Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chick-fil-A Co-Sponsoring Iowa Soul Festival this Weekend

I am totally out of it these days. I've never heard of Iowa Soul Festival and I certainly hadn't heard that they had asked Chick-fil-A to be one of their co-sponsors. But apparently it's a local controversy. Funny that I'm Facebook friends with the two women interviewed in this article and I don't recall hearing anything about it.

According to the Press-Citizen, "local members of the LGBT community" are upset that Iowa City Summer of the Arts teamed with Chick-fil-A for a co-sponsorship of this weekend's Iowa Soul Festival. Chick-fil-A became the fastfood restaurant of choice amongst anti-gay Christians and political leaders back in 2012 when their CEO began condemning families like mine and when the corporation began donating huge sums of money to anti-gay political and social groups:
Janelle Rettig, a Johnson County Supervisor who has been in a same-sex marriage for nearly 26 years, said Chick-fil-A's sponsorship makes her question whether LGBT people — those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — are welcome at Soul Fest. "When they're a sponsor in a city that prides itself in celebrating diversity, I think we do have to question that," Rettig said Tuesday. "It's eyebrow raising, and it makes me wonder if I should even go to Soul Fest because I'm uncomfortable with it."
Jewell Amos, 44, the chairwoman of the Iowa City Pride Committee, said she has mixed feelings about the sponsorship, and questions whether Summer of the Arts knew the background of the company before partnering with them. "It is their choice, by all means, to utilize all the funds they can get to put on their festival," said Amos, who said she was sharing her personal thoughts and not speaking on behalf of the committee, which she said does not generally involve itself in political issues. "But I personally think they should have picked their sponsors a little more carefully."
Lisa Barnes, the executive director of Summer of the Arts, said in the interview that they knew they would be courting negative reactions when they partnered with Chick-fil-A. But they did it anyway. Because "open discussion" and apparently because there aren't any restaurants without nationwide anti-gay reputations in the Iowa City/Coralville area.

The Iowa City Summer of the Arts issued a statement yesterday about this controversy:
Summer of the Arts is supported by the generous sponsorships and donations of many area businesses, vendors and individuals. Those that contribute to the organization may have values or beliefs that are not embraced by everyone. Summer of the Arts has recently received some public criticism and questions regarding the Chick-fil-A sponsorship of Culinary Row at the upcoming Iowa Soul Festival.

Summer of the Arts welcomes all people to attend and participate in our festivals and events regardless of race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preference.

Chick-fil-A stepped forward to support the Iowa Soul Festival by investing in the available sponsorship of Culinary Row, showing their support of the arts in our community. Chick-fil-A would also like to show their support of diversity including the LGBTQ community and want to make sure to show honor, dignity, and respect to all people. We feel that it is important and appropriate to encourage that sentiment especially in Iowa City.

Summer of the Arts is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community. We have collaborated and partnered with Iowa City Pride Festival for multiple years, as well as actively look for ways to include LGBTQ musicians, artists, vendors, movies etc. in our programming each year. This will not change.

Festival goers may choose which sponsors and vendors to patronize or visit while attending an event as there are many options available. The purpose of the Iowa Soul Festival is to celebrate and increase awareness of diversity and the positive impact it has on our community. Again, this is a welcoming and open event for all. It would be unfortunate for someone to not attend the festival or participate in all that it has to offer.
For the record, I won't be at the Iowa Soul Festival. It has nothing to do with Chick-fil-A. I just have other plans. That said, I would be less likely to follow through with my plans to attend Iowa Soul Festival if I'd have been planning on attending because of this co-sponsorship. That's my thoughts. You are free to make your own choice. And feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

1 comment:

Donny Jacobs said...

What a coincidence, Jon. In my New Archies narrative, right now I'm writing about the Riverdale Rock Festival. Sabrina and Alexandra are putting it together in the year 2039.