When Jo Trigilio received a letter from Boston Pride alleging her organization was infringing on Boston Pride's name, she says she was, "shocked. We wanted to engage in dialog with Boston Pride's board. But then this happened."
Trigilio founded Pride for the People, formerly Boston Pride 4 the People, with other community members back in June. The group changed its name after receiving a cease and desist letter from Boston Pride. The letter, addressed to Trigilio, Henry Paquin, Casey Dooley and Valerie Bee alleges inappropriate use of the Boston Pride name.
"Boston Pride contacted members of the Pride 4 The People in early August," Boston Pride told WBUR, "after we had determined that their name was infringing on our legally-protected name and that members of the organization were utilizing material that belongs to Boston Pride." The board restated its commitment to an ongoing "transformational process" within the Boston Pride Committee organizational structure.
This is just the latest update in a saga of allegations of racism that have unfolded since June. Trigilio and other former Boston Pride committee leaders broke away from Boston Pride after the organization's board posted a revised letter in response to the ongoing protests against police brutality. Trigilio and Casey Dooley, the former chair of Boston Black Pride, alleged board members removed "Black Lives Matter" and other content from the original drafted letter.
The revised letter was so poorly received by community members that the board removed it, canceled their online programming and issued an apology, promising a recommitment to working internally on concerns raised by community members. They hired Dorrington & Saunders LLC, an organizational development consulting firm, to help them work on diversity and inclusion.
"They have not done right by Black Pride internally for years now. It's been under-resourced, underfunded."Jo Trigilio
After the backlash over the revised letter, organization members and leaders, most of whom worked for Boston Pride as volunteers, demanded the members of the board step down. When the board refused, "80% of the volunteer force resigned," says Dooley. Former members formed Boston Pride 4 the People with the intent to center the voices of "queer and trans people of color," says Trigilio.
Boston Pride's letter had its intended effect. Boston Pride 4 The People changed their name and now goes as Pride For The People. For Trigilio, changing that name wasn't an issue. The biggest problem was that Boston Pride was insisting it also had claim to Boston Black Pride. "They have not done right by Black Pride internally for years now," Trigilio says. "It's been under-resourced, underfunded."
Dooley would know. As the former chair of Boston Black Pride, she says she experienced racism from Boston Pride board members while receiving next to no resources to run Boston Black Pride. "I was surprised by the letter but it wasn't totally unexpected," she says.
After the schism from Boston Pride, Dooley is determined to use Boston Black Pride to uplift the Black LGBTQ communities of Boston. She's now checking with the Secretary of State and a trademark lawyer about the Boston Black Pride name. She says, from her own research, that Boston Pride never trademarked Boston Black Pride.
When asked about the allegations of racism — volunteers have reported experiencing racial micro and macroaggressions — Boston Pride's board responded: "Over the last several months, the Boston Pride Board has worked with Dorrington & Saunders LLC, an organizational development consultant, and has engaged in a transformational process regarding diversity, access, inclusion and equity throughout the entire Boston Pride Committee organizational structure."
But Boston Pride's former workforce doesn't see this "process" as centering diversity and access. "In my opinion, the fact that they're threatening their former workforce with legal action is an act of structural racism," says Trigilio. "They're an institution that is entrenched in Boston and they're just using that... power to threaten grassroots organizers that are community-based."
"We are the community they claim they want to have dialogue with. But how can we have a dialogue when you're trying to silence us?"Casey Dooley
Boston Pride has a rather contentious relationship with Boston's Black and brown communities. In 2015, LGBTQ+ activists of color halted the Boston Pride parade and issued 10 demands to Boston Pride's board, including board diversity. According to Dooley, Trigilio and other former members, Boston Pride's board has yet to address those community demands, even five years later. "We internally gave the board so many chances to address their racism," Dooley points out.
She continues to be optimistic about filing a nonprofit under the Boston Black Pride name. With reckonings happening across the country, Dooley wonders how long it'll take for Boston Pride's board to wake up. While Boston Pride is still working with Dorrington & Saunders LLC to address concerns of racism, Dooley doesn't see how a board so reluctant to give up power could change for the better.
"We are the community they claim to serve. We are the community they claim they want to have dialogue with," she says. "But how can we have a dialogue when you're trying to silence us?"