As if some awfully dystopian meme from the depths of early 2017 right-wing Twitter, mocking the inevitably self-cannibalizing nature of social justice politics—Edmonton Pride 2019 has been cancelled because it isn’t progressive enough.
Unable to fully comply with the demands set forth by two opposing groups—RaricaNow and Shades of Colour Edmonton—the board of the Edmonton Pride Festival released a statement advising that the entirety of the LGBT-centric events, a tradition in the community since 1980, would be cancelled. According to the Edmonton Journal, two anonymous insiders advised that the decision was made because the demands being made by RaricaNow and Shades of Colour would “fundamentally change the structure and the mission of the society while jeopardizing its not-for-profit status.” And would they have ever.
Amongst those demands, posted on Shades of Colour’s Facebook, was that the Pride parade be replaced by a protest against “systemic injustice” that only Shades of Colour and RaricaNow be allowed to select and screen the participants of. Additionally, that Pride in the Park feature a number of Queer, Trans, Intersex, Black and People of Colour (QTIBPOC)-led workshops and entertainment that the QTIBPOC hosts and artists then be paid for. As if written by Titana McGrath or Madeline Seers, the workshops would have focused on “poetry writing… navigating gender, navigating race, spirituality and race, unlearning misogyny for masc[uline] individuals, queer and trans representation in the media, refugee storytelling workshop, refugee support workshops, cultural music, dance & drama activities, QTIBPOC mentorship, Climate Justice activism, protecting our land, indigeneity, etc.”
This was all only in the first demand. The second, third, and fourth demands all included massive financial requests which ranged from both organizations being given $20,000 each [Demand #2], an additional $1,500 for Shades of Colour to organize a “sober dance party” to provide QTIBPOC people a “space to move their bodies in ways they may not feel safe doing in everyday life” [Demand #4], and an unspecified dollar amount for “ongoing training” [Demand #3].
Keep in mind that Edmonton Pride is an event. It is not an organization with a long-term financial commitment beyond the activities of Pride. It’s primary focus and strategic operations focus solely on the execution of the honouring of the LGBT+ community of Edmonton during the traditional Pride week festivities, and that’s all. Shades of Colour and RaricaNow were requesting funding from Edmonton Pride which amounted to long-term financial support for on-going activities that were both significantly broader than Pride week itself, and broader than Edmonton as a community. I reached out to Shades of Colour and RaricaNow and requested comment on their funding requests, which would have totaled over 20% of Edmonton Pride’s budget, but they have not responded as of the publication of this article.
Further, Edmonton Pride is a non-profit, primarily volunteer-run organization. While the demands set forth by Shades of Colour and RaricaNow were correct in denoting that only a small portion of Edmonton Pride’s $200,000 was spent on community action, that can be explained, once again, by the fact that it is an event. It is not a funding source like, say, the non-profit Alberta Public Research Interest Group (APRIG) which Shades of Colour does receive funding from, according to their Facebook page.
APRIG is affiliated to the University of Alberta, and receives approximately $180,000 in student fees every year. According to their 2017-18 financial release, they had a total cash position of $167,000, and all of this is used for their mission of “research, education and advocacy.” While it is unknown how much Shades of Colour currently receives from APRIG, the dubious morality of one non-profit funded entity demanding a known amount of $21,500 from another non-profit can certainly be debated.
Is it an issue of simple oversight? Perhaps. But more likely one of fear. Fear of what I’ve recently seen coined in the Twitterverse as Wokeus Dei, an elite of the virulent-yet-righteous keepers of absolute truth. So convinced in their rightness, and in your wrongness, Wokeus Dei is unconcerned with the consequences of their actions, and extremely unwilling to engage with any criticism at all. In fact, any criticism is seen as a violent attack upon the very lives of its members and must be met with in-kind force. As though queued, I’ve seen some supporters of Shades of Colour and RaricaNow calling Edmonton Pride’s decision to cancel the event “white fragility” and “violent”—with no critical interrogation at all of the demands that prompted the cancellation, or the fact that Pride had previously met many demands set forth by Wokeus Dei, like disinviting military and police from last year’s parade (as though there are no LGBT military and police), along with conservative politicians (as though there are no gay conservatives).
If Pride—Pride—being shut down by members of Wokeus Dei cannot convince you of the existence of this fear, this visceral fear, nothing can. That Shades of Colour and RaricaNow felt exceptionally confident and totally shameless publicly demanding over $41,500 from a non-profit is an exceptional phenomenon in and of itself, and entirely validated by the confidence given to them by the security of being protected by fear. That some people are still ignoring the incredulity of their demands and simply paying reverent homage to only the identities of those making the demands also endorses the existence of this fear.
But it’s 2019. I imagine soon legions of people who have lost everything—jobs, houses, degrees, credibility, relationships, and even community events —to the social justice wars of the past will soon emerge like ghostbusters from the fog of fear, with a rallying cry of “I ‘ain’t afraid of no woke.”
Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.