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Group calls for boycott of the Allendale Summer Concert Series: An interview with Mitch Kahle with the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists

May 27, 2021

On Tuesday, May 25th, the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) sent an e-mail to bands that are scheduled to play at an outdoor concert series being hosted in Allendale. The outdoor concert series will be held in the same park that the Confederate statue is located. 

The e-mail sent to the bands read as follows:

Dear Artists and Performers:

We ain’t gonna play Allendale Concerts in the Park!

You may have heard about the ongoing controversy in Allendale Charter Township, Michigan, concerning the public display of a statue honoring Confederate soldiers and another depicting an enslaved biracial child, half-naked, picking cotton, at the feet of their oppressors. (See attached photos below.) These racist and offensive statues are located approximately 100 yards from the bandstand and grassy area used by the township to hold the “Concerts in the Parks” series. 

Just as many anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s were led by musicians and artists—e.g., Artists United Against Apartheid (see info below)we are asking you and your band to join our anti-racism boycott by declining to perform for event sponsored by or hosted by Allendale Charter Township, at least until the racist statues have been removed or covered. 

Artists United Against Apartheid: “Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City”(See links to audio, song lyrics, and Wikipedia article below.)

We know that it may be difficult or go against your principles to decline a paying gig (however modest the compensation), but the circumstances in Allendale are unique and call for empathy and compassion for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other minorities, who have suffered far too long from abuses of the majority in this small community. Allendale is known as the “Confederate Capital of Michigan” and one of the few remaining “sundown towns” in the state. 

This summer (as with last), Allendale will likely be the site of numerous protests. If you are not familiar with the ongoing controversy there, please see the many media stories linked below for more information. 

And as if the overt racism in Allendale weren’t enough reason to decline this meaningless gig, the township recently reduced compensation for bands from the higher amounts paid in previous years. In fact, the lowered pay for musicians was somewhat of a joke at the March 22 meeting of the Board of Trustees. When the Rotary Club, which produces the concert series, requested approval to expand from 6 to 10 concerts—with no commensurate increase in funds to compensate musicians—Garry Murphy told the Trustees: “All the bands are hungry and willing to work for less money than normal. It’s a good time to expand. We’ll get more bands for our bucks.” These comments were received with chuckles from board members. On average this year each band is being offered $200 less compensation than in 2019. (See the township’s proposed band compensation chart below for comparison.)

Is it true? Are you all “hungry” for this gig? Is the very low—some might say insulting—$50 to $100 pay worth the stigma of appearing to support a township that demonstrates overt racism toward minorities and a clear disrespect for musicians?

There is one more thing to consider as you weigh whether to accept or decline: protests are being planned that may coincide with some of the “Concerts in the Park.” Which particular dates are chosen for protests this summer will depend on which (if any) bands agree to perform for the apartheid government of Allendale Charter Township. We appeal to your conscience in this matter. 

We ain’t gonna play Allendale Concerts in the Park — and neither should you!

Please contact MACRA if you have any questions.


Mitch Kahle

Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA)

GRIID decided to do an interview with Mitch Kahle, with MACRA, who promptly responded to our questions here below.

GRIID – The Allendale Charter Township continues to ignore pleas from those in West Michigan to remove the Confederate Statue that stands in the main park within the township? MACRA just issued a call for people to boycott the summer concert series being hosted in the same park that is home to the Confederate statue. How did you come to make the decision to use this tactic with the Allendale Charter Township Trustees?

MACRA: Artists and musicians have always been involved in the struggle for civil rights. The idea for a performer boycott of “Concerts in the Park” seemed right from the first suggestion.

GRIID – In the letter you send to all of the bands, you include information about how musicians and artists were instrumental in the South African Anti-Apartheid Campaign, since many of them refused to play in South Africa because of the system of Apartheid that existed then. Do you believe that local bands, many of whom are not known outside of the area, have an obligation to not support systemic racism, which the statue represents?

MACRA: Artists and musicians are typically aware of social injustices and sensitive to issues like racism. This isn’t a call to boycott the performers; it’s a call for performers to boycott the venue or sponsor in this case. If the concerts go on, those dates will be considered for more anti-racism protests directed at the Allendale Board of Trustees.

GRIID – Do you have any concerns about potential backlash to the call for the concert boycott, especially considering that so many people are dying to hear live music again after more than a year of restrictions because of COVID?

MACRA: Live music venues are opening all over the state. There will be plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy live music again without endorsing or supporting a racist venue like Allendale.

GRIID – Why do you think the Allendale Charter Township officials have been so resistant to the calls to remove the Confederate statute, considering it has now been a full year that this campaign has been going on?

MACRA: The Allendale trustees have made no secret of their unanimous desire to maintain the status quo. Left to follow their own moral compass, the trustees would be happy to leave the statues as they are.

GRIID – How important is it for people to understand that these kinds of campaigns often don’t result in quick victories and that ongoing organizing and pressuring systems of power are necessary for social movements to be effective?

MACRA: Patience and persistence are the keys to successful activism. It’s easy for the average person to get frustrated or burned out and abandon a cause because the prospects of winning may seem long and remote. Look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting and adoption, gender identity, etc.—we’ve been fighting these battles for 40 years. 

GRIID – Beyond removing the Confederate statue, how else can municipalities like Allendale Charter Township come to terms with their own perpetuation of racism/White Supremacy or their complicity in racism/White Supremacy?

MACRA: Allendale is a tough case. It’s place where the majority of racists don’t think they are racist, yet virtually every word they speak or write has racist overtones. For now, we’ll be happy to see the offensive statues removed.

GRIID also sent messages to the bands that were invited to play in Allendale, asking if they were aware of the Confederate statue that is in the park where they will be playing, and it they had were willing to boycott the concert series. 

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