Toronto to Host First In-Person Global Black Pride in 2022

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Phyll Opoku-Guimah is serving as the director of Global Black Pride’s human rights conference.
Global Black Pride

The third annual edition of a Pride event celebrating Black queer people around the world online will be presented in a hybrid format in Toronto in 2022, giving folks an opportunity to participate in the festivities in person for the first time.

After the first two years were entirely virtual, Global Black Pride organizers hope the millions of online viewers who attended in the past will come to the weekend-long in-person and virtual event slated for July 28-31, 2022. Global Black Pride is spearheading the event with support from a Toronto-based organization called Blackness Yes! as well as Pride Toronto, which produces the annual Pride festivities in the city.

The annual event highlights Black queerness and the Black LGBTQ community’s past and future contributions to the LGBTQ movement.

The hybrid in-person and virtual Black Pride event will feature a human rights conference, resources, workshops, performances, a festival, and a parade. It will also spotlight Toronto’s queer Black community’s history and vibrance, according to a press release.

“We are a global community of vibrant, strong people, and we need to celebrate that,” Global Black Pride Vice President Rikki Nathanson, a Zimbabwean transgender woman asylee who lives in Washington, DC, told Gay City News. “Celebrate our diversity, our culture, our fabulosity.

“It was really important for us to meet in person more as a celebration, not only of our culture and our diversity but also to celebrate our Blackness and our unity … as Black global citizens,” Nathanson added.

The event’s organizers see it as a commemoration of injustices committed against queer Black people and their struggles.

Blackness Yes! programmer Craig Dominic told Gay City News he was thrilled that Toronto and Blackness Yes!, which produces Toronto Black Pride and Blockobana, was selected as the first city and organization to host the live Global Black Pride event.

Toronto Black Pride coincides with Caribana and Canada’s Emancipation Day in July/August and ends with the daylong celebration, Blockobana.

“Black Pride is a political act whether we’re protesting or dancing,” said Dominic, a 42-year-old gay Black man who is looking forward to working with the Global Black Pride team to produce the event.

Dominic said that Blockobana will be the “perfect closing party.”

Blackness Yes! has created safe spaces for “African, Black and Caribbean LGBTQ2S folk in Toronto,” for nearly a quarter-century. The organization produces events that celebrate and uplift Canada’s Black LGBTQ community and provides services to the community throughout the year.

In 2022, Toronto Black Pride will celebrate its fifth anniversary and Blockobana will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Global Black Pride was founded in 2020 amidst the global racial reckoning and the pandemic when many Pride events either went on hiatus or went virtual. It started as an initiative sponsored by Global Black Gay Men Connect. Grindr For Equality, the nonprofit arm of the gay social network and dating app, backed the first two Pride events , according to Global Black Pride’s co-founder and president Micheal Ighodaro, and in-kind donations were provided. The organization has not set up a budget to date for its 2022 event.

The Black Pride organization is no longer associated with Global Black Gay Men Connect, Gerald Garth, Global Black Pride’s head of events, media, and communications, told Gay City News.

The first two annual Global Black Pride events — themed “First-Ever Global Black Pride is a Riot” in 2020 and “What About Us?” in 2021 — were hosted virtually across the globe. An estimated seven million viewers and 10 million viewers, respectively, tuned into the 11-hour events featuring performances and workshops from each continent, according to the release.

Longing to be seen and celebrated

Ighodaro, a 34-year-old gay Black Nigerian individual who has called New York home for a decade, told Gay City News that there was a need for an event like Global Black Pride.

Black queer people needed to see themselves reflected, he said. Events like the Black Pride event fulfill a need for people to see others like themselves without feeling “othered” or “tokenized.”

“Many of us find ourselves othered in both LGBTQ and Black communities,” Dominic said about the importance of Black Pride.

Ighodaro said he felt that Black queer people are usually only given space as a side event, not front and center of the white mainstream LGBTQ movement, and have largely been invisible. The Black gay agenda, Ighodaro said, is focused on decriminalization of same-sex relationships and police brutality, not same-sex marriage or to serve openly in the military — and Black queer issues have not gained the white majority support.

Mind-blowing

The overwhelming response to the Global Black Pride event has shown that there is strong demand for such an initiative.

“People have been so enthusiastic, and the response has been so mind-blowing,” Ighodaro said. “They never knew how important a global Pride would be until we started this initiative. There is the space and the need for it.”

Nathanson added, “It goes to show not only how important this event is, but how crucial it is for this event to happen.”

Andre Thomas, the first gay Black man to co-chair Heritage of Pride, Inc., which produces New York City’s main Pride March and related events, was happy to discover the event, even though it was after it passed.

“I definitely felt thrilled that there was a space that could connect this community on a much larger scale than has been in the past,” Thomas wrote in an email.

Thomas assumed his role in 2020. He is using his position to “redress the inequities in the Pride movement,” he wrote.

“The Pride movement was started by the most marginalized in our community and has made many gains since the Stonewall Riots, but it hasn’t necessarily served those who started the movement in a way that best befits their struggles,” said Thomas, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, but now calls New York home. “Black Pride has been a reaction to this, but also to both recognize this and give space to Black people to experience the joy of Pride in the ways they want to.”

“Black people are part of this movement,” Ighodaro said, noting that two of the initiators of Pride were two Black transgender women — Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy — as well as a Black butch lesbian Stormé DeLarverie. And there are Black LGBTQ leaders and Black Prides across the globe.

“Our goal was to create a space and to bring everyone together to have a platform to connect, to share, and to celebrate,” said Ighodaro.

Global Black Pride Leadership

Global Black Pride announced the organization’s leadership team and new website last month.

The global team is made up of LGBTQ Black activists from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America, according to the organization’s November 17 press release.

British political activist and co-founder of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah was tapped to serve as director of Global Black Pride’s human rights conference.

Ighodaro, the network’s visionary, is joined by Nathanson, Garth, and Kenita Placide, chief of finance. Monroe France, New York University’s senior associate vice president for global engagement and inclusive leadership, will serve as chair of Global Black Pride’s advisory board. Ighodaro is an activist, public health expert, and community engagement strategist. Nathanson is the new OutRight Action International senior advisor for the Global Trans Program and founder of the Trans Research Education Advocacy and Training. Placide is a human rights, HIV, and LGBTQ activist and is the co-executive director of United and Strong Inc., Saint Lucia’s first and only LGBTQ organization. Garth is an award-winning editor and journalist and chief operating officer at Arming Minorities Against Addiction and Disease.

The Pride organization plans to create a global fund to support organizers and experiences around the globe, including the launch of a scholarship fund, the leaders said.

The leaders said they plan to host the annual Pride event switching from the hybrid in-person/virtual and virtual format every other year starting in 2022. The hybrid event will be hosted by different cities around the world.

For more information, visit www.globalblackPride.org.

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