Black Lives Matter Boycott Utah Pride Center Events Amid “Lack of Diversity”
Black Lives Matter Utah has pulled out of this year’s Utah Pride Center festival over concerns about the event’s lack of diversity.
The LGBTQ organization has changed the way it prides itself this year, replacing its annual parade with two main events: a story garden and a rainbow march and rally.
The Garden of History is an outdoor exhibit, encapsulated like a maze around Washington Square in Salt Lake City. It aims to focus on educating the public on the history of pride, the stories of struggle and acceptance of community members and the resources of the center.
Rob Moolman, director of the Utah Pride Center, said this year’s events were intended to rekindle relationships within the LGBTQ community and raise under-represented voices.
“[We wanted] to ensure that the voices of those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, who have been marginalized in the margins, are raised, ” Moolman said.
Black Lives Matter Utah was scheduled to speak at the rally on Sunday, alongside other community organizers. But after BLM Utah member Quique “Dirk” Thomas went to the Garden of History this week, they issued a statement on the boycott of events.
Thomas said when they went into the garden and walked around the first thing they noticed was the lack of representation, especially with iconic historical figures such as gay activist Marsha P. Johnson.
“Marsha P. Johnson had two sentences on her notice board [and] like, one of our own white members had a bigger place [in the garden]Thomas said.
They said they were told the center would amplify the voices of blacks, natives and people of color – or BIPOC – in the garden, but it sounded more like a footnote.
Responding to concerns, Isaiah Mataele, head of community engagement at the Pride Center, said Johnson was “represented several times [in various mediums] among the more than 800 displays of the Pride Garden.
The pride center has been criticized in the past for diversity efforts in hiring practices, allegations of discrimination and lack of transparency. Thomas said last year that they had tried working with them to focus on bringing more queer people of color into the center.
Mataele said diversity was an issue at the center, but they worked hard on outreach efforts within the community.
He said it had been difficult to work as a person of color in a space that “recently discovered the value of diversity”.
“The reality is that the Utah Pride Center has been very gay-centric, very gay-centric,” Mataele said. “They have always focused on queer issues and they didn’t realize that by turning their backs on BIPOC issues, they were turning their backs on queer individuals in BIPOC. And so I think realization and mindfulness are new to the center. “
Mataele said he invited community organizations such as Urban Indian Center, OCA Asian Pacific Islander American Advocates, Latino Behavioral Health and more to participate in the garden.
He said that the “authentic representation which [they] could suitably furnish in the garden, is it. “
He said the center will continue to work for intersectionality by enabling BIPOC individuals like him to lead efforts to make an impact and benefit communities of color.