John Legend, Janelle Monae to Lead Recording Academy’s First ‘Black Music Collective’ Event

Samantha Hissong
·2 min read

The Recording Academy is trying. Almost a year after the institution welcomed its first Chief Diversity Officer — following many years of backlash regarding racial inequality — Grammy organizers have announced a new satellite event focused on amplifying black voices.

On Wednesday, the Recording Academy revealed that H.E.R., Yolanda Adams, PJ Morton, and Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist — first-time Grammy nominees for their collaborative album, Alfredo — were scheduled to perform at its Black Music Collective’s (BMC’s) inaugural Grammy-week event. The BMC-hosted gathering, which will take place virtually on Grammy.com, is set for Wednesday, March 10th, four days before this year’s unprecedented Grammys telecast.

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According to a press release, John Legend, Janelle Monáe, Issa Rae, and activist Tamika Mallory are expected to lead “fireside chats regarding the Black experience in the wake of social justice,” along with the Recording Academy’s Chair and Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Valeisha Butterfield Jones. Legendary producer Quincy Jones, hitmaker Jimmy Jam, Universal Music Group executive Jeff Harleston, who specializes in business and legal affairs, and BET’s former chairman/CEO Debra Lee will also reflect on the following topics: The Impact of Black Music, The Culture Shifting Power of Black Music, Impact of Black Women in Music, and the Power, Purpose, and Progress of the State of Black Music.

The BMC, which was created in September 2020, will “continue to foster a space for members and industry professionals to educate and elevate Black creators during Grammy week and beyond,” Mason Jr. said in a statement. BMC chair and Atlantic Records executive Riggs Morales added: “We are thrilled to announce this virtual program as the BMC continues to celebrate Black music and those who share our mission to foster and accelerate Black representation, equity and inclusion throughout the music industry. The Black Music Collective will continue to tailor events for Black creators to feel uplifted and supported and we are excited for this Grammy kickoff.”

Awkwardly, these concerted attempts at amplification come the same year that the Grammys refused to utter The Weeknd’s name, allowing an egregious snub that ignored one of the biggest albums and songs of the year, but it’s clear the organizations is having meaningful conversations around overall representation.

When Rolling Stone asked if there were plans to turn the event into an annual tradition, an Academy rep said, “There are plans for future BMC events, but at this time, we do not have specific information on the possibility of future Grammy-week-specific events.” Attendance for this year’s event is free and open to the public with no registration or RSVP requirements.

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