Ani DiFranco has canceled an upcoming artist retreat that was scheduled to be held at a resort in Louisiana. The reason? The resort in question is a former slave plantation.
DiFranco's "Righteous Retreat in the Big Easy," a four-day workshop for artists that focuses on songwriting and musicianship, was slated for a spot at the Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, La. The plantation's website notes that it's regarded as "the largest antebellum plantation in the South," but also, as Rolling Stone notes, "ignores the horrors of slavery" in the historical summary on the site.
A Change.org petition was enacted to convince DiFranco to cancel the feminist retreat "so that feminists and queer individuals of all races can express their disdain for DiFranco's racist and oppressive gestures, not to mention the obvious exclusion of/disregard for her black fans."
The singer announced the cancellation on her website, though she admitted that she didn't expect this kind of public outcry.
"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," she wrote. "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 obviously underestimated the power of an evocatively symbolic place to trigger collective and individual pain," she continued. "I believe that your energy and your questioning are needed in this world. I know that the pain of slavery is real and runs very deep and wide. However, in this incident I think is very unfortunate what many have chosen to do with that pain. I cancel the retreat now because I wish to restore peace and respectful discourse between people as quickly as possible.
"I entreat you to refocus your concerns and comments on this matter with positive energy and allow us now to work together towards common ground and healing."
DiFranco currently does not plan to reschedule the retreat.