A party for black Harvard and Yale alums at a Boston club this weekend was shut down just after 11pm. Why? The club owner was concerned that a long line of black people outside would make the club look bad.
A group of recent graduates had sold tickets in advance for a party at a new Boston club, Cure, to follow Saturday's Harvard-Yale game. By 10:30pm, though, club management freaked out and claimed it had seen "local gang bangers" around, despite the strict guest-list policy implemented by organizers. At first they demanded that guests show student ID — not exactly practical given the fact that it was a party aimed at alums — and then eventually shut down the entire club.
"We were perceived as a threat because of our skin color," wrote one organizer, Michael Beal, in the email below. "I am further dismayed that after having spent the last few hours with the club owner, I do not believe him to be a racist; which only adds to my consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country."
It echoed a firestorm three years ago, on the other side of the Charles River. In May 2007, called by other students, Harvard University Police asked students at a gathering of black Harvard student organizations on a campus green to show ID. That sparked an independent review and a police restructuring.
Here's the full email.
————— Forwarded message —————
From: Beal, Michael [redacted]
Date: Sun, Nov 21, 2010 at 7:50 AM
Subject: AN APOLOGY AND EXPLANATION REGARDING TONIGHT'S HARVARD-YALE PARTY AT CURE
On behalf of Brandon, Kwame, myself and Triumph as an organization I want to profusely apologize for the ordeal you were put through tonight with the club shutting the party down at 11:15PM. Please know that we are working with event-brite to refund every person who purchased a ticket for tonight's event as soon as possible. Asides from an apology I believe it is important to be completely transparent about what occurred tonight and what we are doing about it. I apologize for the verbose nature of the email, and hope that you will take the time to read it in its entirety.
At approximately 10:30PM club management called the owner to say that they saw individuals on line whom they recognized as "local gang bangers" (their words not mine). In response to this, the club owner directed the bouncers to only let individuals with a Harvard or Yale ID in to the club. At this point Kwame and I argued that no alumnus would have his or her expired college ID with them and reiterated that the reason we did the party on a pre-sold basis with strict admittance based solely on the guest list was to guarantee that the only attendees were Harvard and Yale alumni, grad students and their close friends and to ensure that no "bad seeds" could contaminate our party. However, given that this was the club's opening weekend, the owner was particularly sensitive to anything going wrong.
At approximately 10:45, after we won the argument concerning the amazing quality of our crowd and the strictness of our guest list, management began letting people in but then became worried that as our crowd waited in line it could attract the attention of "local gang bangers" passing by who would try to gain entrance to our party. Furthermore, they feared that if these individuals were turned away for not being on the guest list they could hypothetically cause problems with the bouncers outside of the club and draw negative attention to the establishment. Despite the fact that our Friday night party went off without a hitch and had no problems when we turned people away from the door for not being on our list, management decided to shut the party down as to avoid the hypothetical chance of attracting the "wrong crowd" (again their words not mine). In spite of our attempts to reason with them, we were left in a position where despite agreeing with our logic, the decision had been made and we were left powerless
Please be assured that we are working with event-brite to refund every person who purchased a ticket for tonight's event as soon as possible. To those who gained entrance and wasted their money on cabs and drinks at the bar I am extremely sorry. As anyone who knows us understands, the only reason we created Triumph was to foster an environment where educated individuals (black and non-black) can congregate knowing that they are amongst like-minded persons. As a Harvard Business School student I am annoyed by the financial loss we will record as a result of the club's rash decision. As a Harvard college alum I am angry that my college roommate flew in from Los Angeles and my teammate from San Francisco and were denied the opportunity to reconnect with old friends on our homecoming weekend. However, as a black man, these emotions are trumped by an arduous feeling of sadness that regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, Law, Medical, Business and PhD students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color. I am further dismayed that after having spent the last few hours with the club owner, I do not believe him to be a racist; which only adds to my consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country.
Kwame and I thought that we had taken every precaution to ensure that this night would go on without incident but have learned a valuable lesson from this. We usually go through painstaking detail to be explicit and transparent about our crowd as to have no surprises the day of the event. We did not do that in this case as we thought Harvard and Yale alumni and Graduate students spoke for its self. We also did not negotiate directly with the owner but rather used a booking agent to secure this beautiful club before it opened to the public. These are lessons learned and we will never make these mistakes again if we ever do another event.
Over the next days and weeks we will work with the club's management and Harvard student groups to ensure that this does not happen to others in the future. Again, I am sorry for and embarrassed by what happened tonight. We will keep you posted as things progress and appreciate the support you have shown us over the last five years of Triumph. We have sent this email to all those who purchased tickets via event-brite but realize we are missing many email addresses of those affected by tonight. If you know of others who should receive this email please forward it to them. If there is anything I can do to help in the future please feel free to reach out to me or Kwame directly.
Michael Beal (Harvard '06, HBS '12), Kwame Owusu-Kesse (Harvard '06, HBS '12, HKS '12) and Brandon Terry (Harvard '05, Oxford '07, Yale PhD '12)