Nova Scotia

Halifax Pride Festival to go ahead next month with COVID-19 changes, anti-racism focus

The Halifax Pride Festival will be going ahead next month with COVID-19 changes, as well as a focus on fighting systemic racism.

Pride events will take place from July 16 to 26, both online and in person with distancing

Thousands gathered for the 2019 Halifax Pride parade. This year, many events during the Halifax Pride Festival will be held online or with physical distancing. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The Halifax Pride Festival will be going ahead next month with COVID-19 changes, as well as a focus on fighting systemic racism.

Pride events will take place from July 16 to 26, with both virtual and in-person events that will require physical distancing.

There will not be a parade this year, but there will be a flag raising and a march to the annual candlelight vigil.

"Pride has always been about centring the voices of marginalized communities," said Adam Reid, executive director of Halifax Pride.

"We have heard the calls from our communities of colour for the need to re-examine the way police engage with Pride, the way that systemic racism impacts the lives of Black and Black trans folks and we really need to seize this moment to make sure that the platform the festival has is put to the service of the community."

The theme this year is to raise diverse voices and amplify the needs of the community.

"We really want to make sure that the platform, this time of year, this festival, is used to raise up the voices of those folks who are calling for change," Reid said.

Halifax Pride says the international conversation around systemic racism and violence against Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) at the hands of police is at the forefront of this year's festival.

A 1970 photo of Marsha P. Johnson handing out flyers in support of gay students at NYU is seen here courtesy of the New York Public Library's 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation exhibit. (Diana Davies-New York Public Library/Reuters)

Reid said Pride has close ties to the Stonewall riots, which were started by queer and trans people of colour, after police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. The pushback from the LGBTQ community led to the gay rights movement.

But often times transgender women of colour, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are left out of the story despite being at the forefront.

"We owe it to those folks who have been most stigmatized to the gains that we have seen as a queer community. Unfortunately, often those voices, even [in] our community, have been silenced," he said.

This year, Reid said they have been working with organizers of the Black Lives Matter protests in Halifax, as well as queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of colour consultants to build festival programs that are inclusive and will create safe spaces.

He said this year's Pride ambassador, yet to be announced, is also someone who has been working hard to bring people of colour to the front of these conversations.

COVID-19 guidelines

When it comes to co-ordinating an event in the pandemic, Halifax Pride has tech support volunteers ready to make sure people can view the virtual events, such as online drag shows.

"We need to celebrate our community, the need for social exchange and the calls for societal change," said Morgan Manzer, Pride chair, in the news release.

Manzer said staff have been working with the public health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic to find a way to still hold the festival while keeping attendees safe.

"The important thing to remember is Pride isn't just parades and dance parties. It's about remembrance, solidarity, and coming together as a 2SLGBTQ+ community," Manzer said.

Reid said outdoor activities will include things like yoga and picnics, which will allow for physical distancing.

The full schedule is expected to be released in the coming days.