About the Delta Foundation and Pittsburgh Pridefest 2020

By now, you have likely heard this news – the Delta Foundation is dissolving and a new coalition has emerged to pick up the Pride mantle moving forward.

UPDATE –> there are now two coalitions planning Pride 2021 events. Plus, People’s Pride.

I’ve been expecting this decision, really since 2015 when Roots Pride challenged us to question the foundation of the Foundation. From my vantage, Delta never recovered from that blow and has been slowly crumbling ever since.

In January of 2019, I wrote a blog post predicting this outcome.

I launched this blog around the time that Delta reemerged from the mothballs to wrest Pridefest away from the then-GLCC and attempt to make us a party town with a myriad of events. So I have this solid window of “before Delta” experiences around Pride and the LGBTQ community in general. I’ve also had a lot of popcorn moments watching Delta’s machinations unfold over nearly 15 years from my dyke’s eye view. This is a link to most of my coverage or mentions of Delta since 2005.

I did not like how the transfer of Pride went down back then circa 2005/2006, creating doubts & misgivings about the Delta Foundation and its leaders in my mind. They lived down to all of them.

That vibrant resistance shows us a way forward, the vision and energy of the beautiful trans and queer, BIPOC, the youth and elders who never stopped creating Pride to reflect their own experiences.

The organization has demonstrated over and over who they are, but they were also strategic enough to curry favor and consolidate power. Their organization is steeped in the worst parts of Pittsburgh – especially their anti-Blackness. They are reputed to have violated tons of 501c3 rules about giving gifts to the board members and volunteers. I guess that the public part of the investigation will tell us if this is the case.

And we let it happen.

My issues are certainly with the organization, but also with the individuals who have served on the board from 2005-2020, members of the community advisory group, the donors, the other orgs who would not resist – so many people who propped them up and then walked away without a second glance. I’m not aware that anyone has tried to apologize, make amends, or hold themselves accountable. Actually, Michael David Battle of Garden of Peace is one such person who did those things. He tried to warn us, but we didn’t listen.

So it is too neat and tidy, to easy to shift all of the blame to Gary Van Horn. If we fall for it (again) we are fools. And they will resurface to traumatize us in new ways.

Be clear – there are a lot of victims, people who have experienced harm at the hands of Delta and the enablers who protected them. They deserve better than just saying “Oh it was all GVH, hey here’s a new Pride.”

As a blogger, I can’t even count how many times people send me old links to reports of misdeeds by the organization leaders. Folks who seem genuinely surprised by these revelations. I even wrote a blog post primer on how to research all of this on your own so I wouldn’t be asked to revisit the trauma. Without fail, this happens around Pride each year, but rarely does anyone actually change their own behavior as a result of learning this information.

To be clear, Pride has never belonged to the Delta Foundation – we’ve seen the emergence and growth of Roots Pride, Pittsburgh Black Pride, Trans Pride, People’s Pride, Latin Pride, and Youth Pride. The Dyke March resisted Delta and has grown to be a Dyke-Trans-Bi March. All during these years. There was even a throwback “Smoke and Mirrors” alt-Pride festival sponsored by the then-GLCC. (For clarity, Pittsburgh Black Pride was founded in 1996, I’m pointing out that it continued to evolve and grow during the Delta years.)

That vibrant resistance shows us a way forward, the vision and energy of the beautiful trans and queer, BIPOC, the youth and elders who never stopped creating Pride to reflect their own experiences.

Regarding Delta, I expect no pot of gold once the bills are paid and I suspect that might crush some expectations. Dissolving the corporation is a legal process that requires some oversight from the federal and state government, particularly when it comes to redistributing assets. In this case, there is an active case out of the District Attorney’s office into allegations of financial misdeeds as well as outstanding lawsuits and the need to sell a $500,000 property in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession.

It is hard to imagine that being tidily wrapped up in a short period of time. No one in their right mind should be accepting ANYTHING from Delta or Delta folks right now. That’s asking for trouble and a visit from the District Attorney, the IRS, or Department of State.

We should accept (and expect) apologies and amends from everyone involved. I don’t see that happening so I remain skeptical of anything tied to a current or former board member. Step aside!

I think whatever comes next should have zero connection to current and recent board members to minimize distractions. They need to step aside. There’s a rumor that Persad Center has suddenly listed a Development Director position just when Delta’s long-term staffer will need a job. That’s a disturbing thought and I hope just a strange coincidence. You may want to weigh in on that, just in case. Email [email protected] and [email protected]

I’m also concerned that we avoid the pitfalls of pronouncing that the king is dead, then pivoting to ‘long live the queen’ because someone else with deep pockets has learned lessons from Delta.

We should also keep in mind disclosures about Delta’s organizational structure, namely giving founding board members lifetime seats. Before we invest in other organizations and foundations, let’s see those bylaws, incorporation documents, operational budgets, etc. And let’s learn how to protect the community from the financial and legal consequences of those decisions before someone gets the power of the purse.

Stop. Delta’s incorporation paperwork gave lifelong seats to some founding members. That’s a shadow government. We must look at other organizations and ask them these tough questions BEFORE they move forward.

To be honest, let’s use this break from producing Pride to heal, to focus on the impact of the pandemic, and to literally breath. We literally do not know which orgs will survive this pandemic – if the wealthiest one crumbled after five months, we should be focused on shoring up the organizations crucial for our survival.

I know that Pride is important, I’ve been attending since the early 1990’s. But it has never been consistent. It was never “owned” by anyone, it was managed by many incarnations of groups since 1973. We’ve allowed ourselves to be disconnected from our Pride history and legacy. What Pride could be moving forward is inextricably tied to what is has been, both before and during the Delta era.

I am not confident we will resist the temptation to leap into the “next Pride” phase before this one wraps up thoroughly. I hope I’m wrong.

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