A Manitoba woman is protesting against an upcoming concert by controversial R&B singer Chris Brown by holding a rival event – a fundraiser for domestic violence victims.
Susie Parker said she had a “gut reaction” when she heard the artist was coming to Winnipeg on Aug. 29.
Brown pleaded guilty to a bloody assault on his then-girlfriend and fellow R&B performer Rihanna in 2009.
“I’m a mom. I’m a businesswoman. I have three small children,” she said. “I can’t stand the fact that there are women out there who are living with this horror every day. Their kids are living in fear. That doesn’t seem right to me so I wanted to do something positive.”
Parker opted to give people an opportunity to give their money to a worthy cause rather than buy tickets for Brown’s concert. She put out a call on social media for anyone wishing to donate a venue for her event to raise money for Winnipeg’s Osborne House, a shelter for domestic abuse victims.
A bowling alley immediately offered space. Donations and offers of help started to pour in.
“It snowballed from there,” said Parker, who is calling the fundraiser Loving Hands Don’t Hit. “It was just crazy. It was fantastic.”
Parker said she used to love Brown’s music but her admiration died when he pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna following a pre-Grammy Award party. He hit, choked and bit the R&B star during an argument in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community service.
The 24-year-old has been a controversial figure ever since. Some, including country star Miranda Lambert, publicly questioned why Brown was allowed to perform twice at last year’s Grammys.
“He beat on a girl … not cool that we act like that didn’t happen,” she tweeted at the time.
Brown is facing a backlash in Canada. Four corporate sponsors, including telecommunications giant Rogers and Molson Coors brewery, have pulled out of Brown’s upcoming performance in Halifax following a public outcry there.
Hearing about what Parker is doing and what happened in Halifax has sparked Kelcy Beirnes of Winnipeg to start an online petition.
The petition asks the City of Winnipeg and radio station Energy 106 FM to cancel Brown’s performance at the Energy Rush concert.
“All I want is for Chris Brown not to come to our city,” Beirnes said.
“It’s one thing at the age of 19 to make a horrible, terrible decision … it’s not just the domestic assault, it’s everything he’s done since. We do not need to reward this young man’s bad behaviour with a bucket load of cash.”
While Brown’s concert promoter says response to the singer’s upcoming performances in Toronto and Winnipeg has been “nothing short of electric and overwhelmingly positive,” Parker said there are many who aren’t excited.
“This kind of struck a chord,” Parker said. “I can’t stop a machine like Chris Brown and his promotional company. They don’t care about little old me. But I can use this opportunity to educate people, to let them know that domestic abuse happens at every income level, every education level, even in same-sex relationships. There is nothing discriminatory about domestic violence.”
Barbara Judt, CEO of Osborne House, said the fundraiser is a brilliant way to turn the negativity generated by Brown’s tour on its head. The event keeps the issue of domestic violence in the spotlight and shows people are willing to stand up against it, she said.
“People are going to go to the concert; people aren’t going to go to the concert – I can’t do anything about that,” Judt said. “What we can do is raise the awareness and encourage people to think about a choice that they could make differently.”
Any money raised for the shelter will go directly to women and children in crisis, she said.