Cambridge college students are outraged after they say an event organized for Black Minority Ethnic (BME) students was shut down because “white people were leaving.”
An open-mic night hosted by Newnham College and Robinson College BME students this past weekend was set to showcase “amazing performances” from singers, dancers and spoken word artists as a means of celebrating diversity, according to The Cambridge Student. However, students said the second half of their show was pulled after staff at Robinson’s Red Brick Cafe Bar received complaints that white students were walking out.
Our event was “forcibly shut down by the Bar staff upon receiving complaints by white students that they didn’t enjoy the BME performances,” BME officer Sara Poursafar said in a statement posted to the group’s website. Poursafar is also a member of FLY, Cambridge’s network for BME women and non-binary students.
“Literally and metaphorically, the BME open mic night was created as a space for BME students to be heard – to give them an opportunity to vent about the everyday and celebrate the talent in our community,” she wrote. “However, the message that was sent was clear – white comfort is more important than BME voices.”
The students claimed the bar was filled with “drunken white people dancing and singing” while BME students were remanded to a small corner of the establishment for their event. A short time later, a bar manager reportedly asked the students to leave because they were driving out business. He/she claimed other students were complaining that “the performers in the first half weren’t good and people said they didn’t like it so [they] were leaving.”
Some white students reportedly also took offense to the stand-up comedy. Although the manager offered to reschedule their event for another night, the students were upset their event was being canceled in the first place.
BME officers claimed a brief break they took to address technical difficulties was also used as an excuse for their removal. They noted in their statement that the bar manager never informed them that no breaks were allowed when they first met to confirm the details of the event.
“This was infuriating,” Poursafar wrote. ” … We also felt it was completely disrespectful to the BME performers who had gathered the courage to perform and shed light on meaningful issues in front of an audience for that night.”
Robinson College has yet to respond to the allegations. There’s no word if BME plans to reschedule its event for another night.