On Thursday, just 15 months after it was formed, the Black Music Action Coalition will host its inaugural Music in Action Awards gala in Los Angeles, honoring musicians, executives, businesses, entrepreneurs, and activists who have made significant contributions to social justice, change, and/or equity over the preceding year.
BMAC, which was formed after the transformative yet all-too-familiar events leading up to the Black Lives Matter protests last spring, will present awards to YouTube Music and Shawn Gee of Live Nation Urban (BMAC Social Impact Award); Motown chairman Ethiopia Habtemariam and YouTube’s Tuma Basa (the Clarence Avant Trailblazer Award); Aurora James, Dina LaPolt and Ben Crump (BMAC Agent of Change Award); and to the Weeknd and H.E.R. (the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award).
According to the announcement, the artists, executives and activists BMAC has chosen to honor this year “have all exemplified what it means to uphold the values of striving for racial justice and equality within the music industry and broader society.
“The Weeknd and H.E.R. have both used their platforms to call attention to racial and social injustice and raise awareness globally,” it continues. Habtemariam, Basa and Gee “have used their positioning to create opportunities and access for Black artists and Black music.” Fashion designer James, whose luxury brand Brother Vellies was founded on the principle of keeping traditional African design practices alive and creating sustainable, artisanal jobs, “has used her humanitarian ethos to also create space for other artists in the design space.” Last year the designer founded The Fifteen Percent Pledge, which urges the largest retailers to commit 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
Crump is an attorney and activist who has championed cases such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and George Floyd, those poisoned during the Flint water crisis, and other cases that have impacted the Black community. LaPolt is an entertainment attorney and artist-rights advocate who has been involved in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of the music community, including her pivotal work with Congress to craft and introduce the Music Modernization Act, which effectively changed the way songwriters are paid for use of their works.
The event will also highlight several of BMAC’s first-year efforts, including the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and the annual Music Industry Action Report Card, which offered a middling grade to the music industry’s progress towards achieving racial justice and equity thus far. (Variety is a media sponsor of the event.)
BMAC co-founder/co-chair Prophet, CEO of 50fty Music Group, said in a statement: “While many chose to just talk about it or post about it, some actually did something about it. We have witnessed an extraordinary amount of dedication, commitment and action from some amazing artists, executives, entrepreneurs and activists fighting for racial equity and using their platforms to impact real change over the past year. Moving past the Hashtags and Optics. Black Music Action Coalition recognizes there are many more miles on this road to eradicating systemic racism but we must celebrate and encourage each other along the way.”
BMAC Co-Founder and Vice Chair Caron Veazey, founder of the Something in Common management and consulting firm, tells Variety, “Last year, even during a pandemic, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd led people to go out into the streets and protest. But keeping up that same energy is a whole different effort, and that’s why we want to shine a light on those who have kept the advocacy effort going — and not just in their private lives but in their work, as well. This is our first awards event, and hopefully other artists and executives will see it and be inspired — and then we’ll have a whole new group join the advocacy effort. This is not one and done — we will continue doing the work to make change.”