Security concerns hold up rap showcase

A Saturday night rap showcase slated to feature eight New Haven and Yale rappers at the Afro-American Cultural Center was canceled after the Yale Police Department expressed security concerns.

The event was canceled Saturday morning after Rodney Cohen, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Af-Am Center, emailed co-organizer Ifeanyi Awachie ’14 that “by order of the Yale police, tonight’s WYBC Radio Rap event is canceled.” YPD Assistant Chief Michael Patten said his department was concerned about the venue’s ability to accommodate the showcase after it learned that the event was advertised, free and open to the public.

“We had no idea how many people might come and were concerned about overcrowding and people loitering outside in this predominantly residential area,” he said in a Sunday morning email to the News. “Coupled with tensions we’ve seen between various groups in the city and recent incidents occurring outside events, we recommended to Dean Cohen that the event be canceled.”

Cohen could not be reached for comment.

Wesley Dixon ’15, a freshman ambassador for the Af-Am Center, expressed disappointment at the event’s cancellation. He said he did not think the move was a good idea since he believed there is already a “very clear tension” between New Haven residents and the Yale community.

“It seems like we’re afraid of New Haven infiltrating Yale and I don’t think that’s good for the relationship between both communities,” he said. “It kind of makes concrete the skepticism we both have of each other when [administrators] do things like cancelling the event.”

The showcase, scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., was sponsored by WYBC Radio and Middleman, an undergraduate organization that aims to connect Yale students to residents in neighborhoods beyond campus. Awachie said she filed a request with the University to hold the event at the Af-Am Center over spring break, but she said she did not receive a response until Saturday morning when she received notice about the event’s cancellation.

Awachie added that she continued planning for the event after Cohen said she could put his name down for a request for Yale Security at the event.

Alan Sage ’14, president of Middleman, said he was surprised by the cancellation of the show. He said he met with YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins and New Haven Police Department Chief Dean Esserman Friday afternoon and told Higgins about the rap show. Sage said he thought the show was an example of a positive thing his organization was doing to try to “bridge Yale and New Haven.” While Sage said Higgins “seemed upset that he hadn’t been informed” of the rap showcase, Sage added that the police chief “didn’t mention that there was going to be an issue.”

Awachie said she had received confirmation from Yale Security that there would be several officers monitoring the event.

Antonyo “Toney B” Streater — one of the New Haven rappers scheduled to perform at the showcase — said he thinks administrators sometimes “stigmatize” New Haven locals and “assume” that something violent will happen. He added that the point of the showcase was to “integrate the city with the students” and was intended to be a peaceful event for students to enjoy.

Streater himself has been the victim of violence at a music event — he was one of the two men shot at a rap showcase in Toad’s Place March 23 last year. Streater said there have been several misconceptions about that incident, including the notion that he was specifically targeted.

“People are under the misimpression that somebody from another rap group shot me,” he said. “[That's] not true, someone opened fire. [The Yale administration] thought I was going to be bring some type of stigma to the school, but I’m not that type of person.”

The rap showcase would also have featured New Haven rap artists “Doberman Gang” and “T-Miz.”

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