A heated debate broke out this morning on the Facebook event page for Ladyfest, the "not-for-profit event highlighting the music of feminist and women (cis-women, trans, intersex, genderqueer and all supporters) artists," over funds from the festival going to the Baltimore Community Foundation's Fund For Rebuilding Baltimore.
One of the artists scheduled to play Ladyfest, Alexandra Brandon, who performs as the experimental music project TRNSGNDR/VHS, decided to drop off the bill as a result. In a post that sparked the discussion, Brandon pointed out that the Baltimore Community Fund "has a history of supporting and donating to the Baltimore Police Dept; and needless to say you shouldn't give them your money unless you're into supporting the police state which has been responsible for the deaths of many Black womyn both trans and cis. As needed as Ladyfest is not just in Baltimore but globally, it's simply unethical to allow an event founded on the empowerment of women artists to be co-opted into supporting the same pro-capitalist organizations we claim to oppose."
Unregistered Nurse Booking and other Ladyfest organizers tried to clarify that Fund For Rebuilding Baltimore doesn't keep any of the money, and instead uses all of it to fund grants for six predetermined organizations, including Baltimore Algebra Project, No Boundaries Coalition, Baltimore Development Corporation, and others.
Some commenters pointed out that this conversation should have happened months ago, when organizers were planning who should play the show and which organizations should benefit. To which Brandon responded: "I just got asked to play and now I'm not. You're literally upset at me for pointing out something none of the organizers bothered to consider."
One commenter put it: "Being mad at this Rebuilding fund for using BCF just because police charity funds also use BCF, is akin to boycotting someone's indiegogo or just because some jerks use it to fundraise for cops legal defense."
Still, many of those who weighed in to support giving money to Fund For Rebuilding Baltimore understood the problematic association with Baltimore Community Foundation.
Those who supported Brandon said they hoped Ladyfest would give money to a different beneficiary. One commenter wrote: "I have been in the shoes of an organizer getting heat from marginalized groups for something at the last minute, and I get that it feels unfair. But at the same time, there are still possible solutions at this point."
After some back and forth, Ladyfest organizers made it clear they were willing to talk and open to suggestions for a third organization that specifically fights against police brutality.
Ladyfest kicks off tonight at The Windup Space.