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The alone artists up for the 2021 Best Children’s Anthology Grammy are white — which, in a year of reckoning for the Recording Academy over assortment problems, has fatigued advanced ire, and led to three of the bristles white nominees autograph to the Academy aftermost ages allurement for their names to be removed from the election to accomplish allowance for artists of color. The Academy has agreed to booty them off the slate but is abrogation the accolade accessible alone to the absolute two nominees, sources acquaint Rolling Stone.
It began back the Grammys appear the category’s all-white slate of nominations in November. Three of the acts — Okee Dokee Brothers, Moock, and Dog on Fleas — spent several weeks “soul-searching,” they say, and they noticed a advertisement accounting by the Family Music Forward (FMF) organization, which was formed by musicians over the summer. FMF had asked the Academy to analysis centralized behavior and brainwash voting associates about the assortment of genres, sounds, and styles aural children’s music. The three acts formed with the FMF to pen a letter to the Academy advertisement that they could not “in acceptable censor account from a action that has — both this year and historically — so disregarded women, performers of color, and best abnormally atramentous performers.”
Moock’s nominated album, which focuses on leadership, activism, and equality, highlights abstracts like 23-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and the backward Elizabeth Cotten, a atramentous folk accompanist built-in in the backward 19th century. Observers accept acclaimed the amateurishness of a white man actuality nominated for assignment powered by belief from bodies of color; the three acts additionally acicular out in their letter that beneath than 10% of nominated acts in the category’s history accept been led or co-led by bodies of color. “These numbers would be atramentous in any category,” they wrote. “But — in a brand whose performers are abnormally tasked with clay fairness, kindness, and inclusion; in a country area added than bisected of all accouchement are non-white; and afterwards a year of civic reckoning about chase and gender — the numbers are unacceptable.”
On Wednesday, a rep from the Recording Academy accepted to Rolling Stone that it did not abolish the three names from the final election because that election had already been beatific out to voting associates — but, in account of the decisions of the three artists, the Academy has back aloof their names from application in the category. However, the Academy has beneath to add new names to the slate, acceptation the accolade will go to one of the two absolute white artists: Joanie Leeds or Justin Roberts. (Leeds’ anthology centers on changeable empowerment and Roberts, four-time nominee, sings cautiously about parenthood.)
Aaron Nigel Smith, a longtime children’s music artisan and FMF co-founder, says the Recording Academy did move bound to abode the protestors’ frustrations: Executives associates including acting admiral Harvey Mason Jr. and arch assortment administrator Valeisha Butterfield Jones afresh met with the FMF and “really gave us the attic to accurate our disappointment and accomplish recommendations for absolute change in this industry and aural the Grammy organization,” Smith says, acquainted that advisers “seemed absolute on lath back it came to partnering with us.” Smith says a above roundtable altercation with the Academy is appointed for February. In affiliation with The Academy, FMF will allure artists of blush to altercate contempo events. “I feel that the administration aggregation there is aware, willing, and listening,” he says. “I’m hopeful.”
The Okee Dokee Brothers’ Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing call the affair as advantageous and positive, acquainted that the Academy accepted the awards “did not accept able representation from bodies of blush on the Children’s Music Nomination Analysis Board this year.”
“It’s like actuality served a broiled potato with chips and assortment browns on the side. Slight variations of the aforementioned dish.” – Pierce Freelon
But on a broader scale, the all-white category, which charcoal that way alike afterwards the abandonment of the three acts, credibility to accepted problems about chase aural the children’s music genre, if not the American music industry at large.
“It’s above the Grammys,” says Smith. “The Grammy Awards are the pinnacle. But they’re a allotment of this arrangement that has been congenital with white ahead in mind, like all of our added systems in this country.”
Pierce Freelon, a Durham City Council Member, African American studies professor, and children’s music artisan who put his admission anthology out this year, wishes the Grammys would absolution the cardinal of artists of blush complex in nominating decisions. A brace months afore putting out his now-lauded anthology D.A.D, Freelon approved admonition from Mailander, who told him journalists don’t awning the brand like they acclimated to 10 years ago. Freelon wondered if that ability be because children’s music festivals tend to skew acutely — sometimes absolutely — white, and the media spotlight has collapsed on white men strumming acoustic guitars.
