Business

One Year Later, Activists Still Hold the Industry Accountable

Flo Ngala

Brianna Agyemang (left) and Jamila Thomas photographed on June 7, 2020 at
Ode to Babel in Brooklyn.

This story is part of Billboard's 2021 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players package. Read the list in full here.

A year later, the quest remains the same. #TheShowMustBePaused and the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) steadfastly continue their fight to achieve sustainable racial diversity, equity and inclusion in the music industry.

After #TheShowMustBePaused co-founders Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas brought the multibillion-dollar industry to a standstill on June 2, 2020 (marked by black boxes on social media), that day of reckoning inspired some immediate action. Major labels and other companies established funds to donate to various Black community organizations. Task forces were created to support Black employees and executives advocating for in-house change. Black diversity, equity and inclusion officers were hired. And Sony, BMG and other firms launched initiatives to cancel recoupments and fix inequities in royalty payments to legacy artists.

Those efforts, however, only warranted a passing grade when the BMAC released its first Music Industry Action Report Card in June. Headed by co-presidents/co-chairs Binta Niambi Brown and Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, the BMAC — a coalition of Black artists, managers, attorneys and allies — voiced serious concerns at its findings.

“Many of the changes appear to be surface,” Brown told Billboard following the release of the 37-page report. “They appear to be just enough as opposed to manifesting a deep, internal churning and transformational change leading toward true equity. When it comes to justice, average isn’t good enough.” Moving forward, the BMAC plans to annually expand its report until it “represents a 360-degree view of the industry and is acknowledged and respected as a standard and official tool of accountability.”

Agyemang and Thomas of #TheShowMustBePaused are doubling down on their commitment as well. In a statement released June 2, the duo announced its Still Paused public self-accountability report, asking music companies and industry professionals for “five things your company has done to push the industry toward equitable change in the past year. The launch of this new initiative marks us formally asking people to turn their black boxes into actionable change for individuals and companies alike.”

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 7, 2021, issue of Billboard.