Baton Rouge lawmakers criticized Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office on Friday for the abrupt decision to cancel the annual “Black and White Affair” at the River Center that had been scheduled to feature hip-hop artist Torrence “Boosie Badazz” Hatch.
Citing unspecified security concerns, East Baton Rouge city-parish government officials pulled the plug Wednesday, three days before the party, and they have not changed their minds. Boosie Badazz, who formerly went by the name “Lil Boosie,” has had run-ins with the law in Baton Rouge, his hometown. But a jury in 2012 acquitted him of the most serious charges against him, that he paid a hit man to commit murder.
While Holden’s office has not responded to repeated requests for comment, the cancellation of the annual event, which was in its 13th year, provoked strong reactions from other Baton Rouge politicians. Some said the city could now be on the hook to pay back the production company for lost money, while others criticized the Holden administration for putting a stop to a party that attracts a largely black crowd.
“As a lawyer, it’s clearly a breach of contract,” said state Rep. Edward C. “Ted” James II, D-Baton Rouge, adding that the Mayor’s Office should specify the security concerns surrounding the event. “I have the utmost confidence in our police. I know that they could handle a crowd of 2,000 if they can handle a crowd of 100,000.”
Attorney Chris Alexander, who represents Perfect 10 Productions, said as of Friday no agreements had been reached regarding possible monetary compensation.
“I had a fruitful and respectful discussion with the Parish Attorney’s Office today,” Alexander said. “We are in discussions about trying to resolve this matter and are compiling documentation to that end to provide to them.”
Alexander filed a petition in state court Thursday on behalf of T.J. Jackson, who owns the production company, asking for a temporary restraining order to allow the event to move forward. But that request was denied.
Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado agreed that the way the city handled the situation exposes it to liability.
“Someone somewhere dropped the ball,” Delgado said. “This should have been resolved when the River Center booked this act, and all these issues should have been resolved long prior to signing a legal contract.”
Jackson has described the Black and White Affair as a high-end theme event that requires participants to wear formal attire and only allows white and black dress. The River Center has hosted the event twice in the past, Jackson said, and the event also has been held at the Camelot Club and the Atrium at the Belle of Baton Rouge. The last two were held at the Renaissance Hotel on Bluebonnet Boulevard, Jackson said.
Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said she was frustrated by the cancellation, saying it sends a bad message to young black residents who were looking forward to the event.
“Shame on the city,” Marcelle said. “If I were going to the event, and I bought a ball dress, then I’m mad. What are we saying to African-American people in our community, that you can’t have an event? That you can’t have a rapper there?”
Marcelle said she inquired to the Mayor’s Office about the reason the event was canceled and was told that a threat was made to Boosie’s life.
“I was told they had a call that came in and it was a threat on Lil Boosie and there was going to be gunfire at the event,” she said. “Do I believe that? No.”
Other parish officials also have made mention of the alleged threat, but the Baton Rouge Police Department has not confirmed that information, directing all questions to the Mayor’s Office.
Marcelle said if someone had threatened Taylor Swift’s life at Bayou Country Superfest, the recent country music festival at LSU’s stadium, she has a hard time believing they would have canceled the entire concert series. Rather, she said, the city-parish could have responded with additional security and mandatory metal detectors if they saw fit, a suggestion Delgado recommended, as well.
Marcelle stressed that Boosie was acquitted of a murder charge and served his time for other crimes and that she felt city-parish officials needed to let go of their grudge, a sentiment Jackson shared.
“Are you going to hold this over his head his whole life?” Marcelle asked. “He’s not coming here bothering people. This is just a vendetta against Lil Boosie, in my opinion.”
James said the damage suffered from the city’s decision, however, is not really to the rapper but to black professionals living in Baton Rouge.
“It’s not even about Torrence,” James said. “It’s more so about T.J. ... It’s more an issue of how we treat young business owners here.”
Jackson has said the city refused to let the event go forward even if Boosie was removed as entertainment.
Gary Chambers, publisher of The Rouge Collection, a popular local blog, said Holden’s decision to cancel the event has failed the black community.
“He’s cracking on black businesses because tons of black businesses profit off of the Black and White Affair,” including boutique owners and makeup artists, he said. “There was an opportunity here for small-business owners throughout this city to make money that they would otherwise not have made this weekend. The mayor’s No. 1 job is to worry about economic development and not just economic development in certain segments of our community.”
Staff reporter Rebekah Allen contributed to this article. Follow Danielle Maddox on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.