As Pride weekend approaches and Seattle LGBTQ+ organizations are putting finishing touches on plans for their online and in-person festivities, one Capitol Hill group is receiving swift backlash for complaining about another event’s decision to charge white attendees “reparations fees.” (LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning, with the + denoting everything along the gender and sexuality spectrum.)
While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pushed many of the city’s annual Pride festivities to remain online this weekend or reschedule their in-person events to later this year — including the Seattle Pride Parade, the Seattle Dyke March, PrideFest and Trans Pride Seattle — a couple are inviting people to celebrate with them in person, with mask or vaccination requirements.
One of them is Capitol Hill Pride, a group founded by Seattleites Charlette LeFevre and Phillip Lipson 12 years ago, after the ever-growing Seattle Pride Parade moved from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle. That move had disappointed many residents and business owners who didn’t want to see the parade leave their neighborhood.
Farther south, local nonprofits Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, Queer the Land and Alphabet Alliance of Color, along with artist Momma Nikki, are putting together a Pride celebration for the second consecutive year. This year, the event is to be held at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District.
Their event, Taking B(l)ack Pride, is again encouraging white attendees to pay “reparations fees,” ranging from $10 to $50, which organizers have said will be used to pay performers and keep the celebration free for Black and brown, trans and queer community members, who they noted can often feel unsafe in broader LGBTQ+ spaces.
It’s not a new request. Taking B(l)ack Pride asked the same of attendees last year without any complaints, according to a member of Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, who asked not to be named.
This year, however, organizers at Capitol Hill Pride took issue with the fee and voiced their complaints to the city, asking them to investigate the “reverse discrimination” they felt violated local and federal equality laws, according to a copy of the letter the city’s Human Rights Commission posted on Facebook.
“We will never charge admission over the color of a person’s skin and we resent being attacked for standing in those values,” LeFevre and Lipson wrote.
The commission issued a sharp response, urging Capitol Hill Pride organizers to “educate yourself on the harm it may cause Seattle’s BIPOC community in your pursuit of a free ticket to an event that is not expressly meant for you and your entertainment.”
The complaint made its way to the Office of Civil Rights, which investigates discrimination complaints, Nona Raybern, a department spokesperson, said this week. While Capitol Hill Pride’s complaint hasn’t yet been investigated, it is an active claim that will be looked at eventually, though likely not before Taking B(l)ack Pride’s Saturday event, she said.
Still, Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González, who is running for mayor and was initially part of the Capitol Hill Pride speaker lineup, has since announced she would not attend the rally and that she “cannot support an organization that is trying to stop Black people in the LGBTQ+ community from celebrating Pride in the manner that they choose.”
While not common or widespread, Americans have received reparations for historical injustices in the past, 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 discussed the idea of distributing compensation to Black Americans and the descendants of slaves for years, no concrete plan has been solidified federally — though 11 U.S. mayors last week announced a decision to launch local reparations programs for some of their Black residents.
This week, Taking B(l)ack Pride organizers are standing by their reparations request and told The Seattle Times there’s been a wealth of misinformation flying around about the fee. It’s nothing other than a “consensual transaction/donation from folks who support our community and our event,” one organizer wrote in a message to The Times.
In addition, there will not be any “race police” to check people’s ethnicities at the entrance. If anyone feels uncomfortable or unwilling to donate, they are welcome to attend a different Pride celebration, organizers said.
“Our event doesn’t have to be the ONLY event folks consider, (nor) do we want (it) to be,” according to the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network. “We are not 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’ll “never charge admission over the color of a person’s skin,” though on Sunday they apologized for reaching out to the city and said their letter “was not meant to be an attack or divide but to ensure equality for all.”
“We sincerely want to elevate the segment of the LGBTQ community especially of black transgender women, recognize the important history and contributions and support this segment of the hidden rainbow,” Capitol Hill Pride wrote.