Pittsburgh concert promoter Brian Drusky, of Drusky Entertainment, touched off accusations of racism in December of 2014 when he posted a series of tweets that made light of a demonstration by the local Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., incident and protests.
They were among the variety of “The Steelers lost last week. I’m going to lay down in the middle of grant street by the courthouse to protest!”
Upon being targeted by local black entertainers and activists, he removed the tweets, issued an apology and agreed to meet with them to find ways of making amends to the community.
As part of this effort, Drusky Entertainment donated more than $12,000 in the last year to the Afro-American Music Institute.
On Wednesday morning the promoter met with representatives of the local group Black Artist Ally Initiative, and prior to the Lauryn Hill concert at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, Drusky issued the following statement:
“In December 2014, I made racist statements mocking the grief and outrage of black people who protested the loss of Black life at the hands of police violence.
Although I attempted to make amends, I realize now that surface platitudes and small gestures are not enough. Although I am deeply sorry, I realize that just saying sorry is not enough, that sustained and consistent action to combating racism in my own actions and in the actions of others is necessary to achieve healing and to build trust. As a white man that benefits from Black culture and artistry, I know that it is my responsibility to stand in solidarity with Black people, particularly the Black community in Pittsburgh, by devoting my resources as an entertainment professional and as a resident of Pittsburgh to creating true equity and inclusivity in the entertainment industry here. I call on the Pittsburgh arts community, particularly white arts organizations, to stand in solidarity with the Black arts community by committing to tangible acts of allyship that will shift the culture of entrenched racism that permeates Pittsburgh.
To demonstrate commitment and accountability to Black Pittsburgh artists, venues, promoters, and other support workers, Michael David Battle, Joy KMT, and Drusky Entertainment will:
Invite local Black artists to open up for Black headliners when the ability arises and compensate these artists.
Host 1 annual fundraiser in collaboration with Black artists to contribute to the Black Artist Ally Initiative
Collaborate with local Black artists to host a yearly summer academy for young Black artists and fund the resulting youth project(s)/efforts
Offer event tickets to Black youth
Work with local Black artists and promoters and utilize Black venues and support staff for events.”
Michael David Battle, artist and founding director at Garden of Peace Project, issued the statement:
"Yesterday evening I received a call on behalf of Brian Drusky. In the very recent past, Brian Drusky was held accountable for public statements that he made that undermined the lives of those protesting Black lives lost to State Violence. This was a continuation of that community conversation to address the tangible strides he is willing to make to show true solidarity with the Black Artist community. I invited him to meet with Joy KMT & me this morning in an effort to hold him accountable and take swift action and the first steps toward investing in Black artists and art in Pittsburgh.
Tonight, we have gathered with local Black artists to share the new commitments Drusky Entertainment has made to Black artists in Pittsburgh and investing in uplifting the narratives and art and expressions of Black artists. To truly invest and contribute to Black art and the lives and legacy of Black artist is to be in an act of resistance -- this takes radical and transformative action and a new way of doing things."
Poet-performance artist Joy KMT, who was also part of the BAAI meeting, issued her own statement:
“Black Artist Ally Initiative is a call to action for Drusky and white folks benefitting from Black art, Black labor, Black money, Black love, and Black resistance to be accountable to black artists, venues, and workers in the art and entertainment industry. Pittsburgh has a rich and deep Black Arts legacy that continues to this day. Drusky’s comments were deeply hurtful, but indicative of the casual anti-blackness that supports the structural violence that culminates in making Pittsburgh last on a list of 25 for quality of life for black people, one of the lowest life expectancy rates for black people in the nation, and one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation for black people. Black artists in Pittsburgh continue to be under resourced and undervalued, and Black people continue to live under the impact of entrenched racism, classism, and injustice, and black protest of injustice continues to be mocked and dismissed. This, too, is a Pittsburgh legacy and one that must be shifted. Today, Drusky Entertainment has committed to doing the work and being accountable to Black artists in the Pittsburgh community and to the Black community as a whole.
As a collective we are committed to continuing to foster spaces of transformative and radical inclusion. This public press statement serves as a tool of accountability. Together, we will share how we intend to use our collective gifts to transform and invest in Black artists.”