On Youth Leadership & Black Lives Matter

July 9, 2020

In April 2017, YouthCO wrote to the Vancouver Pride Society expressing our concerns about anti-Blackness and racism within Vancouver, and how these sentiments have shaped conversations about the requests from Black Lives Matter Vancouver (BLMV). Our letter also indicated that we support Black Lives Matter Vancouver’s calls for the police to be removed from Pride celebrations, and that we were seriously considering what participation we would have in Vancouver Pride Society events.

As an organization that celebrates youth leadership and anti-oppression, we want to express our support for BLMV’s organizing to call attention to the ways Black people, and especially queer and trans Black youth, experience violence and exclusion in our city and LGBTQ+ communities. YouthCO supports Black Lives Matter Vancouver’s requests to ensure that Black LGBTQ+ people feel safe at Pride, including the removal the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP. After lengthy conversations with VPS, BLMV, and our staff and board team, we have decided that for YouthCO, meaningfully addressing the issues of racism raised most recently by BLMV looks like not participating in Vancouver Pride Society 2017 events at this time.

BLMV has described a reality of anti-Blackness, racism, and violence that is experienced by many people on our staff and volunteer team, as well as youth who participate in our programs. For example, in the context of our HIV work, anti-Blackness results in disproportionate rates of HIV among African, Caribbean, and Black communities, and the excessive use of the criminal law in cases of HIV non-disclosure involving Black people. In our broader experience, we notice that many local institutions, including public schools and the police, consistently ignore requests to acknowledge and resolve racism experienced and described by Black youth. Further, police institutions too often over-police and under-protect many people in our communities, including Indigenous people and sex workers. Our decision not to participate in Vancouver Pride Society events in 2017 also reflects the reality that not all of our staff and volunteers will feel respected and safe at Pride if law enforcement is part of the celebrations.

We hope that the Vancouver Pride Society will be able to address the concerns raised by Black Lives Matter Vancouver and those concerns raised here in ways that ensure everyone in our community feels safe at Pride.

We look forward to continuing our celebration of our LGBTQ+ people and communities through our day-to-day work focused on reducing HIV and Hep C stigma for youth across British Columbia, and supporting BLMV’s Pride celebrations this summer.