Hampshire College, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, is being accused of canceling a musical performance by afrobeat band Shokazoba because most of its members are white.
Five bands were scheduled to perform at the college’s Halloween bash on Friday. But students took issue with one of the bands in the lineup: Shokazoba. Though the band plays African-style music, most of its members are white, and many members of the university community took offense that administrators would choose a predominantly white band to play black music.
Concerned Hampshire students evidently bombarded the Facebook page for the event with nasty comments directed at Shokazoba, and some of the members of the band feuded with the students on the band’s page as well. The event page was eventually taken down.
As a result of the controversy, Hampshire College cancelled Shokazoba’s performance.
The college stressed that the cancellation was made because of the intense negative publicity being generated by student opposition to Shokazoba, not because the band had too many white people in it.
“The decision by student planners not to have the band perform was not based on the band’s racial identity,” said the college in a statement. “It was based on the intensity and tone that arose on the event’s planning site on social media, including comments from off campus that became increasingly aggressive, moving from responses to individual student voices to rude, and at times unsettling, remarks. Tensions grew and students felt they were being unfairly characterized and disparaged.”
The Huffington Post pointed out that cancelling band’s appearance for racial reasons would actually violate federal anti-discrimination laws.
Shokazoba will be paid in full regardless. Hampshire Halloween is funded by student activity fees.
But the band came away feeling miffed about the cancellation. Members would rather play than get paid, said keyboard and percussionist Jason Moses.
“We were appalled that our band was not considered multicultural enough to play Hampshire College,” said Moses in a statement. “It’s absolutely absurd. They are censoring us.”
Band members initially indicated on their Facebook page that they wanted to fight Hampshire’s decision, and quoted Hampshire’s non-discrimination policy in a manner suggesting a desire to stand up for themselves.
But eventually, Shokazoba threw in the towel and apologized to anyone they may have “inadvertently offended.”
“We’ve learned a lot through our recent experience about privilege and racial theory, the band wrote. “We hope as a band to continue to learn and be more sensitive to such important issues facing so many people in our communities and elsewhere.”
The college did not immediately respond to a request for comment.