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American University Cancels Philanthropy Event Because Of Cultural Appropriation

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Sigma Alpha Mu, a fraternity at American University in Washington, was forced to cancel a fundraising event for veterans based around badminton after the administrators became worried that its name could be “appropriating culture.”

The name chosen for the fundraiser was “Bad(minton) and Boujee,” after the popular song “Bad and Boujee” by Migos. Unfortunately, the university decided it could potentially be considered offensive.

The group was trying to raise money for an organization called Armor Down that reintegrates military veterans back into society and provides help for veterans with mental health problems. According to the president of the fraternity, Rocco Cimino, the name was meant as nothing more than a bit of fun, especially since the sport of badminton is “not exactly the most exciting thing in the world.”

Via Campus Reform:

Rocco Cimino, the president of Sigma Alpha Mu, Delta Beta, said the frat was simply trying to think of a catchy and engaging name for a badminton fundraiser, given that the sport is “not exactly the most exciting thing in the world.”

“We were trying to plan a philanthropy event that incorporated a sport, as those typically perform much better on our campus,” Cimino told Campus Reform. “Unfortunately, pretty much every sport we could think of was taken. We settled on badminton because we could use Migos’s ‘Bad and Boujee’ as a play on words to generate buzz.”

After planning the event, the fraternity received an email from American University Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life Colin Gerker saying the name shouldn’t be used as it could be perceived as cultural appropriation.

“I suspect that this event name will be criticized for the use of ‘boujee,’” Gerker wrote. “I know it’s a colloquial term and is popular via Migos, but we have had groups get reamed for appropriating culture before related to situations like this.”

“I want to continue empowering a culture of controversy prevention among FSL groups, and give y’all the opportunity to edit before we move forward,” he wrote. “The event will not be approved in [AU’s database for requesting venues] until you/your group comes back with a new name.”

Sigma Alpha Mu released a statement on their Facebook page:

esterday, our chapter decided to cancel our anticipated philanthropy event “Bad(minton) and Boujee.” We initially ran into trouble with the event on March 30th, when we were informed that our use of the word “boujee” classified as cultural appropriation, and the school would not host the event unless we changed the name.

Much of the hype surrounding the event was generated through the name, as it was obviously a play on words with Migos’s hit song, “Bad and Boujee.” We clarified this to the university alongside a breakdown of the critical acclaim the song has received from various pop culture outlets, many of which have criticized other song for appropriating culture in the past, but saw no issue. Migos has even performed the song on shows popular in the progressive community such as Ellen. Once we established this understanding, we then emphasized that the use of “boujee” in our event ended with the title.

The event was intended to benefit our local philanthropic partner, Armor Down. Armor Down seeks to help veterans returning to the United States from overseas use mindful techniques such as meditation to take care of their mental health as they readjust to civilian life. This is a cause we take very seriously as Armor Down was founded by Benjamin King, an alumnus of our chapter and current chapter adviser. We would not make a mockery of an event intended to benefit such an organization by dressing up. Instead, we stressed the fact that the event was simply a badminton tournament (as badminton is a very relaxing sport which can be used to de-stress) and nothing more.

Throughout our exchanges, the university took very long to get back to us, and our current email has been sitting for over a week without a response. As such, we have not had time to fundraise or organize the event with its verification in limbo and subsequently decided we had to cancel it.
Ben is the kind of person everyone loves as he works tirelessly to help those around him. It is deeply disappointing to our chapter that we were unable to host the event and raise money for an organization that does so much good with so little funding over semantics. We take responsibility for this short coming.

That said, the brothers of Delta Beta humbly ask you to click the attached link to our GoFundMe page. We would be distraught if we could not provide Ben and Armor Down with a donation this year. For those interested, on the page you can read about Ben’s journey and our chapter’s connection with him.

Sincerely,
The Brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu -Delta Beta Chapter

The fraternity has set up a GoFundMe page so that those interested can still donate to the cause.

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Eric ItalianoCOED Writer
A New Jersey native & Rutgers University graduate who firmly believes it's better to be lucky than good. My goal in life is to one day write a Batman screenplay. You can probably find me somewhere cooking either too little or too much pasta. contact me - eric.italiano@teamcoed.com
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