Top Cats apologize after flyer provokes backlash


Photo courtesy/Facebook

The photoshopped image that has since been taken down off of TopCats’ page.

Lindsay Freed, Senior Staff Writer

A student a cappella group has apologized after receiving backlash for their use of racially charged promotional material.

UVM Top Cats had posted flyers for their May 5 senior show that depicted the faces of three senior members photoshopped on people wearing the traditional attire of a Mexican mariachi band.

The Top Cats posted a statement on their Facebook page April 27 apologizing for the poster, which has since been removed from their page.

When initially presented with the poster’s design, some Top Cats members expressed concerns of cultural appropriation, but decided to go with it regardless, co-music director senior Christian Pickwell said.

“After seeing how it was received by the Latin American community, we knew that we had made a grave error,” Pickwell said. “We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused.”

The Top Cats are planning on donating the proceeds from the concert to a to-be-determined charity as well as implementing social justice training at the beginning of each semester, he said.

“We are a singing group above all else and only want to bring people joy when they think of us,” Pickwell said.

SGA sent an email to students April 28 condemning the poster and offering support to impacted students.

They have not yet decided whether to take action against Top Cats, SGA Vice President junior Gillian Natanagara said.

“No decisions have been made whatsoever. Our team will be meeting this upcoming week to continue discussion,” Natanagara said. “Assuring the student body that we are deeply involved in the process moving forward is only the first step in creating a campus in which our peers feel safe and valued.”

An apology from Top Cats is not enough, said senior Angie Crespo, co-founder of the UVM Womyn of Color Coalition.

“UVM is still racist and still experiencing racism,” Crespo said. “This was an appropriation of culture and an extreme disrespect of Mexican culture. One’s culture is not a costume. The University is built on Our Common Ground and it should uphold these values.”

NoNames for Justice released a statement on Facebook April 28 standing in solidarity with anyone who had been hurt by the advertisement and calling for the University to take action to prevent similar incidents.