IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Boston Pride dissolves amid diversity complaints

“This decision was made with a heavy heart, out of love and hope for a better future,” the organization’s board said in a statement.
Image: Boston Pride Parade
Marchers dance up Beacon Street during the gay pride parade on June 8, 2019, in Boston.Elise Amendola / AP file

Boston Pride, the organization that has organized the city’s Pride celebrations for 50 years, has announced it is shutting down.

The dissolution, announced Friday afternoon in a statement on the group’s website, comes after the reportedly all-white board of directors has faced ongoing accusations of ignoring racial minorities and transgender people.

“It is clear to us that our community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride,” the board said in its statement.

“We have heard the concerns of the QTBIPOC community and others,” the statement continued, referring to queer and trans people of color. “We care too much to stand in the way. Therefore, Boston Pride is dissolving. There will be no further events or programming planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization.”

The board said the decision “was made with a heavy heart, out of love and hope for a better future.”

Tensions have been brewing for some time: In 2015, a group of LGBTQ activists of color stopped the city’s Pride parade to issue a series of demands, including more diversity in leadership, WBUR reported.

In 2020, a Boston Pride statement addressing police brutality after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor reportedly removed any reference to Black Lives Matter, according to New England LGBTQ outlet The Rainbow Times, resulting in 80 percent of the group’s volunteers to quit in protest.

"We wrote in that statement, 'We stand with Black Lives Matter. We stand against police brutality,’” Casey Dooley, former Boston Black Pride chair, told WBUR. "The communications team then gave that letter to the board. The board then proceeded to take out Black Lives Matter and police brutality.”

After the incident, groups like Trans Resistance MA, Mass NOW and Pride for the People called for a boycott of Boston Pride. As a result, dozens of organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ legal advocacy group GLAD, withdrew support for the city’s annual Pride march, and all major candidates abandoned Boston Pride’s June 14, 2020, mayoral candidate forum. That same month, Boston Pride brought on Dorrington & Saunders, a consulting firm specializing in diversity and inclusion.

“We know that this work is challenging but necessary to promote equity, access and inclusion and enhance cultural competence, cultural responsiveness and cultural humility,” Judah-Abijah Dorrington, a partner at Dorrington & Saunders, said in a statement at the time. “Our focus will include issues of racial and gender social injustice.”

In April 2021, Boston Pride announced the formation of a transformation advisory committee to address accusations of structural racism and “to ensure that the board is reflective of the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.”

But last month, Boston Pride President Linda J. DeMarco announced her intention to resign, telling The Boston Globe her departure was "a little accelerated now because I think the boycott is really hurting the community."

In addition to coordinating the city’s annual Pride march, Boston Pride issues grants to local, regional and national groups. According to the group’s website, the 2020 Boston Pride Community Fund Grant issued a record nearly $80,000 to 39 grassroots organizations.

The first Boston Pride march was held on June 26, 1971. Over the decades, the event has evolved into one of the largest parades in New England, drawing a record 750,000 participants and spectators in 2019.

It’s not clear how Boston Pride’s decision to shutter will impact this year’s Pride celebration, which was moved to October in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"We know many people care about Pride in Boston, and we encourage them to continue the work," the board said in its statement. "By making the decision to close down, we hope new leaders will emerge from the community to lead the Pride movement in Boston."

Jo Trigilio is a former communications team member for Boston Pride who quit to found the splinter group Pride for the People. When DeMarco announced her resignation plan, Trigilio told The Boston Globe there would still be a public Pride celebration eventually, though it "might look different."

“In fact, I hope it looks different,” Trigilio added. “That’s the whole point.”

NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, NBC Sports Boston and NECN — which all share a parent company with NBC News — have been the multimedia and community partner for Boston Pride.

Follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram