Dear Pride Portland! Community,
We are writing to share with you some updates about the 2018 planning process and our new Steering Committee, as well as some of our values as we move into Pride season.
First, we would like you to know that we greatly value the hard work and dedication of those who came before us, and we are grateful for the firm foundation upon which we can continue to build Pride here in Southern Maine.
This year’s Steering Committee members come from a variety of backgrounds in community building and organizing, event planning, non-profit administration, student groups, and political work. We are the most diverse Steering Committee to date, with representation that spans a variety of orientations and gender identities, as well as racial, disability, health, age, and neurodiverse identities and statuses. Many of us come from communities who often struggle to be heard.
We value Pride as a movement of love, caring, celebration, and solidarity. We want to create inclusive events and programs, and we believe the best way to do that is to center the needs of those in our community who bear the brunt of anti-queer and anti-trans oppression and stigma.
Over the past several months, we’ve been doing outreach into many of these communities, and listening to people’s experiences and feedback about previous Pride festivals. We are doing our best to incorporate changes into our programs to make Pride even more welcoming and accessible.
In order to do this, we are going to try a lot of new things this year. Though the basic structure of Pride will remain the same—a parade, a festival, and events leading up to them—some of our special events will change, and how we invite our community and partners to participate will change as well. We expect most of these changes to be positive, but we know that we will make mistakes and missteps.
We welcome feedback from our community, and we’ll make sure to have a series of opportunities for public dialogue in the months leading up to the festival.
This month, we opened our parade and festival registration and announced some changes to how we invite corporations and partisan political groups to participate. This includes a new and simplified fee structure for participation which creates lower entry costs for the many wonderful community organizations and student groups in our area, while making some adjustments to the business registration rates to move those fees closer to market value for an event of our size and specificity.
We have also created some restrictions on brand presence within our parade. During our outreach, we heard many concerns that our parade feels less like a community celebration and more like a very long advertisement. Others have expressed concerns over the amount of trash and litter left behind after the parade. As a result, we are asking businesses to please limit their branding during the parade to a front-facing banner, t-shirts, and small and useful materials such as sunscreen, water bottles, and safer sex supplies. (However if a group wants to distribute materials without their branding, such as candy, they are welcome to do so. We only ask that they limit their litter footprint as much as possible.)
These restrictions apply only to the parade and not the festival. We have also laid out a process in case a business wants to appeal or suggest other items they would like to distribute.
We greatly value the many businesses that choose to participate in our festivities every year, and we look forward to them joining us again in 2018. However, our mission is to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in Southern Maine, not to create convenient marketing opportunities for corporations seeking our community’s business.
Partisan Political Involvement:
We have also made some substantial changes for partisan organizations such as political parties, as well as individual candidates and campaigns. We discussed these changes with representatives from our constituent communities, recent queer-identified political candidates, and state party leaders.
In summary, we are asking political parties to march as single entities, rather than as multiple chapters. We are limiting partisan activity by not allowing candidates or their campaigns to register as marching groups, and by asking parties and other gathered groups not to bring signs or other materials advertising specific candidates. We do not make these restrictions lightly, and we have a variety of reasons for them.
First and foremost, these changes are a result of the values of our new Steering Committee. We know that in years past candidates have shown their support to our community at risk to their own careers, and we greatly value their participation and the continued support of many candidates and elected officials to the LGBTQ+ community. However, even if these candidates support our most visible issues, we’ve seen candidates and officials in recent years whose records on racial and economic justice, healthcare access for people living with HIV, and relationships with indigenous communities are simply not in line with our values of inclusivity and solidarity. As such, we are not comfortable lending them our name and social credibility within the LGBTQ+ community.
These changes are also reactions to the new reality of politics in the United States. In 2017, many Pride parades across the US, including several here in Maine, dealt with groups and candidates with specifically anti-queer and anti-trans voting records and positions. It puts steering committees like ours in the impossible situation of either permitting hate groups to participate in our parade, or risking lawsuits if we block them. As a nonprofit, Pride Portland! is not allowed to participate in partisan activities, or endorse candidates. As such, we either must allow all candidates into the parade, or none at all. Failure to do so opens us, and our fiscal sponsor whose 501(c)(3) umbrella we are under, to legal actions that will threaten our programs and needed institutions for our community.
Finally, these changes have logistical implications as well. Our parade was already reaching the capacity of set up space last year, and with the huge increase in new groups, as well as it being an election year, we are expecting things to be tight yet again. Consolidating party chapters into a single group and asking candidates not to register their campaigns will free up much needed space for community groups, youth movements, and resistance organizations. We hope that candidates and elected officials will understand that there are other ways for them to be involved in Pride that are not explicitly about them—by marching with their party, their church group, or an allied organization, for example—and we look forward to seeing them in June.
We understand that these changes will not be popular with everyone, but we are committed to hearing all the diverse viewpoints in our community and encourage everyone to email their feedback directly to our steering committee via firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Loving Solidarity,
Pride Portland! 2018 Steering Committee
Cybele Brandow (they/them), Co-Chair
Luis Neftali Rodriguez (he/him), Co-Chair & Parade Chair
Quinn Gormley (she/they), Treasurer
Kirsten M. Griffith (she/her), Secretary
Teddy Burrage (he/him), Events Chair
Meagan L Lauer (she/her), Fundraising & Festival Chair
Joey Brunelle (he/him), Marketing Chair
Sara Cooper (she/her), Volunteer Coordinator
Justin M. L. Gifford (he/him), At-Large