Each year the way Spotify celebrates Pride both internally and externally is a big deal, and I feel so moved as I see so many employees, artists and fans take part as our celebrations move around the world, through all the locations where we have offices, and on our platform. Yet this year is different – now is not the time for traditional celebrations.
During this particular time of uprising and protest for Black Lives Matter, seen by millions of people around the world, there’s a slightly more hidden part of the rebellion against white supremacy and inequity. The effort by the LGBTQIA+ community to highlight, protect and uplift Black trans and queer people.
This year, we’re again reminded that Pride is a commemoration. An annual marking of a historical moment, not a parade, but a protest. One that, over 50 years ago, was led by trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
I’m talking about the Stonewall Rebellion. An uprising that sparked the beginning of the the modern gay rights movement when the LGBTQIA+ community started to fight back after repeated raids and injustices targeted at the community by the police. The Stonewall movement was the ultimate example of intersectionality and bravery by an extremely marginalised group.
And again this year, as the continuing spate of violent murders of trans or gender non-conforming people are occurring, Pride can not be a time for pure celebration. There were two violent murders of Black trans women in the US in the space of 24 hours earlier this month. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Riah Milton of Liberty Township, Ohio. #SayHerName. As we mourn their deaths and note the inexcusable issue of misgendering in the media reporting their deaths, it’s impossible not to see how much work there is still to be done to stop these senseless murders. Not to even mention reaching a point of equity.
Recently over 450 LGBTQ+ organizations around the US joined together to announce their collective commitment to fighting racial injustice: “We understand what it means to rise up and push back against a culture that tells us we are less than, that our lives don’t matter. Today, we join together again to say #BlackLivesMatter and commit ourselves to the action those words require.”
As we build towards global pride weekend and the virtual events this offers, the recent landmark moment of the US Supreme Court ruling that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination is a brief respite in the current fights for equality, also rings in our ears. A moment for celebration? I’m not sure we should be celebrating something that many would argue is a basic human right that is long overdue. But recognise its significance and take strength and hope for more change – yes, that we can all be a part of.
We hope that we can draw on these examples of protest, allyship and togetherness to have an impact as Spotify’s ‘Spectrum’ Employee Resource Group takes a front and centre position of planning for Pride programs both for Spotify employees and also the content and advertising strategy on the Spotify platform. This year they have not only played the role of running internal initiatives for Spectrum community within Spotify, but they also played a major role in steering and shaping Spotify’s business decisions in these spaces.
The chosen Spotify Pride theme ‘Unlike Any Other’ shines a light on how this year’s Pride season is already set to be unlike any other all around the world. We’re not just referring to the cancelled Pride marches, to queer artists postponing events and tours, and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people around the world have had to close their physical doors. ‘Unlike Any Other’ refers to the many identities and orientations on the queer spectrum. You can see how the use of the Progress Flag has informed the design and content within the Pride hub this year.
The hub experience varies in different countries; with offerings focussed on raising the voices of LGBTQIA+ creators, driving allyship and shining a light on the beautiful intersections that oftentimes goes unnoticed. This includes Pride playlists, podcasts and curated content from LGBTQIA+ community. For example “The House of…” playlists are curated by icons of Ball culture, and a ‘Written By: Us’ shelf highlights LGBTQ+ songwriters.
And while we don’t feel celebration is the right approach this year, what we can, and know we must do, is make sure that our Spotifier LGBTQIA+ community feels supported and connected to each other, no matter where in the world they are or which flag they fly. We facilitated this with our A Celebration Unlike Any Other – a day-long virtual Pride event for Spotifiers that took place on June 25.
Wherever you are in the world and whenever you recognise Pride season, please look after and uplift one another and strive to have an impact that will make this, for the right reasons, a Pride season to remember. A Pride season Unlike Any Other.