Ani DiFranco Cancels Retreat After Fan Outrage

    December 31, 2013
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

Folk singer and acclaimed feminist Ani DiFranco has gotten some unusual press lately. A long-time advocate for equality for all regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., DiFranco was taken aback when fans voiced their disappointment in an event DiFranco was participating in.

Dubbed the “Righteous Retreat“, named after DiFranco’s independent album label, Righteous Records, the retreat was intended to be “3 days and 4 nights exchanging ideas, making music, and otherwise getting suntans in the light of each other’s company”.

The retreat was set to take place at the historic Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, Louisiana. DiFranco herself lives in New Orleans, only about an hour away. As DiFranco explains, she had accepted the invitation to do the retreat because, after having had a new baby this past April, she could “potentially come home to [her] own bed each night”.

The trouble started when it became known that Nottoway was a former slave plantation. This is not an unusual thing in the South, but for an artist with the kind of following DiFranco has, it became a sore spot.

Fans set up a protest petition, raising 2500 signatures, asking that DiFranco cancel the event and apologize to her black fans who felt insulted that she schedule an event at Nottoway.

DiFranco responded on her website:

“i have heard you: all who have voiced opposition to my conducting a writing and performing seminar at the nottoway plantation. i have decided to cancel the retreat.

i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness. i imagined instead that the setting would become a participant in the event. this was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive and engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were. i have heard the feedback that it is not my place to go to former plantations and initiate such a dialogue.”

She also points out that part of the retreat was to include a field trip to the Roots of Music free music school for underprivileged kids in New Orleans.

“Roots of Music is located at the Cabildo, a building in the French Quarter which was the seat of the former slaveholder government where all the laws of the slave state were first written and enacted. i believe that the existence of Roots of Music in this building is transcendent and it would have been a very inspiring place to visit. i also believe that Roots could have gained a few new supporters. in short, i think many positive and life-affirming connections would have been made at this conference, in its all of its complexity of design.”

But DiFranco is not one to take a beating, even from friends, without pointing out the errors in their argument. She went on to take some issue with the bitterness with which she was attacked by people who claimed to be supporters of the same tolerant causes she backs. Some were particularly irate that the owners of Nottoway appear to have political views that are in direct opposition to DiFranco’s queer-friendly, liberal reputation. DiFranco agrees that that was disturbing, but wondered aloud about how far she should go in vetting venues at which she plays:

“is it possible to ensure that no ‘bad’ person will ever profit in any way from my existence or my work? again, maybe we should indeed have drawn a line in this case and said nottoway plantation is not a good place to go; maybe we should have vetted the place more thoroughly. but should hatred be spit at me over that mistake?”

She summed up her stance, despite her disappointment at her treatment, by reminding her listeners that “we need every ounce of energy that we have to try to create a positive change in this world. and to work together. that energy is precious.”

Image via: Youtube

  • Oh Please

    I love women but I can’t stand feminists. There is a difference between wanting things to be fair and being a feminist. Feminists have gone too far and are really the cause of so many of our problems in this nation. A record number of abortions, a record number of divorces, an increase in single parent households, a totally unfair divorce court situation that exists in America, an explosion in male suicide rates, men dropping out of the marriage scene, boys committing suicide at an extremely high rate, men dropping out of wanting to go to college, and the general feminization of America has been caused by feminists. We don’t even play tag at recess anymore and kids being forced to give up recess in lieu of having the kids take female oriented classes.

    The worst thing is that in all my life, I have never seen men and women hate each other as much as they do now. It is played out in chat rooms, on message boards, courtrooms, blog articles, websites, and talk shows around this nation every day. It never used to be this bad. It all started when the feminist agenda was forced down everyone’s throat.

    What is really the most sad is that really the vast majority of men like women and we don’t get up every day thinking of ways we can take advantage of or screw women in society. I am a professional and frankly, I have never once thought about treating a woman differently than a man. I just wanted to go to work, do my job, go home to my girlfriend and be at peace with life. I have never been in any company that had an agenda against women.

    What I am finding to is that many women don’t like feminists either. I know so many women that don’t even want to be identified as a feminist and who feel, in a very real way, feminists have pretty much lied to them about things. Feminists promise them something that pretty much doesn’t exist — the illusion that a person, be it man or woman, can have it all. Ironically, men learned long ago that you can’t have it all. It is impossible. To get something, you always give up something. That is just the way life works.

    What? Did you really think men loved going to work 12 hours a day at a job they didn’t really like so they could provide for their family, but at the same time, they didn’t get to see their wives or kids? Did you think we liked the stress — so much so that we died 10-15 years earlier than women? No. We did that because we loved our families and had to do that.

    I am pro-woman and anti-feminist if there is such a thing. I very much know that each sex brings something unique to a relationship and only when we are together are we better.

  • http://wickedsondesigns.com shaun chosa

    What a load of crap…you can’t make everyone happy. Annie should have kept her plans as is…what a bunch of whining bitch piss ants…this was a positive thing. Considering you can’t play anywhere or hold an event that doesn’t have a negative history at some point would be almost impossible. This country was built on blood, more so Native American than Black, Chinese, Irish..whatever..get over it..its old news! Grow the fuck up!
    What better way to restore the positive energy in a place with bad memory than to have a positive event showing the growth we have made.
    If people continue to bow down to whiners like this there will be no progress..you can stand anywhere in this country and should realize, its stolen land, taken by force, by theft, and more bloodshed than the Holocaust, and Black Slavery Combined..many times more actually…read real history folks.
    Having said that..to continue to bring up old issues gets us no where in the present…live in the now and make a better future instead of trying to address old issues that will never truly be recitfied..its too friggin late..all we have is now…so to the whining minority of people..shut up and be positive instead of pissing on someone elses parade.

  • Harlan

    Ani and her fans missed a very important point: The fact that a group of creative artists can gather freely on a former slave plantation and openly speak their minds in a creative endeavor shows that freedom will always win out over slavery.