBTQ Pride marches began in 1970 to annually commemorate and continue the fight-back begun at the STONEWALL Rebellion, a pivotal uprising against oppression sparked by trans women of color who were the first to resist police brutality at the NYC bar,” Power Alwin said. “In the 1960s, gays and lesbians had learned from the example of the Black Civil Rights Movement the tactic of street picketing for homosexual rights at the Annual Reminder Day protests in Philadelphia and Washington DC. There is a long history of lessons learned by LGBTQ activists from Black activists; for example, the proud attitude in the slogan ‘Gay is Good’ followed closely in the footsteps of ‘Black is Beautiful’ in the 1970s.”
But in today’s Pride environment, according to Yarbrough, people of color are often forced into a categorical box relating to their intersectionality, leaving LGBT people of color in conflicted positions.
“Boston Pride has actually reinforced many of the stigmas and trauma that LGBTQ people of Color often face,” said Yarbrough. “For example, Boston Pride hosted their highly advertised gala on the same day and time as the opening Black/Latino Pride event, forcing Black and Latino LGBTQ people to choose between celebrating with their ethnic community at the expense of being excluded from the mainstream LGBTQ community.”
Despite criticism, Boston Pride insists otherwise.
“The Boston Pride committee was WICKED proud of our work in bringing together the community to honor everyone’s uniqueness and to pay tribute to those who have fought for equality for the LGBT community for the past four plus decades,” BP expressed via their statement. “Also, Boston Pride partnered this year with Black Pride and [email protected] to present more than a dozen events during pride week to bring together communities of color through a common theme “Carnaval – a celebration of culture, life and Pride – una celebracion de cultura, vida y orgullo.”
However, Carnaval, the Black & [email protected] Pride BOAT CRUISE that was scheduled to be held on June 14th was cancelled at the last minute.
When asked why the cruise was cancelled, Boston Pride responded with a general statement that read, “the cruise was not produced by Boston Pride, it was produced by a promoter as part of our [email protected] series of events where we promote certain events organized by others.” Yet, the PROMOTER who canceled the event, Nikki Sanders, is listed as a Boston Pride Committee member on BP’s website and her bio appears in the organization’s guide (p. 144).
Additional organizers have critiqued Boston Pride, saying they care more about having a good time than about the diverse people that are part of the LGBTQ community.
“…if you go to Boston Pride’s planning and organizing events, you’ll realize how focused Boston Pride is on parties, events and having a great time for certain PRIVILEGED gays, and how little they care about fighting unpopular battles for basic human rights,” said Lina M.
According to Yarbrough, this is a “unique moment for Boston Pride, as an organization, to listen and respond to the individuals they claim to honor instead of legitimizing their behavior by providing shallow, defensive excuses.”
The demands of #WickedPissed have been met with silence by the pride organization.
“The failure of Boston Pride to honor everyone’s uniqueness is more apparent through their actions than their words: Eleven (11) Transgender individuals, mostly of color, have been murdered this year with no response, statement or action from Boston Pride,” said Yarbrough. “They devalue our uniqueness as people of color by providing excuses instead of solutions for placing more people of Color and Trans individuals on their Board of Directors. They have failed to honor and empower LGBTQ communities of Color by prioritizing CORPORATIONS over our voices. Corporations, who have a record of bringing harm to communities of Color, are routinely more visible and more celebrated at the Boston Pride Parade than the LGBTQ organizations and agencies working year-round to eradicate the disparities LGBTQ people of Color face. Boston Pride has also failed to honor the experiences of #WickedPissed participants and other LGBTQ individuals of Color by not acknowledging or responding to the protest’s explicit and detailed demands.”
Protest organizers encourage readers to continue to raise awareness on the demands made to Boston Pride by using #WickedPissed on social media and on the Internet.
*Editor’s Note: Boston Pride was asked specifically to comment on the composition of its board, the amount of funds it allocated to Black & [email protected] Pride events, and their likelihood of handing Black and [email protected] Pride to the community. Boston Pride declined to comment on these issues, further stating that the “statement” they sent “is the only comment” they “will have.”