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Who in Music Is Supporting the Black Community Right Now

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

Last Saturday I attended the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Los Angeles. 

It was very inspiring. For the first hour in Pan Pacific Park right by CBS studios and The Grove (and Canter’s Deli – my favorite), we listened to speeches by black community members. Namely, we heard from family members of people who had been killed by the LAPD and have yet to see justice. We all said their names together over and over again. There were so many names I didn’t know. 

It was estimated there were 40,000 people who attended this rally and march. It was incredible. We marched around The Grove and all took a knee and chanted George Floyd’s name. 

It was completely peaceful until the police showed up, barricaded everyone in and started showing force to disperse the crowd. We had rubber bullets shot at us and we sprinted in the other direction. This is how our police handles peaceful protests? Well, I guess when it’s around black causes, yes. I’m sure you saw on TV the police cars burned and windows smashed on Fairfax. I was there. And witnessed police tires being slashed, windows smashed and cars set on fire – by a white male. It was really disappointing that white people hijacked this peaceful protest to cause chaos. This march was for black lives. 

I will never tell a black person how to feel, think, act or protest because I have not lived in their shoes.

I don’t know what they’re feeling right now. But if you’re a white person who participated in the violence and looting, shame on you. And to the police who shot peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, beat them with batons, tased them, plowed their cars into them, SHAME ON YOU TOO. 

We don’t know the names of most lives taken at the hands of police. And because these killings weren’t filmed, the media and white America doesn’t care. The family members care, but we are able to tune it out, no matter how horrific, because it wasn’t caught on film. I have the luxury to ignore it. This is part of my white privilege. 

“White privilege” is a phrase that many white people are offended by.

If your blood is boiling right now at the mention of it, I challenge you to read on and not turn this dialog off. Resist the urge to come at me with “you just lost a fan.” This is the hard work black America needs white people to do right now. 

Some people think white privilege means that they didn’t work hard or that they are rich. It’s not that at all. 

White privilege simply means that the color of their skin exclusively provides them with benefits and advantages that black people and POC do not get. Like the benefit to drive and not get pulled over. Like how Philando Castile was pulled over 49 times (!!) over the span of 13 years all for minor infractions like turning into a parking lot without a signal – before his final traffic stop where he was murdered by the officer.

White privilege is the ability to wear a hoodie at night and walk down the street without being questioned or murdered like Trayvon Martin. White privilege is walking into a store and not followed. It’s buying something expensive and not assuming credit card fraud. It’s being able to easily get pain meds from the doctor. It’s not being afraid when the police drive by or stop me. It’s being able to smoke weed illegally or commit other small crimes and not worry about it.

It’s being incarcerated 5 times less than black men. It’s receiving a sentence for doing cocaine that’s 100 times lighter than a sentence for smoking crack – because coke is more prominent in white communities and crack in black communities when it’s basically the same drug. It’s qualifying for a mortgage 10 times more than black people in the same financial situation.

It’s being able to riot, burn cars and smash windows after your hockey team wins and being laughed off as ‘dumb kids’ not ’thugs.’ 

It’s not getting the police called on you for an alleged fake $20 bill. It’s not getting killed by the police for doing nothing wrong.   

White privilege does not mean that your life isn’t hard or that you don’t struggle. It simply means that the color of your skin gives you advantages in American society. Plain and simple. 

Girl holding sign explaining what black lives matter means

The history of systemic racism in America is long and well documented.

If you don’t believe white privilege exists or that we’re living in a post-race society because Obama was president, then you are living in a white bubble. And you need a little education. We could all use some more education. 

That’s why on Tuesday, during the music industry’s #TheShowMustBePaused black out day, I encouraged my employees at Ari’s Take to take the day off to listen to speeches by black leaders, read up on institutional racism, donate to causes they believe in, and put in serious work to tune IN this moment instead of tuning it out. I did the same. 

If you are someone who ‘supports the movement,’ but is troubled by the looting, I encourage you to watch Trevor Noah’s speech about it. 

George Floyd, Minneapolis Protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper | The Daily Social Distancing Show

Most music companies around America participated in #TheShowMustBePaused movement and gave their employees the day off to do THE WORK. But some did not. 

We at Ari’s Take made a spreadsheet of music companies who gave their employees the day off, made a statement and have donated to causes that support the black community. 

(We reached out to every company to validate this and many did not get back to us in time for publication. If you would like your company added or updated, please email us: [email protected])

Over the course of the day, the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused had 700K shares, over 70k followers on socials and the initiative hosted over 1.5K black members and allies of the music community via several organized video conferences. They engaged in an organized dialogue and generated ideas on how to effectively make change within the music industry.  

