June is Pride Month, but at a time of widespread unrest and protests, Virginia Pride is putting aside celebration in favor of focusing its efforts on supporting Virginia’s black community.
Virginia Pride, a local non-profit organization dedicated to bringing support to the LGBTQ community through education and events, is finding ways to support the black community in a time where systemic racism is finally being brought to light.
“We as a board are looking very carefully at what role we as an organization, an LGBTQ organization, can play in that,” said James Millner, president of Virginia Pride. “There are no real easy answers.”
With June being Pride Month, Virginia Pride had planned a busy month of events celebrating the LGBTQ community. However, between the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the struggles the black community continues to face, the organization decided to cancel said events.
“The things that we had planned just felt out of place in this moment,” Millner said. “We as an LGBTQ organization did not feel it was appropriate for us to be taking up any space that could and should be occupied by black people and black voices.”
Millner said in the coming weeks, his organization will continue to brainstorm how to ensure that black voices are heard, but it’s been a little bit tricky because he wants to make sure they are “helping, not hurting” the situation.
Millner said they’ve reached out to their supporting black-led and black-centered organizations to offer their support and to let them know that Virginia Pride is there to listen. They’ve also used their social media platforms to help lift and amplify black voices.
Stopping to listen instead of trying to lead in a time like this is something Millner said is essential. Though he said listening is not nearly enough because “inaction is no longer acceptable,” he urged that listening to the oppressed instead of trying to take charge immediately is the best thing white people can do right now.
“The first thing we need to do, to be honest with you, is to listen to black people,” Millner said. “I think it’s very easy for particularly white LGBTQ people and well-meaning white people to want to jump in and lead in this instance. I think that this is a situation in which we need to make sure that we listen first… That we leverage the privileges that we have, [and] use those resources that we have, to support, to amplify black voices.”
Photo by Lauren Serpa