A lot of times, music creatives don’t realize how influential they are. Music is often looked at as a big influence to the beliefs and energy of a generation (or even multiple generations). A lot of listeners look at music as a form of therapy, including myself. Like I mentioned in my #IStillLoveHER piece, hip-hop saves lives, and that applies to music in general.
I believe that we all have an obligation, no matter what, to speak out and combat something that is wrong. It’s even more important for artists, especially artists that are rich and/or famous, to do something, especially in this type of situation. What has gone on this past week is something we cannot ignore or put off to the side anymore. It will continue to affect us in a negative way for as long as we allow it to. For black artists, for artists that are of another minority, for artists that have witnessed and experienced some of these issues, this is important to get involved in. Honestly, everyone should be involved in some way.
As Nina Simone said, “it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times,” and the times are rough, so artists have a duty to reflect and amplify that feeling. We don’t have the answers to change these situations rapidly, but I hope that we don’t cower in fear or become complacent in what we’ve been exposed to. I hope that we use this situation to do something, and, most importantly, to do it consistently.
For artists asking what to do, here are a few suggestions. They’re not the most original things, but they’re important. Peep them below:
1. Speak up, but listen and understand beforehand.
Being an amplified voice in these situations isn’t just about speaking; it’s about having the ability to listen and understand the struggle of the people it directly affects. A prime example is the constant misconception a lot of people make in the #AllLivesMatter vs. #BlackLivesMatter discussion. If you’re not familiar, there’s a reason why a lot of people shun the use of ALM in terms of conversations around BLM: ALM has been used as a way to diminish the importance of black lives, when BLM has been used as a way to amplify the lives of people that have not been valued as important. There’s also a misconception that BLM means “only black lives matter,” which is far from the truth. So, if you choose to speak up (which is necessary for you to do), make sure you’re “woke” when you share your feelings about it. (Speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean only on social media or in interviews. If talking about it in music is best for you, put it in song.)
2. Show up — wholeheartedly — for protests, legislative hearings, and/or community events.
Don’t just talk about it, be about it! Our voices need to be heard in various venues, from the streets occupied by protesters and community meetings to city, state, and federal legislative hearings. Now, what do artists like J. Cole, Snoop Dogg, Nate Parker, Jesse Williams (and more) have in common? Other than being creatives that have been vocal in what has been going on, they’ve shown up to protests and made sure that the conversations around their appearances weren’t about them, but about the importance of the situation. So, if when you show up to these events, don’t make it a publicity stunt. Black Twitter will spot the phoniness instantaneously and you don’t want that type of problem.
3. Donate money to families of victims, organizations, and/or bail funds.
You may not be able to attend every event (or don’t feel safe in doing so), so donate money to the cause! It doesn’t have to be the amount they dished out, but if you know you have the monetary resources to provide assistance to those who can’t afford to take on the costs, be that person. Families of these victims will always appreciate money for funeral costs, bills, and for the well-being of their heirs. Organizations that do this type of work on a daily basis can always use funding to help implement programs, host events, and to help the people live (because for a lot of people, this is their career). And, of course, protesters get arrested, so they’ll need bail money to get out. Use your dollars to help often. You can even sell a song and give all the proceeds to a family or organization.
4. Co-host fundraising events or town halls between citizens, police, and government officials.
Like I said in the previous point, people need to be heard. But it doesn’t stop there: they need to be understood and they need to see change. Be a part of the solution by using your influence to create a space where voices can be heard to bring understanding and to find and enforce tangible solutions. With these types of events, it’s important to have community organizations, members of the community, a police representative, government officials, and, most importantly, a mediator involved. Oh, and this cannot be a one time thing. This should be ongoing.
5. Sit out events or boycott products and services.
Vic Mensa cancelled a concert at a Detroit venue last week because of hate speech from their Twitter account. There have been Twitter and Instagram conversations about Carmelo Anthony’s important statement on police brutality and gun violence and how the USA men’s basketball team should sit out the Olympics next month. These types of actions are important, especially for influential creatives, to think about employing because it will amplify the need for change that the public can’t ignore.
With anything that you do for this, make sure you do your research, include the general public in your work, and use your influence and wealth as often as possible. If you have any more suggestions to add to this list, comment down below or converse with me on Twitter.