Northampton, MA-based Afrobeat band, Shokazoba, are reeling after they were summarily cancelled from the lineup at Hampshire Halloween, Hampshire College's annual music event for being "too white." The controversy began when someone outside of the college's community posted an incendiary comment on social media criticizing the school's hiring of the all-white Afrobeat band. An online campaign by the band's detractors ensued which ultimately led to the band being dropped from the event.
Jason Moses, the band's keyboard player, in online article on October 26, said that the band is not all white, and the issue of race is irrelevant. "It's not important to us. Music and art has the opportunity to transcend all that."
The campus group which puts on Hampshire Halloween, Hype Committee, wrote on its Facebook page: "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."
According to a statement by Elaine Thomas, a Hampshire College spokesperson, "some students expressed their concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures." Additionally, she said, "The decision by student planners not to have the band perform was not based on the band’s racial identity. 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."
Members of Shokazoba feel they have been unfairly dealt with by the Hype Committee and demonized by the online campaign that inserted race into the controversy. Ironically, the band was obligated to sign a performance contract with the Hype Committee stating it would not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation.
For the record, Hampshire College is a predominantly white college.