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Recording Academy, Amazon Music Reaching Out to HBCU Students

Black Music Collective Reckons with Lack of Diversity and Inclusion in Multimillion-Dollar Industry

The Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective (BMC) has announced a new multi-year mentorship and scholarship program in partnership with Amazon Music for students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Select students will receive scholarships from Amazon Music and get the opportunity to network with mentors to learn all facets of the music industry.

Made possible by BMC, a group of prominent Black music creators and professionals within the academy, the goal is to help amplify Black voices while helping students live their dream, says the group.

“We are proud that the newly-established Black Music Collective is already making an impact in developing the next generation of Black talent in music and creating a direct pipeline to career opportunities,” said Harvey Mason Jr., head of the Recording Academy.

“This is a collaborative industry, and we’re incredibly grateful to our partners at Amazon Music for being equally committed to cultivating a more equitable and inclusive music community.”

The Black Music Collective will select three students enrolled at an HBCU for $10,000 scholarships each for the 2021-2022 school year. Applications will be available beginning in the summer of 2021.

Winners will also participate in a two-week program to rotate with Amazon Music department heads.

Additionally, Amazon Music says it will provide a $20,000 donation for musical equipment to two HBCU music programs.

“We’ve teamed up with the Black Music Collective to build this program, and ensure we’re taking the steps toward creating an inclusive environment where Black creators can realize their career objectives,” said Ryan Redington, Vice President of Music Industry at Amazon Music. “We couldn’t have asked for better partners to develop a multi-year commitment with, that will utilize our resources to give students more opportunities to reach their own goals while ushering in a new generation of Black leaders.”

The partnership with the Black Music Collective and Amazon Music is the latest effort by the academy as part of its ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The program was developed to counter criticism that Black performers are not recognized in the Grammy award process and was amplified when Beyonce’s groundbreaking album “Lemonade” was snubbed in the Album of the Year category at the 2017 Grammy Awards, according to fans and music professionals.

In March 2018, the Academy said it sought out to address public concerns by establishing a task force to examine issues of diversity and inclusion within and the broader music community.

One of the things the task force discovered immediately is what was termed gender disparity within nomination review committees, who play a specific role with respect to the selection of Grammy Award nominees including the “Big Four” awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.

“However, despite the indisputable importance of these committees, they have historically not included members that reflect the demographics of society at large,” the Task Force report concluded.

“For example, between 2015 and 2018, 71 percent of the national governance committee members were men, while only 29 percent were female; and between 2015 and 2017 the members of the nomination review committees in the aggregate were 74 percent male, 26 percent female.”

“As a result of this work, the demographic disparities were addressed almost immediately. In the aggregate, the individuals appointed as members of the nomination review committees for the 61st Grammy Awards were 51 percent female—a significant improvement over the 26 percent number in prior years referenced above.”

Along with many structural and policy changes the task force recommended the academy find a diversity and inclusion officer as well as launch broader initiatives like the Black Music Collective.

“We aspire to be a leader in creating a diverse and inclusive culture at the Recording Academy, across our affiliates and in the music industry and recognize that equity requires a deep commitment to action and a long-term plan to drive systemic change,” said Valeisha Butterfield Jones, chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We’re committed to the work ahead.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com. E-mail: Swright@washingtoninformer.com Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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