TW: Gender Violence, Silencing, Victim Blaming, Social Isolation, Domestic Violence, Property Destruction, Incarceration, Differential Enforcement, White Male Privilege
It is a Friday morning, the start of the July 4th weekend. I am planning to meet up with a bunch of dear artistic friends who are gathering from across the country with the intention to collaborate and make a whole art and music project. I am up early and excited about it. I get a text from Lucas Dix: “Call me.”
Lucas and I go back to his days in La Crosse, WI. We go back to Ty lurking around the bookstore that my father owns. I was working there in addition to another adult job after college. At this time, La Crosse was flourishing into a beautiful and diverse community, but even then Ty stuck out. Having a young black man at the coffee shop adjoined to the bookstore was a surprise. Meeting the intellect that Ty is made it seem like he stepped out of a portal to make my life better.
Indeed he had. Through that portal stepped friends too numerous to count, but the ones who led the way were Gavin and Lucas. Gavin was a man of singular vision. He saw himself, along with anyone he could bring with him, to the peak of artistic excellence and, thereby, success. I still miss him to this day. He could bring you up to a level you did not know you were capable of. Gavin founded an artists co-operative called Neon Autumn, which became code for a family he left behind when he died of cancer.
We all dealt with Gavin’s illness and dying differently. I frequently remember visiting Portland and be in his room weeping with Lucas and Ed telling me about his last days. Knowing that I was not able to comfort Gavin still hurts me – I am only saved in that hurt by being so confident in the support that those dear friends gave him as he transitioned out of life. I cannot thank you all enough for the burden you carried. Lucas was able to make a monument of a record, which has helped a lot of the world with different losses, but for us has been a record of the crucible we all endured as our friend’s light faded.
Lucas and I are tight. I helped him get connected with amazing people who came to appreciate him for all that he was at that time. This lead to a promotional connection with Best Love is Free and specifically with Botzy. This felt like it was really the beginning of us connecting a bunch of dots on a map to form the route and community that would support our art through our adulthood. I was a big proponent when I heard that Botzy was going to transition from just being an event promoter and compilation curator into being a hub for creative people to interface and get cool projects done. I told Lucas he should be happy to be a part of such a project and that being the flagship project should be considered an honor. With a good deal of mutual support Jellyfish Brigade and Botzy launched Polkadot Mayhem with a huge propulsion surrounding the Jellyfish Brigade record Diving Lessons.
It was a good year. The album did really well. Lucas and I planned our normal “Tour de Summer” and I was excited to get to know the people involved in the extended crew better. I was already tight with the portion that was what I would call “Neon Autumnites,” but I wanted to see what else was ready to be offered from the team. Botzy was truly a hub. He was excited about the things he had planned in his mind and it seemed like he was surrounding himself with people who could help make his dreams real. During this tour Botzy was most excited about cultivating a new and talented artist named Bae Tigre (Neon Autumn also delivered a fully capable Once-ler into Botzy’s hands, again, Gavin with the inspirational post humous assist). It felt like we were sprawling genres and making awesome art. Everything I had ever fantasized about us felt like it was coming true. We committed to becoming bigger than the sum of our parts. We all went to our separate ways with strong intent to work separately, but keep in touch with semi-weekly meetings. Underlying this was the promise of reuniting when we were all geographically inclined.
The Pale Blue Dot record got made. The meetings happened decently. People kept coming into the fold and the energy felt good. The commitment waned, however, and we never launched anything that was greater than the sum of our parts. We never really became a group.
This brings us to that Friday morning. I am on the phone with Lucas, ahead of my reunion with the group, which was still two days off. I am also communicating to my partner at the time who is reaching out to her legal contacts to find out what is the best course of action to keep Adam Botsford from being in jail in Minneapolis. Who is Adam Botsford? He is the person that needs help that lives underneath the toxic projection of Botzy. He is the person I still hope can get help and find happiness. Lucas is calling about Botzy and describing a horrible scene. Our aspirations for a cohesive group were already waning, and now we found our hope to make art and music together as the Autumnites being sucked into the blackhole of Botzy’s bad decisions. We expected professional adult behavior from one another, but instead we got the hissing death of a man set to control the people around him.
Trauma is never an excuse to be abusive. We should all take pause to reflect on the good we could do by letting people be honest about their trauma and abuse and help them work to get free. I hope that I can live up to that. As purveyors of culture I think it is our responsibility to support and chastise as often as we can the limitations put on people’s human rights. If there is one class of people who understands the need for freedoms it should be artists. It saddened me to discover that while being emotionally abusive Botzy would argue, refute and deny his partner’s perspectives of sexism and patriarchy. I can not stand with that, and it is a stark reminder that rhetoric that demeans women can have real life consequences. Anyone who grew up in an abusive household can tell you that every time we don’t confront a “family squabble” we might be letting some really heinous behavior go unchecked.
