June 2, 2016
By: Angelica Walker
What would you do for freedom?
That’s the theme of 2016’s Roots Pride celebration. This year, Roots Pride will be asking Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA+ community members to “envision what #freedomlookslike” – for everybody, not just the white gay men that are often the central focus of Pittsburgh Pride.
Roots Pride was created last year in protest, after the Delta Foundation hired Iggy Azaela to headline Pittsburgh Pride despite her racist and homophobic comments. The organizers behind Roots Pride wanted to remind the Pittsburgh LGBT community that pride is political, so they planned their own alternative Pride Week as “an intentional celebration of diversity across the entire spectrum of race, class, gender, orientation, and ability in the LGBTQIA+ community.”
This year, the Delta Foundation responded by selecting black agender rapper Angel Haze and singer Kesha, who was recently commended by the Human Rights Campaign for her advocacy, to headline this year’s Pride in the Street. Roots Pride founder Joy KMT says that while this is a step in the right direction, Delta still hasn’t done much to support marginalized people within the LGBT community.
Joy wants to see people from diverse backgrounds given a seat at the table to help plan Pittsburgh Pride. The Delta Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is almost entirely made up of white men, have repeatedly ignored Roots Pride organizers and other organizations like the Garden of Peace Project, which focuses on queer and trans people of color. Delta has also been criticized for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket fees and corporate sponsorships, but using none of that money to support marginalized groups like homeless LGBT youth.
“Pride is a commemoration of a resistance,” Joy said. “We celebrate the fact that we’re here, that we’re alive. And as we celebrate, we must also remember that there are many in our community [who] are still resisting to survive, and if we don’t do that, then our celebration is incomplete.”
This year’s Roots Pride celebration will include a “What Would You Do for Freedom?” town hall meeting on June 6th, a Pop-Up Clinic and Healing Marketplace on June 7th, an under-21 Bayard Rustin Youth Assembly on June 8th, a Roots Pride Rally and Dance Party on June 10th, a BBQ and giant water balloon fight on June 11th, and a prayer walk on June 12th.
Event details can be found on the Roots Pride Pittsburgh 2016 Facebook event. All events ASL and wheelchair accessible and free to the public, besides a $5-25 suggested donation for the Pride Rally. Supporters are also encouraged to give as they are able on the Roots Pride Gofundme.
“To be honest, I don’t care about Roots Pride as an ‘organization’,” said Joy, “But I do care about organizations and nonprofits taking the energy of the community, all of the work we put in to create truly inclusive and truly healing and truly revolutionary spaces in Pittsburgh, and using it to further agendas that may or may not have the best of intentions… I care about all of us out here struggling for a voice, a house, a bed, some food, to be seen, loved and honored for who we are.”
Angelica Walker is an intern for The New People covering LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform. She is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying social work, legal studies, writing, and political science.