Josh Schonewolf Cancels “Once You Go Black,” Opens Up About Mistakes

Last week Philly party producer Josh Schonewolf drew sharp criticism from the community when he released a flyer promoting his latest event, “Once You Go Black.” The artwork drew criticism from local bloggers, who panned it as racist because of its minstrel-style theme and questionable language, like calling its African American performers “sparkly.” Schonewolf reached out to G Philly to see if he could post a response about the controversy. He has since decided to cancel the performance, and, instead of taking a defensive position, seems to be owning up to his mistakes. A smart move if you ask us. His response here:

After careful consideration, I have decided to cancel “Once You Go Black,” at L’Etage on August 2nd.

I made mistakes with this event, that I have to admit have been eye-opening and immeasurably helpful. I never should have used the wording I did on the flyer, and I understand now that the title of the event itself was offensive. When the criticism came, I should have listened instead of trying to back up my intentions. I never should have become defensive. I made a mistake.

The experience taught me so much. It has inspired conversations that probably never would have happened if it weren’t for my missteps. I made a mistake in publishing that flyer. I offended people. I am sorry. I realize that simply apologizing is not enough. So the event is canceled.

Thank you to everyone who voiced their disfavor. You opened my eyes to my mistakes—mistakes I'll know not to make again. My hope is that our community can come together even more by having these types of conversations. Open dialogue and connectivity is important in building a united community. I know it's taught me a thing or two. Thank you to every person who has reached out to me to express their concerns about "Once You Go Black." I'm sorry to anyone who was offended.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Warren

    Honestly, I find the canceling of this show to be deeply problematic. While my knowledge of the event is limited to the coverage here, just a few thoughts. 1) As I understand it, two queer black artists put the event together and Josh was the (white) producer. To cast blame exclusively on Josh for this seems wrong-sighted. Did these artists of color have no say in the process? 2) I fear that reactions like this, just like the brouhaha that stirred up a few months when RuPaul used the term “tranny” and “she-male,” ( become dangerously misguided. I’m not denying that in this case (or in my RuPaul example) there might not have been some needed rethinking to the use of language, but let’s take a step back here. Folks like Josh and RuPaul are trying to promote queer culture, stand up for it and give it a voice. Are they perfect? No. But when reactionary criticism like this comes along and causes an event to be canceled, you have to wonder how folks like Josh and RuPaul get somehow cast in the same pool as the religious right, Prop 8 supporters, and anyone else who let’s face it, would rather see us dead, killed, and disenfranchised. There is work to be done, yes, even within the gay community, but let’s pick our battles (and enemies) wisely. Otherwise we as a community may end up doing more harm than good.

  • FemmeBot

    The fact that Gemini Rose AND Icon didnt make a professional public statement, means that Josh made the right decision. Nice way to leave him out in the cold, being the target of all this bullshit. Have you ever been to Josh’s events?! Every single type of person is represented there, whether it’s Songbird, Summer Kamp, Weird Beard…. his events are the creme de la creme, and anyone who says otherwise, HASN’T BEEN! Stop hating, and start congratulating. What Josh has done for Philly is pretty astounding. It’s a shame that it got canceled, but it’s probably for the best.

    • Charlie Gill

      Gemini and Icon both spoke out to claim ownership of the event, and stepped in to speak to the most vocal of the online critics.

      Their voices were largely ignored or pushed aside by the people whose agendas demanded a certain narrative which cast Josh in a specific, negative light.

  • Patti

    If it wasn’t for haterade distributor, Elicia Gonzalez, sharing those two negative blog posts, by those unknown blogger…..this would have still happened, and Once You Go Black would’ve been popping. Elicia’s board of directors at GALAEI, go around town bashing her, calling her a “nightmare” and a “troublemaker.” And in this forum, they seem to be spot-on.. Someone with such an important job as exec director at GALAEI, she should be ashamed of herself for attempting to bash Icon, Josh, and Gemini in such a childish cyber-bully fashion. Elicia is a hashtag activist, with a chip on her shoulder the size of her ego. Blame Elicia for this mess. ps: all of Josh Shonewolf’s events are all-inclusive. I’ve been to many, and I feel represented there as a trans latina from new jersey. Stop dividing the community, Elicia.