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Baz Bloomfield's open letter re Ak Pride

Fri 11 Dec 2015 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

The Full Story for leaving Auckland Pride Festival Inc as a volunteer and Harmful Media Reporting In my honest opinion… I believe that I have been ill-treated by key people associated with the Auckland Pride Festival Inc. I have been a volunteer for the Auckland Pride Festival Inc since its beginning and in that time I enjoyed participating being a volunteer Check-in Marshal for the 2013 parade. The last two years I have been the volunteer Parade Registration Coordinator drawing on my skills and working closely with float participants and parade volunteers. I believe the key to the success of the last three Pride Parades was around Jonathan Smith and Richard Taki’s in-depth knowledge of the Rainbow community and their effective leadership skills. These two learned men energised and empowered their volunteers to a point where total respect was reciprocated. Conflict with the Executive Officer It became clear to me that the ‘censuring’ technique and power and control measures by the Executive Officer towards anyone who got in her way or wanted to express their opinions was verbally slapped down and put in their place. This behaviour was observed by me as oppressive. It was either her way or the highway. It was as if people who belonged to the Rainbow community were not allowed a voice and the only voices that mattered were that of the Auckland Pride Festival Inc board. What was of deep concern was Richard Taki’s parade management team signing a document that related to the Executive Officer and the way she was ill-treating people. After the 2015 Pride Parade had concluded it was obvious to me that there was irreparable damage between the Parade Director and the Executive Officer of ‘Pride’. The Executive Officer was adamant she was not going to have any dialogue with the Parade Director about any concerns he had that related to the 2015 Pride Parade. Her view was that she was not accountable to anyone except Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development who were the main funders of the Pride Parade. Her views that related to ‘Pride’s’ accountability to the Rainbow community were the same for the Parade Director. The upshot was that the 2015 Parade Director had written 29 recommendations to the Executive Officer and the board. The Executive Officer was not prepared have a conversation with Parade Director about his concerns that related to Health that Richard Taki and his team had already started this process because the team wanted to show that the float participants were valued. The Executive Officer stated to me that a certificate of appreciation was not necessary and dismissed the initiative. 2 Indecent Assault In or around early February of this year I informed the Executive Officer about me being indecently assaulted by a heterosexual woman; that I had made an official complaint to the New Zealand Police and that I wanted the offender to be charged. The Executive Officer’s response to this news was of surprise to me because she said that it had nothing to do with ‘Pride’. By the time I realised that the police were not taking my complaint seriously I informed the Executive Officer that it was highly likely I would inform gay media about indecent assault and how I felt that the Police were treating me differently because I am a gay man. Threatening behaviour The Executive Officer was not slow coming forward and threatened me that if I was to inform gay media my job as the Parade Registrations Coordinator would be in jeopardy and that ‘Pride’ would have to distance itself from me because the New Zealand Police were an integral part of their Pride Parades. I suggested to the Executive Officer that ‘Pride’ might like to question homophobia and the discrimination policies of the Police considering that I belonged to the Rainbow community. She said that I needed to have a big think about what I was doing and if I wanted to stay on with ‘Pride’ as the Parade Registrations Coordinator I was to drop the idea of involving gay media. Her threatening behaviour felt like blackmail to me. Department of Corrections and the New Zealand Police I mentioned to the Executive Officer that I had serious concerns about the participation of the Department of Corrections and the Police into the 2016 Pride Parade because of the issues facing the Trans* community when in the Department of Corrections and Police care. Her response to that was that it was not up to her as the Executive Officer or the board to determine who or who does not go into the 2016 Pride Parade. I then asked the Executive Officer who would make those decisions however, she said that she was not prepared to have a conversation because it was not an issue I should be concerned about. The Executive Officer’s attitude and behaviour towards me was met with disgust and disappointment. She was well aware that I had given many hours to ‘Pride’ as a volunteer and she did not give a toss about my concerns. It was not too long after that I informed her I would not be returning to do the 2016 Pride Parade. However, I was encouraged to return by others and did so a few days later. When the new Parade Director was eventually appointed I made my views very clear to him about the Police and Corrections participating in the 2016 Pride Parade and gave reasons for this as I did with the then Executive Officer, a present Co-Chair and another board member. The Co-Chair met with me and said that ‘Pride’ were not the judge and jury on matters like this and as far as he and the board were concerned the New Zealand Police and Corrections would be able to enter and participate the 2016 Pride Parade. The ‘board member’ appeared to have a more sympathetic ear and told me that she was not impressed about either the New Zealand Police or the Department of Corrections participating in the 2016 Pride Parade because of the ill-treatment of Trans* by these government departments and that if the board was to allow these entities into the 2016 parade she would resign. 