A petition has been circulating requesting the leadership at Charlotte Pride reconsider the hiring of local burlesque producer Deana Pendragon (aka Big Mamma D) as emcee of this year’s Pride Festival. People behind the petition have alleged that over the past few years, Ms Pendragon has repeatedly come to the defense of a specific individual in response to more than a dozen police reports filed alleging various levels of sexual assault, most of them against members of the queer community. In response to this petition, Ms Pendragon issued a statement on her business Facebook page claiming to support all victims of sexual assault and reporting a desire to open a dialogue with the victims. No action to remove her as emcee was taken.
And then, over 80 comments in the aforementioned Facebook post (I personally saw about 60 to 70 of them) imploring Deana to do exactly what she just promised (be part of a dialogue) were deleted. The commenters report also being banned from her page. As of this afternoon, Charlotte Pride is also deleting comments on their pages.
Two things are clear here. One, a portion of the queer community in Charlotte is crying out for recognition of their suffering, and those cries are being ignored. Even if one doubts the veracity of each and every one of the more than 15 very public stories being told about Ms Pendragon’s associate, there is clearly no intention on the part of Ms Pendragon to enter in to the very dialogue the victims request and she pretends to want.
The second thing that is clear is that Charlotte Pride does not feel accountable to the entire LGBTQ+ community. While it’s already problematic to enlist an individual who is not publicly queer as the emcee of a Pride celebration, it is unconscionable to double-down on that decision in spite of growing community unrest.
It is with heavy heart that I make public my decision to not associate with Charlotte Pride or any of their events, and I am in the process of removing any events they sponsor from the community calendar. In the past, I have met with Pride staff members to discuss their participation in this project (for which they were enthusiastic) and quite frankly the success of this community calendar rested largely on leveraging the reach of their organization. It’s not worth it. I’d rather run a calendar that doesn’t fully reach the community but stood up for their voices than associate myself and my project with an organization that allows notoriety and concern for image and the bottom-line to outweigh the concern and feelings of the very community it is supposed to represent. Shame on you, Charlotte Pride.