“It’s like actuality served a broiled potato with chips and assortment browns on the side. Slight variations of the aforementioned dish,” he says. “Meanwhile, [Latin duo] 123 Andrés is over actuality with their flavor, we’ve got some Jamaican flavor, we’ve got hip-hop. These are altered elements and aspects that accompany a affluence to the brand but are actuality systematically excluded.”
After D.A.D was released, Freelon says it saw some of the better sales and radio circuit numbers for the brand in years, and outlets like NPR and The Today Show covered the anthology positively. “[Mailander] alleged me and was aloof like, ‘Wow, this is wild. I actually haven’t apparent this in bristles or six years,’” Freelon recalls. Back it came to Grammy nominations: “We aloof anticipation this ability be the year. We anticipation there ability be a accomplished atramentous and amber ballot. We were that audacious.”
Tommy Shepherd, one bisected of acclaimed children’s music act Alphabet Rockers, whose aftermost two albums were Grammy-nominated, says assorted venues accept asked him and his accomplice Kaitlin McGaw to comedy acoustic instruments, claiming an “instrument-only” policy. But they don’t do that; they accomplish socially acquainted hip-hop music.
“We had to action for our DJ actuality an instrument,” he says. “We’ve fabricated a name for ourselves now. But we had to get to a abode area bodies chock-full allurement us, ‘Is the music appropriate?’ That’s a aberrant catechism to ask a children’s music artist.”
Add in the absoluteness of actuality a mixed-race duo — Shepherd is atramentous and McGaw is white — and these two accept had decidedly abrupt experiences. “I’ve pulled up to libraries [where children’s music shows generally booty place] and the librarian wouldn’t accessible up the aperture until Kaitlin got there,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Do you see me, lady? I’m on the poster’ … I’m not calling anniversary actuality a racist, but there’s white advantage at play. That’s one affair we’d absolutely like to annihilate from the genre. We appetite artists to represent all of the accouchement who accept to the music.”
“Folks are aggravating to assure their kids’ innocence. It absolutely irks my fretfulness some times. I appetite my kid to be innocent too but the apple won’t acquiesce that.” – Tommy Shepherd (Alphabet Rockers)
While abounding bodies may anticipate children’s music is about “protecting children’s chastity by amphitheatre songs about slides, oceans, and things like that,” Shepherd says he creates children’s music to advice them acclimate the world. His atramentous children, he says, started audition the N-word in preschool. “He was told atramentous bodies were thieves in kindergarten, so we started creating allotment music and acquainted that there wasn’t a lot of music out there that addresses annihilation abroad than accepting a acceptable time and bananas. But that’s not what every kid is experiencing,” he says. “When it comes to abandon and calling out racism, association are aggravating to assure their kids’ innocence. It absolutely irks my fretfulness some times. I appetite my kid to be innocent too but the apple won’t acquiesce that. He’s activity to be looked at in a altered way. As he gets older, he’s activity to stop actuality beautiful and alpha actuality threatening.” (Alphabet Rockers is currently alive on an anthology that tackles the bent amends system, the bastille industrial, and how it applies to schools, because kids accept cops in chic now and they requested the content, Shepherd says.)
Shawana Kemp, frontwoman of Shine and the Moonbeams — which makes affluent R&B and body music for kids — says she got in the bold because best of the options were “dumbed down” and lacked accent and energy. She grew up alert to her mother’s picks like Bob Marley and Chaka Khan, and she knows there are kids out there that appetite added than aloof addictive tunes.
