Despite lip service, “community forums,” and a stated desire to work with the community, Capital Pride’s lack of substantive change extends its legacy of neglecting marginalized communities into 2018. All signs indicate that Capital Pride 2018 will once again celebrate weapons manufacturers, corrupt banks, and police departments, aligning itself with those who profit off of the oppression of the most marginalized members of our communities.
In May 2017, prior to the 2017 Pride parade actions, No Justice No Pride presented a set of demands to the Capital Pride Alliance. Created in coalition with local grassroots organizations, these demands sought to address Capital Pride’s neglect of historically marginalized* trans and queer people. Further, the demands offered a way for Capital Pride to end its complicity - primarily through its partnerships with harmful corporate entities and law enforcement agencies - with systems of oppression that target trans and queer people.
The demands emerged after members of No Justice No Pride attended board meetings, a “community forum” with Capital Pride, and met one-on-one with some of its board members. Despite being told that our concerns were being “heard,” Capital Pride took no substantive actions and made no policy changes prior to the 2017 parade. No Justice No Pride took action, blocking the parade at multiple points, in order to get Capital Pride to agree to implement our demands. Though representatives of Capital Pride refused to agree to any of our demands on the spot, this kicked off a (very slow) process of negotiation between No Justice No Pride and Capital Pride.
In early April, we gave Capital Pride’s leadership a survey, asking them to indicate any areas of progress. It also included a request for demographic information about the board’s makeup, and asked them to identify any new policies that had been put in place. Capital Pride declined to complete the survey, instead sending us an email vaguely addressing some of the questions. Capital Pride’s responses are included below. All quotes are from an email sent by Board President Ashley Smith on April 15, 2018.
We are sharing this information in the interest of transparency. We want to make sure the community knows what changes have been made, and what still needs to be addressed. Draw your own conclusions, but ours are clear: Capital Pride has yet to do much of anything to address its shortcomings. As we’ve said before, Capital Pride can and must do better.
Demand #1: Centering Trans Women of Color
Capital Pride will honor the legacy of Pride and the trans women of color who inspired it by ensuring that trans women of color play a central role in decision-making processes. Further:
- Capital Pride's executive board will include a paid position for a trans woman of color with deep connections to DC's trans community. A DC Native is preferred.
- Capital Pride will consult and listen to the needs of trans women of color to ensure that Pride is safe and accessible to trans women of color and that it does not erase their historic role in the birth of pride.
Capital Pride Response:
"Capital Pride Alliance had open call for Board Members and several new members joined our team. Our Board now has a greater diversity and representation of our community to include new Trans members, Women and members of the POC Community. And we have increased the number of board members, which falls in line with our bylaws and allows for greater inclusion of thoughts and voices from all parts of our community."
Our Take: We didn’t ask for “diversity” - we asked for representation and equity. Adding new people to a board without asking those on the board who have disproportionately been overrepresented to step aside is not enough. Further, from what we can tell, Capital Pride does not have trans women of color in leadership positions, nor do they offer any sort of compensation for board members, making it difficult for marginalized communities to take on these roles.
Demand #2: Stop Celebrating the Police
Capital Pride will take a strong position against state violence and end its endorsement of MPD and other law enforcement agencies. This will happen by:
- No longer allowing MPD or any other law enforcement agency to march in the Pride parade.
- Committing to scale back police presence at all Capital Pride events.
- Barring from participation in its festivities recruiters from any local, state, and federal law enforcement department or agency.
Capital Pride Response:
“We will be working with MPD on their presence during our events. This has been an ongoing dialogue and will continue to be.”
Our Take: DC’s policing crisis is not getting better. As MPD use of force increases, and the department fails to report its stop-and-frisk data, further evading accountability, it is unacceptable for Capital Pride to uncritically embrace and celebrate the police. No Justice No Pride joined forces with Stop Police Terror Project to meet with Capital Pride earlier this year and provide them an overview of the NEAR act and what they can do to address DC’s policing crisis. Capital Pride knows the facts and they acknowledge the problem. It’s time for them to take a stand.
Demand #3: Address Neglect of Native Communities
Capital Pride will address its neglect of native, indigenous and two-spirit communities. Capital Pride will make this happen by:
- Creating a paid managerial position within Capital Pride reserved for a native or indigenous leader (Preferably of the Piscataway nation.)
- Officially and publicly recognize that Capital Pride takes place on Piscataway land and make a formal commitment to work with indigenous and two spirit communities.
