Parking spilled over from the lot next to Northwest African American Museum into the surrounding streets as folks gathered at Jimi Hendrix Park to celebrate not only LGBTQ+ Pride but specifically community members who are Black or Indigenous people or people of color at Taking B(l)ack Pride June 26.
Lilith O’Hare, who was keeping cool in the since-surpassed record-breaking heat with their son’s dinosaur spray fan, came all the way up from Tacoma to support the event. They said Taking B(l)ack Pride is one of the most smoothly run events they have seen, adding “it took some BIPOC queers to do that.” Black- and Brown-centered Pride events are a welcome reprieve from the “Karen-ness” of white-centered ones, according to O’Hare.
“I just feel free,” they said. “I mean, I’m here wearing a sling-kini, marijuana leaf pasties, and I have gotten so many compliments. I just feel comfortable in my skin. … I don’t know if I would at Capitol Hill [Pride].”
About 2 1/2 miles north at Cal Anderson Park, Capitol Hill Pride attempted to salvage their two-day event after the organizers levied a controversial accusation of “reverse discrimination” at the BIPOC-centered celebration that was planned for the Saturday of Seattle’s Pride weekend.
Taking B(l)ack Pride operates on a reparations model: White attendees are charged on a sliding scale from $10 to $50 to keep the event free for BIPOC attendees. According to a statement from the Trans Women Solidarity Network, this is the second year they have asked white allies to pay reparations.
In a letter to the city of Seattle, organizers of Capitol Hill Pride Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson asked the city to investigate Taking B(l)ack Pride for possible violations of city, state and federal equity laws.
“We will never charge admission over the color of a person’s skin and we resent being attacked for standing in those values,” LeFevre and Lipson wrote.
The Seattle Human Rights Commission posted the original letter to Twitter as well as its response. The commission did not find the reparations admission model to be a violation of human rights under their governing UN Declaration of Human Rights.
“We would like to recommend, if possible, that you educate yourself on the harm it may cause Seattle’s BIPOC community in your pursuit of a free ticket to an event that is not expressly meant for you and your entertainment,” the Seattle Human Rights Commission replied.
This exchange caught a lot of attention on social media and became an international news item about reparations being sought through an admission fee.
Then three Seattle mayoral candidates — Lorena González, Colleen Echohawk and Andrew Grant Houston — canceled their appearances at the Capitol Hill event. Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, which had raised over $2,000 on GoFundMe to pay that event’s drag performers, decided to shift the funds to a ballroom event in July.
As a slew of organizations and local names distanced themselves from the event, Capitol Hill Pride issued an apology on Facebook June 20.
In an email to Real Change, Lefevre and Lipson say they regret using the term “reverse racism.” However, they also said the term is being used as a “distraction” from what they still believe is wrong: charging admission based on skin color.
Whether it was the controversy, the unprecedented heat or simply a slow start, an hour into Capitol Hill Pride, an onlooker may not have realized there was a Pride event at Cal Anderson at all, though the many instances of rainbow flags worn as capes were a good indication.
A few vendors set up shop around the park’s baseball field. Brianna Fields of For Yourself Exclusive Custom Prints, who was selling her decorative trays at a Pride event for the first time, said that if attendance did not pick up, she would “definitely not” reach her goal of selling the dozens of trays she had displayed.
Capitol Hill is a gentrified area that was once the epicenter of Seattle queer culture and its original Pride parade. The neighborhood’s commercial and residential space is now filled by wealthy and white occupants. Several events still occur there during Seattle’s Pride weekend in addition to Capitol Hill Pride, including the Dyke March and Trans Pride, while the new Capitol Hill Pride has been hard to distinguish in the sea of Pride events.
“Taking B(l)ack Pride for me was important not only just because I’m Black, but because [the organizers] wanted to make a space that’s queer and Black,” O’Hare said. “And for me the response from Capitol Hill Pride also really made me want to come here — the doubling down on the white queerness was really weird when Pride was started by Black, queer sex workers.”
One white attendee of Taking B(l)ack Pride said, “I pay reparations as frequently as I can. I try not to wait until it’s asked of me.”
According to a report by Brookings analysts, the typical net worth of a white family was $171,000 in 2016. That same year, the typical net worth of a Black family was $17,150 — roughly 10% of their white counterpart. Reparations are one method proposed by advocates to address racial wealth inequality after slavery, segregation and continued discrimination inhibited many Black people’s ability to build intergenerational wealth.
“If you want to support, then come out, pay the minimum if you can, and show up,” O’Hare said. “If not: There’s Capitol Hill Pride for you if you want to go.”
Hannah Krieg studied journalism at the University of Washington. She is especially interested in covering politics, social issues and anything that gives her an excuse to speak with activists.
Read more of the June 30 - July 6, 2021 issue.