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Black Lives Matter Boycotts Utah Pride Center’s Events Amid ‘Lack Of Diversity’

A photo of a pride flag.
Ivana Martinez
Concerns about inclusivity and diversity in Utah Pride Center festivities made Black Live Matter Utah boycott the events this year.

Black Lives Matter Utah pulled out of this year’s Utah Pride Center’s festival citing concerns over the event’s lack of diversity.

The LGBTQ organization changed the way they’re doing pride this year, replacing their annual parade with two main events: a story garden and a rainbow march and rally.

The story garden is an outdoor exhibit, encapsulated as a maze around Washington Square in Salt Lake City. It’s meant to focus on educating the public about the history of pride, community member’s stories of struggle and acceptance and the center’s resources.

Rob Moolman, the director of the Utah Pride Center, said this year’s events were planned to rekindle relationships within the LGBTQ community and to uplift underrepresented voices.

“[We wanted] to make sure that the voices of those who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, who have been marginalized within the margins, are raised,” Moolman said.

Black Lives Matter Utah was scheduled to speak at the rally on Sunday, alongside other community organizers. But after Quique “Dirk” Thomas, a member of BLM Utah, went to the story garden this week, they released a statement about boycotting the events.

Thomas said when they went to the garden and walked around the first thing they noticed was the lack of representation, specifically with iconic historical figures such as gay activist Marsha P. Johnson.

“Marsha P. Johnson got two sentences on their posterboard [and] like, one of our own white members had more of a larger spot [in the garden],” Thomas said.

They said they were told the center would be amplifying the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color— or BIPOC — in the garden but it felt more like a footnote.

In response to the concerns, Isaiah Mataele, community engagement manager at the Pride Center, said Johnson is “represented multiple times [in various mediums] within the 800+ displays at the Pride Garden.”

The pride center has been criticized In the past for diversity efforts in hiring practices, alleged discrimination and lack of transparency. Thomas said last year, they tried to work with them to focus on intregating more queer people of color at the center.

Mataele said diversity has been an issue at the center but they’ve been working hard on outreach efforts within the community.

He said it’s been tough working as a person of color in a space that “has recently discovered the value of diversity.”

“The reality is that the Utah Pride Center has been very gay centric, very queer centric,” Mataele said. “They've always been focused on queer issues and they didn't realize that by turning their back on BIPOC issues that they were turning their back on BIPOC queer individuals. And so I think that realization and mindfulness is new to the center.”

Mataele said they invited community organizations such as Urban Indian Center, OCA Asian Pacific Islander American Advocates, Latino Behavioral Health and more to participate in the garden.

He said the "authentic representation that [they] could appropriately provide in the garden, is there."

He said the center will continue to work toward intersectionality by empowering BIPOC individuals like himself to steer efforts that are intended to impact and benefit communities of color.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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