Research by the Municipality of Amsterdam published last year, showed that we in Amsterdam are not alone as a community and that the city is indeed celebrating Pride with us. Amsterdammers represent the vast majority of our visitors and appreciate our boat parade with an average score of 8.9. Thus, we are assured of a broad social consensus, which is important to our future and that of our festival.
This year's theme ‘Heroes’ celebrates the people who deserve a ‘hero status’. Think of those who took or are taking the lead, who stand for something and communicate this in public. It concerns people, whether or not belonging to our community, who are committed to human rights in general and / or to the LGBTI community in particular in a variety of ways. However, in a time in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to be yourself on the streets and at times have to think twice before publicly kissing your partner, everyone who does so is a Hero! We need a lot of Heroes, as the last thing we want is to go back into the closet in great numbers.
Each year, we are confronted with terrible stories from around the world, violations of human rights, violence against LGBTI people, declining acceptance in the Netherlands, prejudice and inappropriate jokes. It almost seems as if things are getting worse instead of better.
This year, with boats from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, we want to pay extra attention to these issues. But what good are rights if society seems to accept us less and less, and even prominent comedians and TV shows ridicule us on prime-time Dutch television?
Fortunately in the Netherlands, we can still have the government as an ally and have the special police branch Roze in Blauw. How different is the situation in Istanbul, where Pride was banned for two consecutive years, and participants are harassed by the police with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. To show their support, Dutch political party GroenLinks invited these Heroes from Turkey to experience the warmth of the Amsterdam public on their boat. Activists often tell us that, after our Pride, they return home in good spirits and draw courage from what we have achieved here.
A discussion that our brothers and sisters in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asian countries really do not get is the so-called commercialization of our Pride. They would applaud the open support of their employers and label them heroes if they walked alongside them in a parade. They can only dream of the financial and open support we get here in Amsterdam. A financial support that we truly need in order for us to organize a Pride at all.
Partly because of this financial dependency, we decided to set up a Pride Business Club last winter to strengthen the link with the business community. We are extremely proud of this network of professionals who consider diversity and emancipation of LGBTs in general, but in particular in the workplace, so important that they support us financially and / or creatively through their social involvement. As a result, we can continue to make the initiatives of our committees and non-commercial organizations financially possible, and this has once again resulted in a wonderful and large variety of activities.
I want to thank everyone for his or her contribution to Pride Amsterdam 2018. My dear Victor (often at the receiving end of my stress), the entire AGP production team (Anita, Marc, Peter, Tess and Danny, you are my Heroes), our board, all committee members and volunteers, the organizers of street parties and all LGBTI organizations that are organizing activities, our Pride Business Club members and other Partners, and last but not least the City of Amsterdam that makes our festival possible and, when necessary, defends our values.
Show yourself this Pride. Be yourself and BE A HERO!
Lucien Spee is Managing Director of Amsterdam Pride. Amsterdam Pride 2018, July 28 till August 5, see also www.pride.amsterdam