As a result of one of the most disturbing eras of blatant American racism in a generation, Black musicians and industry veterans are holding a conversation to accelerate racial equity in Americana, one of our nation’s most essential musical genres. On Thursday, August 20th, at 1 PM PDT/4 PM EST, Black Equity in Americana: A Conversation will occur. The live Zoom panel streaming on Facebook via the Americana Music Association’s Facebook page will feature an honest, restorative dialogue featuring a group of Americana music’s top Black artists and creative professionals.
The panelists scheduled diversely represent Black experiences and future expectations across Black culture in Americana music:
Adia Victoria – Gothic Blues Artist
Jason Galaz – Muddy Roots Music Festival Organizer
Kamara Thomas – Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter/Storyteller
Lilli Lewis – Artist, Louisiana Red Hot Records General Manager and Head of A&R
Rev. Sekou – Musician, Theologian, and Activist
The discussion will be moderated by seasoned freelance music journalist Marcus K. Dowling. In the past year, the Washington, DC native’s words have been published by Bitter Southerner, The Boot, Vibe, Mixmag, Water and Music, the Washington City Paper, and countless others.
The August 20th livestreamed panel is aimed at advocating for a more significant presence for Black artists and industry leaders as stakeholders more broadly represented in Americana’s present and future. For nearly three centuries, Americana music has celebrated the soulful, multi-ethnic, and communal essence of the American experience. However, throughout the country’s -- and by extension -- the genre’s history, minimal representation of Black artists has been a constant. Given that gospel, blues, and soul are intrinsic to Americana as a musical genre, this has too long been a problematic issue and must be remedied.
A dynamic group of well-respected, Black, and activist-minded Americana musicians and professionals will discuss methods for enacting systemic change bearing sustainable impact. The first of what will likely be numerous conversations, this impacting moment sets the table for an exciting future.
A follow-up panel on Black Equity in Americana has also been scheduled for the Americana Music Association’s Thriving Roots Conference September 16-18, 2020.
Marcus K. Dowling, Moderator
Marcus K. Dowling is a journalist, broadcaster, and entrepreneur. In the past ten years, he has aided creative entrepreneurs in the arts and entertainment industries in earning over $25 million in gross revenue. As a writer he regularly contributes to the likes of Bitter Southerner, VICE, Pitchfork, Complex, Bandcamp, Mixmag, ESPN's Undefeated, Medium's LEVEL, and more.
Adia Victoria, Panelist
Adia (UH-DEE-YUH) Victoria is a poet, blues artist and southern folklorist from South Carolina. Her latest album Silences was produced by Aaron Dessner and is available on Atlantic Records. She mostly tries to mind her own business.
Jason Galaz, Panelist
Jason Galaz, a California transplant living in Nashville, Tennessee. Host of boutique music festivals across the U.S. and Europe with focus on DIY ethos and independent music in between genres. Also a member of the National Association of Hispanic Realtors, an organization dedicated to sustainable advancement of Hispanic homeownership.
Kamara Thomas, Panelist
Kamara Thomas is a singer, songspeller, mythology fanatic, and multi-disciplinary storyteller based in Durham, NC. She will release her new album Tularosa: An American Dreamtime in 2021. Kamara was named one of the “14 Artists Proving Black Americana is Real” by Paste Magazine and she is currently spearheading "Country Soul Songbook," an artist-driven performance and documentary project spotlighting underrepresented voices in Country and Americana music.
Lilli Lewis, Panelist
Known in New Orleans as the “Folk Rock Diva,” Lilli Lewis is the Chief Operating Officer for Marketing, Merchandising, Licensing and Distribution firm, SunRea Enterprises, LLC. Three time recipient of OffBeat Magazine’s “Record Label of the Year” while General Manager and A&R Head for New Orleans’ long-standing Louisiana Red Hot Records, she is also Community Radio Show Co-host for “The Internal Weather Report” on 102.3 FM, WHIV New Orleans and a guest writer for OffBeat Magazine. Trained as opera singer and classical pianist, Lilli has enjoyed life as a DIYer in the music industry as composer, producer and performing artist for over 20 years.
Rev. Sekou, Panelist
Raised in the rural Arkansas Delta, Rev. Sekou is the Interim Executive Director of Worker Interfaith Network in Memphis—focusing on supporting low-wage workers. Rev. was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute at the time of Michael Brown Jr.’s killing, and traveled to Ferguson in mid-August 2014 on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (the country’s oldest interfaith peace organization) to organize alongside local and national groups. Rev. Sekou has written two collections of essays— Urbansouls: Meditations on Youth, Hip Hop, and Religion and Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy. He has written widely on the 2011 killing of Mark Duggan by British police and the subsequent London riots, and is the author of the forthcoming Riot Music: Race, Hip Hop and the Meaning of the London Riots (Hamilton Books). With the Deep Abiding Love Project, he has helped train over ten thousand clergy and activists in militant nonviolent civil disobedience through the United States. He spent six weeks on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, training clergy in response to the Unite the Right rally. Rev. Sekou has released three albums—The Revolution Has Come (2016), In Times Likes Theses (2017), and When We Fight, We Win: Live in Memphis (2019). He has toured the world and delivered “one of the most rousing Tiny Desk concerts,” according to Bob Boilen of NPR.