Bobby Berger is planning to perform in blackface this fall when he takes the stage at a fundraiser for the police officers facing charges for Freddie Gray’s death. He’s a former cop, and was asked to leave the force because of his tribute performances to the late Al Jolson (of Mammy fame) in the 1980s. Now, he wants to bring back the show.
Ebony Magazine’s Jamilah Lemieux got a flier for the show, which is to be held Nov. 1 at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie. The show is billed as a bull roast to raise money for the six Baltimore police officers who were charged in connection with Gray’s death following a transport van ride around West Baltimore in April. Berger told Lemieux that there’s “nothing racial” about his performances. He told Lemieux that the blackface is “just makeup,” and that there’s “no buffoonery.”
Some of the most visible organizations in the protests and aftermath of Gray’s death, however, aren’t taking it lightly. Baltimore’s police union said it would not “condone any performance representing the iconic racist figure that is Al Jolson.” Meanwhile, Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston told the Baltimore Sun it’s “disgusting.”
Berger was fired from the force after the NAACP protested one of his performances in 1984. According to a Sun article from the time, he won a $200,000 settlement with BPD years later and spent the rest of his career on paid leave.
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