What led to a teen dance being canceled at The Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center depends, fittingly, on who's doing the spinning.
The disc jockey hired for the event — scheduled Friday night, Feb. 17 at the 220-capacity venue — insinuated in a news release that racial overtones played a role in the cancellation. But officials with Columbia Association, which organized the dance through its teen advisory committee, said the event was becoming too big for its own good.
"It appeared that the event was growing to a scale that was larger than the building could accommodate," said Michelle Miller, the association's director of community services.
Doug Staub, a 32-year-old Hickory Ridge resident and Atholton High School graduate who goes by M.C. Doug E.D., was to provide the entertainment. He was paid a base rate of $200 and could earn additional money depending on how many people attended.
Staub said he printed 2,500 fliers and advertised on social media sites. Postings went up on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook, reaching prospective audiences beyond Columbia and Howard County and inviting teens to "the hottest teen party to hit Columbia, Md., in over 10 years!!!" He promised hip-hop, rap, R&B, club and pop music.
But Staub said CA officials asked him to take down the online postings.
"As soon as the promotion started, they started counteracting the promotion," Staub said.
The scale of the advertising was potentially too much for the capacity of the venue, officials said.
Sandy Cederbaum, the Oakland Mills village manager, said she was approached by Howard County police officers who had heard about the event. She relayed their concerns, and her own, to the Columbia Association.
Cederbaum felt there was a potential for an overflow crowd. That led to questions about crowd control and whether there were enough chaperons.
"The last thing anyone wanted was for this to become something more than anyone had planned for," Cederbaum said. "We were trying to make sure we had covered all bases."
Miller worried about scores of teens having to wait outside and not being able to get inside to dance.
"We want to have events that the teens and the youth want to come to, that are safe, fulfilling and social and they can have fun at," Miller said. "To me, it doesn't seem like fun if the majority of kids are outside and not able to get in. ... We don't just want a line forming without any activities going on."
CA told Staub Feb. 13 that the event had been canceled.
"If we want to have a bigger event, we need to find a venue that would be larger," Miller said. "We didn't expect to have a crowd that is larger than what we can accommodate. The event grew to something that we weren't comfortable with. You need to have some advanced planning to think through all that."
Staub was upset with the decision. "If you bring me in as a partner, more than just a hired DJ, then you have to consult with your partner before you cancel it," he said. "Before we make any rash decisions to cancel this dance, let's talk."
He said he believes the decision to cancel the event was racist.
"They pulled the plug insinuating that these kids would have mass riots because these urban kids don't know how to act," said Staub, who is white. "That, to me, is a pretty bold statement to make."
Miller said race had nothing to do with the decision, pointing to CA's foundation on the principles of inclusiveness and diversity and the programs and services that have exemplified those principles.
Miller said Staub showed up unannounced at CA headquarters Feb. 15 and was confrontational and disruptive. Police were called and remained until the discussion ended, according to police department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
"It kind of saddens me the way he's gone about this," Miller said. "It's unfortunate that this event wasn't able to occur. I'm sure the teens are unhappy. We just want to make sure there's a safe environment for them."
Staub said he has since been banned from CA headquarters and The Other Barn.