Detroit music festival AfroFuture Fest ignited a social media debate over the past week, receiving both praise and scrutiny for its two-tier ticket pricing in which white people were asked to pay more than people of color.
The event's Eventbrite web page listed early bird tickets for people of color at $10 while white attendees would be charged $20 or more — resulting in a local rapper publicly pulling out of the fest.
By Sunday, the festival changed its pricing to $20 general admission and "suggested donation" for "non-POC" attendees. The move came following pressure from Eventbite, with a spokesperson telling CNN that the company does not "permit events that require attendees to pay different prices based on their protected characteristics such as race or ethnicity." A civil rights lawyer also told The New York Times the different prices could be viewed as "discriminatory" and result in possible lawsuits. The festival organizers said in a tweet that they changed the prices after receiving threats.
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 @eventbrite pic.twitter.com/6wQXEjRKtt— Afrofuture Youth (@AFYDet) July 7, 2019
Francesca Lamarre, one of the two organizers behind AfroFuture Fest, defended the festival's initial ticket prices, saying the price structure existed to ensure people of color have a chance to experience joy and pleasure within the same spaces as their white counterparts. She says the model also allows white people to show themselves as allies and use their wealth and privilege to increase equity, joy, and pleasure for Black life in Detroit.
"The ticket prices aren't reflected to leave white people out," says Lamarre. "It's meant to have a fair chance of being able to engage in the spaces that were created and catered specifically for Black people, Black voices, Black artists, and the Black community."
"So it's not to divide — it's to ensure we have an equitable chance to experience joy and pleasure within the same space," she says.
As AfroFuture Fest co-director Numi Ori defines it, "equity" is ensuring everyone has what they need to be successful, and that partly has to do with access to affordable entertainment.
Ori says she's experienced firsthand the lack of accessibility and affordability of concerts in Detroit.
"There are events and spaces being created in the city that we don't have access to, which means that we are not always going to be able to afford them or go there," Ori says. "Or we don't feel welcomed because people don't look like us — specifically with concerts, which is just one little piece of the puzzle or one little drop in what's really the bigger issue."
The organizers say one of the goals of AfroFuture Fest is to be a direct response to the lack of affordable entertainment in Detroit while simultaneously raising money to start the programming aspect of AfroFuture Youth, the nonprofit organization sponsoring the festival.
The nonprofit was founded in June 2018 by Ori, with support from Allied Media Project. She quickly established the organization as a Detroit-based, youth-led initiative providing young Afrofuturists with the tools to co-create a more equitable world through long-term projects created with art, tech, media, and healing.
Ori says they will do this by working one-on-one with local artists and organizers to help create long-term projects, such as a podcast, a community garden, a film series, or a political analysis session. Some of the youth have expressed interest in hosting events that benefit the queer community. Some of them want to host self-care events and start self-care organizations centered around doing hair and creating music.
"There is a curriculum to this program that I did design and that is very important because they can't do the work if they're not responsible and not adding depth to their work," Ori says.
The curriculum consists of focusing on the various aspects of healing, political analysis, and mobilization as it pertains to Black life for 10-plus weeks.
"They can't do this work if they are harming themselves or are harming other people at all," says Ori. "They have to learn how to heal through the trauma that Black people with so many intersecting identities face."
While programming is currently at a standstill, AFY Youth says they've already benefited from being a part of the organization.
"As young Black youth, we are already stereotyped and targeted just for our color," AfroFuture Youth says in a collective statement. "AfroFuture Youth allows Black youth to have fun and put their dreams into action. We are taught that no matter where we come from, we are all important, we are all special, and we can succeed in anything we want to."
In the near future they will also benefit from the proceeds from AfroFuture Fest, which will be held on the Feedom Freedom Grounds on Saturday, Aug. 3, on Detroit's east side.
Tickets provide equal access to both the day and night portions of the festival. During the day from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be vendors and workshops available to engage festivalgoers in healing practices like yoga, reiki, affirmations, and tarot readings. There will also be an open mic, live sewing and clothing projects, food vendors, live painting, and sculpting as well.
"It's important to make sure Black people have access to healing modalities, to move through all of the trauma we go through from being Black and queer and trans and whatever we are," Ori says.
The second half of the day from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. showcases Black artists and performers, including Milfie, Adolf Jyn, Notheho, Curtis Roach, Rocketman and more, as well as DJ sets from Problematic Black Hottie, Ak640s, Blkboyshine, and Afemarie. Blkboyshine will also serve as the host during the evening.
"Every part of the programming that we are doing this summer is to go back to AfroFuture Youth," Lamarre says. "In this festival, we are literally living out the words that we are saying we want to see for our future."
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