Fan outcry reached a fever pitch last week when it was announced that an Ani DiFranco songwriting retreat was to be held at a plantation in Louisiana, which once housed slaves. In a blog post, however, DiFranco announced that the retreat would be canceled after the outcry from fans about the unsavory history of where it was to be held. The Righteous Retreat, as it was called, raised some eyebrows, particularly considering DiFranco herself has long been an advocate of civil and human rights. Some of the reactions to the decision to host the event at Nottoway Plantation, just outside of New Orleans, were collected at The Daily Dot, which includes some upset fans making comparisons to hosting the event at a concentration camp.
DiFranco’s statement notes that she did not personally pick the venue for the songwriting retreat, but that when she had learned of where it was to be held, she hoped that it would open up a “dialogue”:
“when i agreed to do a retreat (with a promoter who has organized such things before with other artists and who approached me about being the next curator/host/teacher), i did not know the exact location it was to be held. i knew only that it would be “not too far outside of new orleans” so that i could potentially come home to my own bed each night. and i knew that one of the days of the retreat was slated as a field trip wherein everyone would come to new orleans together. later, when i found out it was to be held at a resort on a former plantation, I thought to myself, “whoa”, but 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.”
Read her full statement here.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.