By Michael A. Fuoco
The choice of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea to headline next month's Pride in the Street event has brought simmering, under-the-radar frustration about the inclusiveness of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh to the surface.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups are upset with the scheduling of Azalea for the June 13 event because of tweets from her that they consider to be homophobic and racist. The LGBT community has created a Facebook page designed to shut down not only her concert but Delta's annual 10-day Pittsburgh Pride, which drew more than 100,000 last year as the largest LGBT celebration in Western Pennsylvania.
Michael David Battle, one of the hosts of the Facebook page "Shut it Down (No ICKY at Pride 2015)," said the insensitivity of booking the controversial Azalea shows the divide between Delta and parts of the LGBT community.
Battle, founding director of the Pittsburgh-based advocacy group Garden of Peace Project, said the grassroots protest had 583 people by Tuesday afternoon. They want apologies from the Delta Foundation, Azalea and Mayor Bill Peduto's office, as well as the resignation of Delta's president Gary Van Horn and its board.
Delta was created in 1996 as a nonprofit organization "for the purposes of uniting and fostering good fellowship and social interaction among LGBT residents in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area," according to its website. It began PrideFest in 2007.
"Delta has always been problematic. There's no diversity at all in the organization and no attempt to collaborate or diversity," Battle said. "PrideFest is for white gay men and straight people. It's never been inclusive. Trans folk, people of color, women, bisexuals have never felt included. This is not nothing new. Iggy Azalea was just the tip of the iceberg."
Christine Bryan, Delta's director of marketing and development, denied all of that, saying that over the years there has been a diversity of headlining acts, including Melissa Etheridge, Patti LaBelle and, last year, Chaka Khan. Additionally, she said, the opening act last year was Jezebel Bebbington D'Opulence, a transgender woman.
"I think if (Azalea) was racist or homophobic she wouldn't come to perform at an LGBT event," Bryan said. "She is in the entertainment industry, which is difficult.
"There's a group of people who don't agree with the performer. It happens every year. We can't bring in someone to please everyone but we do our best."
Moreover, she denied the broader claim that Delta is not inclusive and said neither Van Horn nor the board would be resigning. She said she wished the protesters would talk to Delta instead of campaigning on social media.
"Change and conversation are great but I don't know that having that discussion in the world of social media is the best way to go about making that happen," she said.
Mayoral spokesman Timothy McNulty said the city had received some emails from people upset with Delta and its booking of Azalea.
He said the city provides no financial assistance or in-kind services to the event even though Delta lists the city as a "platinum sponsor" on its website. The city works with Delta on permits for the event.
"We're not going to referee issues (with Delta) or anyone who wants to work with the city on a public event."
The theme of this year's Pittsburgh Pride, running from June 6-14: "All You Need Is Love."
(c)2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette