Activism in Music

In tributes being paid in memoriam to the late Harry Belifonte, a recurring theme I’ve been hearing is about the activist side of the musician – almost moreso that than the music.

My friend, Harry Belafonte, was truly a man of cause, conviction and principle. Besides being a great entertainer, he was a major political activist during the Civil Rights Movement. I still remember the day in 1968 when Harry and I marched side by side on the Poor People’s March to Freedom. He will be missed and my sincere condolences go out to his family.

Motown founder Berry Gordy

In music – and really, in any place in which one might have a platform – it is hard to not want to also use that platform for raising concerns about other important issues on one’s mind. If used in the right way, it can be a powerful way to rally support. If used incorrectly, it can alienate – potentially even turn off – audience members.

It wasn’t why I became a musician, or why I started a music business – but I have incorporated a bit of activism into my own work, along the way. Some of these causes are more related to music work than others. More importantly, they are issues that hit home to me (as civil rights did for Harry Belifonte).

The topics I encourage conversations and activism around are as follows:

  • Music Education, in all forms… Continuing education for current musicians in the business so that they stay aware of changing trends… Mentorship of younger/newer musicians, collaborative projects across genres, disciplines and socioeconomic boundaries, working with college students/interns, putting on events for and with schools, etc.
  • Women’s Safety in Music: This is a more recent topic that’s come to light, due to various circumstances in the Milwaukee area. That being said, the more stories I hear, the more impassioned I have become. I myself have experienced some problems, but had no idea how prolific and in some cases horrific the situations could be.

Kudos to Harry Belifonte, on a life well-lived… Musically and much, much more. He’s someone we could all aspire to be like, some day.



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