Many members of the Charleston music community were upset and took to social media after local record label Hearts & Plugs posted a racially offensive photo on their Instagram page Sept. 19.
The photo, which was intended to promote a show at The Commodore featuring two of the label’s bands, included a caricature drawing of an African-American infant with a chain attached to its leg. Next to the drawing were the words “Slave Baby,” meant to be a play on the band Brave Baby’s name.
Anjali Naik, an activist who is also known by her musical name Diaspoura, was one of the first to call attention to the issue, tweeting a screen shot of the post and asking that “someone police this!!!”
Naik and others have also pointed out that it was particularly insulting because of The Commodore’s history.
“A venue which previously held significant history to Charleston as a tour stop for Jazz and R&B legends; the very soul of Black culture,” hip hop artist Benjamin Starr wrote in a Facebook post.
“There is a level of numbness, and disgust, that one can’t help but feel.”
The photo has since been taken down, and Hearts & Plugs issued an apology on their Facebook page Thursday.
“I have made a mistake for which I am deeply sorry, and I want to apologize to those I have offended,” Hearts & Plugs founder Dan McCurry said in the post.
“On Monday I posted an image that I did not perceive to be potentially insulting – when the offensive nature of it was pointed out to me, I immediately took it down.... As someone who identifies as being a progressive, this misjudgment on my part cuts to my core. It was never my intent to cause harm or promote an oppressive culture.”
However, several people close to the Charleston music scene were not completely satisfied with McCurry’s apology.
“If you were progressive you would have realized your artists were using a very old racist image to promote a very white event,” one Facebook user responded in a comment. “There were so many levels of opportunity to realize this was not right.”
Though McCurry takes responsibility for posting the picture on Instagram, the person who drew the “slave baby” has not come forward.
Now a group close to the music community including Naik, members of the Very Hypnotic Soul Band and Charles Carmody of Charleston Music Hall are planning a public forum to discuss what the incident means for Charleston.
“We don’t intend for this to be what might be considered a typical public forum,” the group said in a statement over email.
“While the community response here shouldn’t be sensationalized, it has to be brutally honest about the fact that this isn’t an isolated incident.”
Details about the event’s location, time and date will be announced later. The group wants to make sure that the forum includes a broad range of community members, and they can’t set the date until they are able to meet with everyone.
“We want to make sure that we are facilitating dialogue that isn’t insular, since that type of thinking is a big part of the problem to begin with.”