Reckoning with Justice: Pride Edition
By KJ Ward
Following the murder of George Floyd, organizations large and small, highly-commercial and public-serving, local and international were challenged to examine their philosophies of structural racism and how racism might manifest within their organizations. Many made public commitments toward an anti-racism agenda.
Organizations working toward LGBTQ liberation were no exception, many looking inward and many being scrutinized from the outside about how (or if) their work addressed racism. Within this category, Pride organizations – those responsible for organizing and producing the set of summertime LGBTQ celebrations across the country and around the world – have been faced with this opportunity to reckon with their roles in upholding inequality and to chart a course toward justice for all.
The history of critique of LGBTQ civil rights organizations is long, starting with what many progressive parts of the community saw as a centering of gay white men and the relegation of queer women, trans folks, and people of color to the margins of the mainstream movement. Pride organizations have contended with the critique that what began as a highly political movement for the most basic of civil rights had turned into a parade of corporate sponsorship that ignored the fact that full equality under the law still seemed elusive.
Today, the reckoning is (also) this: What role have LGBTQ organizations played in upholding systems that marginalize BIPOC communities? To what degree do LGBTQ organizations see the liberation of Black, brown, and Indigenous peoples as central to equality for queer and trans people? How close are we to understanding that the LGBTQ community is the definition of intersectionality and that if disabled LGBTQ people and LGBTQ immigrants and neurodiverse LGBTQ people and LGBTQ women and LGBTQ Native people and incarcerated LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color suffer disproportionately then, by definition, the LGBTQ community suffers?
In just the last two years, we’ve seen mainstream Pride organizations unable to successfully align with Black LGBTQ leaders in reimagining a more intentional, inclusive Pride agenda. We’ve seen at least once instance of an entire Pride organization make the choice to dissolve in response to a call to center the experiences of queer and trans BIPOC communities. In the coming months we’re hoping to dive deeper into the idea of what a “reckoning with justice” looks like at the intersection of LGBTQ rights and BIPOC liberation – asking critical questions of thoughtful leaders in this space:
What should we be thinking of in terms of BIPOC leadership within LGBTQ orgs and LGBTQ leadership within BIPOC orgs?
Is there an ideal model of cross-organization collaboration?
What does it look like to constructively name and repair an organizational culture or internal practices that perpetuate racism, sexism, or transphobia?
We are going to dive into these questions and more. We hope you’ll join us for the conversation.
KJ Ward is a freedom fighter with a love of language and an appreciation of the power of the written word. Earlier in his career he worked as a case manager for the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services and as the director of Boston GLASS, a supportive services and advocacy program for LGBTQ youth. KJ also worked for several years as a communications specialist for McKinsey & Company in Germany.
Today, KJ partners with a small group of clients in service of their communications strategy and organizational development needs. He is a proud and active member of both the board of directors of Gender Spectrum and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and from time to time he publishes his own writing. KJ is also a registered yoga teacher, committed to bringing this practice of individual and community liberation to those whose access to it has been limited.
KJ earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Harvard University.