The roots of what we’ve come to know as Pridefest in Pittsburgh are, as with many cities, deeply embedded in LGBTQ culture and more as we moved from the multiple resistance efforts in the 1960’s to a nationwide demand for visibility and freedom.
At no point was this more apparent than in June 2015 when a group of community dissidents in Pittsburgh coalesced to ‘intentionally celebrate’ diversity across the spectrum of race, class, gender, orientation, and ability in the LGBTQIA+ community. What seized the headlines as ‘Iggygate’ in response to the decision to invite Iggy Azalea to perform at Pridefest, was a symptom of a deeper level of resistance to the corporatization of Pride and the pervasive systemic inequality in the LGBTQ community. They were Roots Pride, literally the roots of pride as trans folks, people of color, femmes and youth organized meetings, picnics, healing rituals, dance parties, and other events to create inclusive community in the midst of the larger hullabaloo. Click here to read some of my coverage of Roots Pride .
Roots Pride invested three years in this community work, efforts that have generated other space building opportunities. The resistance lives on.
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Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh sold naming rights for this year’s Pride Parade to EQT Corporation, a conglomeration of fracking companies across PA which pollute our land, water, and people. Fracking and environmental pollution disproportionately affects marginalized communities and we can’t stand by as Delta hosts extravagant parties with fracking money. The EQT Equality March is receiving a lot of criticism from not just queer people.
This March will be a historic second, honoring the independently organizedRoots Pride Pittsburgh from 2015 and 2016 which was organized by the black trans led Garden of Peace Project. This march is the continuation of this legacy to hold Delta accountable for its exploitation and negligence of black and brown and trans bodies.
We will march as an act of resistance, as the history of Pride has always been an act of resistance lead by black and brown and trans people.
What do you have when the second oldest LGBTQ organization in the region and Google (Google!) resist mainstream events sponsored by EQT? What do you have when dozens of organizations, donors and supporters AND Google respond to the leadership call of a black trans woman
You have roots and branches. We need both.
I’ve been repeatedly asked by the media this week how people can be involved.
First, donate to the cause. Contribute to the GoFundMe for the Peoples Pride March 2K17 Donate to the Pittsburgh LGBTQ Community Center. If you live outside of Pittsburgh, search out your resistance groups and contribute whatever you can. Start with organizations led by trans women of color.
Second, turn out. Bring your family to the art crawl during the day. Come back for the evening adult activities. Let yourself enjoy being with your community. Show up to march. Bring a sign. If you are part of the mainstream equality march, you can jump onto the tail end of the Peoples Pride March.
Third, I hope you ask questions. Follow the links to read the backstory. Give some thought to issues of corporate sponsorships, fracking, equality v pride, etc. Do not be complacent, do not assume you can rely on the good intentions of leaders on any level (think about that a lot.)
Finally, I urge you to resist the idea that unity and collaboration are the sole ideals of pride. Resistance is a legacy, a tool we must continue to wield. There are too many homeless LGBTQ youth and isolated LGBTQ adults for us to be complacent about anything.
Roots and branches. We need both. And they need clean water – ahem.
Celebrate Pride in Western Pennsylvania by visiting the #AMPLIFY project and reading Q&A stories from over 210 local residents.