May 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lead entertainers cancel appearances at Capital Pride, Black Pride

The lead entertainers scheduled to perform at D.C.’s Capital Pride and Black Pride festivals abruptly cancelled their appearances this week, prompting organizers to scramble to rearrange their programs.

D.C. born and nationally recognized rapper Wale informed Black Pride organizers by e-mail earlier this week that he backed out of his May 30 appearance at the D.C. Convention Center for the Black Pride annual festival because he was uncomfortable performing at a gay event.

Shortly thereafter, singer and actress Mya, who was scheduled to perform June 13 at the Capital Pride festival, disclosed that complications associated with recent foot surgery would prevent her from appearing at that event.

“While we are sad to learn that Mya will be unable to entertain at Capital Pride due to medical reasons, we wish her a speedy recovery,” said Dyana Mason, Capital Pride’s executive director.

“The 35th anniversary of Capital Pride has lots of fantastic entertainment planned for the main stage of the festival, including Inaya Day, Kirsten Price, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, the D.C. Cowboys and many more,” she said.

Earl Fowlkes, a board member and spokesperson for Black Pride, said organizers were able to book nationally known rhythm and blues singer J. Holiday as a replacement for Wale. Holiday, 25 and a D.C. native, is best known for his 2007 hit song “Bed,” which rose to the No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 ratings, according to Billboard Magazine.

Wale, 25, became a nationally recognized rapper in 2006, when his song “Dig Dug (Shake It)” caught the eye of a record company producer who arranged for a wider distribution of his music. Among other things, he has performed on MTV and appeared recently on the David Letterman Show.

Fowlkes said Black Pride organizers were startled this week when they received two e-mails from Wale’s agent, one saying the rapper had to cancel due to “family obligations,” and the second saying he didn’t know Black Pride was a gay-related event when he agreed to appear.

“We were clear about what kind of event this is,” Fowlkes told the Blade. “After doing this for 20 years, we certainly don’t want to put ourselves and the artist in an uncomfortable situation by not telling them what we are.

“We’re Black Gay Pride, and the people coming out there are members of our community,” he said. “We made that very clear.”

Fowlkes said Black Pride officials believe homophobia was the underlying reason that Wale cancelled his appearance. He said Wale’s agent has refunded an advance fee that Black Pride made to book the rapper, but noted the group is considering taking legal action for what Fowlkes described as a breach of contract.

“What was important to us on our 20th year is we really wanted to break some new ground,” Fowlkes said. “And one of the things we wanted was a male back artist. We always had female artists and we’ve never really had a male black heterosexual identified artist.”

He said organizers carefully vetted Wale, whose music is popular within the black LGBT community, for any signs of anti-gay themes in his lyrics and statements, and none were found.

Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and one of the local black LGBT leaders scheduled to be honored at this year’s Black Pride events, called Wale’s cancellation a sign that the LGBT community still has a long way to go to overcome prejudice.

“This is pure homophobia on his part,” Richardson said. “This reflects the feelings of the broader community. For a lot of folks, the biggest fear is of being labeled as gay. It’s a stigma we still have a lot of work to do to overcome.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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