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Assessing the Music Industry's Progress 1 Year After Blackout Tuesday: 'We Need to Build a Bigger Table'

#TheShowMustBePaused and other principals working to achieve sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion assess the industry’s progress so far.

A year ago Wednesday (June 2), Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas brought the music industry to a standstill. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the global protests it spurred, the pair called for a day of racial reckoning — dubbed Blackout Tuesday by supporters — and simultaneously launched #TheShowMustBePaused to hold the industry accountable for its own systemic bias.

“Our mission,” stated Agyemang and Thomas at the time, “is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people, accountable … it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.”

Measuring the change and transparency that has or hasn’t occurred since then is the focal point of a virtual roundtable discussion that Billboard hosted on May 26 to mark the first anniversary of Blackout Tuesday. In addition to #TheShowMustBePaused co-founders Aygemang, senior artist campaign manager at Apple’s Platoon division, and Thomas, vp of artist marketing at Motown, the roundtable features Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-chair/co-founder of the Black Music Action Coalition and CEO of 50/50 Music Group Management; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer at The Recording Academy; and David Linton, chairman of the Living Legends Foundation and program director of WCLK in Atlanta.

From their frontline vantage points, the quintet describes the past year as being one of assessment: determining all the gaps and opportunities that need to be addressed. In turn, that assessment is now setting the stage for unified collaboration and sustainable action over the coming year. In fact, Prophet reveals that BMAC will be issuing its first industry report card during the State of Black Music Summit being presented during the Juneteenth grand opening of Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music (June 17-19).

“We not only need a seat at the table," notes Butterfield Jones. "We need to build a bigger table. There’s enough room for all of us to eat, thrive and have power.”