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Black Lives Matter applauds 'clear and visible progress' by Pride Toronto

Despite these improvements, Black Lives Matter won’t officially march in this year’s Pride parade on June 25. The group did not apply by the May 20 deadline.

Black Lives Matter halts the 2016 Pride parade.

Mark Blinch/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Black Lives Matter halts the 2016 Pride parade.

Although it won’t march as an official group later this month, Black Lives Matter Toronto is satisfied with the changes Pride has made over the past year.

“There’s been clear and visible progress,” says Rodney Diverlus, the 27-year-old co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto.

During the 2016 parade, Pride Toronto agreed to a list of nine demands after Black Lives Matter halted the march for half an hour. The demands were later endorsed in a vote by Pride Toronto’s membership.

While most of the public and political focus has been on the demand to remove police floats from the parade, the eight other requests mostly focused on increasing diversity and grassroots participation throughout Pride month.

“The hype around the police demand has erased all of the work, all of the thought and all the energy put around the other eight demands,” Diverlus told Metro.

“The spirit of some of those demands came from a general feeling in the community that Pride was evolving into a corporate, non-community-driven event.”

He held up the reinstatement of the Black Queer Youth and South Asian community stages as well as increased funding for Blockorama as signs of success.

Pride Toronto spokesperson Ryan Connelly also pointed to the organization’s increased focus on community stages and diversity among Pride Toronto staff — while acknowledging there is room for improvement.

“I think we’ve made very good strides,” Connelly told Metro.

“We’re never going to get it all in one shot, but what is important to note is we will make our best effort as soon as issues are raised.”

Despite these improvements, Black Lives Matter won’t officially march in this year’s Pride parade on June 25. The group did not apply by the May 20 deadline.

Diverlus called it a tactical decision.

“If you know the work we do, applying for permits and registering on a deadline is not really our MO,” he said, adding that safety is a concern for the organization.

“You should expect BLM to do what we do, which is not fill out an application and let you know where we’re going to be.”

Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands from 2016:

  • Continued space, funding and support for Black Queer Youth
  • Self-determination for all community spaces
  • Full and adequate funding for community stages
  • Double funding for Blockorama
  • Increase community stages and reinstate the South Asian stage
  • Commit to increasing diverse representation at Pride Toronto
  • Hire more Black sign-language interpreters for the festival
  • Remove police floats in the Pride parades
  • A public town hall within six months

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