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Chance The Rapper has responded to a slew of backlash his and Vic Mensa‘s inaugural Black Star Line Festival received following a special guest appearance from Dave Chappelle and Talib Kweli.
The aforementioned surprise guests ushered in some criticism as a result of Chappelle’s past anti-trans jokes, and Kweli’s ban from Twitter after being accused of harassing a Black woman named Maya Monroe.
While Chance and Mensa’s inaugural festival in Accra, Ghana was mostly a success, bringing in an estimated 50,000 fans from across the globe, Talib Kweli and Dave Chappelle’s involvement were viewed as insensitive considering Accra’s current political climate.
There currently is a harsh anti-LGBTQ bill in the works that is being championed by parliamentarians in Ghana, and the bill if passed it would “criminalize cross-dressing, public affection between two people of the same sex, marriage among same-sex couples, or the intent to marry someone who is the same sex,” according to the Los Angeles Blade. Violators of the bill would face up to 10 years in prison.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chance took a moment to respond to this criticism, as well as criticism that the increased tourism in Ghana for the festival has partially contributed to rising living costs among impoverished residents.
“That was something that was on my mind from the jump when we made it,” Chance said in part. “I always wanted this festival to be something that, for one, provided access to people that don’t typically get to go to these concerts because a lot of the events around that time do price people out.”
He continued: “The goal overall is to just create community. I think that within this trip. I think a lot of the people that came from the diaspora, most of the people, if not all of them, were very respectful of the space and a lot of relationships were built, a lot of people created substantial relationships and connections that I think will live long after this festival. I think it’s something that we just have to remain in conversation about. I think it’s important that those issues are raised, and those conversations are had.
In regards to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, Chance said he was aware of the bill and that he believes Chappelle actually focused on it.
“I think it’s something that Dave was actually shining a light on,” he said. “That’s where that conversation came from. Dave was making a comment about the comedy scene in Ghana when he said, ‘I bet gay jokes go over so well here,’ to which everybody laughed about.
“And he was making a point to say that in Ghana, you can make jokes about things that are about gay people, about trans people, about a lot of social constructs, just about anything in the world. But you can’t make a comment about the government there. That’s not funny and that’s not respected, and it can be dangerous. It’s the complete opposite where we come from, where we can speak about the government all we want.
Chance went on to say that he believed Chappelle’s appearance to be an “honest dialogue” and that he feels bad if any gay or trans attendee’s felt “singled-out” by certain jokes made.
“Again, I wanted everyone to feel as welcome and communal as possible,” Chance concluded. “And so if having Dave there made people feel like they weren’t, that they didn’t have space or that they weren’t welcome, that was not my intention. And I can assure you there are a lot of people at the festival and at the talk from a lot of different backgrounds.”
Chance The Rapper unveiled the lineup for the free Black Star Line Festival he started with Vic Mensa back in November. The fest included performances from Erykah Badu, T-Pain, Jeremih, Tobe Nwigwe, Sarkodie, M.anifest and Asakaa Boys, among others.