Group plans alternative Pride celebration

Some local activists have a message for people of color within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community: “Pick a Pride.”

Ariana Steele, the co-founder of Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus, is offering an alternative to the annual Stonewall Columbus Pride festival and parade which draws hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and their supporters Downtown. Steele’s group is planning its own event, Columbus Community Pride, on June 16 — the same day as Stonewall’s parade.

The move to create a separate Pride event, which will take place at Mayme Moore Park in the King-Lincoln neighborhood, was prompted by a series of events last year that Steele said illustrated Stonewall Columbus’ inability to accommodate marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community.

Last summer, four protesters — two of whom regularly attended meetings of Steele’s group — were arrested after interrupting the Stonewall Columbus Pride parade. Steele said the four were protesting the lack of intersectionality — a term used to describe accommodating multiple identities within a movement — as well as the “overwhelming” volume of police at Stonewall Columbus Pride.

″(Collaboration with police) makes it not inclusive because people of color historically have had bad experiences with police,” Steele said. “By collaborating with the police for their Pride … Stonewall is showing they’re not taking into account the needs of people of color in their community.”

Three of the protesters were sentenced in March to community service and probation. A fourth protester was accused of reaching for an officer’s gun during the incident. That case is still pending.

Steele and BQIC co-founder Dkeama Alexis began thinking about changes after the arrests. They organized protests in support of the #BlackPride4 and began planning what they call a more-inclusive Pride festival.

Columbus Community Pride kicks off June 2 with a dance party at The Summit, 2210 Summit St., and will be followed by a series of educational events leading up to the June 16 festival.

Through fundraising, all events will be free to the public.

“We make an explicit effort to hear the most-marginalized voices,” Steele said. “When I say marginalized, I mean folks who are black and trans and poor and disabled and immigrants.”

BQIC hired a black, trans-owned security company to monitor the festival. There will be about eight security guards, and they will be armed, Steele said.

Unlike Stonewall Columbus, Columbus Community Pride organizers say they will not accept corporate sponsors.

Stonewall Columbus officials say the the scope of the annual Pride festival requires a police presence.

The annual festival attracts 500,000 to 700,000 people, so security is not only a city requirement but necessary for protection, said Stonewall Columbus Pride coordinator Sabrina Boykin.

“While I completely understand and respect (BQIC’s) perspective, we still have a need to make sure that the very credible threats we are given every year … are not threats that are carried out,” she said.

Stonewall Columbus was required by the court to testify “involuntarily” during the #BlackPride4 trial and sent a letter requesting leniency in sentencing and no jail time, said Stonewall Columbus Interim Director Deb Steele.

Deb Steele — no relation to Ariana Steele — said Stonewall Columbus is “very much” in support of BQIC’s event and message.

“Stonewall does not have a monopoly on Pride,” Boykin said. “Pride is something that should be experienced in every community. … I think it’s wonderful they’re doing their own Pride.”

But, Boykin said, the growth of the Stonewall Columbus Pride event and having corporate sponsors aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It wasn’t that long ago that people were being fired for marching in the parade,” Boykin said. “The fact that we can march proudly with our corporate sponsors is a true testament to how far we’ve come. It’s something I wouldn’t want to take away from those employees.”

Originally published by The Columbus Dispatch on June 1, 2018.

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