Bigger Than Iggy Azalea: Roots Pride Says Inclusiveness Still An Issue With Pittsburgh Pride

Jun 9, 2015

Organizers of Roots Pittsburgh including Cavanaugh Quick (left), Bekezela Mguni (speaking) and La'Tasha Mayes (right) said they would like to see Pride events and a community that is fully inclusive.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Iggy Azalea canceled her headlining act at Pittsburgh Pride on Sunday.

The rapper wrote on Twitter, "This has been a difficult decision... however I feel my participation at this point would only serve to further distract from the true purpose of the event."

The Delta Foundation, the organization who booked her appearance, faced a firestorm from groups critical of both Azalea's past anti-LGBTQIA statements and the foundation itself for not being inclusive of the pride community, namely people of color, and catering to affluent, white, gay men.

Though Azalea will no longer perform, detractors said that isn’t the end of the fight.

“Iggy Azalea served as a catalyst, but she was only a catalyst for a much deeper and more meaningful conversation that I believe all of us would like to see take place,” said Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay City Council president.

Following Azalea's initial selection last month, several LGBTQIA groups pulled their support from Pride to form a counter event dubbed Roots Pride. The coalition celebration has emphasized inclusiveness for those who do not adhere to the heterosexual and cisgender majority, especially transgender and queer communities of color. 

Roots Pride organizers maintain that, so far, Delta Foundation officials have turned a blind eye.

“Justice cannot be accomplished in a single PR move intended to save political face,” said Joy KMT, Roots Pride organizer. “Justice comes from a true 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-positive community.”

Rapper Iggy Azalea canceled her first Pittsburgh performance after allies and members of the LGBTQIA community protested her selection to headline Pittsburgh Pride.
Credit Twitter | @iggyazalea

In a statement about the Iggy Azalea cancellation and Pride dustup, Delta Foundation officials said they are meeting with key LGBT leaders "to start a discussion that will make our collective community even stronger.”

The foundation did not respond for comment.

La’Tasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh, said she was contacted by Delta representatives. She said that dialog is part of a larger, national conversation.

“Our entire community is looking at who’s been on the margins and just like the ‘Black Lives’ movement has done, we’re saying, ‘Enough is enough,’" Mayes said. "We really have to dismantle racism and all forms of oppression in this city, in this state and in the nation.”

Moving forward, the groups said they do hope to talk to and work with the Delta Foundation, but some would also like to see major change, including a complete overhaul of Delta’s board. Others want to see stronger leadership.

City Council President Bruce Kraus applauded the cancelation of the Iggy Azalea concert, but called on the Delta Foundation to be more inclusive.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

“We have youth who are using art to address systemic racism — systemic bigotry — around gender identity and sexuality, and as such, I think it’s a reasonable expectation that the adult leaders in our community are making decisions that are doing the same thing,” said Cavanaugh Quick, program and office manager with Dreams of Hope, an arts program focused on LGBTQIA youth.

Roots Pride has several days of events scheduled to coincide with Pittsburgh Pride, including a town hall meeting, intergenerational paint party and a “Shut it Down” protest and party.

Kraus, who is not officially scheduled to participate in any Pittsburgh Pride events, said again he hoped the issue wouldn't define boundaries but break them down. He stepped in, he said, to help ensure everyone in the community has a voice beyond a few days in June.

“Pride is not an event,” Kraus said. “Pride is a spirit; it’s a collective coming together of a rainbow flag.”