A music festival set to take place in Kanesatake this Saturday, July 31, has officially been called off, said community member and organizer Barry Bonspille.
Since the announcement of the Kanesatake/Oka Music Festival, Bonspille said pressure from both within and outside the community eventually led him to cancel the event on July 21.
“Ultimately, it came down to community and political pressure, coupled with the uncertainty of where the Kanesatake community will be in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“I stuck my neck out, but due to events beyond my control, I had to cancel my concert for the betterment of everyone.”
The Kanehsata’kehró:non stated that recent events, including a party causing commotion amongst members, and the murder of a non-local man, all played definitive factors in terms of the reactions the festival garnered.
Although that may be, community member Emma Sawyer pointed at the lack of communication and input from Kanehsata’kehró:non as the matter at the centre of the debacle she said began as soon as the news broke in mid-June.
“We were completely blindsided as there was no communication of this happening prior. We only found out because someone stumbled upon the poster through social media,” recounted Sawyer.
“It was clearly targeting people outside of the community without there being any discussions.”
In addition to the concern felt for the collective safety of the community, Sawyer expressed fear for her 85-year-old Totá whose home is alongside the edge of the site initially confirmed to serve as the event location.
“When it’s an event like this, where almost all the attendees will be drinking and, or, smoking weed, it terrifies me,” she said. “The possibility of this happening not just within the community itself, which is terrifying enough, but next to her house, I was pissed.”
Bonspille recognized that the hip-hop festival headlining international rapper Waka Flocka Flame was controversial.
Nonetheless, he stated that youth from Kanesatake and other Kanien’kehá:ka communities were among the many to express excitement about the event he had hoped would attract positive attention for the community.
“I wanted to create a venue that would ultimately put a good spin on the reputation of Kanesatake with the outside world,” said the organizer.
In recent weeks, Mohawk Council of Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon has outspokenly opposed the event, which he stated represents a potential threat to the community under the current health crisis.
Lead promoter of the festival Ricardo Daley said that in light of the cancellation, he was understanding of all sides.
“Nobody’s happy because, at the end of the day, we all wanted to partake in this opportunity to bring an economy to the community,” said the promoter and business owner better known as Rickey D. “This was an excellent opportunity, but unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right.”
While there has been disappointment on all sides, Sawyer expressed a sentiment of deep relief in response to the festival’s official cancellation.
“I’m grateful they chose to cancel as it was causing much stress within our family as well creating a divide within the community. This is not the time we need to be arguing with each other, but rather working together to strengthen the community.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door