Pride in London ‘ignores Black voices’ and has failed to act on racism, says former most senior Black member

Reiss Smith
·6-min read

Pride in London’s leadership team “ignores Black voices” and has shown no desire to meaningfully stand up to racism, says its formerly most senior Black team member.

Rhammel Afflick quit his role as director of communications for Pride in London after volunteering for the non-profit for seven years, citing concerns regarding racism at the top of the organisation.

It’s understood that there have been multiple resignations over the issue, though others have chosen not to speak publicly on their experiences. Specifically, Afflick lays blame at the feet of Pride in London’s leadership.

He says he has explicitly called out interactions with the board as racist, only to be told he should take “problematic” comments “in good faith”. He also states that the board seems unwilling to make meaningful changes to make Pride in London a safer, more affirming place for Black and brown people.

“Within the leadership, there is an unfortunate reluctance to accept that the liberation of LGBT+ people must be coupled with the fight against sexism, ableism, racism and other forms of unacceptable discrimination,” Afflick said in a statement.

“This reluctance has been evident through a series of decisions taken by Pride in London’s leadership. These decisions are detrimental to all our communities but in particular to Black LGBT+ people.

“I’ve also personally witnessed the leadership’s insistence on ignoring Black voices in our communities and among our own volunteers when they speak up and speak out. I cannot and will not condone Pride in London’s insistence on finding reasons to look the other way.”

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Pride in London’s problems extend past its treatment of volunteers and to its attitude toward the wider community, Afflick told PinkNews.

In recent years organisers have been publicly criticised for allowing the Home Office and UKIP to march in the parade, given their treatment of LGBT+ asylum seekers and minority communities respectively. Pride in London’s choice to allow the Metropolitan Police Service to march has been contended for years, with its board recently voting to reject an outright ban on the force’s inclusion.

Before that decision was made, Afflick said, the board was told that some Black and brown people “wouldn’t even engage with Pride in London on the basis of racism, because they didn’t feel it would be acted upon”.

“That is a damning indictment itself,” he said.

“There have been some real flash points where it’s been clear that under the current leadership, this feeling that Black and brown people have about Pride in London isn’t going to shift.

“Because even with the kind of strong, outspoken Black people that have been part of Pride in London, whenever we’ve been able to do something that is different, important, that represents different parts of communities, it’s been undermined and rendered pointless.”

In his statement, he underlined: “Many Black volunteers have spoken out against Pride’s lack of diversity. Many Black volunteers have also left, unable or unwilling to keep fighting within an organisation where they didn’t feel their voices were valued, respected or heard.

“It cannot be right, that Black voices continue to experience indifference to their plight and more often than not, a hostile environment.”

In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Pride in London released a statement signed by Afflick as its most senior Black team member declaring that Black Lives Matter, and calling for “long-lasting change”. It also signed a Queers Against Racism pledge with other LGBT+ organisations.

“Within UK LGBT+ communities, Black people still have to face unjust treatment in most mainstream LGBT+ spaces,” the statement read.

“Black LGBT+ people will still have their voices ignored, or spoken over. Black trans people continue to confront more than most – socially, economically and through legislation which fails to protect them.”

Less than a year later, Afflick is clear that he and other Black volunteers have been ignored, despite efforts by him and others to better policy and put intersectionality at the heart of decision-making.

“I found it hurtful and infuriating that Pride was prepared to publicly commit to anti-racism but to date is unable to evidence any meaningful action,” he said in his statement.

Afflick told PinkNews that internally, the only action he can point to is the creation of a diversity and inclusion team, “which to me, is meaningless on its own”.

“You can have a team, but are they really empowered to put in the work? And are people going to be honest enough to allow them to get on with it?”

“I think it’s time to consider new leadership,” he added. “This isn’t about saying everyone at Pride in London is racist, I should be really clear. I don’t even think you could use the term institutionally racist. There are great people involved. There’s a specific issue in leadership, and if there isn’t the vision to deliver better for Black and brown people, then [there will be] someone else who does have that vision, who can bring people together.

“This is a story that most Black people who have worked in a white-led organisation can probably speak to. But the Pride movement is too important for us to just sit on our hands.”

In a statement to PinkNews, Pride in London said: “We know we don’t always get everything right, and we want to apologise to our volunteers and our communities – particularly people of colour and those from Black communities – for whom we’ve missed the mark in terms of support and inclusion.

“We know we must do better to serve the communities we represent, especially those who are underrepresented, and we accept the seriousness of the issues raised with us.

“The board of directors takes full accountability of the organisation’s diversity and inclusion. To begin to address some of these issues, we developed a diversity and inclusion strategy last year which we are in the process of implementing, though we are very much still on this journey.

“We accept that we need to be in a place where we are centring the marginalised voices in our communities in everything that we do, and are in the process of organising listening sessions and creating safe spaces and peer groups for these underrepresented voices. In this way we hope to create a more inclusive culture and help give Black volunteers and volunteers of colour the support they deserve.”