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'He paid for his mistakes': Entertainers say they will perform at ICandy, despite slur

Milan Christopher and Ts Madison say they will perform at ICandy despite calls for them to boycott the bar, whose owner was caught using the N-word.

Bartenders at ICandy in September 2011.
Bartenders at ICandy in September 2011.Read moreGIANNA VADINO / File Photograph

The criticism came quickly when transgender entertainer Ts Madison informed her Facebook followers last week that she will perform at an event meant to attract people of color to ICandy — the Philly Gayborhood bar whose owner was caught on video using the N-word.

"As much as I want to see you Sis in person, I can't give my money to that racist club owner," one person wrote to Madison, linking to the video.

Madison knew outrage persisted about ICandy owner Darryl DePiano's comments, which surfaced nearly a year ago. An online petition also urged rap artist Milan Christopher, who is performing with Madison, to boycott the Sept. 2 event at DePiano's bar near 12th and Spruce Streets.

But Madison and Christopher are sticking with it. They say avoiding ICandy or hoping it closes — as some LGBT people of color want — won't help address issues of racism.

"You can't fix a situation from the outside. You have to go in and fix it," Madison said in an interview Monday. "And closing it down or stopping people of color from coming in on a night that's dedicated to people of color … just wouldn't be the thing to do."

The event is run by Social Life Entertainment LLC, one of three groups collaborating with ICandy to bring back people of color to the bar and train staff about discrimination. The effort has stoked disagreement in the LGBT community about whether to work with DePiano.

Jason Culler, Social Life Entertainment's founder, said proceeds from the September performance will go to organizations that help LGBT people of color — and not ICandy.

"ICandy isn't receiving any of the proceeds from the event," he said. "Not one penny."

That promise helped convince Madison and Christopher to attend. Christopher said he also believes DePiano has paid for his mistakes.

"It's not like people who are going here are supporting the KKK," Christopher said. "You learn from your mistakes, and how long do we expect a person to have to pay for their mistakes? He paid for his mistakes."

DePiano did not return a request for comment Monday. Earlier this month, as the petition calling for Christopher to avoid ICandy gained signatures — and another petition called for people of color not to do business with the bar — a video emerged of DePiano apologizing for using the N-word.

"Using the N-word is never acceptable under any circumstances," he said in the video. "I don't want my comments to reflect poorly on ICandy, its staff, or its co-owners, as the words came directly from me, not them."

DePiano added near the end: "I'm ashamed of the video, and I wish it was never made."

The video of DePiano saying the N-word was released on YouTube last September, leading to boycotts and protests. The city's Human Relations Commission called the video a "tipping point" in complaints about race relations in the Gayborhood and later acknowledged what people of color had long said: that racism and discrimination were prevalent in the area.

In January, the commission said 11 bars, including ICandy, would have to undergo training on fair business practices and implicit bias within four months.