There will be one less parade returning to Boston’s streets this summer. The colorful, joyous Pride Parade is no more. Organized by The Boston Pride Group, the parade was the highpoint of June’s Pride Month, and a celebration of LGBTQ folks from Boston and the region.
What began as a public political statement raising awareness about gay and transgender issues became better known as an event characterized by boisterous street merrymaking sponsored by corporate cash.
The Pride Parade was canceled in 2020, a victim of the pandemic, but last year it was axed for good because of simmering intracommunity tensions — tensions that eventually boiled over, splintering the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community in a Biblical-sized dispute. During the last several years, the 50-year-old Boston Pride Group was at odds with the multiple other smaller LGBTQ organizations and community groups.
Public flareups increased in 2015, when Black Lives Matter protestors demonstrated at the annual Pride Parade demanding the mostly white leadership expand the participation of people of color. The online magazine Quillette cites the formal statement of activists’ ultimatums, part of which read, “We demand a Pride Board as diverse as our community, and not solely comprised of wealthy white capitalist gays and lesbians.”
It got worse after the murder of George Floyd. Most of Boston Pride’s volunteer staff resigned after claiming the formal statement — shaped by Black Pride members and released by the organization — was weakened without their permission. Quillette detailed specific revisions: one replaced the words “police violence” with “violence committed by some members of the law enforcement community," and the line “Oppressions are interlocked, no one is free until we are all free. #blacklivesmatter” was replaced with “No one is free until we are all free. We are #BostonPride #WickedProud."
The oft-repeated “Pride goeth before the fall” is actually a shortened version of the original verse from Proverbs 16:18 — which explains the lead up to a fall from grace, and this particular fall from grace — “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” There was apparently plenty of “haughty spirit” infiltrating The Boston Pride Group.
The organization officially dissolved last year, having failed to listen to the voices of nonwhite gay and trans people, which is especially ironic for an organization dedicated to inclusion. Tre’ Andre Valentine, the executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, told GBH News, “The previous Pride events didn’t really feel — for a lot of trans people, for a lot of people of color — like it was for us.”
In the absence of the old Boston Pride parade, several community groups this month are hosting a variety of Pride events including parades throughout the region. This time the formerly marginalized LGBTQ groups will be integral to leadership and participation. That will be essential in building the next chapter of the local Pride movement.
Callie Crossley @calliecrossley
Callie Crossley hosts Under the Radar with Callie Crossley and shares radio essays each Monday on GBH’s Morning Edition. She hosts Basic Black, which focuses on current events impacting communities of color and appears weekly on Beat the Press, examining local and national media coverage.