Let me begin by saying that tonight’s show was fabulous and thank you so much all who attended. We really enjoyed performing for you. Mel just lit the joint up… wow. It was truly stellar.
I also think I need to talk about the weirdness of this evening… because there was some. I might just need to talk about it for me but, I’m suspecting, it may be helpful for you and for us. It’s not often that things get heated at Violet Mary shows. We’ll have dancers, and clappers, and sing-a-long-ers… but I’ve never seen folks at the edge of a fist fight before. I don’t know the entire story: I only know two sides. I know what I saw and I know what I heard from one party. And those two sources of evidence produced a situation that really bothers me.
We invited our friend Jesse Sprinkle to play before us tonight. He and his wife Amanda are fabulous folks heading to Uganda to work on a record he’s recording with street kids in Kampala, the country’s capital. You are aware that Violet Mary is umbilically connected to The Ugandan Water Project, and the circle of friends is quite tight. Jesse is finishing his support-raising by playing a few local shows. He’s a national artist with a musical resume the length of my house, so it’s an honor to play on the same bill.
During his set, a young woman from the audience came up and laid hands on Jesse. Now, this is awkward and I have a church background. What I didn’t know until later is that this young woman is Sudanese, was orphaned and raised in an orphanage in Kampala. She’d pieced together enough money and connections to immigrate to the US. In that time, she’s made a life for herself, went to school and has multiple degrees. She was grateful to Jesse for all of the work he’s done relationally with street kids in Uganda and for the work he’ll be doing later this month. In Kampala, the laying on of hands and other physical gestures are commonplace. This sheds a much needed context to what was otherwise a very weird moment for a western audience. Jesse was unfazed and it was clear he knew this women.
After she left the stage, Jesse proceeded into another song. During this song, things went from suck to blow. I don’t know what started the incident, I just heard this young woman say “Don’t talk to me like that.” as she passed a table of high school aged hockey players. They were seated as a team with their coaches or chaperones new the stage. They appeared to be from a well to do area of Pennsylvania, each of them wearing a tie and slacks and matching blazers with their school’s logo and team name. This young woman was obviously reacting to something that had been said to her after the awkward moment on stage. Her response was met with a much more hostile one, as one of the players stood up and kicked the chair out from under himself. He began shouting at her as he approached her forcefully. A few of the ground-ups had to hold him back as the young woman attempted to stand up for herself through her tears. The staff escorted her out of the room.
Now here’s the part that really chaps my ass. Mel talked with Jesse and this young woman later on in the evening. It turns out that these young hockey players told her that she should “go back to Africa”. And the response from the grown men supervising these guys was to console the boy. He remained in the room, clearly the wronged party. She spent the rest of the night cloistered away in a room sobbing. Where does this young punk get off harassing a young woman? And why wasn’t he reprimanded by his adult chaperones for acting like a prep-school elitist, white nationalist? I’m bothered by his actions, but I’m even more bothered by the adult inaction. There was a sense of entitlement among the group… and that such behavior is acceptable if not appropriate for the situation. Sometimes I simply don’t understand people. It feels like we’re socially moving backwards towards a more segregated, Jim Crow-esque situation where the other is the source of all our problems and the target of all of our unchecked aggression. I am concerned that this bigoted, racist, xenophobic talk is being sold as “non-politically correct straight-talking honesty” and that’s disheartening.
To that young lady, I’m sorry you experienced such vile behavior from anyone in attendance at a Violet Mary show. On behalf of the band, you have our sincerest apologies. And to those who would seek to raise themselves up in their own minds by putting someone else down: you are welcome too… but check that shit at the door. In order to create a space where all are welcome to enjoy community and a good time, you need to leave your self-righteousness at the door. We won’t tolerate it.
On that note, it's time to turn in. I'm going to finish passing my heart-felt apologies on to this young woman over our Facebook page and then fade away. May your tomorrows be filled with hopes and dreams galore.
Mike - Violet Mary