This year’s AMS Welcome Back BBQ brought us world class musical acts like Shaun Frank, Joey Bada$$, and Vanic; their performances conveyed a kind of closeness that many seek out in their experience at university and in life. It was hard not to feel the love when Vanic brought out Ekali at the end of his set, telling the world, “this is my best friend Ekali; I love this guy.” It was the kind of thing that made you want to hug the person next to you, the kind of fraternity that makes you feel like we really are all one big family.
This kind of fraternity, however, was at odds with another that made itself known loud and proud throughout the night, as the MC’s of the event made their way on stage to act as hype men, spurring on the crowd between performances. The way they chose to do so was both irresponsible in light of their role as hosts to a diverse crowd, and belittling to the sense of broad community conveyed by the artists on stage.
As MC’s, these individuals found themselves in a position of great influence over the prevalent culture of the event. They chose to use their time to shout out their friends from fraternities and to spur the crowd on by drunkenly yelling, “let’s get fucked up tonight,” between performances. Not once was there any mention of looking out for one another, not once was there an appeal made to enjoy the night responsibly. Instead, these people chose to use their unique position to promote unsafe and selfish behaviour, and they did so while creating a sense of exclusivity within the community-at-large.
This behaviour falls on the already exclusive shoulders of the event itself, which prices its tickets in a way that makes the AMS Welcome Back BBQ seem, well, kind of unwelcoming. Two questions come to my mind from all of this: First, why does the AMS and the MC’s really put on this event? Is it for the benefit of the community, or is it so they can get on stage, pretend they’re a famous DJ for a night, and impress their friends? And more importantly, is this the kind of leadership and community culture that this academic environment is fostering? I would hope that this experience inspires us all to make the world a more inclusive and accessible place than it was when we were born; what I saw at the AMS Welcome Back BBQ was evidence to the contrary.
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