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Boston Pride says it is shutting down after being accused of racism and insufficient wokeness

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Organizers of Boston Pride, which is New England’s biggest annual event celebrating LGBTQ persons, have announced they will be ceasing operations after critics blamed the event for becoming racist and insufficiently ‘woke.’

“Over the past year, we have invested time and energy to address the concerns of the community, both with our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access work with Dorrington & Saunders and by forming the Transformation Advisory Committee comprised of members of the LGBTQIA+ community to help bring change to our organization,” the group noted in a statement. “We are grateful for all who have been involved in this process.

“It is clear to us that our community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride,” the statement continued. “We have heard the concerns of the QTBIPOC community and others. We care too much to stand in the way. Therefore, Boston Pride is dissolving. There will be no further events or programming planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization.”

This year’s event was postponed until October due to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, but it looks as if it won’t happen at all now following the group’s announcement.

According to the Boston Globe, the Pride organization has been increasingly criticized by the LGBTQ community for allegedly downplaying its activist roots and becoming too corporatized with sponsors that do not share similar social justice concerns.

The “long-simmering conflict,” the paper added, came to a head a year ago following protests that took off around the country in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The Pride board dismissed a statement that its own communications team drafted regarding the protests and instead “issued a watered-down version with consulting its Black Pride subcommittee members,” the Globe reported.

The rift came when the board decided to remove language supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We wrote in that statement, ‘We stand with Black Lives Matter. We stand against police brutality,’” Casey Dooley, the former chair of Boston Black Pride, told the Globe. “The communications team then gave that letter to the board. The board then proceeded to take out Black Lives Matter and police brutality.”

That pointed omission — at a time of raw, high emotions following Floyd’s death — led to calls for the entire Pride board to resign. It also led to such a negative response from the public that the Pride board postponed most of its June 2020 events and then apologized.

“Events over the past week have led the Boston Pride Board to examine itself and acknowledge that it needs to do more as a social justice organization to take substantive action to better address racism and white privilege within Boston Pride, the LGBTQ+ community and society at large,” the organization noted at the time.

Amid the criticism, members of the group’s black and Latinx communities met with the board members and gave them a list of demands. Says Dooley: “We explained how, if they would not resign, that we would be resigning ourselves. So over 80 percent of the volunteer force ended up resigning because the board came back and basically said…they won’t be stepping down.”

Several people who responded to the Boston Globe story expressed anger that one of the most significant pro-LGBTQ organizations in all of New England was essentially shut down by other progressive voices.

“I hope you’re happy. You’ve just destroyed one of the most benevolent, progressive, and positive gay organizations in New England,” one person wrote in response to the Globe story.

Jon Dougherty

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