Maybe you've heard that trope before - people like crabs in a bucket, always pulling whoever's at the top back down to the bottom. While I understand that lots of people are like this, it's an idea I tend to reject. First of all, there shouldn't be a bucket. Secondly, why would you ever try to pull someone down who could potentially pull you up? I'm by no means done climbing myself, but that doesn't mean I can't "pull people up", so to speak, in my own way.
Last February, I had the honor of hosting an event at the annual Sphinx Conference called Sphinx Tank. It's a lot like the show, Shark Tank, but music-centered. The first person to pitch to the team of sharks was 19-year-old Cameren Anai Williams. This Julliard student has already achieved so much, including starting her own non-profit, and writing a children's book called Kinderlute! You can take a look at her pitch presentation here:
Cameren didn't win the top prize at this event, but she DID win my attention! American Public Media offers a monthly feature to kids called Classical Kids Storytime, and my first thought was that we needed to feature Cameren's book! What better "back to school" feature could there be, than a story about how kids should take care of their new instruments? There were a few concerns about how this story would translate digitally, but thanks to our really incredible team we got it done just in time for the September edition. I even had the pleasure of voicing the story! You can check it out here:
In addition to making sure we featured Cameren's book, I wanted to feature Cameren, herself! The biggest platform I have personally (other than my nightly radio show) is my podcast, TRILLOQUY, so I scheduled an interview and got it done in time for the release of the digital version of Kinderlute. You can take a listen to our conversation (alongside my review of Bob Watt's "Black Horn") here. Below is an excerpt of our conversation, where Cameren talks about the importance of diversity in her book.
I've pumped up the work of my fellow black classical musician everywhere I can - on my show, through one of my organization's projects, on my podcast, through my social media, and even here, on my website. I wonder if I'm missing anything....
It's up to all of us to change the face of classical music, and this is how I'm doing it - I'm using my positions and my connections equitably. Spend an hour of your day today figuring out how you can dismantle the "crabs in a bucket" trope, and big up someone's work! Hell, share this blog post so that you can help raise awareness about Cameren's work as well! If we all maintain an attitude of building each other up, we'll not only get rid of that proverbial bucket, but build a world where people don't even remember it.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a Tyler, the Creator concert! I've watched his Adult Swim and VICELAND specials for many years now, but I was actually relatively new to his music when IGOR came out a few months back. It was a really phenomenal show that I won't soon forget. Here's a bit of my cell phone footage, taken during his performance of the hit single from IGOR, called, "Earfquake":
Tyler's openers were Goldlink and Jaden Smith. While Goldlink gave a pretty traditional hip-hop performance, Jaden kept using his time on the stage to announce Tyler as his boyfriend. If you've listened to IGOR, you know that Tyler has some bisexual tendencies, so it's not really a big deal for me to hear Jaden trolling in that way (or maybe the two are in a relationship - I don't know), but it made the whole experience feel a little different.
I guess I should make it clear that this was definitely a younger crowd - most folks I saw had X's on their hands, which meant they weren't allowed to drink at the bars. With younger crowds come younger perspectives, and it's probably safe to say that younger people tend to be a little more progressive, right? Am I becoming the old(er) gay man who's always going to be surprised by a little cultural competency in spaces I wouldn't expect to see it? Maybe I should have a little more faith in where society is headed. Quite frankly, "queer" events tend to be unattractive to me, because I don't like the idea of reinforcing the white-centric nature of most LGBTQ+ spaces. With that being said, it felt nice to find myself in a space where I could be me, naturally - 100% black and 100% queer. Shout out to the Armory for hosting this really cool event.
There's a clip from HBO's "The Shop" that's been circling around. In it, Lil Nas X is forced to address his coming out, which highlights one of my biggest challenges with my black people - our lack of ability as a race to make sure our spaces are ALL of our spaces. Here's the clip:
There are a number of reasons why I'm challenged by this clip. First of all, why is Kevin Hart acting like he doesn't understand black homophobia, considering his recent drama with the Academy Awards? Also, why was this even a topic of discussion? As much as I feel like I have to validate blackness to white people, I feel like I have to validate queer-ness to black people. The problem is, I refuse to align myself with any white-centered effort to cancel a black person. We're here for our brothers, but our brothers are (more often than not) not here for us. It's tiring.
Shout out again to Tyler, the Creator, for figuring out how to authentically (and naturally) create spaces both black and queer, simultaneously. I'm still working on it, myself.