Let’s Talk Pride Toronto

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As we kick off #LetsTalkPrideToronto, we are breaking down how Pride Toronto is acting on feedback from our 2SLGBTQ+ communities to make our Festival safer, more accessible, more inclusive, and with more diverse and far-reaching programming, all year round.

This series is not only about transparency, which is one of our core values; it is an invitation for deeper conversations with all of you. Please send us a message at [email protected]  to let us know what we’re doing right, what we’ve missed, and what more you would like to see in the 2022 Festival and beyond.

Based on your feedback, we have broken down your top programming concerns into five areas that contain concrete actions Pride Toronto has taken to date, and our commitments for future Festivals.

Accessibility

– Provided American Sign Language at more events

– Ensured captioning was available for all virtual programming

– Encouraged curators to use visual descriptions in their shows

– Created an instructional video on how to apply for the festival and scheduled artist application Q&A sessions

Representation

– Brought back the Bi+ committee and launched Bi+ Pride

– Created the first Senior Pride Committee and Senior Pride

– Introduced the first 2Spirit Pride Committee and 2Spirit Pride

– Ensured over 70% of the 2021 festival was BIPOC-focused

– Added additional Indigenous-focused programming

– Ensured bookings for 2SLGBTQ+ artists and creators with disabilities

– Hired more Trans and non-binary curators

– Implemented booking requirements for our curators: 50/50 drag queens and kings/gender performers. Plus, 20% new and emerging artists and 20% women

– Currently exploring an equitable pay structure for artists and creators

Variety

– Made visual art a priority in the 2020 and 2021 Festivals, with plans to continue in 2022 and beyond

– Expanded the range of creative work for virtual programming, social campaigns, and installations. Community participants included sex therapists, mixologists, chefs, content creators, graphic designers, visual artists, photographers, and more

– Launched the Black Queer and Trans Excellence podcast

Safety

– Plan to identify and partner with local 2SLGBTQ+-owned or -supported safe(r) spaces for future programming initiatives

– Currently developing criteria for venue partnerships, ensuring accessibility, education, training and safety of QTBIPOC community members.

Year-Round Pride

– Launched an internal calendar committee to ensure we acknowledge cultural dates and important events in Queer history in our social campaigns and/or programming

– Created and collaborated on more year-round programming including partnering with local cultural festivals and creating our own events

Pride Toronto aims to support, serve, and entertain all people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community in the GTA. As such, we are actively engaging with folks outside the downtown core, while clearly communicating our organization’s direction, and ensuring diverse representation on our Board of Directors.

Here’s how we’re doing so far:

Through our 2020 Community Connect program, we visited all 25 Toronto wards to deliver Pride bags during the June 2021 Festival. For 2022, we are planning in-person programming to be held across the city to better reach marginalized communities.

We are developing a three-year strategic plan to guide our work from 2023 to 2025.

Following our 2021 Annual General Meeting, our new Board of Directors included greater representation — including Trans, Senior, Black and Bi+ directors — and we are actively encouraging applications from a range of communities for the upcoming 2022 Board elections.

We all want Pride to be free and accessible, but we hear you loud and clear that there must be a balanced approach to the corporate presence, which is why our Sponsorship Committee has developed clear guidelines and strong initiatives to ensure that all corporate partners have the values and interests of our 2SLGBTQ+ communities at heart.

Here are some highlights:

Partners must demonstrate year-round allyship to 2SLGBTQ+ communities, not just during the Festival month.

Leading up to the 2022 Festival, Pride Toronto will conduct an Authentic Sponsorship Audit of all returning and prospective partners to make sure they meet our high standards.

We are working to reduce corporate presence through creative brand placements and alternative revenue streams.

Plus…

More transparency for in-kind donations and charity-of-choice selection through formalized relationships with our not-for-profit partners, and

More multi-year partnership agreements to foster better financial stability through fruitful, long-term partnerships.

Pride belongs to all of us, and the way it is marketed needs to be driven by our values, not sponsorship priorities or themes that can feel disconnected from what matters to our 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Here are three big ways we have been re-aligning the Pride Toronto branding and marketing: 


 Focus on Local

– Highlighting local talent in our promotional materials

– Redeveloping information guides to showcase local talent and businesses, and prioritize sustainability

– Hired local 2SLGBTQ+ artists to execute creative direction and marketing assets

Accessibility and Transparency

– Sharing our organization’s work through monthly newsletters, website, and social media posts

– Providing more transparency in communications from our staff and board of directors

– A website redesign that meets AODA standards

Coherent and Purposeful Marketing

– Streamlined partnership collateral to maintain cohesive branding and keep the focus on the talent

– Hired a Social Media and Graphic Design Coordinator to create content across our channels

– Themes have been replaced with creative directions

– All content creation is guided by our strategic values: Environmental Sustainability, Indigenous Solidarity, Anti-Racism, Harm Reduction and Public Safety, and Representation in Arts and Culture.

