Good allies and proper representation: Where the Delta Foundation went wrong with Pittsburgh Pride in the Street

Never mind digs about Iggy Azalea’s questionable street credibility, rap prowess or physical appearance: the socially conscious critiques of the Australian rapper are valid. Azalea’s adoption of a “Dirty South” drawl as she raps and of traditional Indian clothing and jewelry as a music video aesthetic have made her a poster child for cultural appropriation.

Moreover, Azalea’s casual homophobia rekindle the Internet’s wrath against her in May when she was announced as the headliner for Pittsburgh Pride in the Street, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender event sponsored by The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh.

However, amidst the decisions of pro-LGBT+ youth organizations and churches to boycott Pittsburgh Pride in the Street, Azalea’s announced that she would no longer be performing at the Pittsburgh pride event. Ironically, Azalea broke the news of the cancellation through Twitter – the medium that cost Azalea her spot as a headliner.

“This has been a difficult decision as I truly support the event and LGBTIQA [sic] communities,” tweeted Azalea on June 8. “However I feel my participation at this point would only serve to further distract from the true purpose of the event.”

She went on to express regret for the slurs she had used in her tweets ( seen here and here)and explained how she had grown intellectually since their posting. At best, Azalea’s frankness is refreshing and commendable, but the question remains as to why The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh picked Azalea in the first place.

Perhaps the rationale was that putting a Grammy-nominated chart-topper on the bill would attract even more people than the reported 100,000 who showed up to Pittsburgh Pride in the Street in 2014. Still, an artist who is a proud member or veritable ally of the queer community would have been a more apt choice than one who used the queer community as the butt of Twitter jokes.

Azalea’s performance at Pittsburgh Pride in the Street would have marked a personal milestone in her activism, but at this point in her life, her presence at pride would have been counterproductive. Azalea has not endeared herself to the queer community and she certainly has not endeared herself to people of color. With Azalea in tow, The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh would have been promoting tolerance instead of inclusivity and respect.

In any case, Adam Lambert, Miley Cyrus or Tegan and Sara would have been more suitable picks than Iggy Azalea for Pittsburgh Pride in the Street. Further, Frank Ocean, Angel Haze, Mykki Blanco or Le1f would have been great choices, as they are queer artists of color. Originally, erasure of queer people of color in Pittsburgh sparked the creation of Pittsburgh Black Pride. This year, the perpetuation of erasure in choosing anti-POC, anti-LGBT+ Azalea directly prompted queer black activists Joy KMT and Michael David Battle to organize Roots Pride.

While harm was not the intention of Azalea or anyone involved in planning Pittsburgh Pride in the Street, The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh managed to push part of its population away because of the known cultural insensitivity of Azalea. It’s hard to feel like pride is a safe space when the artist up on stage likes you only in a patronizing way, and certainly doesn’t respect you.

Leaders of communities, such as the planners of a city’s LGBT+ pride, need to make sure that they are listening to people from a spectrum of backgrounds in order to better serve and protect their community.

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