Pride executive director Olivia Nuamah defends decision to allow police back into parade

"The legacy and complexity of the problems of marginalization we seek to solve started well before Black Lives Matter and their protest during the parade in 2016," writes Nuamah

In my time with Pride Toronto I’ve set out to do two things: to talk to people about their experiences, and to work with whomever wants to work with us on making better the issues raised by Black Lives Matter–Toronto and others about the intersection of Blackness and queerness in Pride.

This two-fold mandate has taken me on a journey of empathy and learning over the last two years that’s still unfolding with Pride’s recent decision to invite the police back into the parade next year.

But the legacy and complexity of the problems of marginalization we seek to solve started well before Black Lives Matter and their protest during the parade in 2016. Because to start there would negate the Black networks and communities that have been engaging in this conversation since Harriet Tubman led slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

Travelling further back in time, our conversation is not unlike the ways in which Indigenous communities across Canada fought their colonization.

Collaboration and conversation are not often seen as instruments of resistance. But if you are a lifelong student of the ways that institutions use oppressive policies and practices to exercise control, then you would also know that, all over the world communities of colour have negotiated with these institutions.

Black Lives Matter made all of us realize (or perhaps remember) that the place to inspire visionary strategies, to start breakthrough collaborations and to pave the way to powerful new movements is at the intersection of diverse identities and communities.

The fact that Black women created and continue to lead this movement based on the things that make us who we are is a profound validation for all of us. Also, to see Black people all over the world make the movement their own is awe-inspiring. It is exactly how Black liberation movements through time have moved us all forward.

In the LGBTQ2+ community, Black Lives Matter has a different starting place it is a movement within a movement. For Black Canadians, our queerness only deepens our narratives of survival. This means that, to manifest its ideals, we must engage with every element of the Black community, both queer and not, conservative and not.

Our stories have become inextricably linked the outcomes of our individual experiences will be shared. That means that our lives depend on the ability for all of us to be reflected.

Next year marks the 50th year of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. The shift from criminalization to decriminalization is a one-dimensional narrative, fixed in a single point in time and missing many criminal justice problems that, as always, fall heavily on communities of colour and queer communities in particular.

The serial killings that occurred in the Village, for example, raised a lot of questions about victimization, particularly at the intersection of colour, culture and LGBTQ2+ experiences.

How to move ahead: that is the chapter we’re all about to write together.

Unless there is a more nuanced understanding of the ongoing shifts of who we all are, of the vulnerability that queer young people face and of the ways in which family, economics, neighbourhood and school interact, we will not address the substantive issues our communities face.

This can only be done through a process that values partnership, invites organizations that seek to reform to the table and formally plans a road map for change.

The Toronto Police Service, along with the many agencies that impact all communities of colour, must work together to realize change.

This is why we invited them to apply to take part in next year’s parade – we are seeking to start a new relationship, with real and positive outcomes, through doing the actual work it will take to make the change we all seek.

Pride’s strategy has never, ever been isolation. It has been tireless and continuous negotiation. The lives of our children have always depended on the successful outcomes of those conversations.     

Olivia Nuamah is executive director of Pride Toronto.


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