As recently reported in the Commercial, a concert scheduled for July 3 at Saracen Landing will no longer feature a bikini contest. The planned contest became fodder for heated discussion on social media. It drew similar fire from local officials who noted that the contest was not mentioned in any of the sponsoring organization’s agreements with the city of Pine Bluff.
Darius McCombs is the CEO of Hunnit BMG Entertainment and, along with Str8 Drop Events, a co-sponsor of the event billed as the Truble Hunnit BMG B’Day Bash.
When asked about the issue, McCombs’ response took a curious direction: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion … It was going to be just a simple swimsuit competition. It seem like the opposition is coming from people that want to make [Saracen Landing Manager] Ms. [Trudy] Redus look bad. She didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Dragging the formerly embattled Redus into the fray skirts the fundamental thing at issue — namely, the fact that bikini contests represent an objectification of women that is inconsistent with the sensibilities of a modern and equitable society.
Moreover, holding such an event on city property is, as Parks and Recreation Department Director April Layher stated, “not in keeping with the family friendly image of the city parks department.”
This need not imply that there exists a cloaked morals test in the rental agreement for city property. Rather, it should suggest that the city is not in the business of tacitly condoning activities that by their nature demean and subordinate half the population.
Thankfully, all parties in this misunderstanding were able to reach an amicable understanding.
“We cleared it up to where everybody is happy. The show will go on,” McCombs said.
Yet again though, we as a community are confronted with a question we have proposed innumerable times: What is it that we want to become as a city?
In this one hopeful instance, we dared to prevent an exhibition that did not serve the long term reputational interests of the community. Further, by framing the concern in terms of “family friendliness,” we have asserted to the outside world that we have standards and a sense of propriety — even if we don’t always reinforce that fact.
Many times the Pine Bluff City Council has found itself on the wrong side of this debate. The series of votes tilted in favor of nightclub owners stand out as a particularly acute example. In those cases, local government bent to the whim of that which is popular versus standing strong for that which might make us better. Understanding the difference is a sign of legislative maturity that we consistently seem to lack.
In the successful resolution of the Saracen Landing controversy, park administrators were able to bridge that chasm between popular and prudent. Moreover, they did so in a way that permits McCombs to hold his event; and to do so in apparent good spirits.
All of this goes to a broader point about compromise. Sometimes we don’t get to have everything we want — even if history or tradition suggests we should. Sometimes, communal growth requires setting aside personal desires. Sometimes communal growth requires a maturation and a little perspective. We’re pleased that seems to have happened here.