RE:IMI Releases George Floyd-Inspired UK Music Industry Race/Ethnicity And Racism-Facing Report On The 3rd Month Of His Murder*
RE:IMI (Race Equality: In Music Industry), the race/ethnicity-facing strand of BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC), today formally launches the BARRE Register of race/ethnicity and racism links, and releases the ‘RE:IMI Black Out Tuesday UK Music Industry Race Diversity Report’, three months after the Afriphobic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The report is primarily based on interviews with CEOs and senior executives of ten UK music industry organisations, namely AIM (Association of Independent Music), BPI (British Phonographic Industry), Help Musicians, Ivors Academy, MMF (Music Managers Forum), MPA (Music Publishers Association, MU (Musicians’ Union), PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd), PRS for Music (Performing Right Society), and UK Music, and is focused on UK’s Africans (African is used to describe all people of African heritage, irrespective of antecedents) and AAME (African, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities.
The report is the result of the UK music industry’s unanimous support for the US music industry’s June 2 #BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused initiatives and protest at the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Africans killed by US police.
The “exploratory conversations” between RE:IMI co-ordinator Kwaku and EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) expert Anthony Wilkes and the music organisations, centred on the organisations’ race/ethnicity and anti-racism programmes, with a focus on Africans and Afriphobia, which is anti-African racism.
The conversations reveal what staff did on June 2 and the period immediately after. Some spent the time familiarising themselves with African history and racism, by reading books on African history and anti-racism, particularly Afriphobia, and discussing how to redress the structural and systemic racism within their organisations.
Priority areas include programmes to attract more staff from AAME communities, particularly Africans. Some have already developed or are in the process of developing programmes particularly to increase AAME representation across leadership teams and boards, and there are either reviews or implementations of programmes to support career development of African staff.
The report also includes an updated review of how the industry has responded since the interviews. There have been grants aimed at African creators, such as those recently offered MOBO/Help Musicians Fund and PRS Foundation’s Sustaining Creativity Fund.
Additionally, the Foundation stands to gain a substantial amount from Beggars Group CEO Paul Redding’s September English Channel swim crowdfunding, which will be targeted at African music creators and industry professionals.
Major companies such as Sony Music and independents such as Ditto Music, have announced funds to support a mixture of social justice and anti-racism programmes, and African creatives.
MMF has started its MMF Unite African history and culture Zoom meetings for managers. MMF and the MU have since instituted free three month membership schemes, which although aimed generally, have a focus on attracting African members.
Some organisations, such as PPL have publicly stated their responses to calls to action for the industry by the Black Music Coalition, a new organisation focused on the development of African music executives, and to the Women in CTRL diversity pledge, which has made demands for better representation of women and African women in its ‘A Seat At The Table’ report.
RE:IMI and BBM/BMC support the Women In CTRL diversity pledge, and are co-signatories to the #NoSilenceInMusic campaign, which has garnered hundreds of music creators and industry personnel in support of an anti-discrimination focus, which includes Afriphobia, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Recent increases in race/ethnicity and gender representations include the appointment of two industryites of African heritage, Mulika Sannie and Kwame Kwaten, as trustees of the BRIT Trust, in an “ongoing refresh at the BRIT Awards’ funded charity”.
RE:IMI started some five years ago, when genre and ethnicity issues within the music industry generally, and more specifically the lack of black music representation in the BRIT Awards, led to the #BritsSoWhite campaign. Its aim was to highlight race/ethnicity deficits and racism, and support the music industry in addressing them. After some inactivity, it was revived in June, following the music industry’s uncharacteristically forthright display of solidarity and allyship with with African communities, following the death of George Floyd.
”Blatant Afriphobia led to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, and any attempt to address this endemic problem must include African-focused initiatives” says Kwaku.
“Floyd’s unfortunate murder has left a legacy, which is the music industry’s ability to now speak candidly about racism, particularly Afriphobia, and the structural inequalities that impacts adversely on Africans and people from marginalised communities,” says Kwaku.
Also being revived by BBM/BMC is the BAAR (British Artists Against Racism) strand. “We are however quietly recruiting artists who are prepared to wear their anti-racism stance on their sleeve,” adds Kwaku
RE:IMI and African identity advocacy group TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) officially launch today the BARRE Register. It’s an online repository containing information on race/ethnicity, racism and Afriphobia within the music and creative industries, and links to documents to support HR (Human Resources) departments, including what is hoped will be a growing collection highlighting EDI best practice to help jump start other industry organisations and companies in developing proven race/ethnicity-facing diversity programmes.
The point of the RE:IMI report says Kwaku, is to remind specifically the respondent organisations and the music industry in general, of their plans and commitments; and for stakeholders, including music fans, civil society organisations, and African communities, to be aware of what the music industry is doing, now that Floyd’s death has ushered in an atmosphere for frank talking about racism and Afriphobia.
”Blatant Afriphobia led to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, and any attempt to address this endemic problem must include African-focused initiatives,” says Kwaku.
Bearing in mind that George Floyd’s murder was the culmination of global, institutional systems of racialised violence targeting people of African heritage i.e. Afriphobia:
The report’s recommendations are:
1. Any anti-racist initiative should include specific measures aimed at redressing Afriphobia and should directly benefit people of African heritage.
2. Terminology such as BAME should be replaced with the acronym AAME (African, Asian, Minority Ethnic), and use of more accurate and specific words, such as African and Afriphobia be widely adopted in diversity and anti-racist discourse and literature.
3. Effective and holistic African-focused anti-racist and EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) programmes must be coupled with an African history and culture component, and should prioritise employing independent guidance from African experts.
4. The implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the progress of African-focused anti-racist and EDI initiatives must utilise meaningful, intersectional metrics. All organisation strategic plans should contain a specific commitment to EDI that is appropriately resourced and supported by an EDI operational action plan.
5. EDI programmes and practice must be an open process that is reviewed regularly with findings publicised both internally within the organisation, and externally publicised, so that stakeholders in and outside of the music industry are made aware and able to respond to these music industry initiatives, if necessary.
6. Annual board reports should include an EDI section that sets out qualitative and quantitative data indicating how the organisation is promoting equality of opportunity and eliminating discrimination, particularly in respect of employees and stakeholders from AAME communities.
7. Whilst it is important to increase recruitment from African and minority communities to fulfil diversity requirements, this should not be solely a quantitative exercise, approached in a tick-box manner. Such recruitment must be coupled with a qualitative evaluation that focuses on the candidate’s values, skill set, reputation in the field and capacity (or coupled where necessary with training) to deliver on EDI goals.
Considering the inordinate contribution made by black music to reinvigorating pop music genres and music industry revenues, and the fact that people of African heritage invariably bear the brunt of racism:
8. Music industry organisations have a corporate social responsibility to establish sustainable pathways that directly engage with African communities; offer funding to support African-run creative programmes, or scholarships for people of African heritage to study at conservatoires or tertiary institutions. Community black music organisations should be offered gratis or discounted places to music industry events, particularly those covering training or networking.
The report can be accessed at www.bitly.com/REIMIBOTUKMusic.
Finally, TAOBQ is also a co-organiser of the African History Reflection Day 2020: Interrogating Language Of Identity Zoom meeting on Monday Aug. 31, 6-9pm. It’s an opportunity, particularly for teachers, anti-racism and decolonisation activists, and EDI and HR professionals to explore identity terminologies from a British African perspective. Booking details can be accessed at www.bitly.com/AHRDIdentityLanguage.
*This is the full, first draft – the final, abridged version can be found here.