Organizers of a Pride event in Seattle have been getting blowback after complaining about another event's plans to charge admission to white attendees only.
Taking B(l)ack Pride, a festival to be held Saturday in Seattle's Jimi Hendrix Park, announced that white attendees would be charged a "reparations fee" of $10 to $50, while the fest would be free to others. Capitol Hill Pride, which is planning an event at Cal Anderson Park the same day, filed a complaint with the Seattle Human Rights Commission over the Taking B(l)ack Pride policy, saying it constituted racial discrimination. Taking B(l)ack Pride organizers termed Capitol Hill Pride's action racist and reactionary.
Capitol Hill Pride is separate from Seattle Pride, which organizes the city's largest LGBTQ+ Pride events and is keeping them all virtual this year due to continuing COVID-19 concerns.
The Human Rights Commission rejected Capitol Hill Pride's complaint, with a letter saying, "The unique nature of your situation does not in fact violate any of your human rights." The letter was posted by several news sites, including Capitol Hill Seattle and Seattle Gay Scene.
"We would like to urge you to examine the very real social dynamics and ramifications of this issue," the letter continues. "Black trans and queer peoples are among the most marginalized and persecuted peoples within the LGBTQIA2s+ community. They often face shame not only from the cis-heteronormative community, but within the queer community at large as well. In making the event free to the Black queer community, the organizers of this event are extending a courtesy so rarely extended; by providing a free and safe space to express joy, share story, and be in community.
"We would like to recommend, if possible, that you educate yourself on the harm it may cause Seattle's BIPOC community in your pursuit of a free ticket to an event that is not expressly meant for you and your entertainment."
Several candidates for Seattle mayor canceled planned appearances at the Capitol Hill Pride event. The election will be held in November; Mayor Jenny Durkan, a lesbian, is not seeking reelection. And Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center issued a statement of solidarity with the organizers of Taking B(l)ack Pride, which include Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, Alphabet Alliance of Color, and Queer the Land.
"We unequivocally denounce the actions of Capitol Hill Pride Festival Directors Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson's efforts to weaponize the City of Seattle Human Rights Commission and the public to undermine the success of Taking B(l)ack Pride," says the statement, posted on the center's website.
Many other groups sided with the Taking B(l)ack Pride organizers as well, including Seattle Pride. "Reparations are an equitable way to redistribute resources, and Seattle Pride supports the organizers of Taking B(l)ack Pride in their efforts and why they are charging admission to non-Black folks," says a statement on the group's Facebook page. "To those running to the news with a sob story about having to pay a 'white fee,' you are perpetuating a serious level of danger and harm to Black folks who will be celebrating Pride (something that only exists because of Black trans women) by drawing the attention of white supremacists and more." The story received coverage in conservative publications including National Review.
Now LeFevre and Lipson have issued an apology for involving the Human Rights Commission. "It was not meant to be an attack or divide but to ensure equality for all," says a press release issued last Saturday night and posted by Seattle Gay Scene. "Capitol Hill Pride encourages community events and our mission is to recognize the LGBTQ+ community and all spectrums. We sincerely want to elevate the segment of the LGBTQ community especially of black transgender women, recognize the important history and contributions and support this segment of the hidden rainbow. At this time we have requested an invitation of a meeting of hosting parties to resolve any issues and find common ground."
Capitol Hill Pride was founded in 2008 "after the official Seattle Pride team moved the city's LGBTQ Pride Parade to downtown and the big festival to Seattle Center," Seattle Gay Scene reports. "Many in the community weren't happy about that, especially Capitol Hill business owners, so a group of them, including LeFevre and Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan, created a Pride Saturday street fair to take place on Broadway. The event was a big success and grew over the years but some producing snafus and rivalries with other Pride organizations in 2016 led official control of the Broadway event being taking away from LeFevre's Capitol Hill Pride group and given to Egan Orion's PrideFest team. Since then, LeFevre and partner Philip Lipson have produced smaller events usually at the Seattle Central College campus, also on Capitol Hill."