Iggy Azalea Sparks Controversy In Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Community

May 21, 2015

Iggy Azalea is coming to perform in Pittsburgh for the first time, and some people are not happy about it.

Last Friday, the Delta Foundation, the organization behind Pittsburgh Pride, announced that the rapper and songwriter will headline its Pride in the Street event on June 13. Since the announcement, they’ve received heavy push back from the LGBTQ community in Pittsburgh, some of whom accuse Azalea of racism, homophobia, cultural appropriation and plagiarism.

Many people have taken to social media to express their anger toward the foundation’s decision, commenting on their Facebook page, creating a protest event, and using the hashtag “#PrideIsPolitical” on Twitter.

In previous years, the Delta Foundation has had diverse performers including Kimberley Locke, Jennifer Holiday, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan, which they listed in a press release posted to their Facebook page. Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development at the Delta Foundation, said that they received a mixed response about their decision to book Azalea.

“Actually, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the many positive comments we’ve received, at the Foundation, and phone calls … you know, there’s — we’re never going to please everyone with the performers that we brought in,” she said.

Tara Sherry-Torres, founder and owner of Café Con Leche, an organization for Pittsburgh’s Latin community that created Pittsburgh’s first Latin@ Pride event this year, said she’s afraid that those who planned Azalea’s appearance at Pride did not take into account the fact that many members of the LGBTQ community often have intersecting identities within race, class, gender or sexual orientation.

“If you’re really thinking about the intersectionality of the LGBTQ community, you really need to be thoughtful about everybody that you’re bringing in and ensuring that it isn’t going to be someone that’s really hurtful to a certain population,” said Sherry-Torres.

This isn’t the first time the LGBTQ community has had an issue with the Delta Foundation, according to Michael David Battle, founding director of the Garden of Peace Project, which is an LGBTQ organization that seeks to empower marginalized identity groups, particularly queer or trans people of color (QTPOC).  The Delta Foundation was a sponsor, but the Garden of Peace Project ended its sponsorship with them after a tumultuous relationship, according to Battle.

Also, after partaking in years past, Battle said they chose to opt out of Pittsburgh Pride this year because of rising participation fees, as well as what he described as a focus on white, gay men and a lack of emphasis on other members of the LGBTQ community. Battle said after this announcement of Azalea’s performance, they began to ask a larger question.

“How do we center and celebrate and honor the lives and lived experiences of queer and trans people of color and those who support them and stand in solidarity with them?” he said.

In response, the Garden of Peace Project has partnered with #QTPOC Pittsburgh to create a Roots Pride event for the same weekend as Azalea’s performance at Pittsburgh Pride.

“That’s really to provide folks with a space where they can be queer and trans and unapologetically live and love and thrive and not be at the mercy of $45-$150 tickets to see somebody who does not support and stand in solidarity with their community,” Battle said.

Despite the push back, the Delta Foundation hopes that people will still attend Pride as they have in years past.

“Pride means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and it’s really a celebration of the diversity that’s in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region,” said Bryan. “It’s a time to come out and be who you want to be and not live in fear of what you may have had to be challenged with in the past.”