3 She advised me that if I wanted to get my messages of concern to the board I should put the messages in writing but as recommendations and give them to the new Parade Director. I met with the new Parade Director and he stated to me that he did not appreciate me sharing information with a certain board member which related to the inclusion of the Department of Corrections into the 2016 Pride Parade. That my job was to take registrations and not make comment; if I was to talk with the board it would be viewed that was using my position as the Parade Registration Coordinator; that I was compromising my position and I would not be able to carry on. Once again I experienced the feelings of being threatened. This threatening behaviour felt like blackmail to me. On the same day I wrote an email to the new Parade Director and recapped what he had said to me earlier that morning. He never bothered to respond to my correspondence. I eventually presented the new Parade Director with x2 recommendations and asked if he would pass the recommendations on to the board. The first recommendation related to the participation of the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections into the 2016 Pride Parade. The second recommendation was on behalf of Kevin Dunseath (Miss Ribena) and me that related to the new start time of 5pm (now 6pm) and the direction of the 2016 Pride Parade. I expressed to the new Parade Director that prior consultation with the Rainbow community would be gratefully received because the community had worked hard over the last three years for the Parade to go into darkness and that historically in Auckland we have enjoyed and expected evening parades. The new Parade Director informed me he would not be passing on the recommendations to the board; that he and the board will allow the New Zealand Police and Corrections into the 2016 parade and that I should focus on the group ‘No Pride In Prisons’ and help them to make changes; that the board had been informed by him of the new start time for the 2016 parade being 5pm and would start at the 3 lamps end of Ponsonsby Road and that no changes to that were going to happen. In my opinion the new Parade Director had inherited very quickly an arrogant position like many other key people on the ‘Pride’ board which included the Executive Officer. I can recall suggesting to the new Parade Director that it was highly likely the ‘No Pride in Prisons’ group would disrupt the next Pride Community Consultation hui on 14 November and that the ‘No Pride in Prisons’ group had every right to attend to make sure their voices would be heard in a public forum; that in this Rainbow community group were some very vulnerable people, some who were representative of Maori and Pacific peoples. The new Parade Director became very agitated and clearly did not want to listen to my points of view. I tried to explain that ‘Pride’ was seen by me and many others in the Rainbow community that ‘Pride’ continued to dismiss community concerns by arrogantly turning a blind eye and this included him as the new Parade Director. His answer to this was that it was not up to him or ‘Pride’ to be the judge and jury on who can or cannot participate the 2016 Pride Parade. I felt as though ‘Pride’ may as well join the group who are wanting to take the T (Trans*) out of GLBTTI. I thought to myself what next, take the T out for Takataapui? 4 In written correspondence with the ‘board member’ I asked her for some guidance on the concerns I still had. The upshot of that conversation she wrote some very judgemental comments. I wondered why this ‘board member’ would say such things to someone who wanted only to support members of the Rainbow community. The irony was I was trying to support members of her own gender. Rainbow Tick, the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections I informed the new parade director that the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections would have difficulties meeting the standards for accreditation with the Rainbow Tick organisation as the benchmark for accreditation was high. I suggested that ‘Pride’ talk with the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections and suggest they apply to gain accreditation because at the moment both of these government organisations fell well outside the parameters of keeping the Trans* community safe while in their care. My suggestions fell on deaf ears. Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi When I attended the first ‘Pride’ Community Consultation meeting I raised the contentious issue of the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi missing from ‘Pride’s’ constitution and Mission Statement. I said that this was a worry to many in our community and wondered when the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi would be reinstated. The answer to this question I felt was dumbed down and dismissive. A board member saying that the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi were still there but had been lost in translation and that ‘Pride’ was waiting for an opportunity to get Charity status. What was disturbing to me however was the fact that on ‘Pride’s’ website there was no mention of the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is no wonder that the Mika Haka Foundation is not returning to Pride in 2016 because of the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi not being visible. I refer to statements on gaynz.com by Mika Haka on these matters. Dawn Service I spoke with the new Parade Director no mention of a dawn service on the ‘Pride’ website and that historically the dawn service been the official opening of the Auckland Pride Festival. His response was that the dawn service had nothing to do with him or me; that my job was about making sure that the float spreadsheet was up to date. When I mentioned that the dawn service was about the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, Tangata Whenua and Ngati Whatua being observed and respected. The new Parade Director just shrugged his shoulders. Clearly, ‘Pride’ needed to give this man from Brighton/England some professional development around Tikanga Maori (customs and traditions). I mentioned that historically, Tangata Whenua lead the parade. He showed no interest at all. It was with disappointment that I felt it necessary to inform the new Parade Director I could no longer work with him. What I expected of ‘Pride’ was to at least speak out and ask the New Zealand Police and Corrections about their policies and procedures that relate to the care and protection of the Rainbow community. Even now there are board members who believe that the Rainbow community have no right to information because the board is only accountable to its funders that being Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development. This situation I find to be arrogant and self-serving. 5 In relation to the new Parade Director and his views about how the 2016 Pride Parade should be managed I was tired of hearing about what happens in Brighton (England) each year and how Brighton had a parade in the day time. I did let him know that historically in Auckland New Zealand the Rainbow community have enjoyed and expected evening parades going in to darkness. My views were supported by Kevin Dunseath as well at a meeting held between the new Parade Director, Kevin Dunseath and me. The new Parade Director dismissed our views. 2016 Parade Fees The new Parade Director informed me that there would be a significant rise in fees for those who wanted to participate and have a float in the 2016 Pride Parade. After hearing what the increases were I seriously wondered if this man from Brighton/England and the ‘Pride’ board were wanting the Pride Parade to fail and its future funding as well. Health a public relations exercise which I found to be seriously wanting. Once again my concerns had been dismissed and 15 questions unanswered. In my view, ‘Pride’ has an obligation to account for its activities and accept responsibility in a transparent manner but continues to not make this happen. 6 Information and Rules for Pride Parade Entrants-Eligibility-Who Can Enter After viewing the re-written section of who is able to enter and partipate into the 2016 Pride Parde I consider that there are serious doubts about the eligibility of the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections participating the 2016 Pride Parade. However it has come to my attention that both these government organisations were sent application forms for entry into the parade by the new Parde Director with the Department of Corrections returning their application signed and accepted by the new Pride Director and the board of ‘Pride’. Quote: “Entries will not also be accepted from discriminatory organisations, organisations whose policies and procedures discriminate against or fail to uphold the human rights of the Rainbow Community” It is clear to me that the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections fail to meet the requirements for entry into the 2016 Pride Parade. So why did ‘Pride’ send application forms to these two organisations that fail to keep our Trans* community safe when in their care? Harmful Media Reporting It is clear to me that many people who have a sense of belonging to the Rainbow community firmly believe that the media reporting of some Rainbow community groups is harmful. It is unacceptable to ‘assassinate the characters’ of people who try to make a positive difference in the Rainbow community. Just ask any member of the New Zealand Bear community. If any media outlet reads this and says “Oh Baz is writing about our media business”. All I can say is “If the cap fits wear it”. Empowerment What is obvious to me that relates to ‘Pride’s’’ governance has been the inability to successfully empower their employees, volunteers and the Rainbow community; that ‘Pride’s’ focus has been “you do what we say” instead of “let’s work together and use our collective strengths“. The art of disempowerment is so debilitating and there is never any positive outcomes. Maybe ‘Pride’ will have a good look at themselves in the future (if there is a future) and take head of what has been said. We’ve often heard from ‘Pride’ that, “we’re doing our best! Well most of us are sick and tired of hearing those words. Clearly, your best is not good enough. Apology NB: I would like to take this opportunity to whole heartedly apologise to Julian Cook who was the first Pride Festival Director. I now realise that he too was shabbily treated by the majority of the board and the Executive Officer of ‘Pride’. Kind regards Baz Bloomfield - 11th December 2015    

Credit: GayNZ.com

First published: Friday, 11th December 2015 - 9:41am

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