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Black Pride Netherlands co-founder Naomie Pieter is demanding space for Black queer and trans people

Naomie Pieter, a co-founder of Black Pride Netherlands is one of the Pride Icons being honoured at the Attitude Pride Awards 2022, in association with Magnum.

By Alastair James

Words: Yas Necati; Photography: Henri Verhoef

Black Pride Netherlands grew out of protest and partying, Naomie Pieter, one of its founders and a recipient of an Attitude Pride Icon Award, supported by Magnum, tells me as we chat on the phone early one weekday morning. Pieter is on the way to another interview promoting the event and had a late interview the night before.

The first Black Pride Netherlands took place in 2020, but Pieter had been involved in activism for years before that. “I’m Black and queer. I exist, we exist,” she says, before adding, “I don’t know if you’re the kind of person I need to say this to.”

In 2018, they co-founded a group called Black Queer and Trans Resistance, in response to a local Black queer man being beaten up. The collective began to organise anti-violence marches and demonstrations, but Pieter found herself asking: ‘What comes next?’

“Demonstration is one of our tools,” they say, before sharing the importance of looking for other methods, too. “We needed community organising, we needed more spaces for Black and queer people.” Pieter reflected on what else they could do. That’s when she thought, ‘It would be dope to organise Black Pride in the Netherlands.’

Initially, Pieter approached Amsterdam Pride and asked if she could organise a Black Pride event alongside them. “It soon became clear that there wasn’t space there,” says Pieter.

She was asked to organise a Pride of Colour and was hopeful that she might be able to find space for Black Pride within that, but it didn’t live up to her hopes. “I tried for a year,” Pieter says, “but racism led to a breakup in 2019.”

As well as organising protests, Pieter is a choreographer and is passionate about hosting dance spaces for Black people. Since 2018, they have organised a dance-hall party centring the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s an act of pleasure activism,” they share, citing one of their inspirations, Adrienne Maree Brown, who has written extensively about pleasure as an act of resistance. “After fighting, we also need to come together and dance,” Pieter says. “Our best resistance is joy.”

As Pieter recalls the dance-hall parties, the smile can be heard in her voice. “Everybody went wild,” they say. “Everybody thought the after party was Black Pride.” The response was further encouragement for Pieter that the community needed a daytime Pride event.

“After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, people were wanting to fight,” Pieter remembers, and this was a final push for Black Pride Netherlands to materialise. As Black communities came together, Pieter knew how vital it was for Black LGBTQ+ people to have their own spaces of resistance and healing within that.

Speaking of healing, Pieter shares that after two years of Black Pride Netherlands, the organisers are taking a break this year, before returning in 2023. “I lost my father five weeks ago,” she shares, “other community members also have a lot going on. We’re used to pushing and pushing and making it work.”

She pauses, before asking two questions. “But do I have the space? Can I show up?”

Pieter reflects on the importance of trying to live their values. “We can preach taking care of ourselves, but how do we put it into practice?” they ask. “We’re not good, but we’re trying. And we’re hoping to take the community with us. I’m now able to say, ‘Hold up, I’m not going to do this.’ We want to show the community also that it’s OK to cancel, it’s OK to take care of yourself. Black Pride Netherlands is a new tradition. But I would like to make being healthy, taking care of myself, and healing part of my traditions, too.”

Pieter cites Angela Davis and Alok Vaid-Menon as sources of inspiration. They are also influenced by UK Black Pride, Paris Black Pride and various Black Prides in the US. “The queer community is amazing,” they say. “We keep evolving — so beautifully, so gracefully. We are often a step ahead of other movements.”

Recently, Pieter moved to Curacao in the Caribbean. “I want to put my energy here,” she says. Since moving to the island, they have co-founded Kas Di Mas’Riku, a collective for the Krioyo queer community.

On 1 October 2022, Kas Di Mas’Riku will hold its first big event during Curacao Gay Pride, a space for the community to come together, where there will be ballroom classes, a mini function and an afterparty. In the meantime, it is hosting monthly Vogue dance classes.

The name Kas Di Mas’Riku is a reclaiming. “It means more rich,” says Pieter. “Mariku is a derogatory slur for gay, so we say Mas-Riku — more rich. The aim is to reclaim the word mariku as something positive, something luxurious.”

Recently, the collective received a DM from the mother of an eight-year-old. In it, she said her daughter “feels different” and thinks she might like girls. “The mother wanted to come along to an event with her child to show her that there’s a whole community, that it’s not just her mum who loves her,” Pieter shares.

“For us it was everything,” Pieter continues. It’s the reason she is a community organiser. “Even if you just reach one person, and they feel seen and heard and like there’s a space for them, that makes everything worth it.” The DM spoke to the kind of future Pieter has been dreaming of. “The realest thing you can do is dream,” she says, adding how the mother’s words have stayed with her and other members of Kas Di Mas’Riku. “We keep pinching ourselves.”

Having now moved back to Curacao, Pieter reflects on a sadness that lots of Black queer people are separated from their homelands and are in search of community. With their new collective, they are hoping to make space for queer Caribbeans. “We don’t have to move away — we can stay here,” Pieter says. “It’s the energy of all of us I’m working with.” 

The Attitude September/October issue is available to download and order in print now and will be on newsstands from Thursday 4 August.