“I cannot in all conscience continue to lend the DIVA name to an event which has consistently failed in its duty to include everyone in the LGBTQI+ community”
BY LINDA RILEY, DIVA PUBLISHER
Rhammel Afflick’s resignation from the board of Pride In London is the most recent – but by no means the only – example of how people of colour feel that the capital’s Pride does not represent them. Afflick, now the former Director of Communications, has been joined by five senior volunteers, prompting yet another apology from senior Pride In London figures.
Pride In London has form: in 2015, there was outrage after UKIP were allowed to take part in the parade – a decision that was later reversed – and in 2018, leading equality charity Stonewall refused to take part in the event, citing lack of Black, Asian and Ethnic minority inclusivity as the chief driver for their decision. UK Black Pride, which formerly ran their event under the Pride In London umbrella, has been run entirely independently for the past four years.
It is against this backdrop that I have taken the difficult but unavoidable decision to withdraw DIVA’s support for the Women’s Stage in Leicester Square, a space that we fought for and were proud to put our name to. With the help of lesbian and bi volunteers at Pride In London, DIVA worked hard to place women left, right and centre of the Pride In London celebrations over the past four years, and we brought the Women’s Stage from the comparative backwater of Soho Square to the centre of the Pride action.
But I cannot in all conscience continue to lend the DIVA name to an event which has consistently failed in its duty to include everyone in the LGBTQI+ community. And so, to be absolutely clear, as well as no longer lending the DIVA name to the Women’s Stage, we will no longer have an official presence in the parade which we were so proud to lead in 2019.
Pride’s statement that “we know we must do better…” now has a hollow ring to it. It is the latest in a long line of “lessons must be learned” apologies but it is evident that nothing has actually changed. Words are no longer enough; the entire management structure of Pride In London has to change and has to change now, and I believe that must include the immediate resignation of Co-Chair Michael Salter-Church.
Mr Salter-Church, a former adviser to the Conservative Party, is a director at telecoms giant Openreach and also a council member of the National Trust, and it may be that he is spreading himself too thinly to be able to give these most serious of allegations the attention they deserve. And while he deserves credit for turning around the financial fortunes of Pride In London since he took over in 2013, it seems quite obvious that his tenure has reached its natural conclusion. Which is why I am calling for his resignation.
This is not meant to be a personal attack against Mr Salter-Church, but having led an organisation for eight years which is consistently being called out for racism within its own ranks, the time is surely now for a change. It’s not enough to apologise – we need to know how Pride In London plans to change the situation. We, the LGBTQI+ community, can no longer be by-standers. Silence is complicity.
London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and it is nothing short of scandalous that the biggest diversity event in such a diverse city is represented by a board which chiefly comprises white, cis, gay men. Without significant leadership from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority members of the LGBTQI+ community (and I speak as an ethnic minority lesbian myself) young BAME talent will continue to be unrepresented and those whose talents should be nurtured will fall by the wayside. Claims of diversity are meaningless unless they extend across the LGBTQI+ spectrum, and this extends to trans representation on Pride In London’s board.
The time for words is over. Now, we need action. As a first step, Pride In London should immediately appoint a board that is reflective of the whole of our community because in order to be able to influence change there should be a diversity of opinion from the very top.
As an LGBTQI+ community, we must demonstrate our commitment to intersectionality and inclusivity at all times and, while I am not entirely closing the door on any future support for Pride In London from DIVA, the organisation will need to demonstrate in deeds rather than words that nobody within our rainbow community is excluded from the UK’s biggest LGBTQI+ event.
Our readership is diverse. Our community is diverse. Until we see our whole selves represented at Pride In London, we will not be back.
Linda Riley, DIVA Publisher and founder of Lesbian Visibility Week – Monday 26 April to Sunday 2 May 2021 lesbianvisibilityweek.com
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