Pride Toronto’s executive director will be leaving her post after this year’s event and the organization has begun the search for a replacement.
Fatima Amarshi, who has been Pride’s executive director for the past three years, will be leaving the position in late summer after Pride 2008, her third event as ED.
Amarshi says she is particularly proud that during her time Pride has taken on a role of promoting diversity and international human rights.
“In terms of cultural diversity we’ve done really well,” she says. “We’re one of the most diverse queer festivals in the world and I would say one of the most diverse festivals in Canada.”
Amarshi says Pride has taken on a new mission since she began.
“Philosophically we have a relevance and direction we didn’t have before,” she says. “When I started one of the biggest questions was what exactly Pride was about. The
choice in terms of identity seemed to be either go back to being very small or use our voice to focus on things like international rights.
“As Pride has grown it’s opened up the scope of queer arts and culture, it’s provided mediums other than the march to tell our stories.”
Amarshi points to the increased focus on arts at Pride itself, the increase in stages — including a trans stage at Pride 2008 — and the partnership with Toronto’s literary festival Word on the Street as examples.
She also points to her own South Asian and Muslim background as an example of the importance of Pride reaching out to diverse communities.
“You start out by desperately wanting this space where you can be safe,” she says. “You’re so grateful when you come to the institutes you have in our community and you come to a Pride and it’s okay to be queer. I remember the first time I went to the Funkasia stage I was nearly in tears.
“If you look at Toronto’s queer community that’s particularly relevant. A lot of us weren’t born here.”
Amarshi says that having a les
bian of colour as ED sent out a particular message as well.
“I hope it speaks to the fact that these issues are of concern to us as part and parcel of what we produce in Pride.
“To some extent it also sends a message out to the mainstream community that there are lesbians of colour, that it’s not just a myth, that there’s a generation who are not going to put up with bigotry in our communities.”
The deadline for applications for the ED position is Mon, Mar 17. According to Pride cochair Mark Singh the organization is looking to have someone in place by late summer. He says the search for the ideal candidate might take a while.
“Pride is such a complex beast,” he says. “It’s a very challenging position to hold. The person needs to be absolutely a leader who can relate to people at every level. And they need to be a fantastic financial and logistical manager.”