Originally Published: 04 FEB 24 12:16 ET
By Marius Payton
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re also looking at the places where more progress is needed. While artists of color have made strides in the country music industry, Marius Payton takes a closer at why country artists of color say that’s only half the battle.
In a stroll through the National Museum of African American Music, country artists O.N.E. The DUO recognize the celebration of Black artists. But before they can be honored in this museum, they must first win over fans in the Black community.
“It’s already an uphill battle of being a Black person in this environment but also when your own community is giving you the side eye and like you’re over there. And it’s like not really though. Not in the way you think.” said Prana Supreme Diggs, one half of the mother/daughter duo.
With their connections to the Wu Tang Clan, they’ve seen first-hand the support of Black fans for traditional Black genres like rap and R&B. But as they pave their own path in country, they say perception of the “country culture” is a barrier.
“You are already turned off because of the stigma that it has, that we’re not welcome, and let’s not get to talking about the Confederate flags that might be flying.” said Tekitha Washington.
Genre-bending artists like Breland say it’s tough to change minds.
When asked if it felt like he was fighting both sides, his answer was simple.
“Exactly. That’s where we are at.” he said. “Trying to get people in the Black community to champion and understand this cause, and trying to get people in the white community to understand that I’m not trying to do anything that radical, I just want to be able to pursue a dream.”
A dream, like being acknowledged by major titans in the Black music industry like the BET Awards. Right now, the award show doesn’t include country music. No one from country music has ever won an award or even been nominated.
Holly G is the founder of the Black Opry. She recognizes how big of a role marketing plays in attracting black fans.
“If you are a Black consumer and you’re looking around at which genre you want to land in, it’s going to take a lot more effort to want to go to these spaces where you don’t feel you’re represented in any way.” said Holly G.
Those pushing for change say support has to come from the decision-makers at the top of Black entertainment too.
“We have to have an executive there to say, ‘Hey, this is the category,’ and this is the hundreds of Black people making country and Americana music right now.” Washington said. “Let’s create a marketplace for them to have the light put on them.”
A marketplace where music fans, Black and white, realize they have more in common than once thought.
“I feel like hip hop and country are two sides of the same coin.” Diggs said. “They are both heavily story telling genres and the people that are considered the best at either of those genres are amazing storytellers.”
As for the BET Awards, WSMV4 reached out to the organization for an on-camera interview. After an initial response for more clarification, which we gave them, we haven’t heard back.
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