A link to a full journal of Halifax Pride 2023 is at the bottom of the article.
The meeting started with current Chair Natalie Matheson explaining the purpose of the meeting, did a land acknowledgment, and introduced the agenda. Of the small board elected in January 2023, only Matheson and Mark Monk were in attendance. She also introduced Kevin Kindred as a community member who had volunteered to assist with procedural issues at the meeting.
After the standard agenda items, the Chair provided an oral report of the previous year's activities. Unsurprisingly, she expressed regret that the Board was unable to present the Pride festival the community expected. While the cancellation of the Parade due to the flooding emergency was ultimately a matter beyond the Board's control, she recognized that the Board had bigger plans they were unable to realize. She also informed the meeting that arrangements had been made to secure October 28 as a new parade date – while recognizing that the decision to proceed with such plans would ultimately fall to a new Board.
The Chair fielded questions from the members at this point. (The process was much aided by the decision to require questions to be asked orally or in writing, rather than trying to manage the Zoom chat function which proved chaotic in prior meetings.)
Members had questions about the state of finances, the failure to publicize community events, and generally the failure to communicate transparently with the community in advance of the festival. The Chair's answers explained the limited capacity of the volunteer Board members and the difficulties in working without staff. However, the general feeling of members seemed to be that the Chair would be unable to provide satisfactory answers, and as a result the members decided to move directly to the election of new Board members.
As nominations were opened, community member, activist, and comedian Lisa Buchanan nominated a slate of candidates. She explained that a group of interested community members had met in the prior week to come up with a platform for immediate change. That platform included a focus on securing immediate grants and other available funds, hiring experienced staff to handle festival operations, planning a scaled-back festival for 2024, and maintaining openness with the community throughout.
That slate, all of whom were elected, were experienced community activists, and I apologize for only noting a few relevant qualifications here. They comprised:
- Adam Reid (recently resigned Executive Director of Halifax Pride)
- Kay MacDonald (community activist, educator, and 2019 Halifax Pride Grand Marshall)
- Carmel Farahbakhsh (current ED of the Youth Project)
- Jenn Waugh (current Chair of the Youth Board at the Youth Project)
- Hayden O'Malley (former Halifax Pride staff)
- Sara Gordon (former Halifax Pride staff, current Halifax Fringe Festival ED, and disability activist)
- Mo Phùng (queer/trans artist and activist)
In addition, community members Scott Gillard (a recent political activist and current PR and communications advisor) and Connor McKiggan (a drag performer and Business Development Manager at Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce) were elected after nominations from the floor. Returning Board members Natalie Matheson, Mark Monk, and Tovah Cranford were automatically carried over into another term, meaning the Board is at its full capacity of 12 for the first time in recent years.
With elections completed, members briefly discussed the state of finances. As the Board was not prepared to present financial statements, members chose to adjourn with an undertaking from the new Board to hold a Special General Meeting without delay to address the finance-related items in the agenda. The meeting adjourned after running about 30 minutes over the scheduled end time of 8:30pm.
It seems clear that the immediate items for the new Board will be to determine plans for an October event (if any), tackle immediate grant deadlines and engage staff, and prepare financial statements for review with the community. The election of an experienced Board gives some hope that these tasks will be met head on, and that the organization can regroup for a 2024 festival.