A local music festival in Detroit has moved away from ticket prices based on race after drawing international attention when a rapper pulled out of the show over the price discrepancy.
The organizers behind Afrofuture Fest announced on their Eventbrite listing last week that tickets for people of colour would cost $20 US. Tickets for “non-people of colour,” however, were priced at $40 US.
Afrofuture Fest, which is scheduled to take place Aug. 3-4, describes itself as as a home for arts and healing, advertising a “day parade, drum circle and bonfire.” It’s put on by Afrofuture Youth, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people create a more equitable world.
“Our ticket structure was built to [ensure] that the most marginalized communities (people of colour) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community (Black Detroit),” organizers had posted on Eventbrite.
The pricing has since been changed but debate over the plan, which sparked both outrage and support, continued into the weekend.
The explanation from organizers went on to argue that “people outside of the community” benefit most “from affordable ticket prices because of their proximity to wealth.”
“This cycle disproportionately displaces black and brown people from enjoying entertainment in their own communities.”
The original ticketing idea prompted a Detroit-based rapper — who is of mixed race — to pull out of the event.
“My grandmother and her husband, they both had a big influence on me,” said Tiny Jag, whose real name is Jillian Graham. “Even my first mixtape is named after my grandmother who would have been charged double to come support me.”
Eventbrite said festival organizers were violating a rule and would unpublish the event if changes weren’t made to the pricing structure.
“We do not permit events that require attendees to pay different prices based on their protected characteristics such as race or ethnicity,” Eventbrite told CBC News in a statement Sunday.
CBC News reached out to event organizers on Sunday afternoon, but has not heard back.
Tiny Jag said she has received a combination of support and hostility for her decision.
While some people lauded the musician for taking a stand, others accused her of misunderstanding the point they believe organizers were trying to make.
“Gawd this is embarrassing,” Ijeoma Oluo, author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want To Talk About Race, posted on Twitter regarding the rapper’s comments.
“My white mom would be proud to pay more because she understands the history of economic exploitation of black folk in this country to benefit whiteness & she wants a better future for black folk, including her black kids.”
At the same time, A U.K-based rapper, who goes under the stage name Zuby, commended Tiny Jag for withdrawing and criticized the festival in a series of tweets, telling organizers: “You’ve become the very racists you claim to stand against.”
“I think it’s offensive regardless of what angle you look at it,” Zuby, whose full name is Zuby Udezue, told CBC News in a phone interview Sunday.
“As someone who is black, the idea that I’m going to be charged less money for something because the assumption is, ‘oh, this person is not white so therefore, they are poor and can’t afford this,’ that is racism itself.”
He added not everyone in Detroit who is below the poverty level is black.
“If the intention were to make it more accessible to people who are not financially well off, you could just lower the ticket price,” he said.
‘We have options’
And that’s just what the event decided to do.
The festival is now charging a general admission price of $20 US, with an option for a “Non-POC suggested donation.”
For the safety of our community, family, elders who received threats from white supremacists,& youth who were subjected to seeing racist comments on our IG pg,Afrofuture Fest has changed our ticketing model to $20 General Admission & suggested donation for nonPOC on <a href=”https://twitter.com/eventbrite?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@eventbrite</a> <a href=”https://t.co/eKHK1PGBfU”>pic.twitter.com/eKHK1PGBfU</a>
Tiny Jag says she supports the goals of Afrofuture organizers, but not the means. Since she went public with her decision not to perform, she says she has also received support from groups she would never support, such as white supremacists. She’s also been told music festival organizers were receiving threatening calls, which wasn’t her intent.
“I’m not supporting any supremacy, that’s the whole point of this,” she said. “We have options as a race … We have options to get ourselves in a better place.”