We were all being manipulated. Botzy had been drinking the kool-aid of his own singular greatness and was trying to control a group of people by isolating us from each other (notably Ranelle of Bae Tigre). Together we would have never let the abuse, isolation and unchecked aggression reach a fever pitch. Knowing what I know now, none of us would have stood for it long. It is important to give your friends room to talk, to listen and then to reflect what you are hearing so they can find empowerment in their truths. I am sorry for the part I played in it, indirect as it may be. My name was on the roster and without speaking out against it, i was silently complicit. Botzy landed himself in jail because of an incident where numerous people witnessed his aggression towards friends and to Ranelle directly. He followed this scene by entering the stage just before the show and smashing her keyboard to a state beyond use.
I was and still am concerned about criminalizing Adam Botsford. I was making sure we were doing all we could to support him legally while he brought some restoration to this situation with Ranelle and with us as a collective. In the time since I advocated for him, I have not seen anything that shows any kind of remorse or atonement. Conversely, as I engage with people he has victimized they are working really hard to put their lives back together and learn from the trauma that his emotional and physical aggressions have inflicted.
Botzy, I encourage you to seek help for the behaviors and attitudes that have you burning bridges and hurting people who believed in you. You can be a better person than this, but until then, I can not stand by and watch people stumble their way into the intoxicating fantasies you spin to manipulate people. If you are around Botzy and he is trying to blow this off, that should be a sign to you. Please encourage him to do a self-assessment about his relationships over the last decade. If he is resisting this, I suggest you protect your assets and move away from him.
You have made money off other artists and then not paid them. You have willfully manipulated people. You have used people to the point that they are shells of the people we once loved and we refuse to let it happen again. The wagons are circled, we will protect our wounded, we will heal. As each person joins us to denounce the actions you have taken, I will only welcome them to our side if they acknowledge the whole picture and want you to get help. I can not say they will all take that on board. If the reaction to the photo of you getting arrested is any indication, a lot of people have been waiting to say something like this to you. I hope it is not too late for you to hear it.
When we last talked I said I hope you were getting the help you needed to help you get better. You typed out a laughter of disbelief. You then told me that you did not have any idea what I might be talking about and that I should not assume things about someone because I have not talked to people for a year. You have had that whole year to make any effort to atone for action that everyone can agree is bad, but instead I see you rushing to infect a new grouping of people with the idea that you have something to offer from your perspective. I don’t buy it, and no one else does either. Art is about overcoming adversity, about providing a means to channel the emotions surrounding it; your reaction to adversity is knee-jerk and violent. No one needs that lesson. You then told me you did not have the time for me to fulfill a simple request, one that I and other artists share: to get off the Polkadot Mayhem roster. This emphasizes the lack of accountability that our whole friendship has had. I told you you would be hearing from me, and here I am
Botzy, I once was warned about you, more than once if I am being honest. Now I am the one blowing the horn into the valley. We are all talking to each other. We all know how you isolated people and used fear to keep us from coming to the aid of someone that we all cared about because YOU found value in them. That is the real betrayal, I met a bunch of amazing people through and around you, but you robbed all of us of our promise as a collective of artists. I and many members of the original roster have major reservations and have quietly separated from associating with you. This is my unequivocal statement: I am not sure I will ever associate with you again. I will not reccomend you when asked for access to talent (you are squandering what little you have) until you get help. I want you to get the help you need, not so you can rejoin us, I think that ship has sailed. I want you to have some peace in your life. I also want to caution those who come to you before that help has been reached. I came to this as a wise man told me the other night that there is nothing sadder than someone dying angry. I want to thank you for showing me what leadership isn’t. I want to thank you for showing me that what looks like success on the outside can just be a decent paint job and rusted interiors. I can’t say I won’t be fooled again, but I know I will never be the one pulling strings and lying to try to control something you should assume is uncontrollable: the boundless human spirit and its expression through art. You will not silence us, I encourage anyone facing abuse, misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia to speak up for themselves. Better yet, risk something and take a stand using your position and privilege to reject notions of power structure and risk the opinion of your privileged counterparts by openly challenging the status quo however you best see fit.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please get help, call the cops today, and get somewhere safe to start rebuilding. Call the Hotline. 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) We are all responsible for each other. Below are three places to donate if you feel so moved, the first is Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem NY who work really hard everyday to help keep people from getting criminalized by the state. Second is RAINN who will help people rebuild their lives by hearing people’s stories when often no one else will and by connecting them to services. The last is in support of Women Have Options who provide funding options for women seeking termination of pregnancy. Far too often relationships with gender violence bring new life into the world and we want to be sure women who can not imagine bringing a child into the terror of their relationship have the option to terminate their pregnancy.
If you feel so compelled, call the Office of the Hennepin County Attorney to let them know they can focus some effort on seeking restorative justice for victims of gender violence. The case number is 850 329 4888.