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Pride in London senior Black member resigns over racism concerns

Pride in London's former Director of Communications Rhammel Afflick says the organisation can be a "hostile environment" for Black people and that "new leadership is needed."

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude

One of Pride in London’s most senior Black members has resigned over concerns about racism within the organisation.

Rhammel Afflick says he resigned from his position as Director of Communications last month after losing “all confidence in the leadership’s ability to successfully address the adversities faced by our multi-faceted communities.”

Afflick, who has been a Pride in London volunteer for seven years and was appointed Director of Communications in 2019, wrote in a personal blog post that Black voices had been consistently “ignored” by Pride in London and that “new leadership is needed”.

The 26-year-old added that the organisation was “more often than not, a hostile environment” for Black people, and that “harmful behaviours remain commonplace”.

“I’ve also personally witnessed the leadership’s insistence on ignoring Black voices in our communities and amongst our own volunteers when they speak up and speak out” wrote Afflick. “I cannot and will not condone Pride in London’s insistence on finding reasons to look the other way.”

Image credit: Dave Bird

He added: “Calling on an organisation to take us, Black communities and our humanity seriously was exasperating and in the end, I had to prioritise my own mental health and wellbeing.”

Afflick’s resignation comes just weeks after another senior Black staff member resigned from their position as Deputy Director of Communications, and after Pride in London confirmed earlier this month that they would not prevent the Metropolitan Police’s LGBT group from taking part in the parade, despite concerns about the force’s wider relationship with LGBTQ and Black people.

Pride in London has faced repeated controversies relating to diversity and inclusion in recent years: In 2015, the group came under fire for allowing right-wing party UKIP to march in the parade (a decision which was later reversed), and in 2018 the UK’s biggest LGBTQ charity, Stonewall, cut ties with event, citing a lack of inclusion for Black, Asian and ethnic minority members of the community.

Pride in London, which is responsible for organising the capital’s annual Pride parade and festival (due to take place this year on 11 September), issued an apology on Wendesday (17 March) in the wake of Mr Afflick’s claims.

“Pride in London is run by volunteers and we work hard to create an event that is inclusive and accessible, bringing together more LGBT+ groups and communities than any other event in the UK” a statement released by the organisation on Wednesday (17 March) read.

“That said, we know we don’t always get everything right, and we want to apologise to our volunteers and our communities – particularly people of colour and those from Black communities – for whom we’ve missed the mark in terms of support and inclusion.

“We know we must do better to serve the communities we represent, especially those who are underrepresented, and we accept the seriousness of the issues raised with us.

“The Board of Directors takes full accountability of the organisation’s diversity and inclusion. To begin to address some of these issues, we developed a diversity and inclusion strategy last year which we are in the process of implementing, though we are very much still on this journey.

“We accept that we need to be in a place where we are centering the marginalised voices in our communities in everything that we do, and are in the process of organising listening sessions and creating safe spaces and peer groups for these underrepresented voices.

“In this way we hope to create a more inclusive culture and help give Black volunteers and volunteers of colour the support they deserve.”

Speaking to Attitude, Afflick describes Pride in London’s issues when it comes to race as “insidious” and “relentless”.

“It stretches back from the moment I entered the door”, Afflick says. “When I arrived, I was the only Black volunteer for about four months… I came into Pride in London knowing it was a problem.”

He goes on: “It got to a point where if I remain involved any longer, irrespective of the fight I’m putting up internally, I’m essentially complicit, because I’m part of this window-dressing.

“I’m very aware that being a Black, bi[sexual] man is, unfortunately, capital in this space, where people see your visibility as meaning something.

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to allow my visibility or my narrative or my story to be used in this way. You’re clearly not actually about supporting people who look like me.”

Afflick claims that he registered a formal complaint with Pride in London about “frustrations and internal bullying” last December, but says he still hadn’t received a response by the time of his resignation two months later.

The former director says that he hasn’t been formally contacted by Pride in London leadership since his resignation and did not receive an exit interview, something he claims is standard procedure within the organisation upon the departure of a senior member.

Branding Pride in London’s apology today “lacklustre”, he says: “To me, it feels meaningless, because I know what it means. I’ve sat on the other side, I know what those apologies mean…

“It’s meaningless because they haven’t tried to reach out, and it’s not as though they’ve been blindsided and I’ve just resigned and suddenly sprung this on them. I’ve been, especially in the last two to three months, abundantly clear [about] what was wrong.”

“People don’t speak out like this just for the laughs – people only do this when they feel absolutely forced, and they have no other option. And that’s essentially what’s happened here.”

With Pride in London set to take place this September after being postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Afflick says: “It is almost openly known that Pride in London is a bit problematic compared to all the LGBT charities in the UK.

“It’s time to stop dancing around that, let’s be really direct, and more importantly, let’s not leave that to Black and brown voices in the community: Let’s everyone stand up and say ‘This isn’t good enough and we deserve better.’

“As long as there’s a cohort of people who don’t feel represented and included in what Pride is doing, then that has to be challenged.”