The ongoing conversation around acknowledging the contributions of Black artists who remain muted in white spaces spurred up again with the announcement of the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees.
Eight nominees this year are Black artists which include: Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Chaka Khan, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick and Tom Morello, co-founder of nominee Rage Against The Machine, who is bi-racial.
Jay-Z, Turner, Warwick and Kuti celebrate their first nomination, while Blige, Khan, and LL Cool J have been previously nominated, according to Rolling Stone. Inductees will be announced in May with a live induction ceremony slated later in the year permitting the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While all of the nominees have arguably contributed to the music industry in their own way, Black artists, as well as their erasure, remain a central topic of conversation. Without Black creators, the genre of Rock & Roll would not exist.
Each year Twitter implodes with the announcement of award show nominees and honors, where Black creatives are routinely left without acknowledgement by their peers for their contributions in art, music, film and tech.
Many were surprised to learn that artists with significant cultural impact whose careers have spanned decades like Warwick, Khan and Kuti weren’t already inducted into the Rock Hall.
Most of this is due to the ways nominees are selected, which is left up to a group of industry peers or insiders. And due to the fact that many of the abovementioned careers still struggle with their own particular brand of diversity or “inclusivity,” a vast majority of voting members are often white.
In terms of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, nominees are selected on the basis that an artist cannot be nominated until their first commercial recording is 25-years-old. While the nominees for the Rock Hall aren’t necessarily swayed by record sales like other awards shows, the process remains relatively secretive and takes place at the office of Rolling Stone magazine. This year like in 2020, the public will have the opportunity to participate in the selection process.
However moments like this lends to the argument around divesting from mainstream outlets and leaning further into awarding our community members on platforms made for us by us. Outlets like Essence, Ebony, JET, TV One, BET and OWN have paved the way for our art to be celebrated.
It’s a complicated conversation as artists often rely on the public for sustenance and promotion.
In 2017 singer Solange tweeted a noteworthy thread after she was snubbed by the Grammys regarding her 2016 album “A Seat At The Table,” echoing the sentiments of acknowledging our excellence without the white gaze.
“Create your own committees, build your own institutions, give your friends awards, award yourself, and be the gold you wanna hold my g’s,” she wrote.