Legendary member of the Chambers Brothers singing group Lester Chambers, 73, was attacked onstage by a 43-year-old white woman angry that Chambers had dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin. This isn't the first incident of this type to occur and should lead us to ask ourselves whether or not black performers have any reasonable expectation of safety onstage in the America.
Lester Chambers, a Mississippi native, is the lead singer for Chambers Brothers, best known for their 11-minute 1968 hit "Time Has Come Today." The song has been featured in movies like The Zodiac and in television shows like My Name Is Earl. The group split in 1974 but has reformed and toured many times over the years.
Chambers was performing at the Hayward Russel City Blues Festival in Hayward, California Saturday afternoon when he dedicated Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" to Trayvon Martin. During the song Dinalynn Andrews-Potter, a 43-year-old woman from Barstow, jumped onto the stage following a solo from Chambers' saxophonist, and proceeded to pummel Chambers after pushing him down.
"I was asking for peace. The verdict hadn't been read yet," Chambers said in a phone interview with Fuse. "She said 'You MF you MF you started this' BOOM!"
Chambers' son Dylan posted a photo on his Facebook Saturday night showing his father's injuries. According to Chambers, he was "in the hospital five hours. I couldn't walk for an hour, hour and a half. My ribs were just totally aching."
Meanwhile, Andrews-Potter refused to speak to police. She was cited and released. Police hope to turn the case over to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday.
A Facebook page titled "Charge Dinalynn Andrews Potter With A Hate Crime" has over 500 "likes."
This was not the only incident of a black artist being assaulted onstage this year. In May, Jamaican reggae legend Toots Hibbert was hit square in the head with a vodka bottle flung by a white audience member in Richmond, VA. His injuries forced him to cancel all of his American appearances as well as a subsequent European tour. In June, another Jamaican artist, Capleton, was assaulted twice by a large white male at a festival in Angels Camp, Ca. While he sustained no injuries, the incident itself raises security concerns.
Most attendees of large concerts are familiar with the burly security guards in yellow jackets whose job it is to prevent concertgoers from getting too close to the stage. They are paid by the promoters. The larger the anticipated crowd, the more a promoter is expected to hire. The type of event also dictates more or less security. Chambers was attacked at a blues festival, a type of event not known for unruly crowds — indeed, a look at the video shows most attendees are sitting on lawn chairs even as the melee unfolds onstage. Should smaller, mellower American events such as these be forced to hire more security if they feature a black performer? Should concertgoers be forced to pay higher ticket prices to better ensure the safety of these performers? Can anything be done to stem what appears to be a disturbing trend of white concert attendees attacking black performers?