Capital Pride Response: [None]
Our Take: Though they included the phrase “two-spirit” in their official 2018 pride graphics, Capital Pride’s complete silence on these issues is telling and confirms that we must continue to take action to support two-spirit and Native members of our communities.
Demand #4: Restructure the Board
Capital Pride will commit to restructuring, replacing and expanding its board of directors to represent and center the leadership of historically marginalized* communities. This will happen by:
- Replacing the executive board with people who are open to feedback, accountable to the community, and representative of marginalized communities.
- The executive board will include trans people of color (binary and non-binary inclusive), queer and trans DC natives, queer and trans youth, bisexuals, individuals with disabilities and indigenous and two spirit individuals.
- Capital Pride will immediately begin the process of creating a transparent and democratic process for selecting board members.
- Capital Pride will create an outreach committee that regularly meets with local trans and queer people of other intersecting marginalized identities
Capital Pride Response:
“Capital Pride Alliance had open call for Board Members and several new members joined our team. Our Board now has a greater diversity and representation of our community to include new Trans members, Women and members of the POC Community. And we have increased the number of board members, which falls in line with our bylaws and allows for greater inclusion of thoughts and voices from all parts of our community.
Our Board Leadership team has changed and diversified from years past to include a POC as the President of the Board and a woman to the leadership team.
Within our Board structure, we have also re-engaged the committees of our Board to ensure we are increasing the work we do around community engagement and creating an environment of Board engagement on all levels, while being accountable to our community and fellow Board members.
Our Volunteer Leadership structure was restructured to further include those leading our events with the announcement of Chairs for our premier events and these leadership roles are all members of a diverse background to include POC, women and Trans leaders.”
Our Take: To be fair, Capital Pride did ask the board member who referred to us last year as “terrorists” to resign. But other than that, their changes in structure have been minimal. We are encouraged to see a new president and new faces on the board, but we still do not feel that our communities are adequately represented by Capital Pride. Capital Pride declined to respond to our questions about the board’s specific demographic makeup, and has yet to release its bylaws or any details about the way that board members are selected. Further, there are no indications that intentional outreach was done with underrepresented communities - and barriers to participation, such as lack of compensation and donation requirements remain intact. Diversity is important, but without having those who have been historically overrepresented on the board step aside, we’re unlikely to see significant improvement in Capital Pride’s operations.
Demand #5: Cut Ties with Harmful Corporate Sponsors
Capital Pride will bar corporate entities that inflict harm on historically marginalized LGBTQ2S people from participation in Pride events. This will happen by:
- Barring all industries that profit from war, detention and incarceration, environmental destruction, evictions, community displacement and Israel's oppression of Palestinians from participation in Capital Pride events.
- Restricting all corporate branding and signage in future Capital Pride events.
Creating transparent and robust standards for screening corporations that wish to support Capital Pride.
- Immediately cutting ties with Wells Fargo, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Leidos, Northrop Grumman, and any other defense contractors. Transfer Capital Pride funds to an account with a local credit union.
- Immediately cut ties with Wells Fargo and defense contractors and donate any and all funds from them to local community based organizations that support queer, trans, two-spirit and Muslim communities.
Capital Pride Response:
“Via Community Forums with community partners including a member from NJNP, we have looked closely at our sponsorship guidelines and we do plan to share our guidelines with the community in the coming weeks. The new guidelines will be in effect moving forward into our next Pride Season. However, the work will begin immediately as the sponsorship process takes place all year long.”
Our Take: Soon after the parade last year, Capital Pride claimed it would be developing sponsorship guidelines. This process was extremely slow, and we are not surprised that Capital Pride will not be implementing any new standards for 2018. NJNP did participate in one “community forum,” which was discouraging to say the least. Capital Pride’s proposed “guidelines” - as we know them - require sponsors to score at least 70% on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (which is deeply problematic) and not be listed as an SPLC-designated hate group. We ran the numbers: these guidelines will not exclude any existing sponsors. Further, these discussions have refused to engage which the specific reasons that we asked for certain sponsors to be excluded, namely, the fact that they profit off of private prisons, war, and environmental destruction and native genocide.
Overall: Not Much Has Changed at Capital Pride
It’s safe to say we are not pleased with Capital Pride’s lack of progress. No substantive changes have been made to address the concerns of those who feel they have been left behind and pushed out of pride. In this political climate, Capital Pride’s insistence on continuing business as usual is unacceptable. Based on this lack of progress, it is difficult to imagine they have any real intention of addressing the issues the community has identified. No Justice No Pride will continue to push for these and other changes so that pride can be something we are actually proud of.