'Music has the power to bring about social change': Kanya King on Black Out Tuesday & what the music biz must do next

Kanya King

In the new issue of Music Week, we speak to a host of key names from the black music community to look at the impact the #TheShowMustBePaused initiative had on the industry.

MOBO founder and CEO Kanya King CBE has been campaigning for greater representation for black music since launching the MOBO Awards in 1996. Here, in a specially composed piece, King – recipient of the Media Pioneer Award at the 2016 Music Week Women In Music Awards – writes about her industry experiences and calls for the business to work together to eradicate racial injustice… 

“The current events are symptoms of deep and long-standing problems in our society and must be addressed on both a personal and systemic level.

These events demonstrate the inequalities that black and other diverse communities have experienced for many decades. We, as a powerful and influential industry, must strengthen our determination to do more, both as individuals and as a collective, to put an end to this injustice once and for all.

Black Out Tuesday was a great initiative and opportunity for organisations to hopefully start working together to effectively support efforts to eradicate racial injustice, discrimination and inequality.

I hope these perilous times will be a badly needed catalyst for new work, new ways, new movements and, ultimately, systemic change

Kanya King

Music and entertainment have always had that power to unite communities to give people a voice and work together to bring about social change. Anguish has been a potent artistic drive to voice injustices and empower movements. With the amazing platforms artists have, it was great to see so many using them to spread their solidarity. I only hope that these perilous times will be that badly needed catalyst for new work, new ways, new movements and ultimately systemic change and that is why we wholeheartedly supported Black Out Tuesday.

However, we need to keep amplifying and ‘living’ the message, as systemic racism cannot be changed without simultaneously creating opportunities for all.

Inequality is why I set up the MOBO Organisation, at a time when there were few leaders who looked like me that I could turn to for support and advice, whenever I felt overwhelmed or marginalised.

Trying to challenge the inequalities that exist out there is a very lonely and isolating existence. Throughout, it has been a fight for fairness and equality, never giving up, showing relentless determination, perseverance combined with a lot of hope.

Even though I have been working in the music business for nearly 25 years and have made so many sacrifices to support this cause, it doesn’t get any easier. It has been truly exhausting continuously having to reach out to others to see how we can work together to make necessary changes to the benefit of all.

Where the music industry needs help is being comfortable talking about race and to black organisations who have been in this space for a long time.

I have been told that, when I have these conversations, I am playing the race card – which is something I have never done. To hear that is hurtful, as it is often said to silence people and shame them into not mentioning racism, which doesn’t progress the situation.

We feel that we need to work together, communicate, collaborate, mobilise, share best practices and create long term opportunities – starting with mapping out gaps in representation and seeing where we can start strategic, targeted recruitment of the groups that are under-represented, as well as providing mentorship with structured and supported skills development. Such benefits can work both ways on a mutual journey towards excellence, inclusivity and growth. Employers need to monitor and review the access that diverse talent has to training and development programmes.

This is why we have recently started working on a design for a new platform that will provide opportunities by connecting organisations to a pool of diverse talent in music and beyond. We want to stress the importance of bringing black talent and organisations together with the aim of building a more representative future workforce through connections, shared opportunities and talent discovery.

This vision that binds us will provide a more diverse foundation, where talent is not wasted and where the music industry can flourish even more – and develop for the benefit of the economy and the whole of the human race.”

* For more on #TheShowMustBePaused see the new issue of Music Week, available in print and digital editions now. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, sign up to our digital issue by clicking here.

PHOTO: MOBO Organisation

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