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K'naan impressed with his Wavin' Flag. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)
K'naan impressed with his Wavin' Flag. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)


Charity chief apologizes for verbal attack on K'naan staffer Add to ...

The head of the charitable organization that was supposed to receive the proceeds from a K'naan concert at Simon Fraser University this week is apologizing for comments he made on stage about the rap artist's tour manager.

The management of the Somali-Canadian poet, singer and songwriter pulled the plug on his appearance at Tuesday's World Peace Day Concert when the student organizers were unable to pay the agreed fee. Production-related issues also were a factor in the cancellation, the musician's manager, Sol Guy, said.

After the announcement that K'naan wouldn't perform, Clement Apaak, who runs the Global Assistance Network charity, gave an angry speech on stage, targeting K'naan's tour manager, Lydia B.

"The truth must be told," said Dr. Apaak, an archeologist. "These guys did a great thing organizing everything and some blond-haired manager thought that she had the right to prevent us from getting to hear K'naan tonight."

He used profanity and also called the tour manager, whom he did not name, "this really stupid woman."

On Friday, Dr. Apaak said he regretted his comments.

"I must apologize profusely to K'naan's tour manger because my statements were totally baseless. As an advocate myself and also as somebody who's an activist, I owe her an apology for accusing her of something she wasn't responsible for in a very public manner."

Dr. Apaak's reference to Lydia B. as "blond-haired" has been interpreted in some on-line comments as racist. He said he was not referring to her race, but repeating the description he was given by the concert organizers.

"If you see my record of what I've been doing in terms of my advocacy, the issue of racism and speaking out against it has been one of the things that I've been doing. So, I certainly indeed apologize that I have made a statement that has been interpreted within that context, but I guess we are all human and we should be willing to apologize when we have fallen short."

Dr. Apaak also pointed out that his ex-wife is white and his children and current partner are bi-racial.

The abrupt cancellation of K'naan's performance also unleashed a stream of negative commentary on Twitter. On Thursday, K'naan declined to speak on the controversy, but Friday night he addressed the issue on his own Twitter feed.

"The main reason 4 not playing was that the production wasn't up to par," he wrote. "I was told that sound was a concern, logistics were worrying. And my team did not feel like the organizers were handling things professionally.

"This was ultimately the deciding factor for me. I have heard an apology from the organizers today. I commend them for that. But they shouldn't have used me as a scapegoat for their lack of professionalism to begin with."

Dr. Apaak started his charity recently to help educate girls in his native Ghana. He said he hasn't received any proceeds from this event yet - only negative publicity.

The event was organized by an SFU student group called I Vision One World (iVow). On Friday, the students released a statement, which said in part: "We were unable to raise the funds we had projected. Thus, we were not able to fulfill our end of the contract of the headlining act and further negotiations were unsuccessful. We absolutely do not support any attack on character whatsoever on any of the parties involved."

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