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UPDATE: Pride Toronto offers Hislop Park to Blockorama for 2010, 2011

UPDATE: Pride Toronto offers Hislop Park to Blockorama for 2010, 2011

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Offer follows fiery community meeting at the 519
UPDATE: April 16, 10:30am: Pride Toronto posted the following letter on their Facebook Page this morning:

Dear Blackness Yes Committee,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity and feedback needed to start working towards a mutually beneficial solution to the problem of the location of the Blockorama Stage. We reiterate that Blockorama is a very important part of the annual Pride Week Festival, and that you have Pride Toronto’s full commitment to work with you and to accommodate your needs for future Pride Weeks as outlined in the list presented at the meeting on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the staff team gained a better understanding of the various historic issues between Blackness Yes and Pride Toronto. We also became aware of specific, current issues between Blackness Yes and Pride Toronto. Central to all of these issues is a breakdown in communication. We are committed to addressing the concerns of all stakeholders during Pride Week within the limitations of our resources and we are very dedicated to resolving this issue.

Based on the feedback from Tuesday’s meeting and after a thorough analysis of our resources, we are able to propose the following agreement. We have identified what we believe is going to be a solution.

Pride Toronto can offer the following:

• A full stage and infrastructure in George Hislop parkette, which will be available for your use on both Saturday July 3rd and Sunday July 4th for this year’s festival.

• This infrastructure will include power, insurance, tents, tables/chairs, toilets, garbage removal, insurance, permits and fees, security, tech costs and labour. The total value of the infrastructure and the stage is approximately $25,000.

• We will provide you with a Stage Manager for the weekend, who will advance the show with the artists and ensure that the stage operates in a timely fashion.

• We will continue to provide you with the previously agreed budget of $5000 for programming of this space for Sunday July 4th.

• We will commit to providing you the George Hislop space for both the 2010 and 2011 festivals.

In moving forward towards a relationship that is cooperative and mutually beneficial to both organizations, Pride Toronto will need the following commitments from Blackness Yes:
• Any programming for Saturday July 3rd will be for your own account, whether it takes the form of a community-based stage where artists perform for free, or whether Blackness Yes engages the community through fundraising and donations to help offset programming costs for the entertainment.

• Information for Sunday July 4th’s program will be provided to Pride Toronto no later than April 21st. In addition to this, all information required for the Pride Guide (in order to be included in the print version of the publication) will be submitted no later than April 21st. This includes:
o A 100-word intro blurb;
o Two 50-word blurbs for artists’ spotlights;
o Any photos associated with those artists in high resolution (300 dpi);
o A 100-word blurb about Blackness Yes and a relevant photo.

• Information for Saturday July 3rd’s Community program will be provided by April 25th and will follow the same template as outlined above for Sunday July 4th’s program.

• A commitment from Blackness Yes to respond to emails with 48 hours of receiving them and to check in with the A&E department (by phone or email) at least twice per week from now until the end of the 2010 Pride Week Festival.

• A commitment from Blackness Yes to adhere to Pride Toronto deadlines for information on Site Logistics, Tech, Press etc. from this point forward.

Other initiatives:
• Planning an event with the size and scope of Pride Week in Toronto is a shared responsibility and requires active, engaged participation in the planning process. In order to prevent issues such as this from escalating into the crisis we experienced this week, we would like to invite two members of Blackness Yes to participate in all future monthly coordinator meetings, which are held on the first Tuesday of each month starting at 6.30 pm. These meetings are an open forum for committees to discuss the status of their festival plans and any challenges they are experiencing. We believe that this will ensure greater engagement between Blackness Yes and Pride and help facilitate more effective communication. We will add you to the email distribution list today and would like you to invite Blackness Yes to participate fully in all Pride committee activities. Additionally, our door is always open. Please visit the office and engage with our staff.

• Pride Toronto recognizes that marketing and communications efforts via Pride’s resources may be useful to help build the success of Blockorama in alignment with Blockorama strategies. Therefore, our new Marketing & Communications Manager would like the opportunity to meet with Blackness Yes to coordinate marketing efforts for high visibility and high impact collaboration. This would help to establish the framework for a successful Win-Win collaboration for future Prides.

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback on this as soon as possible.

Thanks and regards

Tracey Sandilands
Executive Director

***

Marcus Ware of Blackness Yes also sent out the following message on Facebook Friday morning, through a community meeting Facebook page.

