After a controversial Black Spring Break that was affected by both weather and a lower-than-expected attendance, many on social media are wondering what's next for the annual three-day event.
There was a noticeable increase in the presence of law enforcement, who were expecting a second year of record crowds. And some visitors took to social media to say they felt unwelcome. Rapper Boosie Badazz also boycotted the event after being pepper-sprayed in the mall the previous year, and some of his fans joined in the boycott.
Derrian Burns and Maurice Bryant promote three days of Biloxi Black Beach Weekend events on the grounds of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. After this year's event, they made a post on Instagram and Facebook hinting at holding the events in another city.
The posts made April 27 show a photo collage of four cities — Biloxi, New Orleans, Mobile and Jackson — with several question marks and the "wondering" emoji.
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The Instagram post received almost 200 comments and the Facebook post had more than 100.
One commenter suggested the festival has run its course in Biloxi.
"Y’all are dumb if you still screaming Biloxi, THEY DONT WANT US THERE! Im from Gulfport and Im telling you...DONT SPEND YOUR MONEY IN BILOXI. Take it to Alabama. Orange Beach would be perfect." (sic)
"Change the location they dont appreciate the money we spend in Biloxi," another commenter said. (sic)
But regardless of the talk on social media, Burns said one thing's certain.
"People are coming back whether people want them to or not," Burns said. "If people are going to come here, to a tourism destination, then we need help to make this a tourism event. This is event is recognized on a national level and there's a national audience watching." (sic)
While the increase in police was off-putting for many, Burns said public safety is always a concern for the promoters.
"I really don't think you can be too excessive when it comes to public safety, which is our main concern during Black Spring Break," Burns said. "But I can understand how it can look unwelcoming to people who are from out of town."
Burns said he received several complaints from out-of-town guests during this year's event, but people have already started calling about 2019.
"We have to do something to change the perception with Black Spring Break — just because you don't like it, it doesn't mean that it's bad. The city spent all of that money on cones and barricades and there wasn't one portable toilet set up on the beach — why is that?"
He does have one goal before next year — creating a better dialogue with members of the community.
"We haven't reached out to the city yet and they haven't reached out to us because we're all taking a break from it right now, but we have got to communicate better — all of us," he said. "It's going to take more than just us and the city getting together to make this thing successful."