‘A modern form of minstrelsy’: LGBT activists urge pride events to stop booking offensive ‘blackface’ acts

A letter signed by prominent activists expressed concern that such artists were being promoted at the events.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 11:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 11:13pm

Pride event organisers in the UK have been urged not to promote acts that “perpetuate racist stereotypes”, after an LGBT event in Durham booked a white artist who ­darkened her skin to impersonate American singer Beyonce.

A letter signed by prominent LGBT activists expressed concern that similar artists were being promoted at other events. The letter said it was an “ongoing issue” and an “embarrassing stain” on the gay community.

“Blackface is a form of racism that dehumanises black people, turning them into objects that can be ‘performed’. It is a modern form of minstrelsy,” it said.

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Pride in Durham dropped Leanne Harper, a Beyonce tribute act, from its lineup and apologised after several groups threatened to boycott the event.

The organisers said: “We have come to the decision not to ­include this performance in Durham Pride 2017. We have recognised that we need to learn from this and ... strive to make Durham Pride as inclusive and welcoming to everyone in the county.”

Activist Chardine Taylor-Stone said: “After an online ­campaign Durham pulled the act ... What the letter is trying to do is to make sure all the prides do not book ... racist performers.”

She said Durham Pride’s organisers initially responded by blocking critics on Twitter and accused them of failing to communicate with anyone.

“They claimed to have spoken to a ... charity who said blackface wasn’t offensive, but when we asked who they had spoken to we never got a response,” the organisers said.