Cancellation of Afrobeat Band Shokazoba at Hampshire College’s Hampshire Halloween Creates Controversy
Lori Stabile, Mass Live, October 26, 2013
Shokazoba’s cancellation from the Hampshire Halloween event Friday night at Hampshire College, after one band member said they were criticized of being “too white” to play Afrobeat music, is reverberating on social media.
Shokazoba keyboard player Jason Moses said on Saturday that the entire incident has upset the band, which he said was the target of an online campaign by approximately 30 people–a campaign that led to the band’s ultimate cancellation from the annual event.
Moses said the firestorm started when someone posted an inflammatory comment online about Hampshire College hiring an all-white band to play Afrobeat music for the event. He said the band is not all white, and race should not be an issue anyway.
The decision to cancel the band was made by the Hype Committee, which puts on Hampshire Halloween.
The Hype Committee wrote on its Facebook page on Oct. 24: “Due to concerned students voicing their opinions about the band Shokazoba, we held community dialogue to hear what individuals had to say. As a result of the dialogue, and discomfort expressed by members of the community in person as well as by email, Facebook, and other means, we have removed Shokazoba from the lineup for Hampshire Halloween.”
Elaine Thomas, Hampshire College spokeswoman, said in a statement that the student organizers of Hampshire Halloween contracted with a number of bands, and that some students “questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band, and expressing their concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures.”
“The students tried to be clear that they meant no disrespect to the members of the band in question, but wished to raise larger questions and deeper thought within our own community,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, voices unconnected to our campus and to the events of Hampshire Halloween drowned out a reasonable conversation about how to ensure that the entire student community could have a safe and happy evening. As can happen on social media, posts from off-campus individuals trivialized the concerns of our students and made them feel disrespected.”
She said student organizers met with concerned students on Thursday, and following that meeting, decided to cancel the band’s appearance, but pay them in full anyway.