By Deidre McCalla
Given that Local 1000 wanted a presence at BAMS to help them (us) improve DEI, I feel it important to say that from the very start I realized this Summit wasn’t about you. By you I mean predominantly white institutions/organizations. I was reminded of the early days of feminist empowerment when men assumed we spent most of our time talking about them. We didn’t. We focused on connecting with each other. Such was the case with BAMS.
Wednesday. Day 1: Meet & Greet
Though there were panelists, the point of this session was for those who choose to to introduce themselves. I think there were about 25 people in attendance. Most noted how remarkable it was to look around the room and see each other as many of us in the Folk world felt like were navigated as islands. I did introduce myself and identify as the eyes and ears of Local 1000. I told them I would be taking notes as the Local is constantly evolving its DEI and if anyone had any questions about the Union to please chat with me at anytime during the Conference. No one did.
Thursday. Day 2. No Person Is An Island
There were maybe 30 or so people this day. Most of this session directly related to the experience of being an artist. Along that track I noted tenets such as:
I’m here (the artist) to have my ache make you make sense of yours.
If you’re not connecting with the audience either you haven’t said it right or you haven’t found your audience yet.
There’s a difference between a reviewer and a journalist. In order to get a feature you have to define and project your own narrative.
It is also our right to transcend our sorrow. We don’t have to be performative to salve other people’s guilt.
There is no American Music without a Black story. Our stories are relevant to the nation not only Black folk.
The panel also emphasized how most successful artists build a team to work with them. A team is some combination of management, agent, and label.
There was discussion of getting airplay and that involves there not only having more Black voices behind the mic but also more Black administrators in decision making positions at stations.
Friday & Saturday. Day 3 & 5. Show Me The Money/Visibility
I am combining these two days because by the time I arrived for the last 40 minutes of the Saturday session (I had the Wisdom of the Elders Panel) they seemed to be continuing much of the same ground covered on Friday.
Some of the panelist spoke on music initiatives they were promoting in their cities. In general the thrust was as artists we need to claim all the spaces where we belong. Apply for any and all grants we deserve and to learn the processes of how to do that successfully. Don’t be shy about asking for help navigating it. It is our responsibility to step up and speak up as no one will do it for us.
Lilli Lewis remarked that as progressive and inclusive as FAI strives to be she pointed out to them that the Official Showcases were often booked from the Black Diaspora from everywhere but the U.S.
I hope Local 1000 finds this informative. Other than having more Black folk integrated in decision making positions, which I do think the Local strives to do, I’m not sure how it directly impacts our DEI. It is always helpful, though, to hear what others are thinking and coming from.
On a personal level the BAMS workshop days and especially our showcases were very powerful for me. I heard the varied voices of Black folk in folk. I am not as alone or as much of an anomaly as I sometimes feel.