BLMTO’s Pride action is a reminder that a good time cannot always be had by all

It was all smiles at the Pride parade celebrations until the city got a reminder of the inconvenient truth of.


It was all smiles at the Pride parade celebrations until the city got a reminder of the inconvenient truth of anti-Black racism.

Thousands of revelers crowded along Yonge St. for Pride Toronto’s marquee parade on Sunday (June 25). Amid the spectacle of confetti and rainbows, spectators danced to the sounds of Abba’s Dancing Queen and Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts emanating from passing floats.

For the second year in a row, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne attended the parade. Trudeau and wife Sophie waved to the crowd and posed for photos, with Pride’s Executive Director Olivia Nuamah steps behind.

The participating concessions featured crowd pleasers like candy, temporary rainbow tattoos, rainbow flags and water guns.

The parade was just minutes from ending when green and red smoke signalled the surprise appearance of members of Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) who were greeted by an eruption of applause as they made their way down Yonge. The group assembled in formation, with core members holding signs reading, May we never again have to remind you that we built this.

Draped in the group’s symbolic black, with some members donning veils to symbolize a state of mourning for the countless deaths and injustices heaped upon the Black community, the group led by Ravyn Wngz marched in poised unison, at times pausing while bearing fists held above their heads and chanting “Black lives matter, Black trans lives matter!

BLM-TO co-founder Rodney Diverlus took members of the media to task when asked later why the group hadnt registered for this years parade.

We’re stuck in semantics. All of the questions seem to be ‘are you registering or not registering?’ [or] around what the police are doing. But that’s irrelevant, Diverlus told a scrum of reporters. Black queer and trans people are the cornerstone of the creation of Pride and as our community given that this is our community, given that this is our Pride we don’t need to register. We’ll come and we’ll talk about anti-Black racism. And in the tradition of Black resistance, we’ll take up space, said Diverlus. We just finished a two-week inquest into the [police shooting] death of Andre Loku [and] no one’s asking about that.

The theatrical show of resistance stood in stark contrast to the frivolity of the afternoons festivities, stirring supportive chants and the ire of some members of the crowd. One onlooker went so far as to turn her back to the BLMTO contingent in the parade before declaring the Pride flag in her hand to be the “inclusion” she wants to see.

BLMTO’s action also served as a reminder that a good time cannot always be had by all. And if the celebration of the radical idea to accept and support the rights and existence of marginalized Canadians is not extended to queer Canadians of all intersections, then what celebration is there to be had?

That some Canadians don’t like to be reminded of police killings of Black men and that acquittals for the few officers charged are routine, was clear from the reception for BLMTO Sunday, from the distant boos to water guns turned mockingly on demonstrators (and my camera and I) from some members of the crowd. It was a rude awakening for a lot of us.

shantalo@nowtoronto.com | @Shantal_Ot

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