Monday, August 02, 2010

Lady Gaga protests Arizona's immigration law after meeting with gay Latino immigration rights advocates

PHOTO: Immigration rights activists meet Lady Gaga Saturday night in her dressing room before showtime. She is wearing a "Pass the DREAM Act" t-shirt courtesy of DREAMACTIVIST. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARIZONA DREAM ACT COALITION AND USED BY PERMISSION).

Saturday night the behemoth that is Lady Gaga's "Monster Ball Tour" hit Phoenix, Arizona. As you might have heard, Arizona has been in the cross-hairs of the national immigration rights debate since it passed a draconian immigration law - SB1070 - which was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewing on April 23rd.

Some of the worst provisions of the bill - including giving police the authority to stop anyone and ask for immigration status just based on the policeman's perception of who might look documented and who might not - have since been placed on hold on appeal, but the spirit of the law continues to embolden xenophobic advocates who envision similar measures being adopted across the United States.

With that in mind, a couple of immigration rights advocates who happen to be queer and Latino launched an online petition to ask Lady Gaga to cancel the Arizona dates of her tour and to boycott the state in opposition of SB1070.

It's not the first time artists have been asked to boycott the state over SB1070: Zack de La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine currently leads an effort to enlist other performers through the online site Sound Strike and has so far enlisted acts such as Nine Inch Nails, DJ Spooky, Hall & Oates, Ry Cooder, Chris Rock and reaggeton star Pitbull.

And while those asking Lady Gaga to boycott Arizona might not have had the same decibel ratings as Zack de la Rocha, they certainly were out there making noise ("The gays urge Lady Gaga to cancel Arizona show" - L.A. Weekly).

Personally, I wasn't sure if calling for a boycott was the right way to protest SB1070, but as the Phoenix tour date neared I was surprised that as vocal as Lady Gaga has been on other issues and, in particular, LGBT rights, her camp was mum on this one issue.  Well, mum no longer...

From The Arizona Republic:
About halfway through her concert at US Airways Center, Lady Gaga told the crowd, "I got a phone call from a couple really big rock and rollers, big pop stars, big rap artists, and they said, 'We'd like you to boycott Arizona . . . because of SB 1070."

"I said, 'Do you really think that us dumb (expletive) pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?"

She added, "We have to be active. We have to protest. . . . I will yell and I will scream louder. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will peaceably protest this state."
For those of us on Twitter, the news came via the video posted above.  And, initially, the clip rubbed me off the wrong way, even if I was ambivalent about the call for a boycott.  Targeted boycotts do work with coordination and local buy-in and I felt Lady Gaga's quick dismissal of artist-led boycotts was more than a bit self-serving, particularly in light of the fact that she stayed mum until the night of the show.

I forgot, though, this IS Lady Gaga. Two days later on Google news search? Lo and behold.

My friend, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, saw thge whole thing with a less jaundiced eye than my own. Over at, he wrote a great piece on last night's outburst. An excerpt from "Lady Gaga Gets What the LGBT Movement Doesn't Yet Realize":
As I've blogged here at before, LGBT people of color still struggle to make the LGBT movement more accepting of an agenda that's inclusive of issues faced by people of color. It's true that some LGBT groups — like GetEqual — have been vocal about SB 1070. Yet artists who are seen as allies to the LGBT community have mostly focused on issues like marriage equality, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Gaga broke that mold.

By using the hyper-queer space that is her Monster Ball tour, Lady Gaga made no distinction between LGBT rights and immigrant rights. Those of us sitting at the intersections of identities have long insisted that issues affecting people of color (such as immigration, poverty and prisons) are also LGBT issues. And by speaking out against Arizona's harmful legislation, Gaga is breaking new ground and defining what it means to be a pro-LGBT, pro-immigrant and pro-LGBT people of color artist.
The best thing yet? That photo at the top of this post taken at Lady Gaga's dressing room before last night's concert? My friend Emmanuel Garcia of Chicago's Homofrecuencia has the scoop over at the Windy City Times. An excerpt:
If you had 10 minutes with Lady Gaga what would you say? Victor Medina and Amelec Diaz had that opportunity July 31 when Lady Gaga performed at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz., as part of her Monster Ball tour. 

Both gay activists, working around immigration rights, wrote a petition asking Lady Gaga to join artists like Rage Against the Machine and Kanye West in honoring a boycott that's in place due to the controversial immigration law SB1070.
However, Gaga did not cancel her show; instead, her management invited both men to a meet-and-greet with the singer.

They met Gaga backstage while she was getting her hair done. She invited them to sit in a meeting that Medina said lasted 20 minutes. In that meeting Diaz shared his personal story about his house being raided and his brother being deported over a traffic violation. The young men said the meeting was emotional, describing the singer as "very nice, open and expressive." Medina said that prior to their meeting, Gaga said that she was not aware of the immigration law and asked that they scribble SB1070 on her arm so she could remember.

It was that moment that led Gaga to address her audience during her show. She told the crowd of more than 20,000 fans that she received calls from artists personally asking her to cancel the show, but said, she would not cancel, explaining, "And I said, you really think that us [ expletive ] pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona? We have to actively protest and the nature of the Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice and injustice."
Yup, the guys who launched the original Lady Gaga boycott effort were actually invited backstage to meet with Lady Gaga for twenty minutes which led to her comments Saturday night. She even posed with them wearing a 'Pass the DREAM Act" T-shirt from DREAMACTIVIST.

In the L.A. Weekly article I quoted above, someone calling himself one of the organizers of the Lady Gaga Arizona boycott call said "I made it in hopes that I can get Lagy Gaga to meet with the community and learn first hand the struggles we are going through. I am NOT asking that she cancel her concert but to denounce sb1070, spread awareness at the show, and bring attention/following to the issues of the LGBTQ migrant community."

Mission accomplished!



Some Other Guy said...

Bravo to Victor Medina and Amelec Diaz as well as the Lady Gaga

libhom said...

It's a shame she didn't cancel the Arizona shows. That goes to show that you can never trust media obsessed celebrities.