Adding to the rainbow

There’s a fresh colour added to the Pride rainbow this year: black.

“My friends would ask me, ‘Where are the black people?'” says Junior Harrison, a member of the new group Blackness Yes.

“And I would have to say, ‘I don’t really know.’ We’re there, but you’re just engulfed. There were spaces where [black] people didn’t feel comfortable.”

And so Blackness Yes will present Blockorama, a tent on Pride Day featuring DJs and live performers.

Harrison says group members just got tired of black people being lost in the overwhelming whiteness of Pride.

Harrison says he spends a lot of time travelling, and was struck by the much more visible celebrations of Black Pride in the US.

“I travel to a lot of cities. And a lot of cities like New York, Atlanta or Los Angeles have started having Black Pride celebrations. They’re not necessarily at the same time as the larger Pride days. They’re just about Black Pride.”

Harrison says that, in the past, a lot of blacks would choose to go to those celebrations rather than stay in Toronto.

“Up until this year, we’ve been running away. All you have to do is hop on a plane and you’re just an hour away. You go to the States and you have the experience of being part of those events. We didn’t want to organize here.”

But Harrison says Jamea Zuberi, the chair and founder of Blackness Yes, was determined to do something in Toronto. The group began planning a float for Pride in September 1998. But Harrison says the Pride committee didn’t return calls until it was too late to organize a float.

“Hopefully, next year, our original idea will come to fruition. We wanted to have 200 people behind the float.”

But Harrison says he’s already getting replies from people in New York and Atlanta saying they’re going to come up for this year’s Pride. He says he hopes to emulate the success of Black Pride in England, where it has a significant presence in London’s celebrations.

He says Blackness Yes will be promoting its events in the larger black community, in venues that the Pride Committee doesn’t reach. He admits, though, that he’s unsure of the reception those promotions will receive.

“By the end of this week we should have our flyers done. I’ll be putting them up in my favourite restaurant, sending them to my favourite community papers. What they’ll do with it, I don’t know.”

But Harrison says he hopes this event will serve as a first step towards broadening Pride’s diversity.

“It’s just a good way to break into the millennium. The theme for Pride this year is One Pride Fits All. That’s appropriate. You can still have your pride within Pride. You just have to make it fit.”

Blockorama will feature live performances by Drag Diva Duchess, African Drummers and Caribbean Steel Pan, and DJs Nikki Red, Black Cat, TNT and Movement. There will also be a raffle draw for a trip for two to Florida.



1pm-10pm. Sun, Jun 27.

South end of parking lot, across from Wellesley Subway.

(416) 925-9872 xt 2282.

Krishna Rau

Krishna Rau is a Toronto-based freelance writer with extensive experience covering queer issues.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight