Ahead of Pride festivities in Seattle, group faces backlash over complaints about ‘reparations fees’


As Pride Weekend approaches and Seattle LGBTQ + organizations fine-tune their plans for their online and in-person celebrations, a Capitol Hill group receives a quick backlash for complaining about another event’s decision to to charge white participants “reparation fees”. (LGBTQ + stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer / questioning, where the + denotes everything along the gender and sexuality spectrum.)

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused many of the city’s annual Pride celebrations to stay online this weekend or postpone their in-person events until later this year – including the Seattle Pride Parade, Seattle Dyke March, PrideFest, and Trans Pride Seattle – a few invite you to celebrate with them in person, with mask or vaccination compulsory.

One of them is Capitol Hill Pride, a group created by. Founded Seattleers Charlette LeFevre and Phillip Lipson 12 years ago after the ever-growing Seattle Pride Parade moved from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle. This move had disappointed many local residents and business owners who did not want the parade to leave their neighborhood.

Further south, local nonprofits Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, Queer the Land, and Alphabet Alliance of Color, along with artist Momma Nikki, are hosting a Pride celebration for the second year running. This year the event will take place in Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District.

Their event, Taking B (l) ack Pride, once again encourages white attendees to pay “restitution fees” of between $ 10 and $ 50, which the organizers say will be used to pay for the performers and keep the celebration free for blacks and browns and queer community members who they have found to be often unsafe in broader LGBTQ + spaces.

It is not a new request. A member of the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, who did not want to be named, asked the participants last year that they were taking B (l) ack Pride without any complaints.

That year, however, Capitol Hill Pride organizers objected to the fee and filed their complaints with the city, asking them to investigate the “reverse discrimination” they believe violated local and state equality laws, according to a copy of the letter from the City of Human Rights Commission posted on Facebook.

“We will never charge entry because of a person’s skin color, and we resent being attacked for those values,” wrote LeFevre and Lipson.

The commission issued a harsh response, calling on the organizers of Capitol Hill Pride to “read up on the damage it can do to Seattle’s BIPOC community if you get a free ticket to an event that is not specifically for you and Your entertainment is intended ”.

The response to the commission’s response was quick, with many local Pride organizations – including Seattle Pride, Dyke March, and PrideFest – applauding its decision.

The complaint has reached the civil rights office, which is investigating discrimination complaints, said Nona Raybern, a spokeswoman for the department, this week. While the Capitol Hill Pride complaint has not yet been investigated, it is an active claim that will eventually be examined, though likely not before Saturday’s Taking B (l) ack Pride event, she said.

Even so, Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González, who ran for mayor and was originally part of the Capitol Hill Pride roster, has since announced that she will not attend the rally and that she “cannot support an organization that is trying to stop ”. Prevent black people in the LGBTQ + community from celebrating Pride in the way they choose. “

While not common or widespread, Americans have in the past received redress for historical injustices, including Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, victims of police brutality in Chicago, and victims of forced sterilization, according to the New York Times.

While U.S. lawmakers have debated the idea of ​​distributing compensation to black Americans and the descendants of slaves for years, no concrete plan has been set at the federal level – although 11 U.S. mayors announced a decision last week to implement local redress programs for some of their black residents to start.

This week, the organizers of Taking B (l) ack Pride stand by their redress motion, telling the Seattle Times that there has been an abundance of misinformation circulating about the fee. It is nothing more than a “consensual transaction / donation from people who support our community and event,” one organizer wrote in a message to the Times.

In addition, there will be no “racing police” to check the ethnicity of the people at the entrance. If someone feels uncomfortable or doesn’t want to donate, they’re welcome to attend another Pride celebration, organizers said.

“Our event doesn’t have to be the ONLY event people consider (and we don’t want it),” said the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network. “We are and have never been in the business of forcing people to come to Black and Brown, Trans Pride events.”

Capitol Hill Pride organizers, meanwhile, have continued to promise that they will “never charge in because of a person’s skin color,” despite apologizing on Sunday for contacting the city and saying their letter was “not considered to be attacking or to divide, but to guarantee equality for all. “

“We sincerely want to highlight the segment of the LGBTQ community, especially black transgender women, who acknowledge important history and contributions and support this segment of the hidden rainbow,” wrote Capitol Hill Pride.