We have received a response from Pride.

They are offering us the following:

They are offering us exactly what we had last year (full stage and infrastructure , and the same $5000 artist fees, and a stage manager).

However, they are also 'offering' the use of the stage on Saturday for Blocko programming.They are offering NO money to pay for artists fees or anything else on saturday. They have indicated that we would have to fundraise on our own to pay for Saturday's artist fees.

They are offering to commit us to the space for 2010 and 2011.

They are offering us 2 spots on the Pride monthly coordinator committee meetings. (starting in MAY 2010 for the July 1-4 Festival). [We used to be on this committee, but we were told it was no longer meeting by Pride last year- it appears that they have indeed been meeting, just without us at the table.]

Increased connection to their marketing initiatives.

They have numerous conditions throughout the letter around deadlines and such . We welcome your feedback as we formulate our response.

Blackness Yes!


***

BLOCKORAMA MIFFED AT PRIDE TORONTO


Some 150 people packed the auditorium at the 519 Church St Community Centre on April 13 for a forum with a familiar theme: a dispute between Pride Toronto and members of Toronto's gay and lesbian communities.

Blockorama is an all-day dance party celebrating black queer pride, traditionally held on the Sunday of Pride weekend. Its home from 1999 to 2005 was the parking lot across from Wellesley Station. But Blockorama has been moved twice since 2006. This year, Pride Toronto has moved Blockorama again, this time to Alexander Parkette, next to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

There were two main issues driving the April 13 meeting. The first concerns the suitability of Alexander Parkette as a location for Blockorama. George Hislop Park, the event’s venue for 2008 and 2009, has a capacity of 1,500 people while Alexander Parkette can accommodate 1,100. Former Pride event logistics manager Lisa Duke, speaking in support of Blockorama, said further that the parkette’s uneven ground makes it a “dangerous” site for a dance event. She also cited visual obstacles that would make it hard to see the stage from some areas.

The other issue Blockorama members raised at the meeting is that they were told to move in the first place, and the signal they say such a unilateral decision sends to the black queer community. Many of those who spoke said that it was “disrespectful” to deny Blockorama a permanent home.

In an open letter from U of T associate professor Rinaldo Walcott, read aloud by Akim Larcher, Walcott wrote that there is a “discrepancy between Pride Toronto’s treatment of local black communities’ participation in Pride events and its attempt to position itself as a global player in LGBTQ rights.”



Blockorama members first learned of the most recent move last fall. Blockorama media spokesperson Tessa Duplessis says she was told the reason Pride Toronto moved Blockorama is because Pride had applied for a grant to stage the Queer Youth Digital Video Project for George Hislop Park, and that the grant was tied to the space. Pride Arts and Entertainment Manager Mary Zondanos revealed on Apr 13 that the grant was denied by Canada Council for the Arts, leaving George Hislop Park without programming for the weekend.

Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands said “the sky’s the limit” for finding a permanent home for Blockorama next year, but that this year she is limited by events and performers that have already been booked with particular venues in mind. Sandilands stated that she would not be able to make a decision on the spot without further research. “I won’t make promises tonight that I cannot fulfill tomorrow,” she said.

This came as a disappointment to some of those present, who hoped Pride would come prepared to offer specific solutions.

“Most of the people were disappointed and felt that Pride did not really come to take us seriously,” says Duplessis. “We felt they came to pacify us, and it didn’t work, and they had to now come up with some decisions.”

In response, one community member summed up the frustrations: “This gathering is about concern over the movement of a community… I think you can ask us to wait for a long term home, but not for immediate housing.”

The heated discussion around the location for Blockorama 2010 dominated the evening, leaving no time to discuss a further issue the Blockorama committee had hoped to bring up.

“We wanted to talk to Pride about transparency and how they make decisions,” says Duplessis. “Two years ago there was an arts and entertainment committee, and people manning the various stages would be invited and there would be meetings regularly so you’d be up to date…. Now it’s kind of like Pride makes all the decisions and you’re just told.”

The meeting, which lasted more than two and a half hours, closed with a promise from Sandilands that Pride will make a decision by Friday, April 16 at 2 pm. If Pride cannot offer a more suitable site than Alexander Parkette, Blockorama members have promised further action.

