Florida A&M’s 2009 Homecoming Concert has been surrounded in a flurry of controversy ranging from the turntable of headlining artists to the credibility of the concert promoter Willie McKenzie.
The controversy culminated when Willie McKenzie was arrested Oct. 15 for trespassing in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication building, allegedly to confront on-air disc jockey Deedee Roc.
Henry Kirby, associate vice president of student affairs sent an email Oct. 16 to James Hawkins, dean of the SJGC, and copied to Keith Miles, program director of WANM 90.5, SGA President Gallop Franklin, Vice President Calvin Hayes and the University’s Office of General Counsel. The email subsequently chilled the radio station’s Saturday Morning Show.
“I am sure that no reasonable person or entity — including staff members of Radio Station 90.5 which receives approximately $80,000 of SGA allocated A&S funds — would purposefully or intentionally make incorrect statements and consequently cause the public to not attend the concert based on incorrect statements,” Kirby said in the e-mail.
Hawkins said he did not take the email as a threat.
“I am not of the opinion that the radio station did anything to undermine the Homecoming Concert,” Hawkins said.
The Homecoming Concert controversy began when the FAMU People’s Coalition, a group of alumni, students and faculty, protested the concert’s lineup because they said the artists “did not represent the mission statement of the University.”
The group spoke to members or Student Government and arranged meetings to gather support for the protest. The Homecoming Concert committee’s Web site, famuhomecoming09.blogspot.com, posted a poll June 6th asking students who they wanted to see at this year’s concert. Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Keri Hilson were among the top voted artists out of 799 votes cast.
The headlining artist, Gucci Mane, was booked Sept. 15 to perform at the Homecoming Concert for $45,000. At the last minute his management backed out and Double Trouble attempted to replace Gucci with Plies.
The Homecoming Concert took place Saturday at the Lawson Teaching Gymnasium on Wahnish Way.
Michael Smith, the director of auxiliary services, which include the FAMU Copy Center, Rattler Card Office, Dining Services, the Bookstore, Meal Plan and the Ticket Office, said “The Homecoming Concert sold 2,800 tickets in straight sales.”
Straight sales are tickets that are purchased by individuals through the ticket office, or online at ticketmaster.com, according to Smith.
Smith said the Lawson Teaching Gym holds 8,000 seats.
Last year, the Homecoming Concert was held at the Leon County Civic Center and Frontline Entertainment was responsible for promoting the event.
Terel Bowman, event coordinator for the Leon County Civic Center, said, “5,080 tickets were sold last year not including comps… In that particular set up the venue holds 8,500 ticket-holders.”
‘Comps’ or complementary tickets are tickets purchased by the concert promoter to be used as giveaways for the school and for participating radio stations, said Bowman.
Double Trouble Entertainment, Inc., McKenzie’s promotion company was activated May 12, 2009, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations.
Frontline Promotions, the Homecoming Concert promoter for the last two years, said they suspect that nepotism might have been at play when the concert promoter was chosen.
Pat Nix, of Frontline Promotions, said there are such a small number of successful urban promoters that he was surprised the fledgling company was even in the running to run such a huge operation.
Nix said, “We were the final two, it was out of us and [Double Trouble Entertainment].”
“The process of being selected is where the ball was dropped…[SGA] the president selects the homecoming committee. The committee votes on who they want to be promoters. You’re putting it in the hands of people that haven’t done it before either,” Nix said.
“In previous years, I would come up to Tallahassee to meet with the committee several times before decisions would be made on who they were choosing. This year they didn’t even call us up there, I talked to them one time and it was basically a phone interview,” Nix said.
Nix said, “To put on the shows that we produce cost $250,000 the school’s budget is only $150,000.”
Nix predicted the show that Double Trouble produced with their scheduled artists “would cost $75,000.”
Homecoming Concert Controversy
This is the first in a series of articles on the controversy surrounding the Homecoming Concert, more in Monday’s issue.