In the spring of 2020, the US came to terms with its role in racial inequality on the heels of a tragedy: the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. That singular moment forced many, including those in the music business, to commit funds and action. It also gave birth to the Black Music Action Coalition, a collective of Black creators, activists, and changemakers who have diligently kept the issue in the headlines and in the minds of corporate parents.
On September 22, the organization, whose leadership includes industry veterans Damien Smith, Caron Veazey and Shawn Holiday, among others. — holds its second annual Music in Action gala in Beverly Hills, where honorees include Lil Baby, Sony Music Publishing President Jon Platt, Kevin Liles of 300 Elektra Entertainment and 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones. It promises to be a gathering of heavyweights, like last year’s kickoff party: Variety he’s a media patron: he drew the Weeknd, Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam, and lawyer Ben Crump.
BMAC has been busy in the months since releasing a series of reports addressing diversity, social justice and bias. His latest, “Three Chords and the Actual Truth,” is headed to Nashville, prompted by a video of singer Morgan Wallen using a racial slur. The data collected by BMAC goes back to “the beginning of the business surrounding country music, which has historically been segregated,” says BMAC co-founder and co-chairman Willie “Prophet” Stiggers. Variety.
To help lessen financial disparities affecting the city’s underserved groups, BMAC developed a $1,000 per month Nashville-based basic income program for emerging black artists. “We wanted to use Nashville as a model,” says Stiggers. “We think if we can do well there, we can do well anywhere in the country.”
Meeting Wallen directly, however, did not have the impact BMAC had hoped. “It was a missed opportunity,” says Stiggers. “It wasn’t just that an insult was said. He talked about how black America and white America coexist in this country. That was an opportunity for this generation to make a difference.”
Still, BMAC’s resolve stands as it traverses difficult ground, such as advocating to eliminate the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials and its call to ban Confederate flags from public appearances. He is also actively working on legislation to close the wealth gap in the US, and with legacy artists and other influential figures to change business practices within the music industry.
The awards at Thursday’s gala are as follows: Lil Baby (Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award); manager David Ali (the BMAC BLACK Award: Future. Now.); Amazon Music and the Recording Academy (BMAC Social Impact Award); attorney and author Brittany K. Barnett and Joi Brown of Culture Creators (the BMAC Change Agent Award); Congresswoman Maxine Waters (BMAC Icon Award); and billboard executive director, R&B/Hip-Hop Gail Mitchell along with variety Executive Music Publisher Shirley Halperin herself will receive the BMAC 365 Award which recognizes “an individual, company or organization that has consistently supported social change throughout the year.”
Pictured (from left): Damien Smith, Caron Veazey, Willie ‘Prophet’ Stiggers, Ashaunna Ayars, Shawn Holiday, Jamil Davis