Music Notes|

Inside the Smithsonian: Denver’s own Erica Brown

From Erica Brown on Fb, 6/16/20: CAUTION!!! This is a long read, so proceed at your own risk, and this is not a pretty read. This next piece I’m sharing. I had to think deeply about and sit with it for a minute before I could write about it. It came from a place of irritation, and that is never a good place to write from, because the anger you must master to be heard clearly can get lost in translation.

Blues Music was not originally created for mass consumption. But when folks like Alan Lomax started to record it, and music labels started churning out “Race Music”, the game changed. We’ve (black blues musicians) been swimming in those waters ever since.

Which brings me to the point of this post. If you are a non-black musician that identifies as a BLUES musician, and having any kind of success with it, you are directly profiting off of the hopes, fears and struggle of my People, early musicians who had to hide their outrage in coded messages in order to survive the music industry they found themselves in.

So when I read about White “blues musicians” who are continuously putting out music and calling it “Blues”, and making money off of it, but then at the same time staying silent about the outrageous situation Black people find themselves in today, my blood absolutely boils.

How dare you appropriate our music to get heard and make a living YOURSELF, but not speak out about the injustice of the people who are directly responsible for your living??? That to me is White Privilege at its finest. You can sit back in your comfortable, safe little bubble and play every blues venue and festival there is and let the world flow around you, which includes often being chosen over Black Artists.

Let me be really clear here. I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS WHAT ELSE YOU ARE DOING FOR THE STRUGGLE – I NEED YOU TO BE A TRUE ALLY AND OPEN YOUR MOUTH ABOUT THE INJUSTICE. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? That you might have a cancellation because you said something? You might be targeted for online or other abuse?? Well, welcome to MY world. You are fine collecting that check and those royalties off our genre, but not to SPEAK UP in support of the people who make your living possible. If you’re reading this and are offended, I DON’T CARE! UNFRIEND ME. However it may be a time for you to examine your role in White Privilege, and how you benefit.

You know who you are. And there are a fair number of you out there, and I know who some of you are. I don’t need to out you on this forum, I’m just making you aware that I’m hip to your game. And I’ve lost respect for you because of it.

Now, I know YOUR life doesn’t live on my love or die on my hate, but MINE DOES. My living depends on more than just Black folk supporting my music and helping me survive in this business. I live in a World where I, as a dark-skinned Black Woman, feel under constant threat – whether overtly or covertly. There are many Karens and Beckys and Police and others out there just waiting for me, and I know it. And I dread running into them, because all I want to do is live my life in peace and prosperity the same as you.

So, as you continue your Recording and Touring, remember who is REALLY responsible for your success. What’s that saying? IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. Well, the whole world is seeing something right now, and if you ACTUALLY want to help, SAY SOMETHING.


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