Crowds, cops, and consultation are three Festival pain points we’ve heard from our 2SLGBTQ+ communities. We take these concerns seriously and have developed plans to create a smoother, safer Festival for all. Here are the highlights:

Reducing Congestion

– Dedicated entrance gates and staggered times for StreetFair vendors to reduce congestion for load-in and to create safer spaces

– Relocated Street Fair vendor activation spaces to the southbound centre lane on Church St. to reduce encroachment on local businesses, and to allow for more accessible spaces to travel along the StreetFair

– Extended parade staging eastbound to create more space for attendees to gather
– Currently locating alternative venue space to host Pride Toronto stages across the city of Toronto for 2022

Safety and Accessibility

– Free access to water

– Implementing more accessibility services, and training our volunteers to better aid those needing access

– Hiring an Accessibility Curator to oversee all accessibility services across the festival and year long events. 

– Implementing a Food Truck Zone

– Worked with the City of Toronto’s Emergency Task Force to update the Emergency Action Plan to ensure safety for Festival attendees

– Implementing a centralized incident reporting system so Pride Toronto can potentially intervene and de-escalate situations before police become involved

– Planning to live-stream performances from each stage for viewers to watch anywhere

Thorough Consultation

– Consulting businesses and residents on the festival footprint to ensure Pride Toronto does not cause unneeded obstructions 

– Developing a waste management plan to sort all garbage, recycling and compost

Pride Toronto could not happen without the passion and tireless work of our volunteers. We value feedback from everyone in our 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and our volunteers have special insight into how the Festival can best serve everybody.
Here are some of our plans for making the volunteer experience even more rewarding:

Pride Toronto is taking steps to provide more professional development and training for volunteers, including guidebooks designed for each role. We are moving toward a model of constant communication with the volunteer force, either through regular email contact or a Volunteer Portal.

Our volunteers packed 14,000 bags of sponsor donations for community members in all parts of Toronto during the 2021 Festival. They also played a pivotal role in Pride Toronto’s online harm reduction resources during the virtual Festival, offering chat monitoring and harm reduction support. Pride Toronto’s volunteers worked behind the scenes at every virtual event ensuring that the events and live comments were safe and secure for all of the participants.

For 2022, there will be 1000 volunteers making sure your in-person Festival is safe and fun.

It would be an understatement to say that maintaining connection during the pandemic has been difficult. For many, it has been a very sad and isolating period, and Pride Toronto made efforts to keep the feeling of community alive through our virtual programming and gift bag deliveries. 

But we, like you, have yearned for the day when we can all celebrate together again in person, showing each other what community looks, feels, sounds (and dances) like. And we want to take an active role in reconnecting those in our 2SLGBTQ+ communities who feel they have drifted apart.

That is why we are developing a three-year Community Engagement Strategy, a foundational part of which is our Community Advisory Committee Program, launched in 2021 with 8 Community Committees, including 2Spirit Pride, Accessibility, Bi+ Pride, Dyke March, Family Pride, Senior Pride, Sober Pride, Trans Pride, and Youth Pride. Each committee is empowered to create safer celebratory spaces for their niche communities and works closely with Pride Toronto to engage in transformative conversations about improving equity, inclusion and belonging within the organization. 

We understand that inclusivity is the foundation of equitable community engagement and, as such, this year, we are actively engaging with the community in a culturally responsive and meaningful approach that, at its core, focuses on reconnecting with the most marginalized segments of our community, building long-term capacity, trust, empathy, and transparency. 

We will soon be launching advisory committees for more communities, including BIPOC, Newcomers to Canada, and Francophones. We believe in the radical power of Queer and Trans joy, and, in 2022, we are reemerging bigger, bolder, and louder, with our voices in unison.

We recognize that dismantling systemic racism includes identifying and addressing the biases embedded within our own organization and continually striving to hear and uplift Black voices, learn from them, and put our learnings into material improvements for the Black members of the communities we serve.

Our Community Advisory Committee Program Against Anti-Black Racism is at the heart of this transformative consultation process, and many new initiatives are already underway.

We would like to share some of them with you here, not in a self-congratulatory spirit, but as the latest steps in our long-term anti-racist strategic plan.

Representation and Space

– Increased BIPOC programming with over 70% of the festival containing BIPOC artists in both 2020 and 2021

– Partnering with Global Black Pride and Blackness Yes to produce the first in-person and hybrid event in Toronto for 2022

– Held a town hall for 2SLGBTQ+ Black community members to gain insight into their experiences with/at Pride Toronto

– Asked for increased BIPOC representation on the board of directors, which now has two Black directors and two POC co-chairs

Education and Training

– Organized Black History Month programming, which included webinars on accessing health services and safely navigating encounters with the police, a healing session for BIPOC community members, and a virtual celebration

– Creating an anti-Racism guidebook for the Pride Toronto onboarding process

– Launched the Black Queer and Trans Excellence podcast

– Asked for and received mandatory training on anti-Black racism and Indigenous competency for all staff and board members

Accountability

– Donated $10,000 to local Black-focused organizations in Toronto

– Formed a coalition committee among Pride Toronto staff to ensure non-BIPOC staff are participating in anti-racist initiatives

– Developing and reviewing policies and procedures for reporting and accountability regarding all forms of racism in the workplace

– Inspired the calendar committee at Pride Toronto to ensure all notable remembrance days, celebrations, and holidays are acknowledged on Pride Toronto channels

If you weren’t able to share your experience with us at the Town Hall, we would still love to hear from you. Send us a message or comment on this post to let us know what we’re doing right and what more we could be doing.

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