The Detroit AfroFuture FEST August 3 concert was reportedly charging white people twice as much for tickets as “people of color,” resulting in the withdrawal of a biracial rap performer who was offended by the bigoted system. Fortunately, public outcry against the ticketing scale forced Afrofuture Fest organizers to change their pricing model.
Local Detroit rapper Tiny Jag, whose real name is Jillian Graham, was disturbed to learn that her white fans were being charged $20 for early-bird tickets when POC (people of color) were being charged only $10, Detroit’s Metro Times reports. Following the early-bird special, tickets would have doubled in price to $20 for POC and $40 for white consumers.
Graham told the LA Times, “I care not only because I was raised to care about things like this, but because I actually have the blood in me.… My own family members would be affected by this decision.”
When this pricing model came to Tiny Jag’s attention, she sent out a tweet to her fans stating that was withdrawing from the event.
Referring to the event’s unfair pricing policy, Graham tweeted, “This does not reflect the views of myself or the Tiny Jag Team. I will not be playing this show. I apologize to anyone who may have been triggered or offended.”
Some Twitter users immediately responded with support for Graham’s decision.
“Thank you! MLK Jr. would be proud of you,” one user responded.
Another added, “Respect to you for standing up against this.”
Others admitted to not being familiar with Tiny Jag’s music but being impressed by her bold move.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know your music at all, but I respect your decision to the fullest and I will check out your music guaranteed. Maybe I’ll dig, maybe not, but I definitely respect your view on this,” one wrote.
Fortunately, when the unfair pricing policy came to the attention of EventBrite, which hosts ticket sales for the festival, a spokesman immediately issued a statement explaining that the platform does not permit events that require people to pay different prices based on race. The spokesman warned that if AfroFuture FEST did not change its pricing structure, the event would be delisted.
The pricing structure has since been revised and now asks for a $20 general admission price with a box that allows consumers to make a “Non POC Suggested Donation.” The site includes a pop-out message explaining the donation:
Events often designed for marginalized Black and Brown communities can be easily co-opted by those with cultural, monetary, and class privileges. Our goal is to ensure that the youth of our communities can participate in the building of a just society; one that promotes EQUITY over EQUALITY. Non-POC individuals are encouraged to provide additional donations as acknowledgement of this historical inequity.
On Sunday, the organizers provided a different explanation on Twitter for changing its policy, failing to mention the warning from EventBrite.
For the safety of our community, family, elders who received threats from white supremacists,& youth who were subjected to seeing racist comments on our [Instagram] pg, Afrofuture Fest has changed our ticketing model to $20 General Admission & suggested donation for nonPOC.
Sadly, that announcement invited hateful responses from some of the event’s attendees.
“White people don’t belong there anyway,” one tweeted. “They hate us but always want to be in our spaces.”
But many also voiced their opposition to the event’s unfair pricing.
“Racism is never ok. This type of shocking behavior needs to stop. We are all human,” one tweeted.
“I’m not white but I sure as hell wouldn’t support this racist festival, been to way too many ‘Real Music Festivals’ in my lifetime and have seen real unity amongst many races,” another opined.
Despite the price revision, the website for the event attempts to justify the pricing policy:
WHY DO WE HAVE POC(PEOPLE OF COLOR) AND NONPOC(WHITE PEOPLE) TICKETS? I'M GLAD YOU ASKED!
EQUALITY MEANS TREATING EVERYONE THE SAME
EQUITY IS INSURING EVERYONE HAS WHAT THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL
OUR TICKET STRUCTURE WAS BUILT TO INSURE THAT THE MOST MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES (PEOPLE OF COLOR) ARE PROVIDED WITH AN EQUITABLE CHANCE AT ENJOYING EVENTS IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY (BLACK DETROIT).
AFFORDING JOY AND PLEASURE IS UNFORTUNATELY STILL A PRIVILEGE IN OUR SOCIETY FOR POC AND WE BELIEVE EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO RECEIVING SUCH.
WE'VE SEEN TOO MANY TIMES ORGASMIC EVENTS HAPPENING IN DETROIT AND OTHER POC POPULATED CITIES AND WHAT CONSISTENTLY HAPPENS IS PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE COMMUNITY BENEFITING 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.
AS AN AFROFUTURIST YOUTH LEAD INITIATIVE THE VOICES OF OUR YOUTH INFORM OUR RESISTANCE.
HERE'S WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY
" IF YOU DON'T SEE MY BLACKNESS, YOU DON'T SEE ME. PERIODT!"
But for Graham, efforts to support diversity and equality should not include racist policies.
“It’s non-progressive and it’s not solution-focused in my eyes,” she told the Metro Times. “It seems almost like it has spite, and unfortunately with spite comes hate, and that’s just not obviously going to be a good direction for us to go if we’re looking for positive change."
“A lot of the songs that I perform are from my first project called Polly — that is my grandmother’s name," Graham added. "How do you want me to come to a performance and perform these songs off a mixtape that is titled after this white woman that you would have charged double to get in here? Like, it’s just outrageous from so many different angles.”
Image from AfroFuture FEST event page at EventBrite.com