Weird For a Black Girl: Changing indie culture when the mainstream won’t make room

How—and where—we see people like ourselves can determine the paths that we choose as individuals. Having one’s work be regarded and respected by people who share their background and experiences is huge, particularly if it’s not readily viewed as being culturally valuable or economically viable. All of these elements can mean the difference between someone taking a chance on a dream or merely settling for what’s expected of them. None of this was lost on me as a kid, and it still rings true now—most specifically as it relates to modern, independent music.

We all know that racism and sexism are prevalent throughout the entertainment world, and can be found in any music scene. Further, there’s a significant amount of aggression brought into spaces where black women are making efforts to be seen and heard; this becomes more pronounced if any degree of weirdness or otherness is perceived. Contextually speaking, in situations where black male musicians have been championed for their weirdness (George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix, Bad Brains), black women have been dismissed out of hand as merely being strange (Grace Jones, Betty Davis)—no matter if our respective creative outputs hold the same weight, and no matter that we too bring the totality of who we are to the work that we do.

Today, women are having conversations with audiences that we haven’t been privy to before. Artists are lyrically and visually seeking inroads toward independence, agency, and their need to address current issues. We’re seeing greater numbers of female artists producing their own beats, writing their own songs, leading their own bands, and even pursuing new directions in terms of performing. Most importantly, these women are directly involved in processes that dictate how they and their work are consumed on a mass scale. Increasingly, the artists at the forefront of these changes are black women—and I’m here for it. [Read More]