Many Volunteers of Boston Pride's
Workforce Ask Board to Resign
June 16th, 2020
Dear Boston Pride Board,
As members of the Boston Pride Committee and Black & Latinx Pride Committee, the body of volunteers that produce all the events and programming that comprise Boston Pride, we firmly believe the time has come for a change in leadership that ushers in a transformation of Boston Pride. We recognize the years of work the current members of the Boston Pride Board have devoted to Boston Pride. In the past decade, the Pride Parade, Festival, and organization have grown significantly. But the recent public outcry of racism and white privilege in response to the statement issued by the Boston Pride Board should compel everyone to ask who is being left behind. As is evident from the wave of feedback that Pride has received on multiple platforms, this last misstep is not an isolated incident of failing to adequately address racism, but part of a long history of poor relationships with Greater Boston’s communities of Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color (QTBIPOC). One highly salient example is the unfulfilled list of demands by Black Lives Matter activists in 2015, many of which still need to be fulfilled. (See end of document)
We demand all 6 members of the current board resign by August 31st, or otherwise defined by a Transition Committee, following the multi-stage transition plan outlined below. Our goal is to ensure the continuance of Boston Pride as an institution that serves the LGBTQ+ community for many years to come.
In order to create a more inclusive and equitable organization, as the dedicated workforce of Boston Pride, we demand that immediate steps be taken to hasten the transformation of Boston Pride. In the recent misstep the board rewrote portions of a letter written by the communications team, removed “#blacklivesmatters”, and posted it without discussing the revisions with the communications team, the Committee, or any Black people in the organization. The magnitude of the negative response from our LGBTQ+ community to the rewritten portions and the omission of “#blacklivesmatter” make clear that the current board of directors is out of step with the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Boston. In the past ten years, the board has made a series of race-related missteps, and the community has continuously called for a more diverse board and a focus on the lives of QTBIPOC. The time to diversify the board to include a majority of board members who identify as QTBIPOC is right now.
We recognize that, although more diverse than the board, the Boston Pride Committee also does not accurately represent the multiple voices of our diverse community. This is due, in part, to the poor history Boston Pride has had with respect to issues of race and white privilege. Few people of color choose to work as volunteers for the Pride Committee, and for those who do, Committee Meetings are often not experienced as a safe space. Despite years of pledging to do better on issues of race and white privilege, the current board has failed to prioritize anti-racism and diversity training for the Committee and for itself. The lack of diversity throughout the Pride organization indicates that the inability of Boston Pride to address issues of racism and white privilege continues to be systemic.
The current governance structure of Boston Pride helps keep this system in place. The bylaws grant the Pride Board complete and absolute power with no checks and balances. The board is empowered to make unilateral decisions without any formal provisions for accountability or transparency. This structure has allowed the board to close itself off from other voices, views, and frameworks – from the Committee, the community, and even the communications team. The Pride Board appoints and elects other board members, officers, and committee chairs. There are no term limits for serving on the board. There are no formal democratic structures for sharing power with the large numbers of volunteers on the Committee doing the bulk of the work. For example, in the past year, without any formal discussion or feedback (and definitely not shared decision-making) from the Committee, the Pride Board hired consultants and staff, selected the theme for Pride, selected marshals for Pride, selected honorary marshals for Pride, rescheduled Pride events, and canceled Pride events. The lack of checks and balances, power sharing, and democratic processes that ensure multiple voices within the organization are heard is not consistent with the ethics of a social justice organization. In order to continue volunteering for Boston Pride, we need to know that volunteer voices will be heard and that volunteers will formally participate in decision making, especially decisions related to the work we do.
We love and care about Pride and our primary commitment is to the LGBTQ+ community, especially sectors of the community that are in most need of having their voices, concerns, and lives amplified (QTBIPOC). Allowing the board to manage the transition will only serve to perpetuate the institutionalized power of the board. In order to interrupt the structural white privilege that has given shape to Pride for the past few decades, we demand that the following steps be taken. The steps below are intended to facilitate a smooth, but speedy transition that preserves the health and wellbeing of Boston Pride as an organization and regains the trust of the community.
We demand a change in leadership and governance structure as a means to usher in transformation in response to, and in solidarity with, a multitude of community voices that have been demanding transformation for years. As volunteers committed to the LGBTQ+ community and Boston Pride, we have an ethical obligation to respond to community demands while at the same executing a transition that preserves the well being of Pride. The time for change has come. If the board does not agree, in writing, to this transition plan by Friday, June 19th, the committee members who have signed this statement will submit their resignation.
Black Lives Matter statement at Boston Pride (2015)
We demand fair and equitable Pride fees. It is an outrage that community organizations and nonprofits, serving the most vulnerable of our LGBTQ community, cannot afford to march. We demand a higher corporate rate that covers the expense and fees for small nonprofit organizations to participate in Pride. If corporations are going to use Pride to profit from our community, they can at least pay more for the opportunity.
We demand that Boston Pride take their hands off Black and Latino Pride.
We demand that the funding allocated to Black and Latino Pride events be free of interference from Boston Pride’s predominately white board of directors, and used by the Black and Latino LGBTQ community as they see fit.
We demand more diversity in the board of directors for Boston Pride.
We demand that the board represent our community by recruiting people of color, trans people and working-class people. We demand a Pride board as diverse as our community, and not solely comprised of wealthy white capitalist gays and lesbians.
We demand that corporate sponsors be approved not only based on how they treat their LGBTQ employees, but on how they treat their customers and the communities in which they operate.
Big-bank sponsors and participants are complicit with gentrification and predatory lending that have had devastating impacts on communities of color. There’s no pride in corporate destruction of Black and Brown communities! We demand a review board of all corporate sponsors that will reject corporations that exploit the most vulnerable of our community.
We demand a Pride parade route that marches through a community of color. Hosting Boston Pride in the South End and downtown area purposely excludes communities of color and perpetuates the idea that communities of color are somehow more homophobic than white people. We all know better and demand a Pride that includes our neighborhoods!
We demand that Boston Pride remembers that Pride started as a riot led by trans and gender non-conforming people of color!
Our liberation as LGBTQ people isn’t finished. Without the liberation of all oppressed people, it will never be complete. We demand that Pride themes focus on the political issues of our diverse community. We don’t need more parties and meaningless themes. We need justice.