Folk the Police – The Blind Pig and giving in to P.C.

In the end, Altruda has not done away with Folk the Police all together. Instead, giving in to PC pressure, he has changed the name to Folk the Pig and crushed the spirit of one of the most innovative events in Ann Arbor.

US Hip Hop singer Talib Kweli performs on the Miles Davis Hall stage at the 43nd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, late Saturday, July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)
US Hip Hop singer Talib Kweli performs on the Miles Davis Hall stage at the 43nd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, late Saturday, July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)

When long time producer and local radio personality Matthew Altruda invited the Facebook community to comment on his Folk the Police event, he unleashed a torrent of politically correct rhetoric forceful enough to cause him to announce later that the event would be cancelled.

Folk the Police, a politer play on the N.W.A. song Fuck the Police, had been a much loved tradition at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor featuring local folk artists covering rap and hip hop songs in celebration of the genre. Altruda explained in a video shared on social media that the event had started with the best intentions but that “a lot has changed in the past couple of years.”  

In the same video, Altruda bluntly put it “sadly, Folk the Police is not ok” and challenged the Ann Arbor community to “set an example.” Yet it is unclear what example, beyond the shunning and censorship of artistic expression, Altruda is hoping to set. As one commenter put it, “It’s an awesome event that doesn’t need to be trampled by political correctness.”

Yet Folk the Police stirred up many emotions ranging from music to race to politics with individuals weighing in from both ends of the spectrum. While the event did draw on music traditionally associated with African American culture and bring it into the Midwestern folk scene dominated by white musicians, the event was a celebration, not a mockery. More importantly, it was also an exercise in creative expression and community where artists collaborated and showed their appreciation for the work of fellow musicians.

For those who have leveled charges of appropriation, it would be wise to remember that music and art in any form borrow from and are inspired by other genres, artists and time periods. Moreover, many artists enjoy the challenge of covering a song and using it as a vector of expression. By the logic expressed by many on social media, nobody would be justified in playing anything. Rock music would never have developed as it was derived from blues rhythms and high school jazz bands everywhere would have to be banned if they contained too many white members. As one commenter explained, “if everyone was over sensitive about what music they played, no one would play hardly any music at all. Everything is stolen from somewhere else. Go play your music.”  

In the end, Altruda has not done away with Folk the Police all together. Instead, giving in to PC pressure, he has changed the name to Folk the Pig and crushed the spirit of one of the most innovative events in Ann Arbor. Instead of exercising censorious impulses at the first opportunity, Ann Arbor should set an example as a creative and innovative city thriving on artistic expression and fostering a diverse range of music.

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About Erin Dunne

Erin Dunne is a senior studying History, French and International Studies. In her free time she is a drug policy reform advocate and a free speech enthusiast. You can reach her by email at eedunne@umich.edu