My Thoughts on Tribal Fest®
This has been a very emotional couple of days for me. We all know of the current problem that has come up around Tribal Fest®. If you need to catch up, you can read the official statement from the teachers and vendors who have decided to withdraw, and Tribal Fest’s® (Kajira’s) official response as well as Chuck’s apology.
While I was not specifically targeted (as far as I know all the dancers who were have been contacted; I have not been) this entire situation impacts me pretty personally, as well as professionally.
I have been a Tribal Fest® instructor as well as staff, performer, and attendee. I have encouraged my students, colleagues, and friends to go. While I had only been twice, I felt supported and welcomed by the amazing community there. I’ve made friends there, got to reunite with friends there, and got to take workshops with the biggest names in belly dance there. I have many fond memories there, as I felt welcomed and part of a family.
And so this situation has me horrified, disappointed, shocked, and sad. And now angry. My heart goes out to Kajira, who must now pick up the pieces after a horrible betrayal by someone who is supposed to be a woman’s biggest supporter: her spouse.
After the release of the initial statement from the teachers, I gathered some information that led me to decide to no longer support Tribal Fest®. This came about after many agonizing hours. To be clear: the names on this list are some of the biggest names in belly dance. They did not come to this decision lightly. This has been going on for some time, not just the three days that it has been public. You can be certain that lawyers were called and that much deliberation went into this decision. For many of the instructors and vendors, Tribal Fest® was their biggest week. They would not lightly put their entire livelihood and reputation at risk for rumors, for something that wasn’t as serious as this has turned out to be. I have not seen actual screenshots but I have read descriptions of the posts and they are about as disgusting as you can imagine.
This was a betrayal, pure and simple. A person in power used that power to demean, degrade, and dehumanize both men and women in the community. While I have not seen the actual postings, there are claims of not only misogyny, but also homophobia and transphobia.
I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and I cannot stand for that.
I have to say that I am disappointed in the official response to this situation. There are many questions left and, now coming to light, “inaccuracies.” Chuck’s apology leaves much to be desired. In addition, his response to comments on his post has shown that he is not yet ready for forgiveness or amends, however sincere his apology may seem. Right now, he is angry and sorry he got caught. I hope, for his sake and for the community’s sake, that he grows and truly becomes sorry for what he did. We must remember that we cannot force people to change. People must be willing to change for it to happen.
It is unfair that Kajira must now suffer for the actions of her husband. This is a tough lesson. We are all connected, and everything we say and do affects those around us, whether we are aware of it or not. Chuck and Kajira are learning this the hard way, and I do feel sorry for them both.
Yet I have decided that I still cannot support Tribal Fest®. I will not be at TF16. It is too soon. I have not been asked to teach this year (though I had applied), and I do not know what the future holds since so many other teachers have pulled out. But if I am approached to teach, I will have to decline.
We must keep one thing in mind over the next few days and weeks: a thing is not a person. A thing cannot be a victim. An event cannot be a victim. There are real victims, victims of a form of violence, that are suffering right now. The (possible) closure of an event, no matter how beloved, pales in comparison to what the victims are going through. I support the victims of this terrible situation and stand by them.
I have the utmost respect for Kajira and the enormous amount of work she has put into the festival, as well as all the teachers, vendors, and students who have chosen to continue to support her and Tribal Fest®. This should not be an “us vs. them” situation. People make business and conscience decisions every day, and we must respect each person’s decision, even if we disagree with them.
It is my sincere and fervent hope that Tribal Fest® will someday return to its glory days. But that will not – and should not – happen while Chuck is still involved in any way, directly or indirectly. We must take a stand against violent, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic speech. We must send a clear message that this is Not Okay in our community and will not be tolerated at all, even if tears down the party and ruins everyone’s fun. It is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is necessary.
Will I ever return to Tribal Fest®? I hope so. But not until much healing and many amends have been made. Will Tribal Fest® survive? I hope so, though it will never be the same. That might be for the best.
Love to all who have been hurt by this, and I hope that healing begins soon for everyone. I wish Kajira the best.
Edit: Abusive comments will be deleted.