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Pride Society board dismissive and rigid: Hudson

VP faced 'ridicule, sarcasm, attacks'

FEELING DISRESPECTED. 'I have always felt a strong sense of judgment and sarcasm toward the community at the boardroom table,' alleges former Pride entertainment director Idris Hudson. Credit: Sarah Race photo

The seventh director in a year resigned from the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) Mar 13, this one citing the board’s alleged arrogance and dismissiveness toward the community, as well as personal health problems.

The resignation of Idris Hudson, who was the Society’s entertainment director, follows that of Rod Zelles and Tamara Shoop at the VPS’ AGM Nov 17, as well as three other departures last spring — Aviva Lazar, Todd Brisbin and Christiane von Pfahlenburg. Another director who joined the board in the fall left after attending two meetings, citing changes to his work schedule, according to VPS president John Boychuk, who declined to reveal the director’s name.

Governance director Ray Lam also submitted his resignation on Jan 28 but later rescinded it after he decided to “stick around to finish the job.”

In his letter of resignation read at a Pride board meeting Mar 17, Hudson says while he enjoyed the entertainment coordinating he was “not comfortable or able to continue” working with the VPS in this area.

“Since last year, before any personal issues for myself even arose, I have always felt a strong sense of judgment and sarcasm toward the community at the boardroom table. It has felt like a sense of ‘we’re right, everyone is a real hassle,'” Hudson alleges in the letter.

“Members of the community put hours of their hearts and time into proposals, demos and ideas,” Hudson adds in a second letter submitted to accompany his resignation. “I’ve been saddened on so many occasions at just how awful some people’s mouths can be and how dismissive members can be about people who are giving their heartfelt effort,” he alleges.

In addition to alleged negativity towards community members, Hudson also claims he’s had trouble speaking to “90 percent” of his contacts due to their alleged “past negative relations with the VPS.”

“It has really dampened my spirit, and stomped any creative vision, when the job entails more damage control than relationship building,” Hudson writes.

“I understand my part in all of it, and can apologize and gain trust for my own actions, but the actions and words of the past years with the VPS are not mine to make up for.”

Zelles disputes Hudson’s allegation that past entertainers have been put off by the VPS. There was no problem with the entertainment, he says.

“It was very much a team environment,” he maintains. “I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark that many of them are going to be coming back again this year.”

Zelles says it’s Hudson who treated the VPS disrespectfully. When he took over the role of entertainment director in March or April last year, Zelles claims Hudson “hadn’t done anything.”

Hudson was not returning phone calls or emails, nor was he attending meetings, alleges Zelles, adding that he decided at that juncture to take the lead on that portfolio with board approval.

Speaking with Xtra West Mar 19, Hudson acknowledges that Zelles did “a great job bringing things together” last Pride.

“Last year was a difficult year for me personally, which I addressed to the VPS and now to the public. I struggled for many years with substance abuse and addiction which many people in the community do,” Hudson reveals. “I had to face those, which I have.”

Asked for his reaction to Hudson’s resignation and his allegations of the board’s lack of civility and respect, Boychuk acknowledges that the board sometimes becomes “polarized.”

“This is something that I’ve seen over several years [that] has been a challenge of the board’s and of each of the presidents that have been at the helm,” Boychuk says. “It’s a fine balance that is very hard to keep because you have such a diverse community with such a diverse set of ideas that the board does become, at times, polarized. It does get a little bit stubborn, and in the process, people become frustrated and leave.”

Vice-president Laura McDiarmid says after serving only four months, she too has faced “ridicule, sarcasm, attacks and negative comments.”

“Why would anyone want to do anything for a board where their contribution is not appreciated and is criticized?” McDiarmid asks in her own letter — entitled Another One Bites the Dust — also read at the Mar 17 board meeting.

“The communication between board members is minimal at best and there does not appear to be any concern for one another,” she alleges.

“We all do things differently but there appears to be this ‘way to do things’ at the VPS that is one way or the highway,” McDiarmid contends.

Hudson agrees that this is a problem.

“I think the Vancouver Pride Society has had a real structure that they follow as far as events or entertainment, and it’s been followed very tried and truly. But as for room for growth or new ideas as far as the way a festival is programmed — ideas that are brought out are shut down right away rather than listened to in their entirety,” Hudson alleges.

If the board is “old-school” — which he concedes is “50 percent true” — Boychuk says it’s due to the constraints of tight schedules and deadlines.

“We have about six months to build parades and festivals, and quite often we get bogged down in procedure and we get bogged down in discussion, and sometimes those discussions have to be cut short, and sometimes it annoys some people,” he explains.

McDiarmid suggests the Society “must look at the collective reasoning from members abandoning their post.”

“I think we need to have a retreat where we all get to talk about what our issues are with each other and just put them out on the table, and not have these constant outbursts where we have to have media and everyone else involved,” says McDiarmid. “It’s just childish, it’s just ridiculous. We can all contribute and do a good job. We don’t have to one-up anybody,” she maintains.

Boychuk says he’d like to have a retreat to “get through a lot of the issues” but says scheduling one has so far been a challenge.