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WorldPride celebrates diversity in Toronto

Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014

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By Neil Armstrong

Toronto Pride, the organizer of WorldPride 2014 Toronto, says it will be the world’s largest international LGBT festival to date and the first in North America.

The 10-day international celebration, which takes place from June 20-29, will showcase activism, education, and the history and culture of global LGBTTIQQ2SA communities.

LGBTTIQQ2SA is an abbreviation used to represent a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies.

“We’re looking forward to presenting the most diverse festival yet. Our aim is to present the best LGBTTIQQ2SA artists that Canada and the world have to offer alongside international celebrity artists, as well as share the stories of artists from all over the globe with our communities,” says TK, arts and culture manager for WorldPride 2014 Toronto.

Among the many events that will roll out in 2014 are some that celebrate black LGBT activism here and internationally.

Exhibitions at the Ryerson Image Centre

The Ryerson Image Centre (RCI) will present an exhibition, "Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases" from May 1 – June 1 and June 18 – August 24, curated by Dr. Gaëlle Morel.

Muholi, a South African artist, is an alumna of Ryerson University and her work aims to address the representation of black lesbian and queer identity, focusing largely on post-apartheid South Africa.

“I think she has a very interesting take on gender identity, queer identity because she only works with women or transgender. We don’t see that, that often, it’s a very specific work and she, because it’s her own community, she has that capacity of going there, meeting with the people, engaging with them. In exchange, there is some trust and then they can sit for her in front of the camera,” says Dr. Morel

This ongoing series of large black and white photographs includes more than 240 portraits, of which 36 are exhibited at the Ryerson Image Centre to coincide with the celebration of World Pride 2014 in Toronto.

As a social and political activist, Muholi endeavours to radically change the conventional perception of lesbian and transgender communities, who suffer from an epidemic of continuous attacks.

The artist employs a repetitive protocol to photograph her engaged sitters, creating a poetic archive that draws from a documentary tradition.

“There is this idea of building almost an impossible archive of all the lesbians in South Africa. But I like the idea of this quest, this search for meeting all of the women and try to stand up for their rights,” says the curator, noting that Ryerson is very proud to be an open and diverse community.

“We always try to address difficult political and social issues,” she says.

In the main gallery of RCI there will also be a show on queer visibility in the history of photography by guest curator, Sophie Hackett, curator of photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario. There will be 150-200 photographs in the show.

There will be a piece related to Pride on the media wall, presented by two artists, and in the student gallery, a student who is currently changing sex and documenting the whole process will share an intimate portrait of that transition.

Blockorama 16

The Blockorama stage has been one of the most enjoyable and dynamic stages at Pride Toronto’s annual celebration, Pride Week.

2014 marks the 16th year of Blockorama, the longest-running recurring program at the festival. It is a full-day program with over 11 hours of activities, performances, DJ sets, spoken word, and art engagements.

Located at TD Wellesley Stage (Yonge & Wellesley Streets), the site is a powerful space uniting and engaging communities through musical performances, words, images and dance.

Past headline performers include:  En Vogue (2013), Diana King (2013), Deborah Cox (2011), Keshia Chanté (2012), jojo flores (2001-present) Quentin Harris (2012), Ultra Naté (2012), Lady Blacktronica (2012), and many more.

Blockorama is programmed by Blackness Yes!, a community-based committee that works year-round to celebrate black queer and trans history, creativity and resistance.

Its mandate is to create a space for LGBTTIQQ folks of African descent and their friends, loved ones and supporters.

“We work to affirm, celebrate and ensure visible black LGBTTIQQ communities within Pride; to create a black cultural space within Pride that any black or black affirming person can be a part of; and to create a vehicle for HIV/AIDS information dissemination. We create spaces of resistance and celebration at Toronto’s Pride festival and at other community-based events year-round in Toronto,” says Blackness Yes!

The committee is made up of members of black queer and trans communities that volunteer their time to put together the Blockorama stage program every year.

“We are happy to be working with members across of our communities to bring you a truly diasporic array of entertainment,” says the committee.

 BQY: Black to the Future

For the second year, the new program, “BQY:  Black to the Future,” will once again be featured on North Stage, on June 27.

Programmed in collaboration with the Black Queer Youth (BQY) group at the Sherbourne Health Centre, the event showcases 4 hours of performances by youths, all completely programmed and presented by youths.

“WorldPride is an international LGBT event; bigger than Canada has seen before. We want to make sure the LGBTTIQQ2SA communities and artists from around the world have every chance to take part and benefit from this unique opportunity,” says Chrystal Dean, manager of WorldPRIDE 2014 Toronto.

In November, the organizers launched a new website, introduced a new video and opened registrations for the 2014 Street Fair and Affiliate Events Program, and started accepting international artists submissions at

“The Affiliate Events Program comprises events organized and produced by community groups and external organizations and support the diversity initiatives of our community and we encourage groups to hold events with an international focus,” says a press release from WorldPride 2014 Toronto.


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