Members of the #NotOurPride movement voted last week to call off their boycott of the L.A. Pride festival after threatening to protest the event for the past month.
Peter Cruz, a director at Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT) – which led the boycott movement – explained in a statement that the #NotOurPride group focused on addressing three concerns. They included restoring the Friday night transgender and lesbian celebrations, the increase in festival ticket prices and the rebranding of the event as a music festival.
“I personally feel that we have addressed these three objectives, which is why I voted to have the boycott lifted,” Cruz said. “I feel that we should all be proud of everything we have accomplished in the last two weeks.”
Jazzmun Crayton with APAIT, explained that APAIT and LGBT community leaders met with the producers of the festival, Christopher Street West (CSW), before #NotOurPride voted.
“We were able to negotiate and compromise,” Crayton said. “We squashed it and were able to come to an agreement to make it work for the community. It was a wonderful meeting. They were very forthcoming.”
Crayton explained they are thrilled that CSW extended the hours on Friday back to 6-10 p.m., and reinstated the trans and lesbian celebrations, including the Dyke March, Youth Dance and Vogue Ball.
Cruz said CSW committed to making both celebrations a permanent part of L.A. Pride weekend, and will provide production support and a budget to secure performers for the evening. CSW also announced that Friday night events will be free, when they were originally going to cost $10.
“This was a significant gesture from CSW in order to make the festival more accessible and inclusive,” Cruz said.
Chris Classen, president of CSW, explained that in the past the Friday night events were not fully programmed with artists, such as those set to perform this year.
For the rest of the weekend, single day tickets will be $25 in advance and $30 at the door – a $5 jump from last year. The plan had been to raise the price by $10.
Classen explained that in the past five years, the festival’s production cost has increased 74 percent, but until last year, they had not increased prices for a decade.
“So the production has more than doubled and we keep getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “Security cost doubled for example, there’s also insurance, the cost of talent. In the past, talent would donate their time. Now that we reached a certain level of attendance, it’s a major event. It’s the largest ticketed LGBT festival in the country. That talent is not going to be free.”
Classen said CSW spent $132,000 on Friday’s events alone. Classen added that CSW donates tickets valued at $30,000 to nonprofits to help ensure that underrepresented communities are included. Also, with the volunteer program, people can dedicate four hours of their time and get a free ticket, which has been the case very year.
CSW decided to re-brand L.A. Pride this year as a music festival geared toward milliennials because 80 percent of the people who attended the festival last year were younger than 34 . Classen said instead of it being a matter of exclusion, they were just recognizing the crowd that attended last year.
CSW agreed to remove “Music Festival” from all marketing and promotional materials, including banners that have already gone up throughout the city.
Classen added that CSW was able to lay the groundwork to be able to work with the community on future festivals. He said for next year’s festival, CSW will start planning early this fall and host community meetings to start a dialogue to explain the inner workings and to get feedback. They plan to involve more people earlier to create a festival that is fun, safe and relevant for all communities. CSW will also reach out to the Transgender Service Provider Network to request their assistance with distributing tickets to communities in need.
“I would not support ending the boycott unless I felt that we did everything we could do to address its three main issues,” Cruz said. “I firmly believe that CSW has addressed those issues with their actions this past week.”
Crayton said the movement was important because it opened the conversation with different communities. Crayton applauded CSW for embracing a “new direction” and a “new way of approaching the communities.”
But Ivy Bottini, a longtime LGBT activist who founded the first chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1966 and was one of the earliest voices in the fight against HIV/AIDS, said she still is not satisfied with the changes. When Classen originally explained in an open letter that the music festival was geared toward millennials, Bottini said it was the “most ageist thing” she has seen since she moved to California.
“That’s not the purpose of Pride,” she said. “It’s not what Pride is for. You can have entertainment, but there also needs to be education.”
She explained that she does not have a problem with the music selection, but she felt that the programming eliminated “the guts of why it was ever created.”
Bottini said the idea and purpose of the festival are important to harness because the festival “saves lives” of people who feel they still need to stay “in the closet” for being who they are.
She remembers the first time she saw the Pride festival, back when it was just a march. She was walking down Hollywood Boulevard in the 1970s with her then-partner when she lived in Hollywood.
“We heard music and looked and here comes people marching with great determination,” she said. “I quickly understood what it was for. I stepped off the curb and joined them.”
Joining that march helped Bottini become an activist. She said Pride became a teaching tool for the LGBT community to learn who they are, as well as the community’s history and legacy, which she said can’t happen at a music festival.
“That’s what it meant for me,” she said. “It was a wonderful tool to educate the youth and to save lives, to say, ‘You are OK just as you are.’ … That’s what was going to be missing this year.”
Bottini said she would not have voted to end the boycott.
“I wish they hadn’t called it off,” she said. “And if people also want to demonstrate, they should be allowed. That’s one of the strongest cards you have.”
Classen said the notion that the festival would not include LGBT community’s history was a “huge miscommunication.” Classen said they changed the arts programming this year to highlight the community’s legacy. He said there will be art features that speak to the history of the LGBT movement and struggle, and will honor people who have come before them and the evolution of the fight for equality.
“I think when people see it this year they will be blown away and these fears will be eased,” he said.
Classen said approximately 42,000 people attended the festival last year, and more than 50,000 are expected this year. He added that more than half of the people who attended came from communities of color last year.
“It’s a very diverse, inclusive event,” he said.
Classen said aside from the concerns from #NotOurPride and others protesting the rebranding, the reaction to the music lineup has been amazing.
Crayton agreed, and said the festival this year is going to “be over the top.”
The festival begins June 10. For information, visit lapride.org.