John Amaechi brands Clapham park group bigoted and outdated
Best-selling author John Amaechi has branded a park group 'bigoted and outdated' after it objected to a planned gay festival on Clapham Common during the Olympics.
The former NBA basketball star accused the Friends of Clapham Common of being narrow minded after it claimed Pride House "is highly likely to become a magnet for undesirable elements of that community".
Pride House organisers plan to create a venue on the common which will promote the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community during the games to create awareness of homophobia in sport while promoting equality and acceptance.
They intend to hold a programme of live music, films and other events at the venue.
The Friends of Clapham Common, which has complained about the plans to Lambeth Council in a bid to block the initiative, said: "The Pride House event, taking place in the same month as Gay Pride, is highly likely to become a magnet for undesirable elements of that community.
"This is an opportunistic and ill-thought out proposal, cashing in on the Olympics and yet poorly thought out, even at this stage.
"The common would be used for an exclusive section of the community for 18 days continuously."
Mr Amaechi, who now works as an organisational consultant and is a Pride House ambassador, said: "These comments by the ‘Friends of Clapham Common’ are carefully worded to avoid overt homophobia, but they certainly imply a narrow, outdated understanding of the LGBT community and their friends.
"Their objections are based on archaic stereotypes and a complete misrepresentation of the facts.
"Today's LGBT community and their straight friends are as much about family and children, book clubs and Bikram yoga and indeed a fanatical support for the greatest sporting spectacle in our lifetime, as any other part of the community.
"To suggest greater numbers of 'undesirable elements' in the gay community is not only pure speculation, it’s an implicitly bigoted insinuation.
"The Pride House complex will welcome everybody, and age-old clichés casually asserting that the gay and lesbian families in attendance will somehow turn Clapham Common into a den of iniquity, only indicate just how out of touch this group is with modern Britain.
"Having personally lived by the common for a decade, I know the people of London will see through this fear-mongering rhetoric and come along to celebrate together."
Chad Molleken, executive director of Pride House, said they are working alongside Lambeth Council and the community to deliver a well managed, safe and successful event.
It is estimated the event will raise £134,000 for the council, with £32,500 being reinvested into the common.
World Rugby Cup legend Ben Cohen, who has just announced that he is joining the line-up of ambassadors for Pride House, alongside Steven Fry and Elton John's partner David Furness, said: "Anything that is new and different can often cause concerns, which is understandable, but if comments are homophobic, that's unacceptable.
"I would hazard a guess that most people's negative opinions are based on lack of knowledge about what is planned, so I would suggest instead of creating problems, find out more about what the plans are, get involved and be part of the celebrations.
"Pride House is all about inclusion, so everyone is welcome."
Former mayor of Lambeth, Christopher Wellbelove, said: "Reference to ‘undesirables’ is incredibly offensive and exposes the real motivation for this objection.
"Effective management of the event and restoration of the common following the event is incredibly important and clearly needs to be put in place, however homophobia has no place in our community and further enforces the need for such an event to take place."
The Friends of Clapham Common were contacted on a number of occasions but have so far refused to comment.
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