Some groups drop out of Pittsburgh Pride events in protest of Iggy Azalea
June 2, 2015 12:00 AM
Iggy Azalea performs at Nickelodeon's 28th annual Kids' Choice Awards at The Forum in March.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET
Iggy Azalea is slated to perform at Pittsburgh’s Pride celebration on June 13.
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although pop star Iggy Azalea canceled her American tour last week, she’s still slated to perform at Pittsburgh’s Pride celebration June 13. So several LGBT-friendly groups who object to her inclusion are canceling their appearances instead.
“Our board voted last week to not march in the Pittsburgh Pride parade, due to the insensitive choice of Iggy Azalea as headliner,” said Vanessa Davis, who heads the Pittsburgh chapter of the youth-advocacy group Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
Other groups also are criticizing the event and its sponsor, the Delta Foundation. The Australian-born Ms. Azalea has been accused of co-opting African-American culture while making racist and homophobic statements on social media. And while many credit Pride with increasing the visibility of Pittsburgh’s gay community, critics say Delta turns a blind eye to issues such as race and the concerns of transgender people.
Even the starting ticket price of $45 can exclude those on society’s margins, they say.
“This isn’t just about Iggy,” said Michael David Battle, founding director of the advocacy group Garden of Peace Project and a leading Delta critic. “It’s about global issues.”
“A Pride that highlights Iggy isn’t going to be talking about police enforcement against black transwomen,” activist Joy KMT said.
Members of Shadyside’s First United Methodist Church have said they will not participate in the June 14 Pride March or other events. So has a Unitarian young-adult group and Judah Fellowship Church, an LGBT-inclusive and mostly black faith community on the North Side.
“We’ll be back in future years,” said First United member Jeffrey Miller. “But this year, we couldn’t think of a way to attend while separating ourselves from the issues involved.”
Up to two dozen members have participated in past parades, he said.
In a statement, Delta’s board president, Gary Van Horn, said Delta was “committed to working with all organizations and members of the LGBT community and our allies to be sure that all feel welcome at Pittsburgh Pride.”
Delta is partnering with the Dignity and Respect Campaign, which promotes tolerance and understanding, to facilitate a discussion about community concerns next week, he said.
Some opponents, meanwhile, are weighing the impact of a boycott on the city’s LGBT community.
Dreams of Hope, a stage troupe for young LGBT performers, will perform at Pride events and march in its Parade. But it issued a statement pledging that in doing so, it would “express our displeasure with the current state of Pittsburgh Pride, as well as share our hopes and dreams for future Pride events.”
“We followed the lead of our youth, as we usually do,” said Dreams of Hope executive director Seth Rosenberg. “And even though they weren’t happy about the headliner selection, they were very concerned a boycott was divisive.”
“We’re still determining a faithful response to this challenge,” said the Rev. Randall Bush, senior pastor at East Liberty Presbyterian Church. “Having a presence [at Pride] is very important to us, given the lack of welcome LGBT people receive from other churches. … But if we choose to be present, we will be very outspoken about” concerns stemming from Ms. Azalea’s involvement.
Delta’s critics are planning an alternative series of events called Roots Pride, starting with a June 11 “town hall” meeting in the Hill District. A “Shut It Down” protest will coincide with Ms. Azalea’s June 13 performance: “There have been some local hip-hop artists that have challenged Iggy to a rap battle, and that’s all I can tell you,” Mr. Battle said.
But the Roots Pride schedule also includes lighter events, like an “Intergenerational Paint Party” water-balloon fight June 12.
“People still want to celebrate themselves,” said Ms. KMT, who is helping to organize the event. “That’s an important part of who we are.”
Chris Potter: email@example.com or 412-263-2533.
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