Ani Difranco is an indie folk singer whose work has consistently challenged society on many levels. A feminist who has become a beloved artist to the LGBTQ community as well, one need only examine a sampling of her music to perceive an intelligent, critical mind beneath the melodies.
How Difranco never saw a problem with her Righteous Retreat is beyond me.
Here’s the premise: Ani, several songwriter friends and several days holed up, exploring the creation of music and art through seminars. Sounds beautiful, albeit pricey (the low end starts at $1,099)… Until you realize the event is being held at a plantation. As in, people of colour were enslaved by its past owners and died there. A plantation currently owned by a man who regularly donates money to the campaign of a party that is anti-feminist, anti-choice and anti-immigrant.
For a woman whose fan base includes many minority groups, one would think that somewhere along the way, a light bulb would come on and signal how horrible an idea this would be. Let’s put aside the exclusionary privilege of an event with such a high price tag, and the sociopolitical factors that determine the disproportionate numbers of non-whites in lower income brackets. How a woman who has exemplified critical thought in the past, who has invited a woman of colour to run seminars at this event, cannot see the ignorance here is just… astounding, really.
Understandably, the backlash has been severe, with petitions calling for a cancellation and apology from Ani Difranco. Listed participant Toshi Reagon has since issued a statement, which you can read at her Facebook page at her request.
As a fan of Ani Difranco, I’m personally disappointed; as someone who has studied social justice and continues to learn about her white privilege in hopes of being a good ally, I’m sadly not surprised that the implications would elude the organizers of the event. I’m also not surprised at one white woman’s appalling decision to “don virtual Blackface”, as one person aptly described it, and create a fake Facebook account for a black woman to defend the event. No, seriously.
For more critique of this event from the important voices, scan the Facebook event page for wisdom.