Houston’s Day for Night festival has ousted founder, Omar Afra, after multiple women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault and creating a hostile work environment.
Afra has denied the allegations against him, calling them “patently false” in a Facebook post that has now been removed.
In the removed post Afra wrote, “It would do no justice to anyone for me to capitulate to lies and fabrications. There is so much more to know about this coordinated attempt but this is clearly not the forum to do so. If I am to move forward on a path of true integrity I need to apologize for what were bad decisions but fight falsehoods tooth and nail.”
Billboard reached out to Afra, but was unable to get additional comment.
Allegations began to surface last Thursday when Afra’s co-worker, Amanda Hart, took to Facebook to say, “I have personally seen [Afra] cultivate a toxic work environment where people are manipulated, mistreated, and abused emotionally.”
Hart, who worked with Afra at local newspaper Free Press Houston, Free Press Summer Fest and Day for Night festival, went on to say that she was one of the employees who endured this type of treatment from Afra that also included withholding of pay.
Hart said she also came to understand and later share that Afra had allegedly sexually assaulted women in Texas’ music community who also worked on Free Press Summer Fest in Houston. In the same post, Hart revealed Facebook Messenger conversations between Afra and a woman named Phoenix Hamilton and a Facebook post by former concert photographer Veronica Ramos, who both alleged Afra sexually assaulted them eight years apart. The two women later signed affidavits attesting to the accounts that are included in Hart’s Facebook post.
In the conversation between Hamilton and Afra, Arfa asked Hamilton if she needed a job and said he may have a position for her working with Day for Night festival. He added they could meet and discuss it over drinks that evening. Hamilton appeared to take him up on the offer on Aug. 5, 2017. There was no communication between the two via Messenger for five days until Afra reacheed out to apologize for being “forward” with her on the evening they met up and promised to keep it “100% professional” if she still wants to work with him. He attempted to explain his behavior by saying he had been having a rough time and had considered jumping off his balcony before they hung out. He went on to add, “Either way I’m very sorry and you didn’t deserve me coming on to you like that.”
Ten days later, Hamilton responded to his apology and said what he called “unwarranted advances” and “misbehavior” was actually sexual assault.
“The fact that you keep offering me employment after sexually assaulting me makes me think that on some level you do think what you did was okay and that you don’t have to face any real consequences for your actions,” Hamilton wrote after detailing how she had been afraid of Afra. Hamilton described being kissed without her consent, repeatedly telling him “no” and being held by the shoulders with the fear that he would not let her go.
Afra responded via Facebook Messenger that this was “an absolute first” and he had been dealing with the recent demise of his marriage and was trying to work through the “tailspin” he was in.
In a separate screenshot, Hart shared a Facebook post from former concert photographer, Veronica Ramos, who alleged that eight years prior in October 2010 Afra sexually assaulted her at the Free Press Houston offices.
“On Oct. 12th, 2010, after a night of photography at Fitzgerald’s, I was sexually assaulted by Omar Afra,” Ramos wrote. “I was afraid, in shock and felt unsafe in my own city and creative community. I gave up my passion for photography.”
She went on to add, “The intention of sharing my experience is to make others aware of this person’s behavior. My hope is that no one else is treated this way.”
Ramos revealed that she learned of Hamilton’s experience and the two “came together to find emotional support in one another.” She added, “After receiving zero support from our justice system, we were advised by lawyers to go public with our stories.”
In Hart’s Aug. 9 post, she also included affidavits from both Hamilton and Ramos detailing their accounts of sexual assault with Afra. According to both women, Afra invited them into private settings for professional opportunities. Their accounts can be read in full here.
Billboard reached out to Amanda Hart, who declined additional comment on behalf of herself, Ramos, and Hamilton.
This article was originally published by Billboard.