LGBTQ&A: Le Thomas
Le Thomas is the president of Philadelphia Black Pride. We got to chat with the leader on what’s new with the organization and what the community should expect from their upcoming meeting with LGBTQ stakeholders on addressing Gayborhood racism.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am usually very laid back unless I am dancing — then you get to see a different side of me. I’m very big on giving back — I feel like that’s what we were put on this earth to do — so sometimes I can overextend myself, but I love to help in anyway that I can. I learned that from my mother.
What has it been like leading Philly Black Pride lately?
It’s been a little different. Any time members of the organization move on to follow their own aspirations, there is a readjustment that has to happen. Other board members step into different roles, so there is a learning curve there that you have to allow them to adjust to. Once that happens, we look at what’s going on and how effective can we be in lending our voices to the community.
Besides hosting annual social gatherings, what else is the organization striving to do to connect with black LGBTQ community members?
We as Philly Black Pride have in the last three years in particular have always had programming all year round. We don’t let the celebration only speak to one side of us — we use the celebration as an addition that we can be relaxed but still have those meetings to have a purpose that also educates and creates awareness.
The organization has been holding town halls and creating strategy plans to address Gayborhood racism for the past year. After a summer of various reports of the issue persisting, do you think the stakeholders and institutions involved still don’t care enough?
I can say I think they do care, but the strategy also included a community element to it as well. I know that last year as I was bringing board members on board, I also thought of a community advisory board. It was just in the beginning phase, but maybe it is time to put it into action.
It was reported last week in the Philadelphia Gay News that your organization was planning to host another meeting with the Office of LGBT Affairs and other Gayborhood stakeholders this fall regarding complaints of racism. With the same leaders present and issues being raised, do you expect results to be any different from last time?
As we are trying to figure this all out, you have to be willing to think differently and outside of the box. I’m not aware of any specific leaders, but what should happen is any leader with an open mind and open dialogue brings something to the table that can benefit and not hinder the work. At the end of the day the work needs to speak — from there you find progression.
Noticeably, other LGBTQ organizations of color have not been a part of the leadership at the table having these discussions when Philly Black Pride engages with the Office of LGBT Affairs, gay bar owners, etc. What do you say to those who might find Philly Black Pride’s presence as a form of tokenism or assimilation?
We are an organization of partnerships and building relationships. Any time that we are called upon, I can assure you we are not the only organization of color sitting at the table. Our peers are right there beside us evoking thoughtful and informative questions. In the form of tokenism or assimilation, I’d say we have the same relationship to Office of LGBT Affairs that every organization has. So I’m not sure that applies to us.
Transformative change has been often used to describe the organization’s efforts. What does that look like for Philadelphia Black Pride this new season in the community?
It looks the same as it always has — any time you transform the way people think, what you provide for them to engage differently, that’s transformative. We will continue to be a voice, build even more partnerships and continue to engage the community on what matters.