The Halifax Pride festival is undergoing a sea of change this year.
Not only is the festival predominately moving online due to COVID-19, but the organizing committee is also standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and vowing to work with members of the Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) community to increase supports.
“We have to share what we know, what we’ve experienced, how we can reconcile with people that are racists, for example,” said John R. Sylliboy, a two-spirited Indigenous man and interim executive director at the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance.
“These are opportunities for that dialogue to take place. It’s taking it back and making sure that our sense of perspectives, and our teachings, and our ceremonial wisdom, helps us along that way.”
OmiSoore Dryden is a Black queer femme and James R. Johnston chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.
She says it’s crucial to use Pride as a time to honour the Black, trans and POC who sparked the LGBTQ2S+ revolution and continue to be at the centre of civil rights activism.
“Making sure that society shifts in a way where we no longer are marginalized by the systems that are in place. We’re not over-policed, we have access to care, we get to be partnered, either with a single partner or multiple partners, we get to have children. We get to be in the world in our unique way and not have to mirror what others think are normal, in order to be rewarded with respect,” Dryden said.
Halifax Pride along with Pride festivals across North America are acknowledging their contributions to the marginalization of the QTBIPOC community.
Dryden says racism within the LGBTQ2S+ community is a longstanding issue that Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour have been calling out for years.
“We need to talk about racism in predominately white LGBTQ organizing and groups like Pride. It’s not enough just to claim that Black, queer and trans people are accepted or included. It actually means that there needs to be a thoughtful look at the ways in which systemic anti-Black racism continues to harm Black, queer and trans people,” Dryden said.
The Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance is raising a Pride teepee on the Garrison Grounds on July 20.
Sylliboy says the teepee will serve as a safe place for knowledge and culture sharing.
“We do it with our teachings, we do it with respect and honesty and using wisdom to move forward,” Sylliboy said.
Geordy Joseph Marshall, the executive director of Pride Eskasoni and Bear Clan member, says the aim of Pride from the Two-Spirit perspective is to increase the visibility of their community.
“We can move forward through education and following that truth and reconciliation process to understand and acknowledge the two-spirit community within our own nation itself,” Marshall said.
Dryden feels it’s time for Pride festivals to be restructured so that marginalized voices within the community are the ones leading the organizing.
“We need to center the most marginal amongst queer and trans people. These are the people, I think need to be centered in the work and then decide what would be a good Pride,” she said.
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