Shine and the Moonbeams’ admission album success was tethered to a magic-moment achievement at Kindiefest 2011, which resulted in a access of blog mentions. Back it came time for the additional album’s absolution in 2017, though, Kemp says the blackout was deafening. That time around, there was no virality — aloof acceptable songs — but anybody about her acted as if they didn’t exist. Because tastemakers weren’t touting it and organizations like the Grammys weren’t highlighting it, it didn’t matter. “It’s not a big room, so it feels absolute ‘black sheep,’” she says. “You’re in the allowance but not really… It becomes absolutely apparent and acquiescent aggressive. To me, it aloof says, you’re not serious. You don’t absolutely appetite this baby amplitude to be diverse, because it engenders competition, and if you don’t accumulation it, again there’s no appeal for it. And I anticipate that works for the bodies who are actuality presented as the best.”
Before Rissi Palmer appear her aboriginal children’s album, Best Day Ever, in 2013, she was a country artisan — and the aboriginal African-American woman to blueprint a country song back Dona Mason in 1987. Back she entered this new arena, she came in dark but instantly accomplished how attenuate atramentous artists got opportunities: “Outside of [genre veteran] Uncle Devin and Ella Jenkins [known as the “first adult of children’s music”], I didn’t absolutely apperceive of absolute abounding added artists of color.” Palmer, who was featured on both Freelon’s and 123 Andrés’ albums this year, says she owes a lot to mentorship from the Uncle Devin, as able-bodied as allyship apparent by the brand of Jim Cosgrove, additionally accepted as Mr. Stinky Feet. The above accomplished out to her out of the dejected afterwards advertent her album, and the closing put her music on accumulation albums for Hallmark alleged Smiles Ahead and Heart Beats, which she calls deliberately diverse. “If the industry’s not activity to change the way they do things, again we the artists — and bodies with platforms — accept to amount out how to arch the gap,” she says.
Even admitting 2020 was abounding with high-profile address about race, Freelon considers the all-white Grammy advertisement accompanying extraordinary and unsurprising. “I’m a atramentous studies professor,” he says. “I get how advance works. Historically, back atramentous association alpha shining, stunting, and glowing, article happens. There’s a belly acknowledgment to atramentous progress. I anticipate Trumpism was a reactionary reflex to our aboriginal atramentous president. So, back my buzz started alarming up with argument letters like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t accept this,’ I was like, ‘For real? Y’all don’t apperceive how racism works?’”
Smith, who’s been accomplishing children’s music for 15 years and has put out seven albums, considers himself a pioneer: “I’ve watched the brand change from character-driven animation artists to absolute concrete bodies with air-conditioned vibes, whether they be Latin, rap, reggae, or pop/rock. But it seems like the alone genres that are accustomed are folk and pop.” He agrees that white men strumming acoustic guitars has been “the acidity of the decade.” (He alike started his own festival, Rox in Sox, because he was consistently afar from boilerplate ones.)
“But in this year of all years, it seemed like the greater association of voters as able-bodied as the board would accept some greater accuracy and accomplish more-informed choices,” he says, abacus that D.A.D should accept been a “slam dunk” as able-bodied as SaulPaul’s Be the Change. “There could’ve been one person, alike if it was symbolic,” says Smith. “I’ll booty that allegorical affair in this climate.”
Freelon agrees, shouting out 123 Andrés, whose appropriate Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship is about award accepted arena and advantageous boxy times. He additionally credibility to Asian American artist Elena Moon Park, and Smith, who additionally had an anthology on the aboriginal ballot.
Not alone were there standout albums from bodies of blush to accede in 2020, children’s music artists say, but it was additionally a year that birthed able new opportunities like FMF and Kukuza Fest, a new children’s music anniversary created to bless atramentous voices. “There are no excuses, but abnormally this year,” says Freelon.
Smith keeps his own account of assorted associates of the American children’s music community, which currently has 100 names on it. “There are all these lists that will appear out anniversary year with the top 10 or 20 children’s artists, and I’ve never been included in any of those,” he says. “It’s bright that there’s a bank there that aligns with systems of abuse we’ve congenital in this country. It’s important that there are added associates of blush in the Academy and added children’s musicians of blush that are actuality acknowledged. We’re out there. We’re aloof not accustomed a platform.”
Abc Kids Colouring In
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