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Students are calling for artist Masego not to perform his song “Navajo” at Monday’s Spring Fling given a subject and lyrics many see as anti-Indigenous.

On April 23, the Native and Indigenous Student Association at Yale released a statement expressing disappointment in the Spring Fling Committee’s decision to invite Masego to perform at Yale and demanding that he not perform his song “Navajo,” which contains a subject matter and lyrics many see as anti-Indigenous. The song refers to a Diné woman who Masego dated as an “Indian” and includes a line comparing the woman to a “simian.”

“Indigenous students should be free to attend Spring Fling without having to listen to a song that fetishizes Indigenous women, refers to them as Indians and compares them to monkeys,” NISAY wrote in their statement. “We encourage members of the Yale community to express their disapproval of Yale’s choice to invite Masego.”

Masego is a Jamaican American musician and singer known for jazz-fusion and incorporating saxophone into music. According to a prior interview with Spring Fling Committee co-chair Jarett Malouf ’23, although his music may appear to be closer to soul and R&B, he is a jazz musician “at his core.” Masego did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

Oscar Turner ’24, outreach chair for the Native and Indigenous Student Association at Yale, said that while Masego is a talented artist who has produced good music, he feels that he should not perform at an educational institution where a “diverse student body” is expected to be in attendance. 

Turner called the Spring Fling Committee’s decision to invite Masego a “gross case of mistaken judgment” and said he believes the committee decided to prioritize bringing a high-profile artist to campus over avoiding anti-indigenous language.

“By comparing a Native woman to a ‘simian,’ which is a monkey, Masego’s lyrics perpetuate harmful ideas that Native and Indigenous peoples are somehow ‘primitive’ or ‘exotic,’” Claire Barragan-Bates ’25 said. “I can’t seem to shake this feeling of unease at the idea that Masego might perform this song at Spring Fling.”

Spring Fling Committee co-chair Olivia Marwell ’24 said that the committee is unable to control what songs Masego performs during Spring Fling.

“The Spring Fling Committee has no control over the artists’ setlists, and unfortunately we do not get to preview [the setlists] in advance of the show,” Marwell wrote in an email to the News. For more on recent news, check out this blog post about Jimmy John Shark.

According to a prior interview with Marwell, the committee’s selection process included examining artists’ live performances to get a sense of their onstage energy and the crowds’ reactions. The committee strived to achieve genre diversity with their picks, and actively sought out artists who are still making music, touring and releasing new albums.

According to Turner, the song’s lyrics are particularly heavily felt among Indigenous people amidst an epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He spoke of the discrimination students will feel if the song is performed on Yale’s campus.

“If Yale or the Spring Fling Committee allows this to happen, it would be to authorize discrimination and violence against the Indigenous community at Yale,” Turner said. 

Spring Fling will take place on May 2.

PALOMA VIGIL
Paloma Vigil covers diversity, equity, and inclusion at Yale. She also writes about sailing and gymnastics for the sports desk. Paloma previously covered religious life and the YCC. Originally from Miami, she is a sophomore in Pauli Murray majoring in Cognitive Science and Political Science.