As protests grip the nation from coast to coast, soul musician Matt Brown and other artists from the SoulFam Collective — a network of West Palm Beach-area performers and other creatives — began donating tips to Black Lives Matter and related causes.
On June 2, Brown was slated to play a show at E.R. Bradley’s Saloon. But when management learned the gig would benefit Black Lives Matter, Brown says, they pulled the plug on the show.
“Please keep this event away from us,” a Bradley’s staffer wrote in a text message to Brown, which Brown shared with New Times. “Lots of businesses are just rebounding and are hurting with this quarantine going on. Last thing we need is to stress the staff out more. I hope you understand our point of view.”
Brown, who is Black, responded to the cancellation by assembling a band and performing in a field near Bradley’s, as a peaceful form of protest.
Three days later, Bradley’s posted an apology on Facebook.
“While communicating with Matt Brown, Bradley’s misspoke and distanced Bradley’s from the Black Lives Matter movement. Please know this action does not represent mine, my family’s, or our business organization as a whole,” reads the post, which was signed by owner Nicholas Coniglio. “We fully support this monumental and historical movement, and understand the importance of supporting BLM.”
Coniglio also stated that Bradley’s is committed to supporting Black Lives Matter and working to better align with community leaders of color, adding that he would personally participate in a protest and donate supplies to others in attendance.
Bradley’s did not return multiple requests for comment from New Times.
Grandview Public Market in West Palm Beach.
Photo by Nick Mele
The same week as the dust-up at Bradley’s, staff at Grandview Public Market approached singer Allegra Miles, another member of the SoulFam Collective, to take part in a summer kickoff show. As the principal organizer of the show, Miles, who is white, felt compelled to donate proceeds from the performance to Black Lives Matter.
But according to Brown, a booker who was contracted by Grandview told Miles she wouldn’t be permitted to take the stage if performers were doing so to benefit Black Lives Matter. Brown says the booker insisted that Grandview wanted to remain “neutral.”
“To be clear,” Brown wrote in a public statement posted on Facebook, “staying ‘neutral’ on this issue is the equivalent of saying my life does not matter.”
“And we were like, ‘Well, we don’t want to remain neutral, so we will take our event elsewhere,’” Brown tells New Times.
A spokesperson for Grandview said in a statement to New Times that a third-party booker communicated that stance to Miles “without consulting anyone at Grandview” and that the venue has since terminated its relationship with the booker, who has not been publicly identified.
“While the third-party booker used the term ‘neutral,’ we are absolutely pro-Black Lives Matter and are vehemently against racism, hatred, or any other exclusionary activity,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that Grandview’s owners contacted Brown and Miles and said the performers could go on as scheduled, on the condition that the management would be permitted to review any statements or speeches that would take place during the show.
Brown and Miles turned down the offer.
“We decided that if they don’t stand with us on Black Lives Matter (a very simple, clear statement about human rights), then we weren’t going to do the gig there,” Miles writes in an email to New Times. ‘”Neutral’ is not an option, as it’s essentially implying that Black lives DON’T matter.”
In its statement to New Times, Grandview says that in the wake of the incident it characterizes as a “miscommunication,” it has donated to Black Lives Matter and adjacent causes.
“We will be working hard to make sure that miscommunications do not occur going forward and will handle our band bookings internally so that messages can not become mixed,” Grandview says in the statement.
In her email, Miles writes that she appreciates Grandview’s statement and applauds its contributions to BLM causes.
She and Brown both feel that Bradley’s in particular needs to do more to correct course.
“I absolutely feel as though Bradley’s needs to do much more to right these wrongs — implement real, action-driven changes in the way in which they run their business, to work toward equal representation and equality,” Miles added. “They have not done this yet.”
Says Brown: “With places like Bradley’s, they’ve shown that they care more about the clientele that doesn’t care about [Black performers].”