In response to the announcement earlier this week that Iggy Azalea has cancelled her performance at Pittsbugh Pride, the organizers of RootsPride issued the following statement:
Although we were excited to learn of Iggy Azalea’s cancellation, and what may be the beginning of some self-examination on Ms. Azalea’s behalf, we are simultaneously reminded that this has always been bigger than just her scheduled performance at Pride.
Let’s be clear, however, Iggy Azalea did not pull out because she had an epiphany that rendered her capable of empathy in a culture where the exploitation and devaluation of black lives, labor and culture is the norm and where queer and trans people are the punchline of our culture’s jokes. Iggy canceled because of a sustained outcry by Roots Pride Pittsburgh and our allies. This is the power of people who refuse to be silenced. This is the power of people with the courage to tell the emperor that he has no clothes.
The Delta Foundation’s decision to bring Iggy Azalea in is symbolic of the hubris of an organization that feels that they do not have to consider the people which they claim to serve. The Delta Foundation’s mission statement claims that it is the leading LGBT organization in Western Pennsylvania. It claims that it is intent on producing a high quality of life for the LGBT community.
So we must ask now, who is the community that they are claiming to produce this quality of life for? Surely not the black LGBTQIA+ community, when the indicators for black people in Pittsburgh show that we have the lowest quality of life of any major metropolitan area in the United States. Surely not the workers whose labor was stolen to produce the now-defunct Equal magazine. Surely not the elders that worked to create a Pride in Pittsburgh in the first place, who now march behind dozens of corporate sponsors in a parade they helped to build in this city. Surely not black trans women, who are consistently disappeared into jail cells for daring to walk the street where Pridefest is blocked off in the interest of public drunkenness. Surely not poor LGBT people, who must pay $45 a ticket to see a performer who was paid $150,000 for a celebration that is supposed to be for them. Surely not small organizations that provide services to vulnerable populations, when the booths for the street festival that is supposed to be subsidized by 10,000 $45 tickets are $450. Pride is political.
Shut It Down is a call for justice. Roots Pride Pittsburgh is a labor of the type of love, borne from justice, that is needed in order for all of us to be celebrated for exactly who we are. Justice can not be accomplished in a single PR move intended to save political face. Justice comes from a desire to see equity, truth, and community. We cannot be distracted by concessions that do not change the material conditions for so many in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Systemically, the most vulnerable and marginalized communities are underserved, underfunded, divested from and discarded in this city and in this nation. Our lives continue to be devalued by society.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen a tremendous outcry from the LGBTQIA+ community in Pittsburgh. We have lent our ears to a multitude of stories that speak to exploitation of labor, hoarding of resources, theft of resources from smaller, struggling institutions, and marginalization of people of color, poor people, trans people and people deemed outside of acceptability by Delta Foundation. Up until four days before Pridefest — all of these individuals were unworthy of consideration by Delta. These are the people that Delta Foundation claims to be representing.
Shut It Down is the active participation in the tradition of the LGBTQIA+ community to speak and stand for justice, to claim our right to be who we are, with Pride. It is the inheritance of the lineage of Queer and Trans people of color who have always fought for our rights to be considered fully human in this nation.
Roots Pride Pittsburgh is the result of our desire to go beyond tolerance, and even beyond inclusivity, to create the spaces and the world we all deserve. A world where the silenced can speak and the marginalized are centered. A world where our existence is not erased but honored, welcomed, and respected. Roots Pride Pittsburgh is about our inherent right to joy, love, community, beauty, freedom and life. Roots Pride Pittsburgh is a celebration of those rights.
Roots Pride Pittsburgh is not perfect, it is not without its challenges. But it is an intentional act of true love and a practice in community building that can support sustained change in the quality of life for Queer and Trans People of color and the entire LGBTQIA+ community.
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