Karaoke incites anger, action

Shelley Blundell

Campus minority groups are taking action after two recent incidents at the Rathskeller’s weekly karaoke evening offended a large portion of the regular audience.

According to a letter sent by the Black Graduate Students Association to Kate Leishman, director of Kent Student Center programming, the two incidents have made members, who often attend the Thursday karaoke nights, question whether they should continue to support the program.

The letter stated during one incident a white man dedicated a song to “all the people in the audience of African descent,” and proceeded to sing a song about violence, alcohol, drugs and other stereotypes associated with the black community.

The second incident occurred Jan. 27 — four white men were singing the Busta Rhymes song “Gimme Some More” in which the word “nigga” is used profusely. While one of the singers changed the word to “people,” another singer sang the song as it appeared on the screen.

According to the letter, this upset many audience members and offended the black audience members in attendance.

Heath Hamilton, post-graduate speech pathology student, was in the audience the night of the second incident.

“I was shocked because even though I’m Caucasian, I think the word is vulgar and rude — I had friends who are African-American sitting at my table and they were horrified,” Hamilton said.

Karaoke was canceled Feb. 3, the week after the second incident.

Leishman said she had met with a group of people, including members of BGSA, to discuss the issues addressed in the letter and would be meeting with another board later this week.

“We are trying to resolve the issues that have been addressed in the best interests of everyone,” Leishman said.

Leishman said karaoke would continue as scheduled this evening and asked that students please be respectful.

“We will be leaving the choice of songs up to the discretion of the singers, but we will be watching and listening to what is said.”

Teddy Harris, political affairs and grievances officer for Black United Students and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater, said he does not attend karaoke at the Rathskeller but understands why people are upset.

“Unofficially, because no grievance has been filed with BUS regarding the event, our conclusion is that the word was on-screen and therefore the student cannot be held accountable,” Harris said.

“If we were to file a grievance, it would be a bigger battle than just dealing with this issue — we would have to look at all songs that could be deemed offensive by anyone.”

Harris also said there would be no repercussions made by BUS against the student involved in the second incident, but BUS would definitely be taking issue with the first incident.

“As far as keeping incidents like this from happening in the future? Don’t condone offensive behavior or songs that may offend people,” Harris said.

Contact general assignment reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].