I asked the organizers of #TheShowMustBePaused, two black female executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, what the day was all about. 

“George Floyd was killed on a Monday and the following Tuesday we all went back to work. This should not have been the case and this is why we called for the industry to pause on Tuesday June 2nd,” said Jamila Thomas. 

“The music industry is an industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.” – Jamila Thomas, organizer, #TheShowMustBePaused

She continued, “The point was never to mute ourselves. This was a day to completely disconnect from work and make a difference in our community because we should not normalize what is happening.”

Her co-creator Brianna Agyemang discussed how the movement will move forward after what was popularly referred to as Blackout Tuesday: “[The day] was a strong start to the change we want to make in the industry. We are taking all thoughts and ideas that were gathered and we will be implementing them into Phase 2 of this movement. Next steps are about clarifying needs and mobilizing the people to be the change we wish to see. The goal is to tap into the community at large to create change that is impactful and long lasting.”

We are in an incredible moment in history right now. 

President Obama said at his town hall yesterday, reflecting on the protests and unrest after the death of George Floyd was “unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime.” 

This is not just about the death of George Floyd. Anyone with a conscience who saw that video, was disgusted by it and believes these officers should be convicted of murder. But history shows us that the system is set up to protect cops. It’s why so many police officers are acquitted of horrific crimes – even when there is video evidence. From Rodney King to Tamir Rice to Eric Garner to Philando Castile. These families never got justice. The black community never got justice. 

The system is not broken. It is working exactly how it was designed. 

Let’s not forget that our country was built on slave labor and that our first president owned 123 slaves. The system is setup so that cops get away with murder and abuse. The system is set up so that rich, white America thrives and poor, black America doesn’t. 

If you don’t believe this, I encourage you to read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is one of the most eye opening things I have ever read about the history of systemic racism in America. 

This is not a moment to be silent. It is a revolution. 

Where do you stand? Because you have to take a stand. This is not a time to remain silent. The silence speaks volumes. 

This is why we are holding music companies accountable.

If you are a company that did not give your employees the day off on Tuesday to put in this work, I encourage you to do so. Paid time off. You can afford it. If you care, you’ll participate. 

Change doesn’t need to come from the top down. The top is completely f’d right now. The fact that our President can gas peaceful protesters 25 minutes before curfew and forcibly clear the street so he can take a photo op and members of his party don’t bat an eye, is very telling. Silence on this act discredits defending the Constitution ever again for anything. You can’t pick and choose which rights you want to defend in the Constitution. 

Change comes from the ground up. It starts locally. 

If you want police reform, contact your city council member and ask them what they are planning to do to hold police accountable. Ask them to restructure the city budget so more money is invested in community building projects and less into the police force. It’s proven that by adopting something like The People’s Budget can aid communities a hell of a lot more than police can. 

REAL CHANGE CAN HAPPEN IF YOU STEP UP

If you want to support the black community right now, I encourage you to get out and peacefully protest (get tested for COVID-19 – in LA it’s free and very easy), educate yourself, listen to black leaders in the movement, participate in uncomfortable conversations, donate to causes that support black causes right now like Color of Change, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, Campaign Zero and Black Lives Matter.

Some music companies are taking this a step further.

DistroKid is making it extremely easy for artists to donate a portion of the proceeds of their streams and sales to Color of Change or NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If you use DistroKid for distribution you can do that here. 

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Bandcamp is donating their 15% fee from all purchases on June 19th to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. They have also announced they are allocating an additional $30,000 per year to partner with organizations that fight for racial justice and create opportunities for people of color. 

Spotify enables artists to add a donate button for any organization to their profile (this was announced at the start of the pandemic), but have not made a public statement about whether the company is donating directly.

Here at Ari’s Take, we will be donating $2,500 to Color of Change, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Equal Justice Initiative and Campaign Zero.

And on a personal note, my latest single was distributed with DistroKid so I am participating in the #ArtistsForJustice proceed split and will be donating 20% of the proceeds to Color of Change and will be encouraging my fans to purchase my single on Bandcamp on June 19th. I have also personally donated to a few of these organizations. 

Real change can start with you. It can be as simple as calling out a racist joke you hear from your uncle at Thanksgiving or having an uncomfortable phone conversation with a friend who doesn’t align with you politically. 

It starts now. Are you in or are you out? 

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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