Thursday, July 28, 2005

Watermelon Eating Contest At The Ghetto Talent Show

Miami city leaders are apologizing for a news release that invited summer campers to a ''Ghetto Style Talent Show'' and ''Watermelon Eating Contest.'' The release said that children participating in the summer camp who "know the meaning of ghetto style" would have a chance to "prove just how ghetto they are.''
Members of the black community expressed outrage at the wording of the invitation to the talent show. The show will be part of the grand finale picnic for the city's summer camp program to be held Friday at Hadley Park. After being criticized by residents of the nearby Model City neighborhood and community leaders, Miami Parks Director Ernest Burkeen, who is black, released a formal apology and announced the renaming of the talent show. The show will now be called the "Funky Talent Show," according to Burkeen's written statement. The watermelon contest will still be part of the event. Even though the name has been changed, Burkeen did still continue to defend the choice of the name for the show. "The word 'ghetto' was used to imply a down home show, not something offensive, but embracing the culture of today's youth and their language," he said. Church and community leaders said that changing the name isn't enough -- the damage has already been done. "It's almost equivalent to saying, 'We're having bananas at Jose Marti Park' and referring to Miami as a 'Banana Republic,'" the Rev. Richard Dunn said. Other critics said that the watermelon eating contest is a painful reminder of racially insensitive stereotypes. "Watermelon, back in the days, was a good food for African Americans, according to the Bible, but at the same time, it had an attachment with slavery and bondage ties," the Rev. Carl Johnson said. Some members of the community had a different perspective and said that critics were missing the point. Michael Hardaway said, "They have to understand that the young generation has a whole different style than they do …
At a ghetto-style talent show the kids are getting together to show their talent." Other community activists said changing the name of the contest is just the start of what needs to happen. Dunn suggested that instead of buying hundreds of watermelons for the contest, the money could be spent on school supplies and backpacks for kids who need them. Andre Williams said, "No more watermelons --- and as Reverend Dunn says, we need to give books and school supplies to our children." City officials said Tuesday that the contest is popular and it will not be canceled. The picnic will go on Friday as planned and will include up to 3,000 children from across the city.