“This was the start of a conversation … This is the calm,” says Duplessis. “Don’t come back to us with insulting results, because we will take the next step.”

Comments

ooops CORRECTION
Sorry: RE: "...funding being cut that resulted in the signage not being produced in 2007" This was for Pride 2008, not 2007. PT was expecting a $200,000 grant from Heritage Canada under the Federal Marquee Events program (It did receive $397,000 in 2009...). This bad news was received 2 weeks before Pride. Instead, PT received only $35,000. As a result, various budgets were slashed to deal with the $165,000 shortfall. Again, it was not my decision to cut the Signage Budget, nor to decide which signs would not be printed. I did have input and made decisions regarding infrastructure. For example, I deleted the inflatable arches that usually greeted participants at entry points, plus various other amenities. Such is the duty of meeting budgets. Despite the lack of funds, we were still able to post a modest profit that year...
TO: "History lesson, Toronto ON"
cont'd ... I'm glad that there is some resolution on the horizon with regards to this issue, and I hope that Blocko will find the "home" it desires, needs and deserves asap.
TO: "History lesson, Toronto ON"
Sorry - But you're wrong. I did NOT move Blocko. I arrived to work for Pride Toronto in March 2007. A decision prior to my arrival had been made by others to move Blocko to the corner of Dundonald & Church and to use the space @ Wellesley for Pride's Main Stg & Beer Grdn. This was a decision that I had no input in, nor the ability to undo. I did however; realize that putting Blocko @ the corner of Dundonald/Church was not good for anyone. I wrote to and then met w/ the Blocko Committee prior to scheduling them into the Beer Store. I agree, not the best space, but, from the options available to us @ the time, it was certainly better than the corner. And all the more reason for me to commit to finding something more suitable. Unfortunately, again in the fall of 2007 (Pride 2008), I could only offer options that were available to us at that time. Part of the agreement originally made w/ Blocko (and that was not fulfilled by PT), was to erect new and increased signage for Blocko to indicate their new space. Additionally, to build & program events/vendors in the park system leading towards GH Park. There was much to do in order to make GH Park a "home" for Blocko, and if I could have done it all, I would have. I will take responsibility for what I did or did not do, but moving Blocko out of Wellesley was not something I did, nor was I responsible for the funding being cut that resulted in the signage not being produced in 2007. More importantly, at the Apr 13th Mtg, I wanted to remind PT that a commitment had been made, and it should be honoured. I have always understood that GH Park is not appropriate for all of Blocko's needs and that this event space was not "the best". But during my tenure, I did what I could with what I had, and more importantly, I was always in communication and consulted with members of the Blocko Committee. I'm glad that there is some resolution on the horizon with regards to this issue, and I hope that Blocko
Dirty Jobs gone nothing on this bullshit...
I would rather stand in bloody mother-humping hell drowning in a sea of flaming vomit chewing ground glass while munching on ten smelly muffs than work for Pride. Seriously, how do they get through a week without wanting to bitch-slap 500 cunty-assed people? Truly, no good deed goes unpunished these days. Activists used to be people who did stuff. Now they are just people who whine at meetings and paint themselves as more-victimized-than-thou. People in this country don't know how good they got it. Most of the world would give their left nut/ovary to have these problems. Weh weh weh, our stage is substandard and the location is suboptimal. Pride is over, finished, kaput, finis, cooked, spent. Over and out. The Dyke March and its whiny separatism were the beginning of the end. Now everyone wants in on the endless cant of oppression-by-committee. I'm gonna grab a case of Stoly, get in the car and head to Quebec, score some Tina and screw Pierre, Michel and Gaston. Old school! Enjoy your yelling matches and racial tension, suckers.
@Savannah
and FYI I do know what some people such as White Pride can really do, Nova Scotia had a event not to long ago in Hants County on this subject and turn out to be really big losers and thinking that White Pride the person is a Big Loser so why are you point figures at people think before you talk and also conservative? so what? in Nova Scotia they are Gay Friendly I remember they were the ones that first allowed Gay Marriage in Nova Scotia and also FYI conservatives are different all over Canada and conservatives in Ontario,Alberta or BC( really really Christin) are different really different from those here on the east coast believe me a lot different in Nova Scotia then in other parts of region, for example other conservatives in the Atlantic region: in PEI are more environmentalists and in Newfoundland they are separatists and its just a waste of my time explaining this and I hope you get the picture that White Pride Person is most like a loser.
@Savannah
