Ani DiFranco Cancels ‘Righteous Retreat’ at One-Time Slave Plantation

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Ani DiFranco Cancels Artist Retreat at Former Slave Plantation
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Ani DiFranco's fans critics have spoken ... and she's heard them loud and clear. The feminist folk singer has cancelled her "Righteous Retreat" after receiving complaints about it being held at Nottoway Plantation in Virginia, which once had hundreds of slaves working on its grounds and is now owned by the right wing-leaning Paul Ramsey Group.

"I have heard you: all who have voiced opposition to my conducting a writing and performing seminar at the Nottoway Plantation," DiFranco wrote Sunday in a post on her blog. "I have decided to cancel the retreat."

That retreat offered fans a chance to "develop one's singular creativity" through various workshops with DiFranco for four days at a price tag of more than $1,000.

In the post on her blog, DiFranco went on to claim that when she agreed to participate in the retreat, she didn't know the exact location, only that it would be "not too far outside of New Orleans," making it possible for her to come home to her own bed each night. Once she discovered it was going to be held at "a resort on a former plantation, I thought to myself, 'whoa,' but 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."

That "collective outrage" DiFranco was referring to could have been comments on the event's Facebook page, which has since been deleted, or a petition calling for her to cancel the event.

The petition, which was started by Sara Starr of Chapell Hill, N.C., says that "holding a workshop even on a plantation in a town founded by insulting to black feminists and black queer individuals and is a very blatant display of racism on [DiFranco's] part."

More than 2,500 people have signed the online petition asking DiFranco to cancel the event, with many leaving comments, such as Blaise Parker of Athens, Ga. "Ani, this is some bullsh*t," Parker wrote. "I have admired you and supported you financially for almost half my life. I am seriously disappointed."

In an attempt to placate her outraged fans, DiFranco explained why she cancelled the event. "Let me just concede before more divisive words are spilled," she wrote. "I obviously underestimated the power of an evocatively symbolic place to trigger collective and individual pain. 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."

Instead of moving the event to another location, DiFranco appears to have been so hurt by the backlash that she's completely cancelling it, including a visit to the Roots of Music, a New Orleans music school for underprivileged youths.

Here's the rub. DiFranco points out that the site of the Roots of Music also has ties to slavery, but she adds, "I believe that the existence of Roots of Music in this building is transcendent and it would have been a very inspiring place to visit."

Lest fans continue to question DiFranco's views on racism, the singer-songwriter actually backed out of an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" back in 2001, after being told she could not perform her politically charged song "Subdivision" — a composition centering around racial tension and its devastating effects on urban America.

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