London Pride in race row as 20 volunteers and most senior black member quit over racism concerns
Pride in London has become engulfed in a race row as more than 20 volunteers - including its most senior black team member - have resigned over concerns of racism within the organisation.
Around 1.5 million people take to the streets of the capital for the annual Pride march celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and queer people, rights and pride.
However, Rhammel Afflick, 26, quit his role as director of communications within the group after seven years, claiming that black volunteers have been ostracised amid failures to prioritise diversity and to tackle racism.
“This is a watershed moment and it’s sad that it’s come to this, but sometimes you have to shine a light on these situations,” Mr Afflick said.
“The thing that upset me most is that a lot of people felt they have not been able to speak up and say that something is wrong. This is about all of those people too, not just me.
“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. I cannot and will not condone Pride in London’s insistence on finding reasons to look the other way.”
Pride in London has now apologised, and admitted we “know we must do better to serve the communities we represent.”
At its peak, Pride in London had around 250 volunteers, yet within the space of six months, the communications team - comprising around 45 people - is now down to around 18.
“There’s been a whole spate of resignations,” one of the volunteers who quit told The Telegraph. “It was pretty dire.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added that not all the resignations were solely because of a lack of diversity, because many volunteers are concerned about a “lack of accountability” regarding the board of directors.
“They don’t answer to anyone,” he said. “There’s nowhere or no one for us to escalate and relay our concerns to.”
Last year, Pride in London pledged solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saying: “the outrage felt now must be used to cement long-lasting change, and for that to work our actions can’t just be preformative and they can’t just last for a week.”
Pride in London was recently criticised by volunteers for rejecting calls to ban the Metropolitan Police from taking part in its parade, a move described by Mr Afflick as “hurtful”.
He also revealed that since it was announced that he quit his role on Wednesday, two more volunteers have also quit in response.
Prominent groups such as Stonewall and Black Pride have previously criticised Pride in London’s events and campaigns for a lack of diversity. In 2018, Stonewall pulled out of the parade for this very reason.
The concerns come as next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Pride march. The contract between Pride in London and the Mayor of London’s office is renewed every five years, and the current contract runs until after the 2022 event.
Among the volunteers who have quit, there is concern that if the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan continues to renew the contract without taking into account these concerns and allegations of racism and a lack of diversity, his commitment to tackling the issue is under question.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Mayor is committed to tackling racism and inequalities in all their forms, and takes any allegations extremely seriously. Officials at City Hall are currently speaking with Pride about these allegations.”
A Pride in London spokesperson said: "As in any community organisation, volunteers leave for a number of reasons and where possible we try to speak to them before they step away so we can determine whether there is a solution that would mean they can stay on.
"We also offer and encourage confidential exit interviews to all of our core team to understand how we can improve the volunteer experience and address any concerns or issues that they may have had. This feedback is taken into account as part of our year-round volunteer engagement and helps us create a better experience for everyone who gives up their time for the organisation.
"The Board of Directors is equally accountable both to our volunteers, whose feedback we gather regularly at all-team meetings and through feedback surveys, and to our communities, who we engage with through our Community Advisory Board as well as other organisational channels.
"To help improve accountability within the organisation we will soon be launching an anonymous complaints form to report any inappropriate behaviour, and will simultaneously be updating our policies and procedures to ensure any and all concerns are dealt with swiftly and satisfactorily.
"We have a good relationship with the Mayor of London and hope to continue working with him and his team to put on the UK's largest Pride event for our 50th anniversary next year and beyond."