about Toronto is the LGBT community but sometimes I do wonder the attitude that is sometimes comes from the LGBT community on some topics that don't even seem to be related to the LGBT community or Gay Rights at all but some using it as a front for other political agendas such as supporting Islamist that would kill us just because who we are and not think twice about it or some people or groups who don't like opposition or another opinion that is not their own. If history can give anyone a lesson then it on this topic of opinion, countries and even empire's have tried to control people in any shape or form always leads to a monsters such as National Socialist Germany, Soviet Union,British Empire, or even the United States of America did try to silence people did anything to do this to a point were they had to use extreme measures in order to control another group and it really did not work out to well for either of these entities or currently still a nation in the end, but comparing this control to Gay Rights a lot has change in the last 40-30 years but some still be up to the same old cards or still living in the past. Kind of reminds me what happened 65 years ago almost to this date and did come to a end and it took the most bloodiest war in ALL human history to do it and the country in question always remember the victims including those members of the LGBT community in the country not just one group. This country I really don't have to name I hear they are rather good friends today and even we Canadians did forgive them and realized that they were in control of a mad men who wanted control of almost anyone or anything people think or thought that could mean in 1945, 1989, or 1994 but this card seems to be out of 1984 or Animal Farm and is rather insulting, aliening, or even just a form of deformation and wants to divide the LGBT community and FYI I'm not a racist or that loser White Pride so don't point figures at people, history are full of people like that
Thanks Nedal Sul
Thanks for the video report Nedal Sul. Seeing as you're an independent company, where was Xtra's video? If they can create video reports about Halloween, the Fetish Fair and the opening of Crews and Tangos (boo!), surely they can do create one regarding important issues facing Toronto's black queer and trans commmunity. Or do they not count as newsworthy? Shame on you Xtra.
@Savannah
Really? White Pride? Really? Really? this is rather off topic, its the QuAIA that's sounds more like Klansman just ask the some QuAIA unofficial spokespersons who in some cases have out right blames Orthodox Jews or uses the word Zionist in every sentence or even think the Jewish Groups are somehow interfering everything and the QuAIA is rather close to the Klan then a gay rights group. Wow ,rather typical of someone from Toronto thinking that people from Nova Scotia or anywhere in Canada does not have an opinion. I do travel to Toronto on a regular basis and but as most Canadians think about Toronto such as being the most hated city in the country for one or thinking that someone from outside the city can't have a opinion on something that happens there and is equal in a democracy such as Canada, other then what the far left thinks is racist which seem to rather a lot now days, almost anything is racist from the lefts point of view or in some cases the left are racist and rather blind on that . If you might want to know Halifax is rather diverse city and does have a lot of people that come from the Middle East including the Palestinians Areas and the ones I've personal know even seem to have the same story on why they left, hit the QuAIA or the far left seem to support them lately. But Savannah, back on subject, White Pride is something even I think is rather racist or to even blame someone as making such a comment is rather racist or even insulting, and as both a student of history I have learned a lot from the past mistakes such as the forms antisemitism, racism, or deformation comes in either far left or far right(most history books can explain this better). As a Gay Man I don't have to think in the same way as every fad from Toronto comes and goes it could explain the city's image problem in the viewpoints of most Canadians such as coming to Pride every year I do come since I'm in town doing research on projects that time of the year and I really love
White Pride is more stupid than you think
Dear "White Pride", I find it to be absolutely hilarious how obvious it is that you are the same commenter as "Charles" from Halifax, Nova Scotia... for example see: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Jewish_group_pushes_Pride_Toronto_to_condemn_antiIsrael_hate_groups-8385.aspx .... all I had to see were a couple of your posts here with the inane obsession on one or two points and the ridiculous typos and overuse of punctuation and I knew it immediately. Charles/White Pride is the same moron who posts obsessive accusations against QuAIA and tries to call us racists as well. So what is it Charles? Everyone who isn't white or conservative or pro-Israel is a racist? Wow, you are an incredibly simple and transparent human being. And you're from Nova Scotia... don't you have anything better to do than worry about this stuff in Toronto??!??!???!?? (just trying to use some punctuation that maybe you can relate to).
Watch The Video Report
Here's a video report on the issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8wXYAWu-ho

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